Wednesday Listicles: The Best Trailers of 2016

Now that the whole “Christmas” thing is out of the way, we can get back to two whole months of Sacred Wall “Best Of” Listicles. I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on everything beyond the Entertainers of the Year. However, because the year isn’t over yet, and there are still many movies and TV shows to see and review, I thought I’d end the year with another smaller list: the Top Ten Best Trailers of 2016.

Trailers have a lot of problems nowadays. They’re too long, they spoil the entire movie (screw you, Terminator: Genisys), etc. In fact, I pick movies I’m looking forward to and just skip the trailer altogether (this has mixed results-some films benefit from this, some fail). However, when a trailer is well made, it can do several things. It can inspire great excitement, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It can build buzz, like Guardians of the Galaxy. Or it can help put a film on the map, like last year’s Goodnight, Mommy. So I thought I’d put together a little list of the best trailers, be they 2016 releases or films we haven’t seen yet. These are trailers that put films on the map, built a general buzz for their film, and made a nothing film into a must-see event, without spoiling too much about the film.

Before we look at the Ten Best Trailers of 2016, let’s look at the Honorable Mentions. 20th Century Women promised its audience a fantastic ensemble to accompany Mike Mills’ unique writing and direction. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story promised fans the return of Darth Vader, and whatever the final result was, that was an exciting prospect. Arrival promised audiences an intriguing concept without giving away too much plot (which paid off handsomely, both in terms of quality and in terms of a successful box office). Manchester by the Sea offered a uniquely straightforward trailer, which was exciting if you knew nothing but looks so bland in hindsight. La La Land sold the scope and romance of the film without giving away the farm on how great it truly was (not that I watched any trailers beforehand-I went in knowing only the stars, director, concept, and the song “City of Stars”). Trolls offered audiences a fun, musical adventure in its promos, and it delivered on that promise, even if the film was just “fine.” Two Marvel superhero films offered up unique visions filled with laughter and action: Spider-Man: Homecoming (the best of the superhero trailers) and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (every single moment of Dave Bautista in these trailers is perfect). And the one trailer I’m a little sad didn’t make this list is Ouija: Origin of Evil, which was surprisingly well-made and while I still haven’t seen it, I heard the film delivered on the promise of its talent. Now, let’s look at the best advertisements of the year!

10. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Talk about a trailer that built buzz. I may be the only critic/film pundit talking about this, but it’s my job to write about what I like, and I like this. I had no idea this film existed. I hadn’t heard about it before this trailer. I still don’t know what this film is about (although I know it is based on a French comic series). However, I know I like what’s on display here. I like the use of The Beatles’ “Because” (slowed-down songs are either hit-or-miss, but it works here because the song wasn’t slowed down any more than normal). I like the awesome special effects. I like Dane DeHaan, and I want to like Cara Delevingne, who needs to pick better movies. And I like Luc Besson, who gave us The Professional, The Fifth Element, and Lucy. This film could be a disaster when it finally comes out July 21, 2017. Heck, the lack of people talking about it implies it may very well BE a disaster. But I want you to watch this trailer and NOT feel overwhelmed with a sense of wonder and disaster, the same way I was seeing this on the big screen for the first time.

9. 10 Cloverfield Lane

This may be the ballsiest move in the history of Hollywood advertising. Kudos to Paramount and Bad Robot for dropping a trailer for the spiritual sequel of a beloved film people forgot about eight years after its prime release date a month before it comes out. Seriously, there was nothing for this film before the trailer. No poster. No casting news. Nothing. The trailer just appeared on YouTube randomly. I actually saw it being forced on me in front of a video I was trying to watch. And it’s great! It’s mysterious! It uses “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tommy James and the Shondells to great effect as it slowly becomes warped and disturbing! And it ends by revealing it’s written by none other than Damien Chazelle, the writer/director of Whiplash and La La Land! This was a shocking move from a major studio, and it ended up being the perfect way to sell a great film in a new way without giving away any details from its wonderful plot.

8. Alien: Covenant

This is the reason I waited until December 28th to make this list. There was always the chance another trailer would come along and change things. And that trailer was Alien: Covenant. Truth be told, I’m about ready to give up on the Alien series. I really appreciate Alien, I like what James Cameron did with Aliens, and I think Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was a fascinating failure, but I just didn’t see anything worth continuing in the series. However, if this movie can live up to the trailer, it might be worth it. We know Noomi Rapace will be returning, and I liked her in Prometheus, but if anything, I’m more excited for the other cast members. Michael Fassbender will be returning as the android David, Katherine Waterson (one of the greatest actresses working today, I believe) takes over for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley (it seems), and the supporting cast is filled with great actors like Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Egogo and Callie Hernandez. The trailer captures the same magic of the original Alien. Frankly, if the film delivers on this trailer, and gives us another spaceship haunted house film with a modern sheen, I’ll be a happy camper. Enjoy the horrors below, and see the movie when it comes out May 19, 2017.

7. Dunkirk

How can you not be excited for a new Christopher Nolan film? Especially one that features one of the greatest ensembles in history. Of course, the cast isn’t really on display in a one minute clip, but you do get to see how well Nolan can put together a damn movie. Gorgeous cinematography (Hoyte van Hoytema, one of my favorite cinematographers), skillfully edited, and increasingly tense, thanks to the slowly building tick of a clock and the low roar of an approaching plane. Sure, if you don’t know anything about the story, it doesn’t do anything for you, but it’s still great filmmaking. Now, there’s a longer trailer out there complete with scenes featuring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, and Mark Rylance. And sure, that one promises great acting alongside great action, but for my money, the original teaser is far, far better. It’s tenser, more mysterious, and all-around better. Don’t take my word for it-watch the trailer below, and see the movie July 21, 2017.

