The Best Teaser Trailers Of All Time

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.

Pearl Harbor

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.

best teaser trailers

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.

51. Face/Off

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.

50. Poltergeist

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.

49. Spider-Man 

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.

Guardians of the Galaxy

42. Guardians of the Galaxy 

A version of this teaser trailer was originally shown at San Diego Comic Con, and got a ton of people who had never heard of Guardians of the Galaxy really excited about the film. The teaser really sets up the attitude and the insane sci-fi weirdness of Marvel's galactic world. And somehow Disney said yes to a trailer for a comic book movie featuring their main hero giving the middle finger to the camera.

41. A Serious Man

This one was one of Russ Fischer's picks, which he calls a "landmark" teaser trailer. While it is filled with clips from throughout the film, the one-minute teaser trailer is cut almost like one of those Pogo music videos, providing a tone and rhythm to its madness.

40. There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson's films have had some great mood and tone focused teaser trailers. There Will Be Blood is my favorite of the bunch.

39. Toys

I was never a huge fan of Barry Levinson's 1992 film Toys but the teaser trailer was a lot of fun, focusing on star Robin Williams lampooning trailers, doing impressions and making jokes as only he could.

38. Back To The Future

I wouldn't say that the Back to the Future teaser trailer is technically great, in that it isn't as exciting as the other teasers on this list — but this cheesy trailer is awesome in hindsight. It feels so deeply of the 1980s. The teaser is comprised of footage shot specifically for the marketing. The camera pans over all the flashing lights and gizmos inside the futuristic Delorean time machine prop as Michael J Fox enters the vehicle and answers a question posed by a woman off-camera. I can't explain why this is so great but everytime I watch it it makes me smile.

37. Prometheus

A great homage to the classic Alien trailer which, yes (spoiler alert!), places higher on this list.

36. WALL-E

Disney's tease of WALL-E begins with the behind the scenes creation of the early Pixar films leading to the introduction of our favorite computer animated robot.

35. Transformers

Say what you will about Michael Bay or the Transformers films, but almost all of the films had fantastic trailers. The first Transformers was sold on footage not used in the film, showing a Mars rover which went missing. The footage from the rover shows its last few seconds, and the reveal of an alien invasion headed towards earth. It was a very cool way to set-up a live-action Transformers film, and it got a lot of people interested.

34. The Empire Strikes Back

I love the fact that the sequel to Star Wars was first marketed based only on Ralph McQuarrie's concept art, with no actual footage from the movie.

33. The Social Network

A trailer about the creation of Facebook told by splicing dialogue into a facebook-style chat? Genius.

32. Transformers: Dark of the Moon

This trailer is in the same vein as the teaser trailer for the first Transformers, above. It shows an alternate conspiracy theorist version of American history, more information kept from us by the United States government. This teaser trailer is based in the moon landing, which leads to a reveal of a secret mission.

Comedian

31. Comedian

This little seen Jerry Seinfeld documentary is actually pretty great, and the teaser trailer skipped footage from the doc to instead parody the movie trailer cliches. Hal Douglas, perhaps the second most prolific trailer voice-over artist (after Don LaFontaine), stars in the teaser which introduces the movie through the recording of the very advertisement.

30. Men in Black

This trailer does a great job selling of the concept, spending the first half of the trailer building to the big UFO crash reveal, which is the only clip from the movie in the advertisement.

29. Little Children 

The teaser for Little Children does a great job of using the juxtaposition of an approaching train with scenes from the story to create a quickly rising tension.

28. Kill Bill

The first Kill Bill trailer is sold on nothing but cool factor — cool shorts, cool music, cool action, a cool director, and cool actors.

27. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

The very first teaser trailer for The Lord of the Rings was an online exclusive, probably one of the first big internet trailers. This pick, from Germain Lussier, teased not only The Fellowship of the Ring but the entire Lord of the Rings epic trilogy. I remember all my friends watching this over and over and over again when it came out.

26. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is certainly not a good film, by anyone's standards, but the teaser trailer is a work of popcorn art. It packs tons of explosions, large scale destruction, exciting transformations, suspenseful moments and huge Transformers of unbelievable scale. Sure the film ended up being a gigantic mess, but its hard not to get excited while watching this first trailer, even knowing the result.

25. Pearl Harbor

Another great Michael Bay teaser trailer for a not-so-good movie, selling patriotism through explosions and slow motion.

