Check out Part 1 of our Year in Trailers feature – highlighting some of the year’s best TV spots, featurettes, viral videos and more – here.
Unless we get some sort of blockbuster surprise before the end of this week, Sunday’s release of the first Alien: Covenant trailer marked the end of what was another big year for film trailers. From the epic blockbuster first looks at Rogue One and Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, to beautiful peeks at awards season and indie releases such as Moonlight, Jackie and Loving; agencies, filmmakers and studios came together to put out these two-minute pieces of art in their own right to entice audiences to check out the film on offer.
A lot of trailers this year were spoilery, some were misleading; we’ve had a good share of loved-to-be-hated trends and quirks come into play, and even some trailers that may have led to the end product being changed. But there were more than a few standouts – showing just enough without giving things away, nailing the tone and feel of the film, and most importantly getting those watching excited for what’s to come. Here’s our countdown of the top 20 film trailers released this year:
20. John Wick: Chapter 2 – ‘Good To See You Again’ Teaser Trailer (AV Squad)
With a tight edit not giving anything away of the actual story but expertly teasing the action and locations (as well as the reunion between Reeves and Laurence Fishburne), and a fitting music choice with a remix of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – this kick-ass teaser from Lionsgate and AV Squad which debuted at New York Comic-Con tells you everything you need to know about the return of Keanu Reeves’ breakout assassin: that he’s back and he’s going international. Massive props also for just the right amount of restraint with the action, particularly in the final shot cutting away to the title card as things are about to go down.
19. Fences – Teaser Trailer (Mark Woollen & Associates)
One of the few awards season releases to get a proper teaser trailer, Paramount and MWA’s first look at Denzel Washington’s Fences makes the performances the focal point. Crafted around a powerful dialogue scene between Washington and Jovan Adepo, this teaser applies an almost action blockbuster-like structure to the material (with minimal score and yes, Viola Davis as the ‘money shot’), yielding fantastic results.
18. The Neon Demon – International Trailer (agency unknown)
The choice of music is the driving force behind many trailers, as is certainly the case with this slick piece for Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon – with a brilliant marriage of the pulsating score, excellently timed cuts and the striking imagery on display. But the key thing that this trailer nails is the film’s distinctive tone and feel, which the choice to use the music from the film itself (Cliff Martinez’s ‘Messenger Walks Among Us’ and Julian Winding’s ‘The Demon Dance’ respectively) helps with immensely. And more akin to a teaser, this trailer gives nothing away in terms of the story, with Refn’s signature style and Elle Fanning being the main selling point here.
17. Cars 3 – Teaser Trailer (mOcean)
The news of a first look at Cars 3 incoming was initially met with quite a lot of skepticism, given the reception to the last film. But when it actually arrived, this piece from Disney and mOcean proved to be one of the biggest trailer surprises of the year. Focusing on a single sequence and carrying a tone that is the complete opposite of what one would expect not only from Cars, but from Pixar in general, the trailer received a lot of intrigue, not to mention fear that it may alienate the assumed target audience. We are definitely interested in seeing where Disney goes next in marketing this, and if future trailers will keep the same feel.
16. The Accountant – ‘Who Is The Accountant’ Trailer 1 (Mob Scene)
Another fantastic marriage of tight visually striking cuts driven by a great music track (this time from Radiohead) – Mob Scene’s first trailer for The Accountant really cements Warner Bros’ reputation as the best studio when it comes to trailers. This is truly a piece you really want to watch again and again; the team tries to replicate the same feeling in the following full trailer (got to maximise the Radiohead license somehow) but it doesn’t quite reach this heights of what they’ve done here.
15. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Teaser Trailer (Giaronomo)
A piece that is now infamous for primarily consisting of shots which don’t end up in the final film, Disney & Giaronomo’s first look at Rogue One eases us in by introducing Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso in familiar fashion, before letting the Death Star and the iconic Imperial siren take centre stage as striking imagery from the film plays out. Like the other Rogue One trailers on this list, this really pushes the idea that this is a different kind of Star Wars movie, and is a great trailer to witness on the big screen.
