Christopher’s Top 10 Trailers of 2016

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we rank the best trailers that 2016 had to offer.

Some years in doing this I find the selecting of 10 trailers to be arduous but not this year. In 2016, there were clear standouts about the trailers that embodied being artistically unique and visually impactful while serving the need of business overlords who dictate that these things need to get people to purchase, to literally buy into your premise. With that, though, there were some that didn’t make the top 10 but would still benefit from a click or two:

Central Intelligence – Can’t lie, this still makes me laugh. The best bits might all be in the trailer but that’s the point.
Presenting Princess Shaw – Went from not knowing anything to wanting to know everything by the time this was done.
Newtown – Best example of what someone would say is “required viewing.”
Kicks – Great energy, interesting story, well-edited. This was slick.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Made me see this franchise with a new perspective. (And it delivered)

With that, here are the rest…

10. Mon Roi

Readers to this column know I have a strong affinity for foreign trailers and none was better than last year’s Mon Roi. Apart from Vincent Cassel doing what he does so well in being expressive and emotive, the zero amount of words used to explain exactly what’s happening helps the viewer simply appreciate the world that’s being crafted before them.

9. The LEGO Batman Movie

“That one is culturally insensitive.” Kids, schmids. Look, as a parent, I want to be pitched along with the kids. When you look at trailers for Sing and The Secret Life of Pets there could not be a more stark difference between how they chose to appeal to the audience versus this one. It’s obvious how hard they’re leaning on the more ribald, (comparatively speaking) humor, but everything from the pacing and how fast the jokes come at you make it obvious which one is in it to win the hearts and minds of kiddos and adults.

8. Suicide Squad

Too bad that it never got any better than this. After walking out of seeing the finished product, figuring out that this movie was just one long music montage, this trailer told us everything we needed to know about what this movie experience was going to be like. And, in terms of selling a high-paced action film with moments of visual flourishes, this trailer succeeds on all accounts. Trailers like this have one goal, to sell tickets, and none did better at being the P.T. Barnum of 2016 than this visual equivalent of a candy bar.

7. Girl Asleep

It genuinely might be tough to break through the noise of many higher priced productions but this little movie with a big heart commanded all of my attention when it debuted. Shifting tones, interesting music choices, nice use of pull quotes, it was a blip on many other people’s year but I still find this endearing.

6. Swiss Army Man Red Band

I get it, it’s tough to sell a movie about a dead Harry Potter who is actually alive and is going to help this castaway get home. The words Daniel Radcliffe and fart have never been used as judiciously in so many press releases last year but this is the trailer that wonderfully captures and balances the insanity and humanity of these two men. It tells you everything you need to know about getting involved with a movie that is unlike anything else you saw in 2016.

5. Midnight Special

So wonderfully composed and balanced, this trailer is spartan on details but big on exposing us to many moments within the film. Watching this trailer again you can appreciate the task in what the trailer had to do and, through the use of strategically placed pull quotes, the success it has in making us feel for what’s happening here is a monumental accomplishment.

4. The Witch

Unnerved. I cannot express how off-balance this thing made me as my mind desperately tried to understand what was happening here. Blood coming out of udders, kids giggling, another child writhing, a goat looking on — if you were looking to make a trailer that told you nothing and told you everything, this would be it.

3. Moonlight

This one is visually arresting. The story for Moonlight is complex so that’s not really addressed here and is better for it. It’s poetic. The colors, the music, the small insights we get to these characters who inhabit the world we’re allowed to see, it all equates to one of the best reasons why this art form can be so moving.

2. Blue Jay

I’m so in love with this thing. One of the problems with having to go from zero awareness to getting someone hooked into what you’re putting out is that you have to make a connection. This trailer does it by believing in the story and just letting the narrative play out through these little moments that have real impact. Just get out of the way and let us feel what’s happening.

1. Green Room Teaser

Patrick Stewart. Apart from this movie being on nearly everyone’s Top 10 list as a film, this all started with a tease. There were trailers that came after this one and those certainly contextualized things a bit more and gave up more of its narrative, all of this being all well and good, but this was as good as it got. And for good reason. If you can put yourself back to when you didn’t know anything about this movie and just stumbling on this to the first time, Stewart’s voice-over is downright sinister. Rarely have I reacted to a piece of marketing with such feeling after having seen it but this one sticks with you long after you’re left wondering what went down and why you can’t just see this movie now.

Big ups to the talented crew at Intermission Film for doing the best one minute, three seconds’ worth of work in 2016.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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