A great trailer can make any movie look good, whether it actually is or not. It can be seen from anywhere, in theaters or online and it barely has two minutes to sell you on a movie. Constructing a good trailer is an art form. It’s a meticulous approach that can make or break a movie, that can turn it into an instant classic if the hype is met. Yet it can also disappoint audiences when the final product doesn’t match the expectations set forth by the marketing.
But forget about the comic book movies you know, the ones you loved, judged or hated. Consider for a moment their trailers and only that. The time they started playing in the theater, when you had no idea yet what this movie would be about. When you didn’t know what you were going to like about it, or what you hate about it. Think back on how these trailers made you feel, when they were new and exciting, and come take a look at CBR’s list of the 15 best comic book movie trailers.
15. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (TRAILER 2)
How do you follow-up one of the most successful movie marketing campaigns of all time? In the case of “Guardians of Galaxy,” the answer is surprisingly simple: do what they do best. In the movie’s second trailer, released only a few days ago at the time of this writing, viewers were finally let in on some of the story beats that appear to make this movie even more spectacular than its predecessor. With previous trailers focusing on the mood and humor of the movie, we were also shown that this movie will not be without its serious moments.
After the Superbowl trailer, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” is once again the soundtrack to the Guardians’ antics, and it’s a great choice that dances between exciting and foreboding. This trailer lets you know that the stakes are high once more, and the line-up of names that audiences have grown to recognize and love instantly also lets them know that a few more members will join the ranks of the Guardians this time around. To top it all off, we’re left with a very sweet sentiment from Drax: this is a family. And that is a notion that makes us all smile as we rush to go buy our tickets.
The “Watchmen” movie was facing an uphill battle. The general public had no idea what the franchise was, and the comic book reading crowd, who hailed the graphic novel as an all-time best, didn’t know if the material would transfer well to the silver screen. In came Zack Snyder’s movie, with an incredibly stylish trailer filled with slow-motion and striking imagery to get everyone’s attention. In keeping with the graphic novel’s ideas, Snyder played with our expectations of what a superhero movie could be.
With the help of the Smashing Pumpkins’ very carefully chosen song “The Beginning is the End is the Beginning,” the trailer was a small piece of the Watchmen puzzle all its own. It gave us a look at iconic scenes lifted straight from the pages of the graphic novel like Rorschach standing in the rain or Doctor Manhattan’s glass castle on Mars, as well as hints of new scenes that could be analyzed for days at a time. All in true Watchmen fashion.
13. THE AVENGERS (SUPERBOWL TRAILER)
The year 2012 was a simpler time. Marvel Studios had previously released a slew of movies featuring Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and Captain America, with a promise that they would all, one day, crossover in one spectacular movie: “The Avengers.” The studio was popular, but they hadn’t reached the heights of today yet. All that would change in the month of May, and viewers were treated to their first taste of it as they were watching the New York Giants and New England Patriots duke it out on television.
The trailer was relatively short, with only a minute’s worth of footage. However, it was a minute of scenes some people had waited their entire lives to see unfold on screen. The characters some grew up with, that others got to know in the past few years, interacting with each other, with a grave threat looming, forcing them to come together. To assemble. It ended with a fantastic shot of all six Avengers together for the very first time, and it left us all cheering.
12. IRON MAN 3 (OFFICIAL TRAILER)
After the massive success of “The Avengers,” expectations were immeasurably high. The movie left us crying for more, and Marvel responded in kind with the release of the first “Iron Man 3” trailer. It made sense. At the time, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark was the most popular character in their universe, and their flagship character. This trailer started off by acknowledging what everyone was curious about: the events of “The Avengers.”
Hearing Stark mention the events of New York and the effect they had on him psychologically, viewers were put at ease and convinced that this movie was, if not an actual sequel to The Avengers, at least a continuation of the story it had started. But it didn’t stop there. The trailer then showed us the destruction of Iron Man’s armors and a brutal attack that left his Malibu home crumbling in flames, a place audiences had come to recognize over the course of the “Iron Man” movies. It showed us Stark at his weakest and most vulnerable, and gave us the promise of a villain to be feared.
11. SUPERMAN RETURNS (TEASER TRAILER)
After almost 20 years since last being seen on screen, Superman was set to return to theaters in a sequel to the classic Christopher Reeves movie “Superman II.” To make sure that the audience was aware of that fact, this trailer was constructed to bring forth an incredible amount of nostalgia, from the iconic John Williams musical score of the first movies to the voice-over of Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Superman’s birth father.