6. American Pastoral

Oh, American Pastoral. The movie itself turned out to be mediocre (at least that’s my review-other critics were less kind, giving it a measly 23% on Rotten Tomatoes), but that may have been due to our high hopes after a great trailer. Seriously, this trailer really placed the film on the map. Sure, setting it to “Mad World” is a little cliché, but everything else about it properly sets the size and scope of the production. The waving of the American flag, the mysterious ongoing crises, the slowly building tension, and the distant expressions of Jennifer Connolly and Dakota Fanning (I still interpret this as an acting choice that suits the roles, other critics call it “wooden…”), all of it really worked for me. And that beginning, with the man silently raising the flag before returning into the post office…perfection. Look, this is a great trailer, and even if the film itself was just meh, you can watch this and imagine how great this film could have been.

5. Logan

Now THIS is the Wolverine film we’ve been waiting for. Sure, they’re kind of jumping on the Deadpool bandwagon with the whole “R-rated” thing. However, if that means we get a truly violent Wolverine film for Hugh Jackman’s final outing as our greatest rebel hero, then it’ll all be worth it. God knows Jackman and director James Mangold gave us a helluva trailer, filled with great promise and great sadness. This is going to be a very different superhero movie. One that gives us a scar-ridden and emotionally destroyed Logan, an Alzheimer’s-ridden Patrick Stewart, a young child to redeem him, and claws going through heads. Give us all of this great stuff, and set it to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” his final song before his death and rich in story and history, and you have one of the greatest superhero trailers of all time, and one of the best of the year.

4. Free Fire

What a fun trailer. I love this kind of stuff-ultraviolent action flicks with a sense of humor and a tongue-in-cheek direction. Free Fire came out of Toronto with great reviews, mainly for its great script and the strong performances by Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, and Cillian Murphy. This trailer promises everything-comedy, thrills, and action, and between the great use of “Free For All” by Ted Nugent (it actually is so good I kinda like this song, and I hate everything by that scumbag), the funny dialogue and deliveries (especially Copley, Hammer, and Larson), and the well-delivered action, this throwback trailer stands out as one of the best trailers of the year. I can’t wait to watch this movie March 17, 2017.

3. Moonlight

A few critics had Moonlight listed as a potential Oscar contender at the start of the year. I didn’t even hear about it until about April. At the time I didn’t really see it as anything, just a small indie film that people were talking about. However, this trailer changed my mind, and put this film on the map. In fact, I believe it made me declare it “This year’s Room, the movie I’m going to underestimate” back when I first saw the trailer, and I ended up using the phrase “near-perfect trailer.” Turns out, I was right. It was a great film, one of the best of the year, and that reflects in the smart, rich trailer. Quiet and profound, lyrical and gorgeous, rich in cinematography, editing, acting, and especially score, using a perfect piece titled “The Middle of the World” by Nicholas Britell, the trailer was a clear sign that something truly wonderful was on the way.

2. The Handmaiden

This may be one of my favorites on the list. And you know it has the staying power because it’s the one trailer that keeps coming back into my mind despite the fact I still haven’t had a chance to see this film. Directed by Park Chan-wook, who directed the fabulous Oldboy, the film is supposedly a rich and erotic psychological thriller, something of a modern and Korean Hitchcock film. That already sounds right up my alley. However, if the film is anything like this trailer, with its weird edits, chopped-and-screwed style feel, bizarrely alien music (I get that it is supposed to have a distinctly Asian feel, but it seems beyond that, as if it were played out of tune or something of that nature), and the erotic-yet-surreal imagery, this trailer is one of the best of the year, and has me excited enough to move this screener to the top of my pile.

1. Jackie

No matter how I ranked these, Jackie was always going to be my #1. It’s the trailer that inspired me to make this list. And honestly, can you blame me? On paper, the film was supposed to be a stereotypical biopic about the 35th First Lady starring Natalie Portman, who hasn’t been in anything good for six years. Nothing could disinterest me more (and I LIKE Portman!) And then the first trailer came out. And we were treated to some sort of surrealist fever dream surrounding Mrs. Kennedy’s life set to the final notes of Camelot, which both reflect on an idealistic leader who’s dreams for a better tomorrow have been crushed and a yearning for something greater, an idea the Kennedys were taken with that ended up becoming a reality when John was killed in 1963. The trailer instantly put the film on the map. And then they followed it up with another trailer, this time using Mica Levi’s killer score. And the trailer ended up being just as good as the first one. These were two trailers that promised drama, game-changing editing, and acting of the highest order. The film did not disappoint, but if you ask me, even though it was excellent, nothing could necessarily live up to how great these trailers were. You can watch both of them below.

So those were the best trailers I saw this year. These were trailers that made each and every film they advertised a must-see event. Sure, not all of them were hits. But who cares? They got the money they were after. And I got to waste two hours. And that’s what advertising is all about (even if Collateral Beauty disagrees). That wraps up the Best of 2016 lists that will premiere this side of the cut off. Starting next week, we’ll be looking at the true Best of the Best in television, film, and so on. It’ll be awesome, so I hope you’ll stick around.

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