Best trailers of the decade.

Chris von Hoffmann
18 min readFeb 1, 2019

There’s absolutely nothing more thrilling then going to watch a film in the theatres and minutes before, you watch a trailer for an entirely separate film coming out soon that blows your mind in less than three minutes. It’s almost like watching a great music video… WHEN THEY’RE DONE RIGHT.

In a world (cue trailer voice) where everyone’s attention span is so limited for watching new content, trailers are just so much fun to watch and enjoy without fully investing your time just yet. However the flip side to this coin is that watching trailers before the actual movie can sometimes be a curse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a trailer and effortlessly designed the entire film of what I want it to be in my head before seeing one single frame of the finished product. Then when I finally see the movie and it’s NOTHING like how I hoped it would be… I a lot of the times admittedly dislike it.

However I’ve learned that as much as I love trailers, I really have to treat them like a separate entity detached from the actual film. Judge them both equally and separately. Easier said than done I know… but I believe it can be done. That’s why a lot of films that I might be disappointed by when I first see them based off their amazing trailer… I sometimes can’t see the wood from the trees at that moment and deconstruct them all over again a couple years down the line.

Anyway, below I simply wanted to break down what I feel (personal opinion) are the finest made trailers of the last decade (2018–2008) that have truly effected me in one way or another. Trailers that feel like mini movies themselves. Trailers that you can watch over and over and over again. There’s an art to them and a cinematic power behind them that DEMANDS you watch it. They have rhythm, flow, beauty and intensity in all less than the runtime of most Youtube skits.

And we’re off!

THE MULE (2018) directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Nick Schenk

This trailer broke me. I had absolutely no idea this film was coming out until I saw Warner Brothers had released a new trailer for one of their upcoming films. Frankly, I didn’t even know Clint had a second film coming out in 2018 but I was glad he did, considering his previous film (The 15:17 to Paris) was a very unfortunate experimental mess.

When I watched this trailer for the first time, I was riveted to the screen. It seriously almost brought tears to my eyes. Now, most people would watch this trailer and just think to themselves, “Oh that’s just a solid trailer for another Clint movie.” However, I saw it from a completely different angle. Yes, it was a solid trailer for another Clint movie though it felt a bit more than that. Clint Eastwood is 88 years old. The character he plays in the film is 90. The character is displayed in the trailer (and film) as being very regretful of his life as he was obsessed with work and never was there for the family. Now I don’t know too much about Clint’s history in real life though I do know quite a bit as I’ve read a few books on him. He himself has tons of regrets and always looked at himself as a broken human being on certain levels which is why he’s such a powerful artist in front and especially behind the camera.

The trailer just felt like life imitating art or the other way around. It felt like a true send-off to Clint Eastwood as if this film might be the last thing he ever does. It was just an emotional gut punch in less than three minutes that really impacted me somehow. In fact, it affected me so much that my expectations were through the roof when I watched the final film and unfortunately that ended up being a curse. I really was quite disappointed in the film as it just wasn’t what I wanted it to be based on the trailer. It had none of the intense thrills, raw emotion, or incredible performances as the trailer promised. Perhaps my expectations were just far too unrealistic.

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017) directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and written by Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou

There’s nothing more haunting than a minimal trailer in which it’s driven purely by a song and scattered dialogue all the while not really giving away much of the story at all. This is exactly the type of trailer I love. In which it can give you so much without giving you anything at all yet STILL make you desperately want to run to the cinema to see it on opening day.

When the first official trailer came out for this film from the marketing geniuses over at A24, I must have watched it ten times back to back. It was just hypnotizing in the best possible way. A trailer that builds… and builds… AND BUILDS… Until it pierces into your guts. My only regret is that I didn’t see this trailer on the big screen. Only watched it online. Because if it was as powerful as it was inside the framework of my laptop and iPhone… then who knows how impactful it’d be being displayed on a 65-foot screen.

Seriously. One of the greatest trailers I have feasted my eyes on in a LONG TIME. Felt like a disturbed micro music video in the best possible way. Thank God, the actual film also delivered cause this trailer set a very high bar.