To the sound of those words and music, we were shown brief glimpses of a sunny Smallville, and a young Clark Kent, testing out his powers and embracing his Kryptonian heritage. Metropolis by contrast was shown to be darker, filled with greys and an older aesthetic in keeping with the previous films. Only did the sunlight show when we saw Superman rise up into the sky, to end with him at his rightful place, keeping watch over the entirety of humankind. By then, we were all convinced that Superman had returned.
10. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (OFFICIAL TRAILER)
After the massive success of “The Dark Knight,” Christopher Nolan faced a daunting task to follow it up with a sequel that could live up to the hype set by its predecessor. After a teaser trailer that left some feeling lukewarm, the official trailer came out of the gates proving to everyone that they had every right to be excited for the concluding chapter of this trilogy. By starting off the entirety of the first half of the trailer’s score as nothing but the tune of a child somberly singing the national anthem before a football game, it gave viewers a veritable feeling of dread.
It all lead to the revelation of Bane activating his bomb, and destroying the playing field of the stadium. Once again, the stakes were raised and we were left questioning the outcome of this confrontation. With the trailer focusing on Bane and the sense of doom hovering over Gotham, everyone was left wondering if this trilogy would truly end with Batman making the ultimate sacrifice, and we would all have to wait to see the movie to find out.
9. BATMAN V. SUPERMAN (TEASER TRAILER)
After 2013’s “Man of Steel,” the DCEU was still in its infancy. People still didn’t really know what to expect from it, both in terms of direction as well as in tone. Then, with a single trailer that was viewed over 54,000,000 times on YouTube, Warner Bros. told the world exactly what they needed to know. Like its predecessor, this sequel would be set in a dark universe, one where people won’t shy away from questioning what Superman’s arrival on Earth means for the world and humanity as a whole.
Starting with the slow reveal of a Superman statue that seems to have been shot only for this trailer, the reveal of the words “False God” having been spray-painted onto it was as telling as it was foreboding. As if that weren’t enough, we were shown that Batman would be a major part of this movie, and not only that, but also that a confrontation between the two heroes was assured. Finally, the reveal of the title “Batman v. Superman” left us all debating what the outcome of this fight would be.
8. THE DARK KNIGHT (ORIGINAL THEATRICAL TRAILER)
Think back to a time where no one had seen “The Dark Knight,” a time when everyone’s idea of the Joker was a goofy Jack Nicholson and an even goofier cartoon character. “Batman Begins” had left us with a tease, a calling card that hinted at Batman’s greatest villain would soon be taking center stage. We didn’t really know what to expect, but when this trailer hit theater screens, it managed to blow whatever expectations we had out of the water.
We were given a taste of a more realistic, yet even darker, grittier take on Batman and Gotham City, something which at the time was completely new. We were shown a Gotham in flames, and a Batman out of his depth. But the trailer let its true star shine by focusing on Heath Ledger’s iconic performance as the Joker. Already, with this brief glimpse, everyone could tell this movie would be one for the ages. Finally, it ended with the Joker’s demented laugh, and left everyone whispering “Why so serious?”
7. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (TEASER TRAILER)
The first “Avengers” movie, while not without its serious moments, was very much a lighthearted affair. It was a spectacular romp filled with action, humor and charm. It’s the way it had to be, to introduce us to this super-team. But with the arrival of the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” trailer, viewers were told that this sequel would be a different kind of movie. With the use of a very haunting rendition of the Pinocchio song “I’ve Got No Strings,” the trailer set itself apart with its incredibly serious tone.
There were no quips used here. No jokes or smiles. Just various shots of the Avengers, beaten, weary, and at each other’s throats, all while we kept hearing the same verse sung over and over: “I had strings, but now I’m free…” Finally, once we saw Ultron in glorious metal flesh, he finished the song for us: “There are no strings on me.” This here was the promise of a villain who would tear the Avengers apart, one that we were are looking forward to see more of.
6. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (TRAILER 2)
At this point in time, viewers knew all about the Avengers. The characters, old and new. But the trailer for “Captain America: Civil War” began with a montage of various previous movies, showing us all the destruction and collateral damage left in the wake of their battles. Set in a very dramatic tone, this trailer once again set out to prove that the MCU was heading towards a massive shake-up. It showed us rising tensions between the people we had come to trust as a team.