14. Miss Sloane – Teaser Trailer (Ignition)
EuropaCorp & Ignition’s teaser for Miss Sloane – which since became the film’s main trailer also – is almost certainly the slickest such piece this year. Framed by the House of Cards-esque direct address which opens the film, and soundtracked by a kick-ass instrumental version of Keaton Simons’ ‘When I Go’ (instantly recognisable by any Suits fan), this trailer is one hell of a grower, extremely rewatchable, and a perfect introduction to Jessica Chastain’s lead character. Whether the film is as slick as that trailer will remain to be seen, as it doesn’t open in the UK until February.
13. Hail Caesar! – Final Trailer (Motive)
Deservedly scoring the Golden Trailer Award for Most Original Trailer earlier this year, Universal & Motive’s final trailer for the Coens’ Hail Caesar! takes a completely unconventional turn right from that old-school studio logo. Based around a single hilarious scene between Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes, the trailer goes the extra mile by being meta about itself, much like the film is meta about the industry as a whole. It might not be saying anything about the main story, but it’s a perfect sell of the atmosphere, tone, and of course the all-star cast that the Coens have assembled.
12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 – ‘Sneak Peek’ Teaser Trailer 1 (mOcean)
This first teaser (or ‘sneak peek’ if you will, either way it’s Trailer 1) for James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is an incredible show of confidence from Marvel and mOcean. There are no studio logos, the film’s title is replaced with just ‘Coming Soon’, and there are only a few very carefully picked shots of footage. But the return of these hit characters (including Baby Groot), the great scene between Chris Pratt’s Star Lord and Dave Bautista’s Drax at the end, and the reprise of Blue Swede’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ are enough to tell the audiences seeing this on the big screen ahead of Doctor Strange – the Guardians are back.
11. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Celebration London Teaser Trailer (agency unknown)
This trailer has not been officially released online by the studio – so here’s a gif of that closing shot, which was featured in one of the recent TV spots.
It may feel unfair to include this piece in the countdown as it was only shown once for those in the room at the 2016 Star Wars Celebration in London back in July, but it’s just too good. Although one would think when watching a low quality bootleg on a laptop at home that this 1-minute tease is a tad underwhelming given its short runtime and footage re-used from the first trailer, this is a trailer that is perfectly suited for the big screen and a big crowd. The purposefully un-Star Wars drum beat accompanying the brief but impactful flashes of footage old and new nails home the war movie feel – rather perfect given the reshoot and ‘tone lightening’ reports swirling around at the time. And the closing shot pictured above (sadly unused in the final film) is an absolute all timer, as the 1,000-strong crowd – yours truly included – erupted at this first official look at the return of Darth Vader.
10. Arrival – ‘Global War’ Domestic Trailer 1 (Ignition)
The best trailers feel cut from the same cloth as the film itself – which this piece for Denis Villeneuve’s fantastic Arrival from Paramount and Ignition precisely is, thanks in large part to the excellent reworking of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s chilling score by Confidential Music. The trailer, while ever so slightly amping up the action aspect beyond what’s actually offered, perfectly nails the tone and overall atmosphere of Villeneuve’s film, and doesn’t give anything away about the twists which lie ahead. The 60-second TV spot variant which served as the debut first look at the film is even more effective on that front, ending at just the right moment.
9. Dunkirk – ‘Survival’ Teaser Trailer (Buddha Jones)
You can’t have a top trailers countdown without at least one piece from Christopher Nolan. This first substantial look at the filmmaker’s highly-anticipated Dunkirk from Warner Bros. and Buddha Jones excellently balances the tension and emotion and highlights the main cast, while giving only just a taste the basic premise – thousands of Allied soldiers stranded on the Dunkirk beach need to be rescued. The only shame is that this trailer doesn’t offer a bigger tease of the ratcheting tension and kinetic pace that the opening 5 minutes playing in select IMAXes with Rogue One showcased – but it’s probably for the best that this is left for the big screen, where this trailer plays fantastically well.
8. Jackie – Teaser Trailer (Mark Woollen & Associates)
Fox Searchlight and MWA’s incredibly hypnotic first look at Pablo Larraín’s Jackie really is a sight to behold. With a focus on Natalie Portman’s Jackie Kennedy and driven by the beautiful visuals courtesy of DoP Stéphane Fontaine as well as Mica Levi’s chilling score, the film shot up many people’s most anticipated lists thanks to this teaser.
