The Art of the Trailer

Hey guys, it’s been forever. It’s spring break so I’m getting caught up on all my writing, reading and TV shows. I’m going to get some movies in this week, I’m starting up a new series and I’ve got this long feature for you. Enjoy!

Trailers are one of the most important jobs in Hollywood because even if your movie is garbage, if you make a good trailer, people will flock to it like geese to bread. It’ll make tons of money. People will hate you once they get out of the theater if your movie was in fact garbage, but you made your payday. Good for you.

I say that because rarely do I fall for the Hollywood trailer gimmick, as I like to call it. I can usually tell by a trailer if a film is going to be any good or not. I’m not saying I haven’t seen bad movies at the theater. I have but that’s usually because I knew it was going to be bad or didn’t have high expectations for it in the first place. Rarely do films surprise me with their stupidity is what I’m trying to say.

So today, I’m talking about the art of the trailer, why trailers are so important, etc, etc. Five great ones. Better they are, bigger the pictures.

Godzilla wasn’t liked by some but I personally loved it. I thought it was the film that Godzilla fans like myself had been waiting for. Yes, Godzilla didn’t have a lot of screen time but it was still a blast. The suspense was great and it worked well with the final product which can be seen with this trailer.

Bryan Cranston’s narration at the beginning of this teaser was a huge plus. To follow up his phenomenal TV drama, Breaking Bad, which I hope to start this week, he delivered an exuberant performance to start off this blockbuster.

This film was all about the anticipation and suspense of seeing the giant lizard behemoth and that was both this trailer and this film’s greatest success.

A simple score, coupled with some narration from Cranston and from Ken Watanabe, aligned with some visuals that foreshadowed some of the plot as well as the visual effects we were to witness with this summer blockbuster. That Godzilla roar at the end to top it all off was a great bravo.

One of my greatest regrets of 2014 was not seeing Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Some reviews I read weren’t flattered by the material but regardless of whether it’s a monumental discovery in film-making or a treasureless venture, I know I have to see this film because this trailer was pretty great.

Something that can really boost a trailer is a fantastic score and Hans Zimmer never fails to impress me with his compositions. Music is capable of things that no other form of art can describe. You can only visualize so much through your eyes but with your mind, you can imagine everything. If you know anything about the art of trailer-making, you’ve got to know that. The guys who worked on this beauty certainly did.

Second, we need to know what your film is about, at least a little bit. A general plot synopsis in under three minutes. For action films, that should be pretty simple: gunshots, rockets, grenades, explosions, insert catch phrase here, coming November 2015. Done. For dramas like this, we need more than that. We need something to instill belief in us, make our spine tingle. Give us some dialogue that alludes to the plot, what we’re investing in.

Third, narration, narration, narration. The tool of narration is easily the most important tool in trailer-making. The voice of an actor reading thought-provoking lines will almost always hook an audience but the voice you choose is equally important. I intend to be offensive here because I hate the guy, but if I ever had to listen to Vince Vaughn deliver an opening monologue to a trailer, I think I would vomit all over myself and have to leave the theater. Three big names come to mind: Morgan Freeman, Russell Crowe and James Earl Jones. These guys have voices that paralyze you and no matter what comes out, you can’t stop listening. They have commanding voices that demand attention and that’s what your trailer should be reaching for: attention.

Matthew McConaughey has that type of voice, as does Michael Caine and they use it to incredible effect here. What they’re saying is just as memorable and instilling to your emotions.

Overall, the plot synopsis was a little weak, because aside from space exploration I didn’t get much from this, but the monologues and dialogue is fantastic and still has me hooked.

Next up on this list is a film that just opened up this weekend and was one of my most anticipated films of the year: Chappie.

As soon as the screen read “The Director of District 9“, I knew I was going to see this, but this trailer does so much more than put a director’s name on the screen.

Again, Hans Zimmer on the score. He makes it seem so easy, the way he inspires. Again and again, this guy’s name comes up and again and again, I leave amazed with the product he delivers. Seriously, that guy needs a raise.

Something this film utilizes is a black screen with words on it. If you’re going to make a trailer, do this sparingly because no one wants to read a trailer. They want to see it, hear it, visualize it, imagine the future product they might be investing themselves in. You want to get people excited. This trailer does all of that, but unlike Interstellar, chose to put words on the screen. Every word you put on the screen’s got to mean something. It needs to have a purpose and a drive to it. Chappie’s trailer does that.

