2011 Review: Best Trailers

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The polls have been completed, the votes are in and the tallies are, um, tallied as Empire takes a look back at the year in trailers and picks the truly terrific from the bafflingly awful. Here's a pantheon of promos that pushed our buttons in 2011.

Frankly, our anticipation levels were already so high that The Dark Knight Rises teaser could have shown Bruce planking his way around Wayne Manor and we'd still have been knee-deep in the hoopla. Instead, Christopher Nolan delivered a true tease, giving next to nothing away but doing it with such flirty finesse that we had to rush straight off to tell our friends.

It's going to take something for Pixar to live up to the majesty of Toy Story 3 - but Brave could be it. Its teaser trailer, released back in June, showed us the epic canvas their Caledonian adventure will span. There's courageous heroines, ginormous battlements and Scottish scorcery the likes of which we've not seen since the heyday of Highlander. Oh, and bears. Giant bears.

Unlike the sleight of hand of Christopher Nolan's trailers, David Fincher just banged all cards onto the table with his Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trailer. Scored by Trent Reznor and Karen O's full-bore reworking of Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song' and editing with genuine ferocity, this was a trailer that had got out of bed on the wrong side and was in no mood to be fucked with. Trailer of the year two years running for Fincher? Not far off.

While The Muppets' ace parody parade stopped mercifully short of mimicking The Human Centipede 2, Kermit and co. did unleash their furry genius on Fincher's Dragon Tattoo with this, the pick of the bunch. As Swedish Chef would say: "Börk, börk, börk!"

The trailer for Zack Snyder's mind-bending fantasy flick boasted enough demented playfulness and anarchic visuals to have us skipping to the cinema in a state of high excitement. Two hours later we were staggering out again, baffled to bejesus.

Was it Runaway Train meets The X-Files? Tony Scott's Cloverfield? A really scary Network Rail training video? As it turned out, JJ Abrams' Super 8 was none of the above, rather a touching love letter to boy- (and girl)hood filmmaking with a sprinkle of E.T. thrown in for good measure. But who said teasers needed to play with an entirely straight bat?

Everything about the promotion of Tomas Alfredson's spy thriller oozed class, from its Paul Smith designed one-sheets to those encrypted character prints that constructed the Circus's protagonists from chunks of code. When it arrived, the full trailer only enhanced it still further with economic scene-setting, slow-build tension and the corrosive strings of Alberto Iglesias's score. As George Smiley probably wouldn't say: "Duh, winning!"

Asif Kapadia's wonderful documentary moved in every sense of the word. Its trailer, perhaps understandably, majored on the darker moments - that simmering tension with F1 rival and Gallic car-bastard Alain Prost; the tragic end we all know is coming - but still injected plenty of the Brazilian's joie de vivre into things. There's trailers that make you want to go and see the movie; this one practically put your coat on for you.

Scary monkeys! Small girls! Music boxes! Poetry! Seriously, this teaser was only a couple of clowns and a plane-eating Mega Shark short of making us literarily pee our pants. But wait, isn't that the monkey from Toy Story 3? Get back to Sunnyside, foul chimp.

Anything Daniel Radcliffe can do, Daniel, um, Radcliffe can do better. In fairness to The Woman In Black's terrifying teaser, the Harry Potter crew had a seven movie run-up to this valedictory trailer but, still, they nailed it - and how. We knew there was a battle coming, we just didn't know it was going to make Helm's Deep look like our local Bonfire Night.

Colour us even more excited but the full bells-and-whistles Dark Knight Rises trailer has amped up our festive season like a giant bat-shaped mince pie. Sure, it's shorter on blood and thunder than some might have been hoping, but 'In Nolan We Trust' and all that. He must have got that planking memo because the Caped Crusader doesn't look like he's in shape for much crusading on this evidence. Bane by name...

The film that reminds us that sex doesn't have to be fun, Shame is a terrific, terrifying journey into a psyche that's collapsing like one of Inception's citiscapes. The trailer is an object lesson in selling a film: truthful to its essence, economical in its scene-setting, and, thanks to scorer Harry Escott's moody musical cue, pitch-perfect in tone.

When it comes to summarising the brilliance of this film, words - fittingly - fail us. Luckily, we've got this dazzling trailer to do it for us. Set hands to 'jazz'...

Sure, there were times this year when every movie started to feel like an Avengers teaser - July, for instance - but, heck, when you've got a Marvel movie this awesome, why not? The real teaser had everything we'd hoped for, including actual assembling, Sorkin-grade superhero banter and maximum explodification. Somewhere in the background Loki was conjuring up mind-warpingly sinister plots, all while looking suspiciously like he's been visiting Legolas's barber. Roll on April 2012.

One of the event trailers to draw out online snark like spider venom. The first-person action sequence was too "gamey", went the most common criticism. For our money, The Amazing Spider-Man's teaser trailer did everything it was supposed to - and a little more. It introduced Andrew Garfield's charming but out-of-his-depth Peter Parker and plunged him web-first into the brave new world that awaits him - and us - next summer.

The Descendants is George Clooney's movie, so it's only right that this is Clooney's trailer. The promo flaunts its star's range, offering up emotional beats and pratfalls with equal gusto. It's a better-than-average showcase for Alexander Payne's bittersweet tale. Expect the whole gamut from arguably Clooney's best performance to date, although Biffy Clyro fans be warned - the Scottish rockers are 'trailer only'.

While part of us would have liked a Muppets-style approach with War Horse turning up in a variety of movie scenarios (The Horse Whisperer, Seabiscuit, The Godfather... okay, not The Godfather), Steven Spielberg's Great War epic led with a trailer full of thunder and finesse. It gave us the equine hero from his days as a war pony to the mud and madness of the trenches, all set to another magical John Williams score.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ("Journeys will be unexpected") is still just over a year away, but looks to be shaping up as majestically as we'd hoped. With a familiar look and feel, Peter Jackson isn't straying too far from the well-trodden path, but the big surprise is how much is in the trailer. With 12 months of filming and post-production ahead, there'll be some well-deserved Christmas breaks in Wellington.

And finally, the Film That Isn't Alien, Honest Guv had a teaser. And lo, it was awesome. Echoing that first Alien teaser trailer, with sound that we'd swear popped up in 1979 and that a title style that definitely did, it was everything we'd hoped for. Yes, this is going to be an alien movie but greater in scope and more colossal than anything we've seen before.