The Best Movie Trailers of 2017

3. The Shape of Water

The trailer for The Shape of Water alone contains more magic than 90% of the actual movies that came out this year. It’s always difficult to sell a Guillermo del Toro movie to a general audience – del Toro traffics in familiar genre tropes, but attaches his own blend of myth-making to the proceedings that make the final product hard to pin down. The filmmaker ran into some trouble with the marketing for his fantastic gothic romance Crimson Peak, which was saddled with trailers that attempted to trick audiences into thinking it was a straight-up horror film.

This first trailer for The Shape of Water doesn’t make those mistakes, and instead works hard to sell the film as the gorgeous, dreamy romance it really is. It’s also vague enough to not give too much away, which is important, because there’s a lot going on in The Shape of Water that is best experienced fresh. Loaded with the type of musical-inspired imagery that prevails through the film itself, The Shape of Water teases the film in the best ways possible.

Worth noting: subsequent trailers, including a red band trailer, jettison this approach entirely and give nearly the entire movie away, including several major plot twists. It’s truly baffling, and I’m not entirely sure why del Toro would sign off on it (if he even had a say, that is).

2. War for the Planet of the Apes

If there’s one modern movie marketing trend I loathe, it’s when studios release teasers for their trailers – quick, meaningless montages that serve to only announce that an actual trailer is coming the following day. Yet from terrible ideas good things sometimes spring. One of the very best trailers from 2017 was, indeed, a dreaded teaser for a trailer. Stranger still was the fact that when the actual trailer that was being teased arrived, it had none of the teaser stuff in it, and was kind of disappointing.

Before War for the Planet of the Apes released its final trailer, the film put out this stunning little teaser that’s more effective than the movie itself. Through a montage of historical newsreel footage showing the progress (and sometimes destructive nature) of humanity, spliced with footage from the three films in the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, we hear the booming baritone voice of original Planet of the Apes star Charlton Heston. Heston’s audio is taken from a speech he gave at the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and the words aren’t original to Heston – the actor was actually quoting  (in part) author William Faulkner’s 1949 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

The end result is chilling and near-iconic. It’s one of the most satisfying trailers I’ve ever seen – not just this year, but any year. The “teaser for a trailer” trend continues to be unnecessary, but if more studios approached the concept like this, the movie marketing landscape would be a lot more interesting.

1. It

The trailer for It broke a YouTube record for the most trailer views in 24 hours, and one watch makes it easy to see why. This is the type of effective, memorable trailer that instantly gets you excited and instantly makes you want bring others into the fold – the type of trailer that you just have to share so others can take part in the excitement.

While there were plenty of great Stephen King movie adaptations in the past, it had been a pretty long time since a legitimately interesting King flick had hit the big screen. The trailer for Andres Muschietti’s adaptation of It seemed to signal a significant change – here, at last, was a Stephen King adaptation that looked really well-made – crafted with care and attention to detail. It’s hard to market horror, and more often than not, studios will get lazy and settle for big, loud, pointless jump scares that more often than not leave theater-going audiences snickering. The It teaser trailer actually takes its time to craft some genuinely scary moments, particularly the big centerpiece involving the kids of the Losers Club watching in horror as a slideshow comes to life and reveals their nemesis, Pennywise the Clown.

Speaking of Pennywise, this trailer also gave us our first real look at Bill Skarsgård in the part, and while early promotional photos of the killer clown left a lot to be desired, seeing Skarsgård in action here seemed to instantly assuage any concerns. Best of all, though, was the fact that the kids who made up the main cast of It all seemed like real kids here – not a bunch of child actors over-emoting and playing things over-the-top, as a lot of the kids in the original It miniseries tended to do. In short, almost every detail on display in this trailer served to announce the arrival of a potentially great new horror movie – a potential that was fully realized when It hit theaters and turned out to be a smashing success.

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