It’s always nice if you can showcase who’s in your movie without me having to look at a cast list. Hugh Jackman gets some screen time with this as does Dev Patel, but it’s Chappie that gets the attention and deservedly so.

If you can present themes in your trailer, you’re really reaching for the stars and Chappie does that. There’s a line in the trailer: “People are always fearful of something they don’t understand.” We’ve all heard this statement before but this is one of the numerous themes in this sci-fi epic that hits home with its viewers. I applaud the makers of this for getting themes into the trailer because if you’ve had the chance to see Chappie yet, you know it’s all about the themes and the character that Chappie emboldens, someone who starts out innocent and quickly realizes what a mess the world is.


Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s directorial debut, had the best trailer of 2014 in my opinion. It’s plot synopsis was on point. Unbroken, based off this trailer, is clearly a film about identity, about finding yourself and about believing in yourself to an extent that doesn’t seem possible at first glance. It’s about having an unbreakable resolve.

Once again, some great dialogue from our actors along with a score from 2014 Academy Award winner Alexander Desplat to bolster the heart this trailer offers.

That’s something I have yet to talk about when it comes to trailers: heart. We want to know the plot, we want to get pumped for this feature, but we also want some heart. You don’t have to pull heart-strings but we should care about our protagonist’s plight. We should be able to put ourselves in his shoes. Some characters aren’t very relatable, but for the sake of the trailer, it’s your job to present him as such. What can we gather from his tale? What application does the story have to our lives? These are not all musts, but if you’re able to answer a question like this or similar to this in your trailer, it’s a big plus. This story and really this whole film is about heart and being resilient to the torment you face, no matter what that torment is.

Something I think I’ve mentioned with all these trailers is their ability to pull out the gold nuggets of dialogue their film contains. Unbroken‘s trailer was no different.

Similar to Chappie, they also put words on the screen, but these words also had purpose and a goal to strive towards:

“A rebel who became a champion. A champion who became a survivor. A survivor who wouldn’t be broken.”

True, this film didn’t come close to reaching the excellence that the trailer did, but it had its moments.

Finally and with no real contestants to challenge it, my favorite trailer of the last two years goes to:

Man of Steel. This trailer breathes awesome and eats Wheaties for breakfast. Man of Steel is one of my favorite movies of the past five years, hands down. It’s not one of the best of the last five years, I only gave it an 87, but I love it all the same.

Prior to this film, I hated Superman. The whole concept of Superman is just stupid. He’s invincible, with no weakness except for a green rock from his planet, which was blown up and therefore should not exist but by some completely unexpected and not at all being sarcastic here coincidence, manages to find its way into Lex Luthor’s hands time and time again.

But this trailer and this movie made me believe in the man of steel again. I’ve never seen a Superman movie so well done and after years of garbage that cinema fans had to trudge through, Zack Snyder gave us this beauty, but not before releasing this premium trailer that takes people to school.

Again, music is a huge thing and again Hans Zimmer cracks one outta the park. Hans Zimmer and John Williams are the best composers in theatrical music right now, with Howard Shore coming up behind and if you get them to work on your splendors, you won’t regret it. This trailer features the theme of Man of Steel, which won my Best Score award for 2013.

Man of Steel parades its cast list around and they’re all memorable clips that hit you where it counts. Russell Crowe’s voice was meant for narration. Kevin Costner’s fatherly image, Michael Shannon’s now infamous, “I WILL FIND HIM!” Henry Cavill’s soft-spoken voice fitting perfectly with the character, the list goes on and on.

The slow fades went well with the anticipation that Zimmer’s score is unleashing on the stereo and when the music reaches the climax, so does the action sequences and visual effects, which in my opinion, were the best of 2013.

I have this trailer favorited on my Youtube channel if you can believe that.


What are your favorite trailers? Let me know in the description.

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2 thoughts on “The Art of the Trailer

  1. LOVE TRAILERS! Great read man.
    I think over a few years now of reviewing them there is a clear winner in trailer production. Warner Bros. trailers are masterful and cinematic. Disney have a better overall marketing campaign but the trailer crown goes to whoever is in charge of Warner trailers.

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