We watch them, we break them down, we pore over them for clues. If we’re on a forum, we often moan about them - but let's be honest: we love trailers. Trailers are, as the cliché goes, sometimes even better than the film they’re selling, and that’s actually true of at least one clip on this list of the year’s best. See if you can identify it, and enjoy the 29 others. Did we miss any? Rant to your hearts’ content in the comments.
Mad Max: Fury Road
After literally years of on-again-off-again, maybe it’s happening and maybe it isn’t, suddenly Mad Max: Fury Road was indisputably real! The first glimpse of George Miller’s return to his signature Autogeddon gives us a taciturn Tom Hardy (shrugging into the Gibson mantle), a shaven-headed Charlize Theron, and an awful lot of desert-racing, guzzleine-burning wreckage. Road-culture at the end of the line. These things we saw and these things are fine.
Avengers: Age Of Ultron
A clip so chock-full of greatness you can only be slightly concerned that there’s nothing left to surprise us in the actual movie. If they’ve revealed their Hulkbuster armour this early, what the hell else have they got in store?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Magic happened in this first glimpse of J.J. Abrams' all-conquering return to that galaxy far, far away. No sign of the classic cast – no Hamill, no Ford, no Fisher, no Daniels, no R2D2 – but instead an emphasis on the newbies: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and an unnamed Sith with a funky new lightsaber. But we do get the Millennium Falcon and that shiver-inducing theme. It’s like Episodes I-III never happened.
Fast & Furious 7
This one begins less like a traditional trailer and more a stripped-down edit of an entire setpiece. Tragic events during production notwithstanding, any film that includes a heist/rescue where are heroes start by driving some cars out of a plane in mid-air can not be said to be holding back. The more standard quick-cut stuff later on gives us franchise newcomers Jason Statham and Kurt Russell. “One last ride,” says Diesel at one point. Recent intel suggests that ain’t necessarily so.
Beautiful robot FX work and some judicious DJ Shadow in this promo for Alex Garland’s directorial debut. It appears to give away a major twist, but rest assured that it doesn’t, and that there’s a lot more going on...
2001: A Space Odyssey Re-release Trailer
Like any trailer, this is a greatest hits of what’s in the main feature. Unlike most trailers, we’ve all already seen this film. But damn if this clip doesn’t make us want to watch it just one more time.
That underwhelming early teaser of waving grass and men at work under a ponderous McConaugh voiceover was eventually replaced with this rather more epic piece of work. And there was much rejoicing.
Paul Thomas Anderson does Thomas Pynchon with Joaquin Phoenix looking like a Wolverine who’s lost his adamantium (and his cool, and his self-respect) and is now living under a bridge. Making an amusing virtue of its complex plot, this sells the pair’s follow-up to The Master as the most pure fun we’ve had with PTA for quite some time. There are even pratfalls!
Another one that appears to tell us too much without actually telling us anything. What is Tomorrowland? We couldn’t really say, but we want to go.
Big Hero 6 teaser
This comes from the same stable as The Avengers, but it’s the Disney rather than Marvel angle that’s being played up so far. Various clips of mightier deeds have now surfaced, but we’re still in love with this chunk of physical comedy, as Baymax struggles with a football and his armour.
One of the year’s nicest surprises (for a given value of “nice”) gets one of the year’s most effective promos, introducing the top-hatted terror from the mysterious storybook with a dook-dook-dook at the front door. Some cool trailer-unique design work too, as various laudatory quotes are slipped into the torn pages of the book itself. None from us though (you won’t see us if you look). Why’s that, Icon Film Distribution? WHY’S THAT?
Steve Carell. Channing Tatum. Mark Ruffalo. Wrestling. This is not as amusing as it sounds.
Marketing departments struggled quite to nail the unique tone of Nightcrawler. While some of the more standard clips played up the darkness and the eerie off-kilter thriller aspects, this red-band version amps up the gonzo black humour and presents a sort of Afterhours on steroids. The film isn’t really that, but somehow this clip, replete with f-bombs, action beats, Gyllenhaal tics and Kendrick Lamar, does the best job of them all.
It’s not out in the UK until January, which meant it couldn’t make this year’s Empire Top 50 of 2014. But while you wait, there’s this to reassure you that it’ll certainly show up on next year’s list.
A masterclass in the what-happens-next school of movie marketing. Does he shoot the kid? Does he shoot the kid? Turns out... well, yes.
