Christmas is over, which means it’s time to return to the Best of 2018! As always, we close the year with the Top Ten Best Trailers of 2018. These are the trailers that did their best to excite and fascinate us with promises to come, whether we anticipated the film or all while avoiding spoilers as best they could. And whether the film lives up to the hype of its trailer – like Moonlight or Lady Bird – or promised more than it could deliver – like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets or A Wrinkle In Time – these trailers still managed to intrigue and dazzle us as we waited with baited breath for masterpieces to come.
2018 has been a banner year for trailers, with films as varied as big-budget spectacles, low-budget indies, and genial crowd pleasers each stood out with their funny, frightening, overwhelming, or inviting tastes. A Star Is Born promised a lush, musical extravaganza. The Favourite showed us a surreal, viciously funny look at British royalty. Captain Marvel showed us what a new hero could look like, while Bumblebee showed us that heroes we thought we knew (and hated) could redeem themselves with a respectable spin-off. Bad Times at the El Royale and Eighth Grade used subtlety and intrigue to win us over, while Suspiria and Venom bombasted us with excessive imagery and topics. The Other Side of the Wind promised us one final Orson Welles extravaganza, Crazy Rich Asians promised us a romantic-comedy smorgasbord, and Bohemian Rhapsody promised a musical spectacular the likes of which the producers just could not deliver. And finally, two important honorable mentions. The first is the Revenge trailer specifically using Meninist quotes left in the comments of YouTube – it was a hilarious f*ck you to an aggressive group. And second, there’s the trailer for Season 2 of GLOW, set to “Maniac” and deserving of a spot on this list if only I deemed television eligible. Oh well, you can enjoy it below for sh*ts and giggles. And with that settled, let’s take a look at the greatest ads of 2018!
10. Men In Black: International
Released but a few weeks ago, Men In Black: International is everything we want in trailers: it promised us a fun, action-packed twist on the sci-fi comedy we all know and love. As great as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were in the original series, the two lackluster follow-ups left fans wanting more – and more specifically, wanting something fresh. And that’s exactly what director F. Gary Gray is promising in this trailer. Keeping the wonder and the comedy of the originals while adding the action-packed bombasticity of his own filmography, Gray is adding a whole new spin on a series that desperately needs it. Combining the box-office winning team of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, the trailer for Men In Black: International promises something fresh, something fun, and something funny, and I can’t wait to see if the film delivers.
9. Christopher Robin/Mary Poppins Returns Teasers
In a lot of ways, the trailers for Christopher Robin and Mary Poppins Returns are exactly the same. They are both produced by Disney (who probably intentionally marketed the films similarly), they both start out with an air of mystery, offering up a period piece that could be produced by anyone, they both feature dramatically-timed musical cues for the reveal of their protagonists, and they are both shrouded in an air of nostalgia. And honestly, both work impeccably well. Robin centers on the central reveal that Ewan McGregor’s put-upon employee is a grown-up Christopher Robin (complete with a CGI display that turns out to work well in context), while Mary Poppins focus on the ultimate reveal of the flying nanny herself, as well as a brief look at the classic “mirror” scene that Mary is known for. Nostalgically, it works well, but the impressive thing here is that both trailers work free of context. These are great trailers for films both good (Christopher Robin) and great (Mary Poppins).
Another trailer released just in time for this list, it should come as no surprise that Jordan Peele can release a great trailer to build hype for his great films. And honestly, as good as the Get Out trailer was, the trailer for Us may just top it. Smartly using “I Got Five On It” by Luniz as both an introduction to the core family as well as perfectly utilizing a slowed-down version later in the trailer for terrifying effect, the spot demonstrated some of Peele’s greatest trademarks: quick-cut editing to create a dizzying nightmarish effect, wide shots that demonstrate Peele’s command of color and location, close-ups on crying faces, and intense themes of identity and personal failure. Hell, it even has terrifying children, a la The Shining. And to top it all off, the trailer gives us a look at new performances from Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, which should excite any true cinephile. Us is one of the scariest trailers of the year, and it properly built up hype for the next horror classic.
Whether you loved Hereditary (like my brother), hated it (like a few of my friends), or felt it mostly worked but fell apart in its gonzo third act (me), one thing is generally agreed upon by everyone: that the trailer for Hereditary is one of the scariest trailers of all time. Building tension with a mix between daughter Charlie’s “clucks” and a slowly intensifying score, Hereditary’s trailer slowly, but surely grows more and more intense and violently aggressive as time goes on. Opening with a funeral, the trailer slowly morphs into images of mutilated birds, screaming Toni Collettes, a head-smashing Alex Wolff, and finally, a burning man. Each decision in the ad is impeccable, offering clear, insane terror and promising “the greatest horror experience since The Exorcist.” And most important of all, it is edited cleverly to hide its twist, resulting in one of the most shocking theater experiences of all time. I may have felt the film was a little disappointing in its ending, but there is no denying that the first two thirds are truly terrifying, and it may not have been the film’s fault: the trailer is so good, it made a promise that no film could ever deliver upon (Oh, and if you like the main trailer, you should also check out A24’s humorously terrifying Mother’s Day advertisement right here).
6. The Sisters Brothers
I never got a chance to review The Sisters Brothers (hopefully I can get one up pretty soon), but I left the film a bit cold. I’m not sure that had anything to do with the film itself – it is impeccably made and smartly told – it’s just that I was so enamored with the trailer, few things could have lived up to the hype. This is an insanely great Western trailer, and I love almost everything about it. I love the way this trailer opens with an explosion of gunfire illuminating the black screen and showing us the “This Fall” sign. I love its use of “Tainted Love,” which serves an ironically upbeat song for a film about hitmen and an accurate depiction of the brothers’ relationship. I love how it demonstrates the vast scope of the cinematography, including a shot illuminated by a burning barn, sweeping shots of horseback riding, and haunting shots of a beach. But at the center of it all, I love how it gives us a taste of the complicated relationship – and the fantastic performances – between Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly, who give a master class in Large and Small Acting in the trailer alone. The film itself is very good, but it is the trailer that is truly great.
