I love teaser trailers. We live in a day and age where most Hollywood trailers show too much, valuing cool footage over mystery, surprise and a well-constructed edit. There is an art to the teaser trailer. Some filmmakers such as Brad Bird, Christopher Nolan, JJ Abrams, and, yes, Michael Bay, are still able to take creative control over the early marketing and cut awesome packages that are big on excitement and mystery without revealing too much. Other editors, like Mark Woollen, craft great teasers with input from directors such as the Coen Brothers.
I love that teaser trailers can spotlight the promise of a high concept idea. I love that teaser trailers can act as a tone poem for a more complicated dramatic film. I love that a teaser trailer can show so little of the actual film yet get me more excited than the two and a half minute final trailer. Over the last week I tried to compile a list of the best teaser trailers of all time and rank them. After the jump you can find my list of the best teaser trailers of all time.
What is a teaser trailer?
Before we start, lets talk about what a teaser trailer is, and what it isn’t. When putting together this list, I tried to come up with some guidelines, but its definitely not clear cut what makes a teaser trailer. Here are my thoughts:
- Teaser trailers are almost always the first trailer released for a given film.
- They usually run under 90 seconds in length, although there are exceptions. One teaser trailer on this list runs much MUCH longer, yet no one will say it isn’t a teaser trailer.
- Usually the teaser trailer will sell a movie based on the high-concept idea or the film’s tone instead of the characters and their story.
- Often times the best teaser trailers show little to no actual footage from the film, but this is certainly not a requirement.
Warning: This List Is Subjective
We tried to judge the teaser trailers based on the trailer alone and not the final film it is advertising. There are movies included in this list that we don’t consider great movies, and some we don’t even consider good movies — but we tried to judge every teaser trailer on its own merits.
Like any list, this grouping is highly subjective and ranked on my own tastes, so I’m sure you’ll disagree with some of the inclusions, be angry that I didn’t include your favorite teaser, or maybe annoyed that so and so teaser is ranked higher than blah and blah.
The grouping is largely based in the films released in my lifetime, movies that I grew up with. I have tried to include some older films as well, but many of the teasers on this list were ones that I experienced in the theater and had me excitedly awaiting the finished film. We also tried to consider how the teasers were received during their time, even if some of the teasers are showing their age.
I’ll be completely honest, this list was very hard to put together. I was constantly finding more teaser trailers I wanted to include and ones I really didn’t want to exclude. I know that there are probably a dozen cool teasers that should have made this list but for whatever reason didn’t come up in any of my research digs.
Please leave any teaser trailers you think we may have unfairly missed in the comments below. I apologize that this list is so long but I struggled with excluding any of these movies. I also decided to leave Star Wars: The Force Awakens off this list as its too early to rank it amongst the other teasers.
The Best Teaser Trailers Of All Time
53. Where The Wild Things Are
This amazing music video of a teaser trailer is packed with hand-crafted feeling and tonally one of the best teaser trailers of the past five years.
53. Superman: The Movie
Sure, there isn’t too much to this teaser: a bunch of names are superimposed over footage of flight through clouds as the sun sets. But the tease of a real cinematic Superman film, for its time, was very exciting for comic book geeks.
52. The Day After Tomorrow
Director Roland Emmerich knows how to make great teaser trailers, and this is the first one of his you’ll see on this list. While the effects don’t hold up today, the tease of big scale destruction in this trailer was great at the time.
The teaser trailer to Face/Off is simple but effective. A seemless looking one shot with a great reveal, followed by a quick montage of cool-looking John Woo action shots from the film.
Framed as a documentary-style featurette about poltergeists, this teaser uses very little footage from the film, instead selling the film on talking heads and stills.
This teaser had a great reveal of the bank robbers being trapped in a spider-web between two skyscrapers. This trailer is also infamous due to the visibility of the World Trade Center buildings. After the 9/11 attacks, the trailer and its associated teaser poster were quickly pulled from theaters.
48. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The Judgement Day teaser gave us a look at the assembly line process of creating a Terminator 800 series and ended with Arnold’s signature catchphrase “I’ll Be Back”
47. Red Eye
The teaser trailer to Red Eye is great because for the first two thirds it is played as a romantic comedy before swerving into the reveal of a Wes Craven horror thriller.
46. Rocky Balboa
This teaser trailer boldly sells the movie on one single shot of Sylvester Stallone’s eyes.
45. The Exorcist
This is widely considered to be one of the best teaser trailers of all time. I love the opening and the almost psychedelic sequence of flashes showing scenes from inside the exorcism.
44. Scream 2
This trailer is focused around the idea of the rules of a good sequel, promising a bigger body count, more elaborate death scenes, and more suspects. It provides a meta commentary on the horror sequel in the same way the original Scream did for the horror movie genre.
43. The Matrix: Reloaded
This teaser was amazing for its time, coming off the buzz of the first film, slicing and dicing with cool action, kick-ass music, with a good psychological voice over.