The 15 best trailers of 2016

Suicide Squad

by John Nugent |
Published on

A tease here, a hint there, an occasional over-share of the plot elsewhere... There have been some stunning trailers this year – the more cynical among you might even argue they've been better than the actual movies – and here, for your previewing pleasure, are fifteen of our favourites. Note: many are for films out next year – but all these trailers came out this year.

15. Jackie

The best kind of trailers tells you everything and nothing: summarising a mood and story without giving too much away of either. So it is with this first look at Pablo Larrain’s impressionistic Jackie Kennedy biopic, which melds fragments from the film into a montage of bewitching beauty and sadness.

Money shot: A crane shot overlooking the Presidential car speeding away, as Jackie holds the lifeless body of her husband in her arms.

14. The Neon Demon

The Neon Demon’s first teaser trailer plays like a hyper-stylish, hyper-sexualised, hyperreal music video, encompassing naked supermodels, a mountain lion in a motel room, walls that seem to breathe, and an occultist triangle symbol pulsating throughout – all within the space of 30 seconds. You’ll need a cigarette afterwards.

Money shot: Elle Fanning splayed on a chaise lounge, covered in blood.

13. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

Irreverent adventurer’s spirit: check. Glam-rock retro soundtrack: check. Sparkly dialogue: check. Bonkers alien designs: check. Cute Groot: check. Marvel’s unlikeliest team of space-heroes have returned with characteristic relish; this trailer became the second-most-watched of all time within 24 hours of being posted.

Money shot: Gamora, sword drawn, leaping into the belly of a not-inconsiderable beast.

12. Luke Cage (Comic-Con teaser)

Another perfect melding of music and action, this teaser sent Hall H wild back in the summer. The hip-hop beats of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya are an ideal match for the Power Man’s bulletproof beatdowns.

Money shot: Luke, hoodie riddled with bullets, gives it the “bring it on” gesture.

11. La La Land

It takes a cold-blooded soul not to be seduced by Ryan Gosling’s sweet siren song – accompanied by his own piano-playing, no less – and it takes some sort of week-old corpse not to be beguiled and charmed by this first teaser for Damien Chazelle’s old-school musical.

Money shot: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone going for a space-walk in the Griffith Observatory.

10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Any new Star Wars movie is certain to generate excitement – Rogue One’s first teaser was almost guaranteed a place on this list by default – but even so, LucasFilm still know how to push all the right buttons. Deathtroopers, Krennic’s magnificent cape, the close-up of the superlaser – all set to the blaring Death Star sirens, with lashings of John Williams’ Darth Vader theme – it all hits that sweet geek spot.

Money shot: The glorious return of the AT-AT Walkers, tearing up the beaches of Scarif.

9. A Cure For Wellness

Yes, it’s another victim of the ever-ubiquitous Trailer Featuring Whiny Cover Of Popular Song Syndrome – in this case, The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated. But here, it works: increasing swells of digital bassy dread are matched by clean, clinical images of an art-deco hospital from hell, building to the sort of disturbing crescendo that would make Hannibal Lecter feel uneasy.

Money shot: The floating bodies in the trailer’s dying seconds. Pickled horror.

8. Captain America: Civil War

On March 10, 2016, seismologists recorded what is believed to be the world’s largest nerdgasm. The second trailer for the ultimate Marvel mash-up features plenty of moments to make comics fans quake with excitement – the three-way punch-up, Ant-Man riding Hawkeye’s arrow, the teams running straight at each other – but let’s face it, nothing quite beats our first look at an MCU Spider-Man. Underoos!

Money shot: “Hey everyone.” It’s Spidey. Of course it’s Spidey.

7. T2: Trainspotting

“So what have you been doing....for 20 years?” Danny Boyle’s taste for caffeine-and-possibly-other-substance-fuelled editing is clearly undiminished by time, and he endeavours to give us a radiantly debauched highlights reel of what our favourite former heroin addicts have been doing in the interim, set to – what else? – Underworld’s Born Slippy.

Money shot: Ewan McGregor’s maniacal grin as he leans over the bonnet of a car – mimicking the same grin he gave twenty years earlier in the original film.

6. The Greasy Strangler

Coming with a mock-warning that it contains “scenes of excessive grease”, 2016’s most depraved film was ably marketed by 2016’s most depraved trailer. Nudity, strangulation, eye-popping violence, and more grease than an explosion at the lard factory, this trailer either brought you on board for the ride or immediately headed to the nearest cold shower.

Money shot: “Help Dad with his shorts!” Michael St. Michaels’ 72-year-old bare arse is an indelible image.

5. Cars 3

It’s fair to say that nobody had particularly high hopes for a third film in the Cars franchise, a series which increasingly felt like a giant toy advert. Then this dark, surprising, atmospheric little teaser came along and suddenly we’re interested again. The power of a good trailer.

Money shot: Sparks and scraps darting across the runway, as Lightning McQueen crashes and burns in slow-motion.

4. The Handmaiden

It’s hard to make a bad trailer for a director like Park Chan-Wook, a supreme visual stylist. But even then, this preview of his new erotic drama teases brilliantly, in more ways than one – offering mesmerising glimpses of sexual turmoil in a way that interests us far more than, say, Fifty Shades Of Grey.

Money shot: Lady Hideko, surreptitiously closing her peep-hole.

3. Suicide Squad

Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is an audacious music choice for anything other than karaoke at a stag do. Kudos, then, to David Ayer and the Warner Bros marketers for this absolute blast of a trailer, playfully fast-cutting between explosions and bullet-bursts in time with Freddie’s warbles, the music only briefing pausing to allow the Joker to cackle or Jai Courtney to sip from a tinnie. The Skwad’s entire marketing campaign was a riot of neon fun and devil-may-care action, and this early trailer was a highlight; for many, it offered potential that the finished film did not quite live up to.

Money shot: A military helicopter, firing missiles every which way like fireworks.

2. Dunkirk

This minute-long video, surfacing back in the summer, was not labelled a trailer, or even a teaser – merely an “announcement”. A full year before release, the first footage for Christopher Nolan’s war movie is an exercise in minimalism, a collage of delicate images from a wartime tragedy, closing with an astounding reaction shot of unseen terror. Sporadically rubbish supporting-artist-acting (yes, we see you, smirking extra!) can’t spoil a truly tantalising taste of what could be 2017’s best.

Money shot: Salty foam breezes over a small row of partially-buried bodies, seemingly abandoned on the beach.

1. Logan

You could quite conceivably set Johnny Cash’s Hurt to some static footage of dried paint and make it seem epic and atmospheric. But that soulful Nine Inch Nails cover has never fitted better than in this astonishing first trailer for Logan – which is, lest we forget, the third film in a superhero spin-off franchise plenty of people have been betting against.

What a statement of intent this trailer is, then. We’ve seen Hugh Jackman’s take on Wolverine for seventeen years, but never like this: bearded, greying, scarred, visibly troubled. We’ve never seen Patrick Stewart’s Xavier looking so frail or vulnerable, either. We’ve never seen such familial tenderness – in a series based around – as we do with Dafne Keen’s X-23, her tiny hand gripping Logan’s huge, bloodied digits.

And, frankly, there's never been an X-Men movie we wanted to see more. The trailer does its job handsomely. “I would find a way,” intones Johnny at the end. Let’s hope James Mangold and his team find a way, come March.

Money shot: Logan’s bearded profile, silhouetted against a fierce sunlight pouring through a window.

More from Empire's review of 2016:

The best movies of 2016

The best TV shows of 2016

The best on-screen deaths of 2016

The biggest movie news stories of 2016

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