The Magic of Movie Trailers


I really love movie trailers. I realize it’s basically just taking time out of your day to be willingly advertised to, but the editing and the composition of them is highly engaging. I really appreciate the different affects the trailers strive for, especially when they succeed. I’ve easily rewatched every trailer for Age of Ultron five times over. They’re just that well composed (also I’m incredibly excited for the movie). But I’m not just entertained by trailers for upcoming movies, I also return to movie trailers after having seen the movie: just to view the trailer through fresh eyes.

From an analytical standpoint, it’s highly interesting to see how trailer editors manipulate segments of a film to create their own mini-narratives. I feel as though the trailer is medium that’s all the more fascinating for all its limitations. In a movie trailer, the overall goal is to sell the movie. However, there are multiple other motivations to contend with: not showing too much of the movie, properly conveying the tone of the movie, introducing the major characters, not overusing clips from previous trailers, choosing exciting moments from the movie, but avoiding any spoilers. With this wide range of constraints, I’m always impressed by how impactful trailers can be.

Music and sound plays a huge part in this. There’s the classic “in a world…” voiceover, but I feel as though this has becoming increasingly replaced by high energy music and fast cuts (at least in terms of blockbusters). One of my favorite examples of an emotionally intense trailer is the teaser for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This trailer makes full use of the disturbing and thrilling remix of “Immigrant Song.” The trailer also conveys constant rising tension, delivered with the interwoven tracking shot as the camera moves closer and closer to the house, amidst more personal character shots. Without a single line of dialogue or voiceover, the movie properly sets up the major characters and the overarching tone of the film.

There’s certainly the downside to trailers, especially with comedies where some of the best lines and jokes are spoiled by trailers too eager to sell their films. With this in mind, I believe trailers lend themselves best to movies that emphasize excitement. This is the implicit goal of every trailer: to make the audience excited for the film, which is all the easier if the film itself is attempting to excite. That being said, I do believe there are some fine examples of dramatic/comedic trailers, e.g. Silver Linings Playbook or It’s Kind of a Funny Story. But even in these cases, the trailers run the gamut of giving away too much.

So what do you think? Do you enjoy trailers on a whole? Do you have any favorites?

4 thoughts on “The Magic of Movie Trailers

  1. Great post- I can spend hours on youtube just watching movie trailers. I definitely agree with you about most of the comedic trailers. My least favorite trailer is the Unfriended one that is out now.

    1. I agree about “Unfriended.” I feel as though I’ve seen the teaser about 20 times as a YouTube ad, plus the movie’s wholly undeserved sense of grandeur where it claims to be “the most talked about horror movie in years.”

  2. I also really love movie trailers, particularly when you get to see preview after preview before watching a film at the movie theater. I agree with you that the trailer is in many ways an art form of its own, having to show just enough to get a potential viewer’s attention. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about how all the different Avengers: AoU trailers and clips are going to ultimately spoil the movie but it’s just been getting me more and more hyped to actually get to watch it 🙂

    1. Same, I’m incredibly excited for Age of Ultron. And while they do use a good amount of footage between the three main trailers, I agree that it’s all in service of building proper hype.

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