P.S.: I’ll never be able to listen to Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” quite the same way ever again. Maybe that’s a good thing?

JACKIE (2016) directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim

Now technically this was a TEASER TRAILER and not its official trailer so I’m cheating only slightly. Though it says TRAILER on the thumbnail so I feel like I should get a pass on this one.

When I first watched this trailer I really knew nothing about it coming out. I had little to no expectations. A friend had texted me and told me to check out the trailer so I did. Now usually whenever someone tells me to watch something they really loved… I then watch it and am incredibly disappointed with it. Maybe because I’m always designing what I want it to be in my head versus what they wanted it to be and our tastes collide in a negative way. However, when I finally watched this first trailer, I was hypnotized through and through.

I had never seen a trailer with this kind of tone or imagery. Perhaps I have… but not done this well. The constant mantra throughout of “Camelot… Camelot… Camelot…” At first I’ll admit I had no idea what Natalie Portman was saying. Is she saying Camera Rack? What does that mean? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN! Then of course the film lets you in on what it all meant.

I will say though when I saw the final film, I was a bit disappointed by it. It had its hypnotizing moments that easily matched the trailer however as far as understanding who Jackie Kennedy was… I really struggled with it. As she was always pretending to be someone else throughout so I never felt organically invested in her as a human being which I found endlessly frustrating. Natalie Portman is subtly brilliant in the film, all the supporting actors are great… It’s just the story perhaps didn’t quite suck me in. I’ll most likely not watch the film again for another few years but I have absolutely no problem having this trailer on repeat until the end of time.

HYENA (2015) written and directed by Gerard Johnson

There’s just something about the tone that hardcore British thrillers evoke in their work. It’s no bull shit. That’s why so many American films these days with any sort of raw edge are usually directed by British filmmakers or at least filmmakers from overseas. They just know how to knock you on your ass without an apology. This trailer was absolutely no exception.

I admittedly hadn’t heard anything about the director’s previous film Tony nor did I hear anything about this particular film. I was just surfing through different trailers online (as I always do when I’m bored) to find something new and under the radar. This film certainly fits that bill. I was FLOORED BY IT. The energy, the rhythm, the acting, the raw tone, the sound design. ALL OF IT IMPRESSED ME. I hadn’t felt that kind of adrenaline well… since I saw the Evil Dead remake trailer a couple of years prior. I rarely FEEL trailers and this trailer I truly felt. I felt the danger, I smelled the corruption, I heard the intensity. It was all laid out for me to relish in and it was great.

So one night I ended up going to see the film by myself as I normally do and I have to say… it was a major letdown. Now, this is one of the instances where I really don’t think it was necessarily the expectations the trailer brought on me. I just felt like it was a weak experience. It had some minor arresting moments. Certainly some grisly moments. But they were few and far between everything else which was a bit of a chore to sit through.

Though I will say what this film delivered based on the trailer were the performances. Everyone’s excellent especially Neil Maskell and Stephen Graham who are fast becoming two of my favorite actors. Also, the final shot in the film will piss a lot of people off but I fucking loved every second of it. Definitely check out the actual film if you like nitty-gritty cop thrillers but just don’t expect too much. Though if you want to have your face melt off, watch the trailer above.

THE ROVER (2014) written and directed by David Michod

I know. It’s technically a teaser and not the official trailer but just like 2016’s Jackie… the teaser trailer is just too good not to acknowledge.

I remember vividly seeing David Michod’s debut feature film (after being an avid fan of his short film collective Blue-Tongue Films) at Sundance 2010 and was riveted. It was such a fresh take on the crime gangster genre especially considering it’s quite hard to take those types of characters seriously these days. So I was fully on board with his sophomore film The Rover however I hadn’t heard much press about it for quite some time. I was incredibly antsy for a trailer. I was begging for it. Aching for it. Then when A24 finally released it online, I was like a little kid on Christmas morning. It was exactly what I wanted it to look and feel like. Every inch of this trailer brought tears to my eyes because it’s as if the director answered my prayers and gave me precisely what I asked for.