Kevin Smith, happily, continues to not retire, here returning to the Michael Parks horror well (see Red State), presenting the first in his loosely planned Canadian Trilogy. If American Sniper’s clip was all about what happens next, this one’s a lot more WTF?
If the thought of a drama about young musicians in an elite institution gives you horrifying flashbacks to Mr. Holland’s Opus, allow this trailer to thoroughly disabuse you of the notion that Whiplash is anything but Full Metal Jacket at Juilliard. Miles Teller gets to smash his way out of those frat-comedies and YA fantasies, with ferocious “support” from J.K. Simmons.
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Of the several trailers that heralded Matt Reeves’ ape dawn, we’ll take this one because it gives us the most Koba. Andy Serkis’ Caesar has been justly celebrated, but it’s arguably Toby Kebbell’s scarred villain that knuckle-walks away with the film.
Guardians Of The Galaxy
Ooga-chaka-ooga-ooga! For 20 years Blue Swede’s Hooked On A Feeling belonged to Reservoir Dogs. But in 2014 it was stolen by Star-Lord and company. We don’t think Tarantino's getting it back.
Transformers: Age Of Extinction
At three minutes or so, Michael Bay’s mind and arse-numbing 160-minute Transformers fourquel is actually quite digestible. Robots! Spaceships! Dinosaurs! Marky Mark! Looks fun, doesn’t it?! So stick with this cut and save the rest of your valuable time for something else.
What We Do In The Shadows
Many comedy trailers waste some of their best moments. Happily, What We Do In The Shadows has so many to spare that even throwing “Werewolves, not swearwolves!” out there early isn’t an issue.
“That Lux Aeterna sound is so frightening,” as a man once sang. Godzilla’s trailer actually opted for the same composer’s Requiem, but still took a leaf from Kubrick’s 2001 playbook in employing the troubling choral wailings of György Ligeti. The final movie left some people underwhelmed, but the teaser does a perfect job of selling Gojira’s dreadful, awe-inspiring scale and disaster-horror tone.
Festival screenings aside, the film may have disappeared into a dark distribution jungle, but we do at least have this to show us what we’re missing. It looks for all the world as if Eli Roth has nailed the ‘70s cannibal shtick of forebears like Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi. Whether you think it was worth nailing is moot.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Something of a game of musical chairs was going on this year, with James Gunn appropriating Blue Swede from Tarantino and Gareth Edwards adopting Ligeti from Kubrick. Which left Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, famously part of Roland Emmerich’s 1998 giant lizard-fest, free for Bryan Singer’s triumphant X-Men: Days Of Future Past. No Puff Daddy here though: this is the Corner Stone Cues version. Snikt!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Joe Johnston’s Rocketeer-ish World War II adventure The First Avenger had introduced Chris Evans’ take on Captain America, and we’d seen him brought up to date in Avengers Assemble. But as The Winter Soldier’s marketing campaign ramped up, it became very clear that, going forward, Steve Rogers would be neither quaint nor second fiddle.
The Raid 2
If anyone was doubtful that The Raid could be at least equaled if not bettered, their fears were assuaged by these few of minutes of utter, utter carnage. Hammer time. Uh-oh.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Both trailers for the latest Matthew Vaughn / Mark Millar team-up reassured us that Kingsman looks a lot better than it sounded on paper. But this one edges it for the extended sequence of Colin Firth going the full John Steed. Ralph Fiennes, we’re told, by a source we just made up, smiled ruefully to himself before remembering he’s in the next Coen brothers film.
It’s already hard to remember a time when – unless you’d read the book – you had no real idea where Gone Girl was going. This trailer is a master class in selling you a story you think you have a handle on. It only took the movie itself about half an hour to reveal you were watching something entirely else.
Where did this come from? Relatively few people were even aware this was shooting, until the promo for the done-and-dusted film rampaged online. Revelling in its pure ass-battering simplicity and its tongue-in-cheek premise – they killed his puppy and stole his car; now he wants revenge! – this one’s a blast from start to finish.
Thirteen years on from the limp threequel, here comes the bio-engineered Jurassic World to inject new DNA into the franchise. There’s a bit in The Hills Have Eyes where you see a Jaws poster ripped in half: a sly wink that kind of says, ‘Oh yeah, you think a shark is scary?’ This trailer does something kind of similar, but with a Mosasaur.