24. Super 8 

JJ Abrams attempted to recapture the surprise of Cloverfield with his Super 8 trailer, which was released before the project had even been formerly announced. The teaser surprised and offered a nice big mystery box for everyone to wonder about.

The first trailer with footage from the actual film is just as great, really capturing the nostalgic americana of Speilberg's 1980's Amblin movies.

23. Interstellar

I feel like auteur filmmakers have recently made a strong effort to bring back the teaser trailer style of yesteryear. Christopher Nolan is one of those filmmakers and while I didn't love the Batman trilogy teasers, they did a good job at exciting without spoiling almost anything. The 2-minute Interstellar teaser is my favorite from the filmmaker, as it shows probably only 10 seconds of footage from the actual film, but sets the mood and tone perfectly. It also ends with a shot that isn't in the film, of Coop's daughter Murph watching the rocket launch. I'm not sure if this was specially created for the teaser or is actually a deleted scene. I also love how the teaser ends with "One year from now."

22. Iron Man

A version of this Iron Man teaser trailer was first shown at Comic Con and the response from Hall H exploded through the roof. The audience requested that Jon Favreau and crew play the trailer a second time. Marvel head Kevin Feige has publicly stated the importance of the moment which became the beginning of Marvel Studio's legacy.

Gravity

21. Gravity

The teaser trailer to Gravity is a visual rollercoaster ride, watching it again brings back the anxiety I had experiencing the film. Perhaps the only thing I don't like about the teaser is the clip shown at the very end of the lone astronaught flipping into the darkness of outter space. I saw this trailer many times in theaters before various films and for some reason that closing moment always drew laughs from some in the audience.

I do actually prefer the second trailer which was titled "Detached." This was almost a one and a half minute shot from the film's dramatic and thrilling inciting incident. It is technically a trailer, as it's not the first released trailer for the film, but it could very well be a teaser. Also worth noting that this trailer below won trailer of the year at the Golden Trailer Awards in 2014.

20. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

This teaser trailer is great due to the music choice alone, a Trent Reznor and Karen O cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" set to a rapid-fire montage of clips from David Fincher's adaptation. This red band teaser trailer was also brilliantly released virally online as a bootleg, taped off a screen in a movie theater, projecting the film's anti-establishment attitude.

19. Explorers

The teaser trailer to The Explorers is a brilliant tracking shot into the backyard of a 1980's suburbian home. What are they doing in there? What are the building? This is the pure definition of "tease". I also love the tagline: "The adventure begins in your own backyard."

18. Godzilla (2014)

This is another teaser that had the power of surprise — Legendary Pictures surprised fans with this teaser trailer, a visual effects test conducted by director Gareth Edwards before he even started work on the film. The imagery in the teaser is just perfect, especially with the Oppenheimer quote which harkens back to the original movie.

17. Tron Legacy

This teaser trailer or test footage for Tron: Legacy premiered as a surprise at the end of an unassuming Disney panel at Comic Con. Not only was the sequel not yet in production, but it had not been publicly announced. The combination of surprise and updated visuals was enough to drive fans nuts.

I'll also include the first real trailer for the film, which was also pretty damn great.

16. Up In The Air

Jason Reitman is another auteur filmmaker who regularly cuts the first teaser trailer for his films. His teaser trailer for Up in The Air features scenes from the film narrated by George Clooney's great backpack speech from the film. Its another trailer that captures the tone and feeling of the film better than any of the other marketing materials. When I did an informal poll on twitter, many readers suggested this trailer over big blockbuster films.

15. The Incredibles

One of the things I use to love about Pixar movies was that not only would you get a computer animated short with the feature, but they used to include an announcement teaser trailer for their next film. The Incredibles teaser was attached to the May 2003 film Finding Nemo, a full 18 months before the film's release. This practice stopped around the time the company was acquired by Disney. The Incredibles teaser is great because it introduces us to the world and teases Mr. Incredible, but doesn't give us much more than that. It almost felt like a micro short film rather than a teaser trailer.

14. Godzilla (1998)

Say what you will about Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, but the marketing was actually pretty awesome. I remember the billboard ads on the side of buildings that read "This is the size of Godzilla's leg". And this teaser trailer, which was attached to 1997's Men in Black, features not a frame of footage from the film. Instead we see a scene in a museum, which was specially shot for the teaser trailer. This is the second trailer from director Roland Emmerich to make the list.