Sure, we saw the Avengers have skirmishes before, disagreements and fights when their ego got the best of them. But this was something else entirely. This was the Avengers, divided, disassembled. It showed us two factions of the team, running at each other, in what would become an iconic scene. And all of that ended with something we never thought we would see. Something every fan dreamed of: the introduction of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
5. X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (OFFICIAL TRAILER)
When it was announced that the sequel to “X-Men: First Class” would adapt the classic “Days of Future Past” storyline from the comics, expectations were high. With the arrival of the official trailer, our first look at the movie proved that we had nothing to worry about. With a strong, dramatic score to go along with it, we caught a glimpse of a dark future with X-Men new and old, and the return of Wolverine to the forefront.
The narration by Patrick Stewart’s Professor X was mesmerizing, and not only laid out the entire story in just a few short minutes, but also the stakes of the film. Where Michael Fassbender’s Magneto managed to steal the show in the first movie, this trailer put James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier front and center, and hinted at a much darker take on the character. It positioned him as the heart and soul of the movie, and his telepathic encounter with his older self at the end of this trailer was nothing short of breathtaking.
4. MAN OF STEEL (TEASER TRAILER)
“The Dark Knight Trilogy” was over. Warner Bros. was looking to start up their own cinematic universe and they were looking at “Man of Steel” to begin it all. With a very quiet, solemn teaser trailer, director Zack Snyder let audiences know to expect a very different approach to Superman. A few brilliant, artistic shots of a butterfly on a chain, and of a young Clark Kent with a red cloth for a cape, floating in the wind.
Not much was shown in terms of story, save for a few shots of a bearded Clark Kent, working on a boat and hitchhiking. “Where is he heading?” it made us wonder. It showed us Clark Kent not as a superhero, but as a man, someone who was looking for his own place in the world. With the guiding words of Russell Crowe’s Jor-El used as voice-over, we were told that this man was destined for great things to come. A final shot of a flying Superman tearing through the sound barrier was enough to know that this was a movie we all wanted to see.
3. LOGAN (OFFICIAL TRAILER)
As more and more superhero movies hit our screen, it becomes difficult for any new release to stand out. When all the trailers of tentpole movies seem to focus on explosions, gunshots and spectacle, Fox approached the first trailer for Hugh Jackman’s final movie as Wolverine differently. Thanks to Johnny Cash’s famous song “Hurt,” this trailer is pure melancholy. It focuses on character and drama, and barely even dares to show Wolverine’s claws.
It highlights amazing shots that convey story and tone better than entire movies. This is nothing like the previous Wolverine movies or any superhero movie. This trailer promises something different. A character study, a movie about relationships and family, one that manages to give you chills with barely two minutes of screen time. From the first shot of Logan’s shaking hand to the final shot of a bloodied Logan with a shovel in his hand, this trailer made one thing abundantly clear: this one will, indeed, hurt.
2. SUICIDE SQUAD (OFFICIAL TRAILER)
In many ways, this trailer set a reputation for the movie, one that preceded it before it was even released. Rarely does a trailer set the bar this high, something for the movie to aim to surpass, but this one sure did. Set from start to finish to the tune of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” this was two and a half minutes of pure energy, colors and action. An absolute romp that gave us quick shots and introductions to all the main characters of the movie, from Deadshot and Harley Quinn to Captain Boomerang.
However, the absolute star of this show was the editing itself, timing both sound and images to the various beats of the song perfectly. This trailer is a work of art all its own and it’s no wonder it has been viewed more than 80,000,000 times on YouTube. It did its job perfectly, selling everyone who watched it on what a “Suicide Squad” movie could be. If there were an Oscar category for Best Trailer, this one would definitely be nominated.
1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (TRAILER 1)
Marvel Studios had a perfect track record, but they took a gamble with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The team and its members weren’t household names. Other than die hard comic book fans, no one really knew who they were. And with this trailer, Marvel decided to underline that fact, as well as capitalize on it with a simple question: “Who?” In that moment, the general audience was reassured that they didn’t have to know who this Star-Lord character was.
Following Peter Quill’s snappy introduction, a quick mugshot style of character descriptions introduced the audience to the rest of the Guardians. As we now know, some of these scenes were filmed exclusively for the trailers, and that showed the brilliance of the production from the get-go. You can thank director James Gunn for that. And last but certainly not least, this is the trailer that gave us the song now forever associated with the Guardians, Blue Swede’s “Hooked on A Feeling.” By the second viewing of this trailer, Gunn had everyone singing along.
Which comic book trailer do you think was the best? Be sure to tell us in the comments!
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