7. Blade Runner 2049 – Announcement Trailer (Wild Card)
It’s essentially only based around two scenes, but you still want to replay it again and again. Warner Bros. and Wild Card’s debut teaser for Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is a quietly powerful return to the world created by Philip K. Dick and first brought to the big screen by Ridley Scott. The intricate sound design and reprise of Vangelis’ iconic score are jaw-dropping when played in surround sound, to say nothing of Roger Deakins’ cinematography which deserves the biggest screen possible. As a teaser this far out, this tells you all you need to know – we are back in this world, and so is Harrison Ford.
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – ‘Protect’ Final Trailer [Korean Version] (AV Squad)
This is the third Rogue One piece to feature in the countdown, and for good reason – this Korean version of the final trailer packs a real drive that’s not quite present in other versions, leaving the viewer even more breathless. Together with the smattering of expertly cut new footage, and superior dialogue choices (such as the film variation of Jyn’s ‘we’ll take the next chance’ speech closing the trailer), this piece provides our best and most exciting look at Gareth Edwards’s spin-off.
5. Suicide Squad – ‘Rhapsody’ Trailer 1 (Aspect)
Reports say the overwhelmingly positive response to this Queen-soundtracked piece reportedly led the studio to heavily rework Suicide Squad to match – if anything, this is a testament to how great this trailer from Aspect and Warner Bros is. They did a brilliant job with this first proper look at David Ayer’s film – excellent music choice, tight cutting, and a tone that people responded almost too well to.
4. La La Land – ‘City Of Stars’ and ‘Audition’ Teaser Trailers (Mark Woollen & Associates)
One of the most iconic films of the year got an appropriately iconic pair of teasers courtesy of Lionsgate and MWA – and it’s only fair to judge them as a pair given how they were designed to complement each other, employing similar structuring and styling but from opposing points of view. Featuring what are now likely the most instantly recognisable songs from the film – ‘City of Stars’ performed by Ryan Gosling and ‘Audition’ performed by Emma Stone – these graceful paired teasers offer a great first look at Damien Chazelle’s wonderful movie musical.
3. Logan – Teaser Trailer (Rogue Planet AV)
This does not feel like a comic-book movie. And yet, that does not make Fox and Rogue Planet AV’s first trailer for James Mangold’s Logan (shown above is the UK 15-rated version) any less compelling. In large part this is thanks to the great, if a little obvious, music choice – Johnny Cash’s Hurt cover makes everything better doesn’t it? But this primarily drama-focused approach with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart taking centre stage, and a taste of R-rated action in the second half, makes this first look a joy to watch.
2. Dunkirk – Announcement Trailer (Trailer Park)
While this first look at Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk from Warner Bros. and Trailer Park is probably the lightest trailer on the list in terms of footage, it’s the most compelling, especially when witnessed in IMAX. The shots chosen are utilised to their maximum with these David Lean-esque long, still takes. And when you add the ticking underscore (which looks to be forming the basis for Hans Zimmer’s score) amping up the tension as we come to that crescendo with the Stuka bombers, when witnessed on IMAX even this minimal footage can make your jaw drop. And at that point one probably wouldn’t care about that smirking extra – who they’ve cleverly cut away from in the recent IMAX prologue.
1. Nocturnal Animals – Teaser Trailer (agency unknown)
And it’s no surprise that the best trailer of 2016 ends up being the trailer to this particular film fan’s favourite movie of the year. This first look (which despite being labeled a teaser feels more like a main trailer) at Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is pretty much the perfect trailer – revealing just enough about the complex story-within-a-story premise without giving away spoilery details, featuring tight and distinctive cutting, stunning visuals, and an inspired music choice in Ludovico Einaudi’s ‘Logos’ (although one wishes this featured Abel Korzeniowski’s lush score from the film, this choice is still perfect). In true Tom Ford fashion and much like the film itself, this trailer is an absolutely intoxicating watch.
Do you agree with our Top 20? What are your favourite trailers of the year? Let us know in the comments or on social media!