This year has been a difficult one, for the world and the film industry alike. But in spite of everything that COVID has stopped in its tracks, we still had amazing pieces of cinema arrive to our screens at home (plus the big screen in some places) and accompanying them, we had brilliant pieces of advertising; tantalising us as to what’s to come once this is all behind us. Here are some of our favourite film trailers of the past twelve months…

10. Dune – Theatrical Teaser (Wild Card Creative Group)

N.B. the above upload – the only official release to date – is presented with a French Canadian dub.

Probably the most anticipated trailer event of the year, our debut look at the first half of Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic does not disappoint. It’s a classic teaser – initially released exclusively in cinemas with Tenet as a preview of the 3-minute full trailer to come – and does the wise thing of focusing almost exclusively on the sprawling cast. The combination of that lush imagery and a driving, rhythmic taster of what is reportedly Hans Zimmer’s upcoming score, makes for a perfect kind of first look that we rarely see nowadays, one that tantalises those who have been waiting to see something from this project all year, and is all the more impactful when watched on a big screen with big sound.

9. I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Trailer (Mark Woollen & Associates)

An utterly mystifying film deserves an equally mystifying trailer. And while this look at Charlie Kaufman’s latest tries to present a more straightforward narrative, it brings in the total mindf— of it all exceptionally well, effectively building the sense of unease throughout – anchored by the use of the film’s title itself in Jessie Buckley’s character’s voiceover. The gorgeous title graphics in this are also worth highlighting!

8. The Batman – DC FanDome Teaser (Statement Advertising)

A total surprise arrival considering how far away the film was at the time – it has subsequently moved from October 2021 to March 2022 – and how little of it was shot, our first glimpse of Matt Reeves’ take on the iconic caped crusader is a surprisingly meaty one. Making a trailer feel substantial from such limited footage is a skill which the team at Statement pull off with aplomb, together with an effective tonal swerve from the operatic approach of campaigns for Christopher Nolan’s and Zack Snyder’s takes on the character. While using popular tracks almost verbatim has been a long-popular trailer trope, the pick of Nirvana’s Something in the Way (with composer Michael Giacchino reportedly applying some of his score in this trailer rework) is an incredibly astute one in this case, fitting with what we see of Robert Pattinson’s Batman – a rawer, grungier, more gothic take.

7. Mogul Mowgli – UK Trailer (Hello Mozart)

Though the film is yet to arrive on U.S. shores, director Bassam Tariq and Riz Ahmed’s passion project Mogul Mowgli has already landed here in the UK and is one of the most visually varied and striking films of the year. And this trailer manages to capture that aspect perfectly, while keeping focused – the piece is centred around verse from Ahmed’s rapper Zed that strikes a real chord as the country heads out of the European Union for good, and the western world still grapples with the rise of right-wing populism and anti-immigrant sentiment. The visuals (and rave reviews) build on top of this minimalistic structure, exuding a quiet yet ferocious energy, climaxing with a glimpse at the film’s more surrealistic elements.

6. Da 5 Bloods – Trailer (Mark Woollen & Associates)

With its time-jumping (and aspect-ratio-flipping) structure and a purposefully direct incorporation of real-world events, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods is a very idiosyncratic film – and it is only right that this trailer attempts to evoke that atmosphere in all its glory, as opposed to making it more linear and straightforward. It almost acts as a music video in its own right, for The Chambers Brothers’ Time Has Come Today, and the way it all feels of a piece with the director’s latest joint is something to be commended.

5. Tenet – Final Trailers: CinemaCon & ‘The Plan’ (Jax Film)

What’s an end-of-year list without a Christopher Nolan trailer? Two versions of this piece have been released as our final look at the director’s time-twisting latest. Initially intended as a sizzle to be screened at the cancelled CinemaCon trade convention back in April, this is our most substantial look at the film, which dispenses away with introducing story elements – save for the central concept of ‘inversion’. It feels like it shows so much and yet we learn so little from it still, leaving the audience to follow the clues and the cryptic dialogue as the visuals and the editing do much of the talking. The way both cuts integrate Ludwig Göransson’s score (see below version) and Travis Scott’s end title song The Plan (used in the above U.S., UK and other major territory versions) make watching these trailers an exhilarating experience in their own right.