This is one of those trailers that demands your attention until the final frame. A24 are pretty much geniuses at marketing and the marketing for this film was absolutely no exception. I loved every second of it. Guy Pearce’s haunting voice over throughout to this day still gives me chills. That man’s a beast. Oddly enough the official trailer itself is still really solid but didn’t quite hit the same bar this first teaser did.

As far as the actual film goes, I definitely liked it. I was slightly lukewarm on it after the first viewing (unrealistic expectations!) but after pondering it for a few weeks, it actually ended up being in my top five for 2014 so that’s definitely saying something. I’ll admit that the first half is near perfection so much so that the second half couldn’t quite get there for me but the film is still 100 percent worth watching. Especially if you’re interested in seeing an authentic humanistic version of Mad Max. Then this will be your jam. Even if it’s not, still please watch the trailer above cause it’s truly something beautiful.

EVIL DEAD (2013) directed by Fede Alvarez and written by Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues

HOLY SHIT THIS TRAILER. Horror has been my favorite genre since I was a child and was basically the genre that introduced me to movies in the first place. I’ll admit I was certainly a fan of the Evil Dead movies growing up but I never looked at the first two as some sort of sacred ground that could never be touched. In fact, the third installment Army of Darkness has always been my favorite of the trilogy.

Needless to say… the curse of having an insanely good trailer, which seemed to be trying its hardest to literally attack you through the screen, always comes into play when you watch the finished film because your expectations are just too high. I was pretty disappointed by the final film as I thought the intensity wasn’t quite there nor did I think the pace or the script was up to snuff. It had its shocking moments sure but nothing I hadn’t seen before. I’m really not sold on Fede Alvarez (also director of Don’t Breathe) as there’s just something in his work that I can’t quite put my finger on just yet that doesn’t work for me. His films are beautifully shot but there’s never anything underneath them. There’s a hollow center that’s missing for me in his work.

I certainly know quite a few horror freaks in which the Evil Dead remake gave them everything they wanted. It certainly did NOT for me. It’s not a bad film, just not a very compelling one. I mean when you have a trailer as over the top and unbelievably good as this… it is the filmmaker’s responsibility to make sure the film is 100 times better. Plus this director got this $20MM job from just a five-minute science-fiction viral short? Hollywood really puzzles me sometimes.

THE MASTER (2012) written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

I had been waiting for this trailer to be released for close to three years when I finally laid my eyes on it. I had seen the first teaser consisting of Joaquin Phoenix’s character Freddie Quell having an off-screen meeting with some type of military psychiatrist while rhythmic images are displayed in front of us. I loved the teaser and watched it close to twenty times. It just had that type of effect on me. Then when the first official proper trailer came out, I was fully on board. It had a pace to it which was very refreshing for trailers. Just like The Killing of a Sacred Deer… it told me so much without telling me anything at all. Just great beginning, middle, and end to the trailer.

The marketing for this film was very unique. Paul Thomas Anderson and Annapurna Pictures were basically teasing the audience leading up to the film’s release. We got the first haunting teaser, then the spellbinding trailer then after that they were just releasing all of these random alternate teasers. Some were good, some were underwhelming. However, NOTHING compared to the first teaser and trailer. I do feel like this film released a bit too much leading up to its release though none of those images inside the trailers and teasers seem to matter much considering the final film didn’t really have much of that footage in it!

When I saw the finished film, I was surprised at how experimental and Avante Garde it really ended up being. Certainly not at all the film I had in my head based on the marketing. I thought it was going to be much more straightforward with its narrative but then I forget… it’s Paul Thomas Anderson. NOTHING IS STRAIGHTFORWARD. I’ll admit I was slightly underwhelmed by the film when I first saw it but then I ended up seeing it a second time and it wound up being in my top five for 2012 so… Ever since just a couple of years ago, I find it be a very soothing experience to watch while I’m falling asleep since it’s like a dream moving in slow motion.