13. Inception 

This one minute teaser trailer is almost all visual, a highly exciting and visceral montage of mind-bending clips. The teaser is also notable for starting the trend of tentpole movie trailers using a large blaring "BRRRRRRRAAAAAWWWWRWRRRMRMRMMRMRMMMMM" sound effect.

12. Watchmen

Zack Snyder premiered a three minute teaser trailer for Watchmen at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con International, which wowed fans old and new. The teaser is a montage of highly visual moments from the film. Even Snyder's biggest critics can admit that he knows how to shoot and edit a creative music video. (The Watchmen and Sucker Punch openings are a prime example.)

The wider-released teaser trailer is also great, a bit shorter and cut to Smashing Pumpkins' "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning".

11. The Shining 

Only Stanley Kubrick could get a movie studio to release a teaser trailer like this. The teaser is bold, bloody and brilliant.

ZZ798AB35F

10. JJ Abrams' Star Trek

JJ Abrams is a director who likes to tease a mystery, so its no wonder that his films have such great teaser trailers. The first trailer for Star Trek grounded the previously nerdy Star Trek franchise in the history of the American space program with the grand reveal of the construction of the USS Enterprise.

9. Superman Returns 

The teaser trailer for Superman Returns used to give me goosebumps, the mixture of Marlon Brando's voice over with John Williams original score teased over quick glimpses from Bryan Singer's take on the classic character.

8. Blair Witch Project

The original trailer for The Blair Witch Project sold the film based on a lie: the premise that this was a real story, and a real documentary which went horribly wrong. We are told this with only few lines of text on the screen, accompanied by the audio from one of the tapes, and a few moments of Heather Donahue crying into the camera before concluding with the BlairWitch.com url. This was one of the first teaser trailers that drove viewers to the internet in droves. And it was one of the first movies to use the internet as a viral marketing platform. For all of these reasons, this teaser deserves a place in the top 10.

7. Jurassic Park

I didn't hate the Jurassic World teaser trailer, but like many of you, I was hoping for something less revealing and more teasery. The teaser trailer to Jurassic Park was perfect, selling the core concept behind the film based not on any tentpole moments from the film itself, but on the backstory of the discovery of the prehistoric mosquito captured in amber.

6. Alien

One of the most haunting original teaser trailers ever released.

5. Requiem For a Dream

The teaser trailer perfectly captures the visceral hip-hop montage style of this early Darren Aronofsky masterpiece. The teaser almost feels like an experimental film, cut music video style to Clint Mansell's amazing score. Its amazing that this trailer is almost 15 years old but feels like something more contemporary.

4. Psycho (1960)

I stated in the opening that teaser trailers usually run under 90 seconds and usually no more than two minutes in length, but there are exceptions. The biggest exception to the rule is probably the six and a half minute teaser trailer for Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic Psycho. The teaser follows legendary horror director Hitchcock as he gives us a tour of the Psycho house and the Bates Motel. Remarkably, the teaser, which runs almost seven minutes, only has a few seconds of footage from the actual film. I love how different and interesting this trailer is, and can't even imagine a big director like Steven Spielberg or Christopher Nolan doing this sort of thing for their movies today.

3. Cloverfield

This trailer is near the top of this list because it does everything a great teaser trailer should do. It's unexpecting as you could possibly get, it packs a surprise, yet doesn't even reveal whats going on. No one even knew this movie was coming. Matt Reeves filmed the teaser before production even began, and Paramount attached the teaser trailer to Transformers in the summer of 2007. The teaser ended with only the date January 18, 2008. No title. Moviegoers leaving the theater immediately went on a search trying to figure out more about the movie. An online community quickly formed, chasing all the clues dropped by the production and marketing team.

2. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 

The Phantom Menace teaser trailer might be the best of the released Star Wars teasers to date, giving us our first glimpse of the promise of another Star Wars trilogy. There are so manty things about this teaser trailer that are great, from Yoda's fear leads to suffering speach to the reveal of Darth Maul's double sided lightsaber. While the final film disappointed many, this teaser trailer didn't.

1. Independence Day

This teaser trailer played during the Super Bowl that year and it was the commercial everyone was talking about the next day. The realism of the visual effects was unlike anything we had seen before, and the image of the white house being blown up by aliens was as visceral as you can get.