Nope Trailer Breakdown: We're Not Saying It's Aliens, But...

The long-awaited trailer for "Nope," director Jordan Peele's next horror movie, has finally dropped, and it's as picturesque as it is confounding — in a good way, of course. Coupled with Peele's reputation for injecting a fresh perspective into the horror genre, the intentionally vague and cryptic marketing surrounding "Nope" has helped to build interest and speculation concerning Peele's next creepy tale. 

Following the unprecedented success and critical reception of "Get Out" and "Us," "Nope" will be Peele's third feature film – but even with the added help of the trailer, much of the plot of still remains a mystery. We're here to break the trailer down and try to parse whatever details we can. Luckily, there's plenty to dig into.

Historical Inspiration

The "Nope" trailer begins with a clip of the first motion picture ever made: a 2 second-clip of a man riding a horse. As a fun fact, the first motion was indeed a brief clip of a man riding a horse, though there is no information about the rider's identity beyond the fact that he was presumably a Black man. It's certainly interesting that Peele would draw and build upon this historical fact to build his story — similar to how he used the 1986 Hands Across America fundraising event as the inspiration for "Us" and its chilling imagery. 

Check out the original motion picture photographs, created by Eadweard Muybridge in 1878 and originally animated using devices like the Praxinoscope, below.

Giddy Up

The "Nope" trailer then cuts to Keke Palmer's character performing in front of a green screen, alongside a live horse and Daniel Kuluuya (who played the lead role in "Get Out"), describing the horse rider in the clip as a Black man who is also her "great great" grandfather, but she is corrected by a very tired and exasperated looking Daniel Kuluuya, who tells her to add another "great." Palmer's character enthusiastically adds another "great" and continues her spiel before an audience of cameramen and film crew.

Horses are also present throughout the trailer, and it seems that the primary setting of "Nope" will be the fictional Haywood Ranch, which Palmer's character describes as being home to "the only Black horse trainers in Hollywood." Notably, Kaluuya's character resembles the unnamed horse rider in the clip: they're both accompanied by a black horse, and both are wearing hats with a front brim.

Racial Dynamics

Peele's inventive use of racism itself as the primary antagonist of "Get Out" was praised by critics and audiences alike. In his second film, "Us," Peele cast a Black family as the primary protagonists of the film, but race did not play an explicit role in the story. In an interview with The Guardian, he said that "Us" was very intentionally not about race:

"Scores of people will walk into this movie waiting for the racial commentary, and when it doesn't come in the form they're looking for, they'll be forced to ask themselves: 'Why did I think a movie with Black people had to be about blackness?'"

Now, in "Nope" it appears as though race will come into play to some degree, as evidenced by the words of Palmer's character at the start of the trailer. I also noticed the optics of the film crew being predominantly white and male, while the people being recorded — Palmer and Kuluuya — are Black. I can't help thinking this was an intentional juxtaposition, though to what end I can't yet decipher. It could be nothing, it could be commentary on the way mainstream media still expects and rewards exaggerated caricatures of non-white racial identity from people of color at the expense of their personhood and individuality. Who knows! There's also the fact that the song in the trailer is "Fingertips," which is about putting on a show and hyping up the crowd.

Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man!

Lending further credence to my theory about the commodification of racial identity (and maybe others things) playing a role are the abundance of the creepy, flailing arm tube things. You know, the kind typically used by used car dealerships and retail businesses when they want to catch your attention. The terrifying tube creatures, also called "sky dancers" are undoubtedly linked to commercialization and advertisement. They could also be a hint at "Nope's" potential movie monsters, which many suspect will be aliens.

A Friendly Fist Bump?

More references to extraterrestrials and threats from the sky are sprinkled throughout the trailer: people and cameras looking toward the sky the big cloud that serves as a focal point in the film's promotional poster, and of course, the nod to Steven Spielberg's "E.T." A child character is seen preparing to fist-bump the hand of some person or creature with charred-looking skin reaching under the table. Do they just want to phone home, or do they want something more sinister?