THE TREE OF LIFE (2011) written and directed by Terrence Malick

If there was a trailer on this list that you almost would feel ashamed not properly watching on a 65-foot projector with 5.1 surround sound in a movie theatre (preferably by yourself), IT’S THIS ONE. It’s cinematic therapy.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of Terrence Malick. In fact, I haven’t genuinely loved one of his films since Days of Heaven which was back in 1978! The Thin Red Line has some incredible moments that cannot be ignored but it was definitely bridging the gap between his proper early films and his overly long and tedious pretentious artistic epics that followed.

I liked The Tree of Life overall however I could’ve easily done without the dinosaurs and Sean Penn’s scenes (did he even know what film he was in?). Though the middle-class family material between Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and their children was absolutely enthralling through and through. The film has its moments but eventually gets a little too far up its own ass as a lot of recent Malick films tend to do. Having said all this… no one can deny the power of this trailer. It’s truly something special and genuinely epic. The voice-overs scattered throughout by Chastain, Pitt, and Penn give me chills whenever I watch it. It’s something that should be played on repeat in art exhibits, museums, galleries. It’s something more than what it is in my opinion.

I feel like this is a trailer that is speaking to us as a society. In a way, it’s summing up our own personal existence. I might be digging too deep into this but I don’t think I am as I truly feel like that was Malick’s intention. The film is heavy on metaphor and the trailer certainly foreshadows that. I just felt like the trailer itself did a finer job of conveying it in a non-pretentious way because I found myself riveted from beginning to end watching the trailer play out. I cannot quite say the same for the finished film. The trailer is a piece of cinema in and of itself and everyone should watch it immediately. Especially if you’re looking for meaning in your life. Aren’t we all?

THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin

I love the artistic nature of how this trailer was pieced together. Opening up with the mouse clicking on Facebook pages… showcasing random people’s lives on social media… then segueing into Jesse Eisenberg’s voice scattered throughout images of the story of Facebook. As well as the people surrounding this groundbreaking device which has basically caused society to implode little by little.

I remember vividly when this film was in development and Fincher was attached, Sorkin was attached and JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE WAS ATTACHED. I was endlessly curious if this was going to work as a film. Knowing the majority of the creative forces behind the project, I was pretty optimistic. Then when the official trailer was first released, I was heavily taken aback. It had an impact I did not imagine it would have on me. Even the tagline, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies…” Just amazing all around.

Not only did the actual film become my favorite film of 2010, but just this trailer alone felt like a social impact music video almost. Not surprising since Fincher started out in music videos. It was a wonderful precursor to what the film was eventually going to unravel for us. For once the trailer was in line with the actual film. The trailer had smooth pacing, felt like one scene stretched out from beginning to end, was tense, was funny, was entertaining. JUST LIKE THE FILM.

If you haven’t seen The Social Network, I’m not quite sure what you’re doing with yourself because it’s probably one of the most important films of the last decade. However, if you don’t have 121 minutes to kill right away, be sure to watch this trailer immediately. It’ll only make you crave to see the film and understand how this whole story got out of control in the first place.

A SERIOUS MAN (2009) written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

This trailer. MY GOD. The Coen Brothers can do no wrong in my opinion. Sure a few films here and there they’ve made haven’t quite landed (Intolerable Cruelty, Hail Caesar!) but they’re all very well made regardless.

Most of their films have wonderful trailers however this one truly is on another level with the way it's presented. It is a trailer driven purely by tone, atmosphere, rhythm, and character. Something a lot of Hollywood trailers can learn from as most hit literally every single beat to the point of suffocating you with too much information.

I loved how this trailer wasted absolutely no time throwing you into the world. When the sounds of heavy thumping play over black eventually rolling over into Fred Melamed slamming Michael Stuhlbarg’s head repeatedly against the wall which serves as a visual mantra throughout… THIS IS WHAT EXCITES ME THE MOST ABOUT THE ART OF CUTTING TRAILERS. You take something as simple as repeatedly hitting someone’s head against a wall and basically just use that to drive it forward. So simple but so unbelievably effective in every way. Then of course wrapping it up with Jefferson Airplane is just delightful.