While Hereditary had the scarier, and arguably “better” trailer, I would argue that Halloween does a lot more with a higher degree of difficulty. Due to the passion for the original Halloween by John Carpenter, as well as the loathing of the eight subpar sequels to come out in the past, the odds that this film could be any good were slim to none. And then came the trailer, which riveted fans from the moment the mask is revealed to an institution of panicking loons and barking dogs. After that, it’s an increasing journey into Hell itself. The trailer quickly does away with the mythology surrounding the characters of Laurie and Michael, eliminating their sibling relationship in order to return to the series’ scarier roots. And while this is a great decision for the series, it is all but glossed over in the trailer, which jumps immediately to what makes this film great: badass Laurie Strode. We get to see Jamie Lee Curtis brandish a weapon and hunt the man who hunted her, creating a game of cat and mouse that battle for the soul of Haddonfield, IL. I could go on talking about how great this trailer is, but I will leave you with this tidbit that I believe proves my point quite concisely. My father is a man who doesn’t care about trailers, and really only likes one film: Tommy Boy. However, he often thinks back fondly about his time seeing the original Halloween on the big screen in 1978. When I showed him this trailer, and they revealed the now-famous closet scene, I saw a knowing smile creep across his face. Thus is the power of a great trailer, and that is exactly why this is one of the best trailers of 2018 (and the film itself isn’t too bad, either).
4. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
The best trailers out there are the ones that take the biggest risk. In 2018, that would be Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Directed by former X-Men writer Michael Dougherty, the film was a bit of an unknown entity. The previous Godzilla did good, not great, as did its in-universe sequel Kong: Skull Island. If the series wanted to continue, it would need to really take some chances with its big extravaganza where Godzilla battles Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. And according to this trailer, that’s exactly what they did. From the gorgeous blue and orange tint to the crashing of waves, from the haunting voiceover to the powerful atomic blast into the sky, every shot in this trailer is painterly perfect. In particular I love the shots of Mothra’s spreading wings, Ghirodan’s heads in particular, and my love of Godzilla will make me giddy any time he roars. And while all this action is playing out, the trailer cues it perfectly to the classic Debussy piece “Clair de Lune.” This is a special, special trailer that took a sequel I was only kind of looking forward to and turned it into one of my must-see spectacles of 2019.
It’s never a good sign when a movie is jostled around as much as Serenity has been. It was moved from early fall to October, and now it inhabits the death slot of January. However, for one, brief shining moment, Serenity had a trailer, and it looked like one of the best movies of the year. Using the sounds of tapping glass, taut fishing lines winding up, and growing tension as opposed to a score or song, the Serenity trailer knows exactly how to build tension by falling back to the film’s genre roots: it plays into its noir background. Like a cross between Double Indemnity and Body Heat, the trailer offers up sexy criminals (played by Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway, because of course) as they plot the murder of Hathaway’s sexy evil husband (Jason Clarke). Filled with glistening, sweaty, attractive humans, dark and stormy nights, speeches about morality, and deceptive bystanders, Serenity plays on the tropes that fans crave to create something new and exciting. And whether the film ends up being a beginning-of-year smash, a horrible failure, or somewhere in between, Serenity’s trailer is one of the best of the year, and one that will surely bring people into the theater come January.
For many people, Roma will be the best film of the year (and as my pending review will tell you, I’m certainly in that ballpark). And for many of those same people, their first glimpse at Alfonso Cuarón’s epic of the small scale was with the impeccable, sumptuous teaser trailer released a few months back. Honestly, few trailers have ever been released with the beauty and the honesty of Roma’s, which is ultimately a near-perfect tone-poem – like the movie itself. Gently accompanied to the sounds of light whistling and a subtle score, the Roma trailer touches on several themes that play throughout the movie: we see clips of families, of friends, of couples, of drama, of crowds, and more, all set against the gorgeous backdrop of 1970 Mexico. The trailer gives us a taste of the now-legendary cinematography that Cuarón has shot, and gives us a look at everything, from backgrounds to setpieces to the longing in the characters’ eyes. In this trailer, Cuarón gives audiences a look at the scope of the project, of the heart and soul he put into the film, and of the wonders that awaited them when the film dropped on Netflix.
1. Vox Lux
The trailer for Vox Lux is one of those very special trailers, the kind that knocks you out and makes you say, “I need to see that just to know what the hell is going on.” For the trailer for Brady Corbet’s second feature is an intense, insane look inside several different themes, and he makes sure to introduce them all in his teaser trailer. Set to a piece from the score called “Druggies,” the two-minute ad gives us a confusing, dizzying look at the world Corbet crafted, including snippets of the haunting opening through the life of title character Celeste, as she grows up from a young victim to a troubled teen to an off-the-rails floundering pop star. Meanwhile, Natalie Portman’s performance is one of the broadest this side of Mommie Dearest, but while it strains the sides of enjoyability in a feature-length setting, it is a work of art here, in two-minute form. Along the way, the trailer promises ideas that are both delivered upon and sorely lacking from the eventual film, including satire, horror, tension, pathos, and catharsis. And while the film is absolute great, filled to the brim with the surreal edits and choices that make this trailer so great, there is nothing that the film could do to match the shocking, extreme intrigue of its own trailer, which should be studied in classes for years to come.
I hope you enjoyed this wrap up of the Best Trailers of 2018! I will be back later this week with my Most Anticipated of 2019, and next week we can take a look at the Best of TV. So don’t go away; this is where things get good!