4. Possessor – Teaser (Zealot)

A striking first look at probably the most striking film of 2020 – Zealot’s Possessor teaser carries through a surprisingly upbeat energy and rhythm that we rarely see in horror or genre trailers like this, which by and large prefer to strip things back. Evoking Prometheus, the title reveal (with its mirror style) serves as a brilliant anchor that lets the bloody awesome imagery from the mind of Brandon Cronenberg play out in glorious red-band fashion.

3. Candyman – Shadow Puppets Short (Manual Cinema)

Though technically not a trailer in the traditional sense, this piece for Nia DaCosta’s upcoming Candyman warrants inclusion as it might be the trailer that really became a cultural talking point beyond just the immediate concern of ‘is this film going to be any good’. Released right as the Black Lives Matter movement took centre stage in the world, the evocative short-slash-trailer connects the lore of the 1992 original and the upcoming sequel with reality and history out here, beyond the films, further illustrating how DaCosta’s new work will arrive at just the perfect time (give or take a global pandemic). The stunning puppetry work comes from Chicago-based performance collective Manual Cinema, and from the sounds of it will be featured in the film itself.

2. Judas and the Black Messiah – Teaser (Open Road)

The first look at upcoming Fred Hampton biopic Judas and the Black Messiah does something very familiar and similar to a couple of other trailers on this list: focusing on a specific anchor (in this case, a speech given by Daniel Kaluuya as the Black Panther Party leader) and effectively building everything around it. And here, as well as the team at Open Road, credit really has to also go to director Shaka King and Kaluuya for delivering such an electrifying scene and performance that manages to carry this entire teaser. Brilliant-looking filmmaking, combined with effective editorial and a driving music choice, makes for probably the most powerful trailer of the year, packed with energy that makes this film an absolute must-watch when it lands on screens big and small.

1. Mank – Reddit Teaser (Mark Woollen & Associates)

Ah, David Fincher. The director is said to be incredibly involved when it comes to marketing of his films and while the financial success of that may be debated, there’s no question that the creative material coming out of his collaborations is stunning. And the campaign for his latest, Mank, is no different, and probably the boldest of his career yet. The team at Mark Woollen throws it back to the 1940s time period, boldly borrowing from the structures and the tropes of the time with remarkable attention to detail (Netflix International Pictures! That MPA card!) while putting a modern twist, much like the film itself (shot and presented in authentic monochrome with state-of-the-art digital HDR). And this piece in particular, an alternate debut teaser, is especially wry and self-aware – lifting Salammbô’s Aria from Bernard Herrmann’s Citizen Kane score wholesale is a very sly choice. Much like the film itself, this teaser knows that what’s drawing people in is the making of Orson Welles’ iconic film, but it gives us the picture that Mank is not quite, and not just about, that story.

Honourable Mentions

The Most Trailer of 2020 – F9 (AV Squad)

The Best Music of 2020 – Death on the Nile (MOCEAN) – Policy of Truth (Blitz/Berlin, originally by Depeche Mode)

The Christopher Nolan Aspect Ratio Changes Award – The True History of the Kelly Gang (Editpool)

The Most Teasery Teaser Of 2020 – Nomadland (Mark Woollen & Associates)

The This-Will-Still-Be-Awesome-On-Repeat-As-The-Film-Is-Delayed-Again-And-Again Trailer Of 2020 – No Time To Die (Chinagraph London)

The Most We-Miss-Cinemas Trailer of 2020 – Hamilton (The Hive/Disney In-House)

(imagine sitting in a screening of In The Heights and seeing this with a big crowd)

What are your favourite trailers of the year? We want to hear from you – let us know in the comments below!

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