As far as the actual film goes… I will say as much of a hardcore fan of the Coen Brothers as I am, I was slightly underwhelmed by A Serious Man. Now I feel like I was not quite the mature movie analyzer back in 2009 as I am now so I would like to revisit it soon and look at it with stronger eyes. The film just felt a little too ambiguous for me to get fully down with but I’m sure when I go back and rewatch it, everything will make sense to me. That’s what interesting about films. How you perceive them can change over time as you experience different things in your life. That’s usually the case with great director’s films and the Coens are certainly no exception.

Though despite what you think about the final film, you cannot deny that this trailer is one of the finest to ever come out in quite some time. It’s always refreshing when people like the Coens who’ve been in the game since 1984 still care about the marketing of their films. Everyone who wants to get into trailer editing should study this one from beginning to end as it’s perfection.

MILK (2008) directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black

Now I had some slight reservations about posting this trailer as one of my top favorites of the decade. Not because it’s not a great film BECAUSE BELIEVE ME. IT IS. But because I still have a gripe about Mickey Rourke losing his Oscar over Sean Penn’s performance in this film. This snubbing is what caused me to stop watching the Academy Awards altogether. Call me immature maybe.

Now let's discuss the power of this trailer. Gus Van Sant has always been attracted to what I like to call raw surrealism. Films like To Die For, Drugstore Cowboy, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues… Milk is no exception. The trailers for most of Van Sant’s films seem to always have this undercurrent of cinematic tour de force fierceness. Like when you watch a trailer for one of his films, you know you’re in for something special. Not to say that always works out with the final film but more often than not IT DOES.

Milk was exactly what I wanted it to be based on this trailer. It was raw, it was flawlessly acted, never held back, and it was also surprisingly very funny throughout. With a subject as heavy as this, you need humor. The trailer promised everything that I ended up getting as an audience member and then some. I absolutely love the giant letters smashing over a white screen as the trailer builds and builds. The operatic nature of it all. The intensity rising to the maximum. It was just very unique and beautiful in every way.

For a tragic true story in which a lot of general audiences might have been aware of (Check out The Times of Harvey Milk), the trailer did an incredible job of not giving away too much yet still making you feel like you’ve just been sucked into the world for a brief 2.25 minutes.

I remember vividly watching this trailer for the first time when I was visiting a friend in Toronto as well as watching films at TIFF and was just blown away. It became one of my most anticipated films instantly and it did not disappoint. Gus Van Sant is a true artist who has always been one of my favorite filmmakers. This film (and its trailer) were major landmarks in proving that.


(I chose not to include this trailer in my main top ten list only because I feel like enough lists have included it BECAUSE IT’S INCREDIBLE. So I thought I’d at least put it in as a bonus trailer and give my thoughts on it as well.)

A STAR IS BORN (2018) directed by Bradley Cooper and written by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters

It’s no surprise that I’m listing this trailer as one of the best of the decade considering it went viral when it was released as everyone seemed to absolutely go gaga over it (pun intended). This is one of the most entertainingly thrilling trailers I had seen in quite some time without actually being a literal thriller of any kind. In the fact, the film is very subtle with its approach and incredibly intimate so I loved the fact that they chose to make the trailer as epic as possible with its presentation.

I have been following Bradley Cooper’s trajectory pretty intensely ever since The Midnight Meat Train back in 2008. The man just understands how to choose the material that works for an audience but also has something special underneath it. He chooses really entertaining but also emotionally gut-punching material. He’s a true actor’s actor and in my opinion, can tackle pretty much any genre. I mean hell, he pretty much already has.

This trailer is one of the few trailers on this list in which the film itself delivered. I understand some people had problems with the middle and perhaps Lady Gaga’s performance compared to Cooper’s… but I didn’t care. The film was captivating to me on every level and was such a brilliant lesson about life. All the clips in the trailer were delivered the way I wanted them in the final film and that’s a true rarity these days. You can tell they weren’t just focused on the marketing… In that, they knew they had something special with the film so they’re going to kill it with the marketing to increase its chances for audiences even more.



Chris von Hoffmann

Check out my movies Devil's Workshop (amazonprime), Monster Party (amcplus), Drifter (tubi), Phobias (“Ephebiphobia” hulu).