The Middle of Nowhere

Another potential reference is this shot of the ranch's main house in the trailer, which closely resembles the house "in the middle of nowhere" from the cartoon "Courage the Cowardly Dog."

This could just be childhood nostalgia talking, but given the other homages present in the trailer, there's a chance it was a conscious source of inspiration. In "Courage" strange things constantly plague the house and inhabitants, and that certainly seems to be what's going on in "Nope." I mean, just look at what happened to this horse that appears to be upside down, lodged in head-first in a vehicle.

Is NOPE an Acronym?

A popular theory concerning the film's plot and title is that "Nope" is actually an acronym for "Not Of Planet Earth." Although Peele has yet to confirm or deny this theory, it's not out of the realm of possibility. There's also the fact that the film's vague synopsis contains the question, "What's a bad miracle?" Miracles are often referred to as "blessings from above" — and what is above us? The sky. The galaxy. Space. It's all coming together, when you think about it.

"Nope!" was also memorably uttered in last year's "Candyman," which was written and produced by Peele and directed by Nia DaCosta. In a scene poking fun at how characters in horror movies always make the terrible decision to wander into creepy dark basements, Teyonah Parris' character encounters a doorway leading to a dark, creepy basement and says "nope!" before slamming the door shut again. There's no "nope" in the "Nope" trailer, but Keke Palmer does use the variation "nah, nah, nah..." as she encounters the ominous phenomenon.

Something in the Air

There are several moments in the "Nope" trailer that appear to depict changes in the atmosphere with respect to wind and air. Large gusts of wind that carry dust and dirt with them are seen knocking over and sweeping up the film's characters. Additionally, the wacky waving flailing inflatable arm tube men suddenly deflate at two different points in the trailer, indicating either an electricity blackout or some kind of change the air that previously inflated them. Could these apparent shifts in the wind be the work of aliens? Maybe. Probably. I mean, Keke Palmer's character is also snatched up into what looks like both a "Twister" reference and an alien abduction of sorts.

Star Lasso Experience

In another shot of the trailer, we see a stand selling t-shirts and small figures of strange looking creatures, advertising the "Star Lasso Experience." If there is an alien invasion or visitation of sorts, perhaps the "Star Lasso Experience" is the commercialization of their presence on Earth, exploiting their abilities and presence for profit. A sign at the stall reads "Book Your Next Experience Here!" and the accompanying graphics feature a horse that appears to be swept up by some presumably cosmic force. In the corner of the shot, there's also a bag of what looks like a larger version of the creature-figurines, and part of the label reads "ALIEN 'VIEWER'" ... Interesting.

Aliens Among Us

There's a brief glimpse of an "alien" creature walking around in the trailer, though it is mostly obscured by the object it is walking behind. Still, just the top of its head closely resembles the design of the "Star Lasso Experience" dolls, so it does look an awful lot like the aliens have had their likeness packaged and sold. Either that or this is a child character wearing one of the alien masks for a fake-out scare.

The Crab

There's a crab walking around in an area that is not traditionally crab-friendly. What does it mean? Why is it there? Why does the trailer dedicate any amount of time to this out-of-place creature? Is it a metaphor? A seafood dinner escapee? The possibilities are endless.

The Water Hole

There is, quite literally, a hole that is walled by water. Very unnatural. Very alien hijinks. The little flag garland seen hanging from the cloud in the movie poster is also dangling over the hole, which leads me to think that the hole is capped by the cloud.

The Veiled Lady

I really don't know what's going on here, and I don't feel comfortable making too many assumptions just yet. There was an obvious attempt to hide her face, given the hat and the veil, and that's all I got.

"Nope" hits theaters this summer on July 22, and given the secrecy surrounding it, we'll have to wait until then to find out if any theories or assumptions are correct. Taking into account Peele's reputation as an innovator in the horror genre, we're probably in for much more than any of us could have ever anticipated.