Movie trailers are amongst my favorite things in the world of cinema. They often represent our first real look at something that only existed largely in theory up to that point. Sometimes trailers are a mere glimpse at excellence to come. Sometimes some wizardry takes place in the editing room that manages to craft an excellent two-ish minute look at something that is maybe not-so-great in the end.
This list runs the table. From talking cats to cinematic icons. From teasers to full-length looks at big box office hits, it’s all here. So, without further adieu, here are the top ten greatest movie trailers of 2019.
In a year where franchise fare dominated, director Rian Johnson brought us something quite original with Knives Out. Yes, it’s playing with the old idea of a whodunnit, but it feels quite fresh and Johnson certainly put his own spin on it. That was all evident in this first stylish and convincing trailer. It takes a lot to get people out to the movies these days and, for one, this trailer is not shy about boasting that it has an absolutely stacked cast. It also plays like gangbusters. It does that thing that a good trailer should do. When it’s over you think, “Yes, I would like to know more.” It also didn’t give all that much away, which was nice come movie time. And it gets a lot of points for getting Chris Evans, the man who once said “language” as Captain America, to say “Eat s***” repeatedly.
By the time No Time to Die hits theaters it will have been four and a half years since the release of Spectre, the longest gap between installments in the James Bond franchise while the same actor has held onto the role. In this case, Daniel Craig. With that in mind, this trailer represents our first look at Craig’s long-awaited return and final turn as 007. And man, does this trailer have it all. It’s a massive trailer. Stunts. Bond girls. Former foes. Old friends. It’s dramatic. It’s action-packed. It’s probably what a modern Bond movie should look like. If the actual movie turns out to be this good, we’re in for a treat.
This is something of an anomaly on this particular list. By many accounts, The Goldfinch is not a great movie. The adaptation of the acclaimed novel of the same name ended up being a bomb at the box office and was a financial disaster for Warner Bros. That having been said, the trailer, taken as its own thing, is quite stunning. I knew very little about this project before the trailer was released, but the footage captivated me and convinced me we’d all be talking about this drama well into Oscar season. I was certainly wrong about that, but watching the trailer again, I can’t help but feel that same way about it, even though the movie’s fate would suggest otherwise. It’s got a lot of stars we love set against a whole bunch of conflicting imagery. Some beautiful. Some tragic. The music is gorgeous and it just looks fantastic. It’s a shame this one didn’t pan out as such.
Director Bong Joon-Ho has crafted some truly great movies in his career, and Parasite is no exception. For those who have seen the movie, it pulls off a pretty amazing flip of the script and is definitely one of those cinematic adventures that is best wandered into knowing as little as possible. That’s why I give so much credit to Neon for crafting such a captivating trailer that gives next to nothing away. The trailer focuses on all of these intriguing little moments that makes one raise an eyebrow. And yet, the viewer doesn’t truly know all that much about what the movie itself is bringing to the table. This is, in many ways, the ideal movie trailer. No spoilers but no less captivating.
I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Top Gun. I simply don’t understand why it has managed to maintain its place in pop culture throughout the decades. So, naturally, when I learned that a sequel was coming down the pipeline, I wasn’t all that interested personally. Be that as it may, I can’t deny that the first trailer for Top Gun: Maverick is pretty incredible. It does away with the 80s cheese (mostly) in favor of something more mature, befitting the modern movie-going landscape, while somehow feeling totally faithful to what came before. I, against all odds, found myself feeling nostalgic for something I cared very little about in the first place, and excited about a movie I wasn’t the least bit excited for. What more can one ask of a trailer?
IT went on to become the highest-grossing horror movie of all time. So, to say the pressure was on for IT Chapter Two would be something of a major understatement. We can debate the finer points of how successful the final product was or wasn’t, but it’s hard to deny that this first teaser trailer got people on board for round two with Pennywise and the Losers Club. The best thing about it is that Warner Bros. opted to give us an extended look at a key sequence from the Stephen King adaptation that essentially leads into a brief teaser trailer, instead of going the more traditional route. That strategy pays off in a big way. By the time we get to the main teaser, the atmosphere is so built up and the viewer is so unsettled that all of those images mean so much more. That final bit with Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise popping out to say hello i the perfect punctuation mark. It’s a creative trailer and something I hope to see more of in the future.
Dipping back into the Stephen King well for a moment, how crazy is it that a sequel to The Shining came out this year? And how crazy is it that the movie was, by most accounts, quite good? As hard as that is to believe, this first trailer hinted at what was coming. Director Mike Flanagan married the worlds of Stanley Kubrick and Stephen King, which was very evident in this trailer. While there was plenty of familiar imagery, it doesn’t lean entirely on nostalgia. It is, all at once, so obvious that this is a continuation of The Shining, while also setting itself apart, standing on its own two feet. When that music cue hits at the end it may have been my personal biggest “shut up and take my money” moment of the year. Unfortunately, great as the trailer may be, it didn’t do enough to convince moviegoers to shell out money to see this one in theaters. But that should take nothing away from the work of art this trailer ends up being on its own terms.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. They had never worked together. Quentin Tarantino was finally going to make that happen. Not to mention bringing in Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. And the acclaimed filmmaker was going to do this in a movie set in 1960s Hollywood set against the backdrop of the Manson Family murders. What on Earth was that going to look like? The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood teaser trailer answered that question in brilliant fashion. Neon. Glitz. Glamour. Bruce Lee. This trailer has it all. Sony wound up with one of the biggest, original box office hits of the year with Tarantino’s latest and I have to imagine the greatness of this trailer had more than a little to do with getting slightly more casual moviegoers off the couch for this one.
John Wick, as a franchise, has completely reinvigorated Keanu Reeves’ career. When last we left our hero, he was going to be facing down the wrath of the High Table with just about every assassin on the planet coming for him. The first trailer for John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum showed us what Wick on the run looks like and man, is it something. How can one possibly ramp up the action from the first two chapters in a series like this? Our first trailer for Mr. Wick’s third cinematic adventure answers that question confidently. Horses. Knife fights. Killing a guy with a book. Sword fights on motorcycles. What a gift these movies are. Luckily, in this case, the movie ended up kicking just as much ass as the trailer implied it would.
I’m not here to argue for or against Cats as a movie. That’s an entirely different conversation to have, possibly at a later date. What I’m here to do is present the argument that perhaps no trailer sparked such delightful online conversation in 2019, if not this decade. The entirety of the internet banded together to rally behind the weirdness that was Cats. By the time the first trailer arrived, people had already heard so much about the adaptation of the successful Broadway musical. Expensive CGI cat people. Massive sets that would make the actors appear cat-sized. Taylor Swift and Ian McKellen starring in a movie together. Also Jason Derulo, of all people sneaking in there. And Tom Hooper, the director of the Best Picture winner The King’s Speech was at the helm. On paper, this was a lot to process. The trailer didn’t disappoint. Does it help the viewer understand the story at all? Not really. It does, however, give us a ton of A-list stars as CGI felines doing all manner of inexplicable things. It’s as wacky and perplexing a thing as we’re ever likely to get from mainstream Hollywood. Did the movie itself succeed in achieving greatness? Probably not. Did the Cats trailer achieve greatness? Absolutely.
1Joker Final Trailer
I’ve made no bones about the fact that I did not like Joker as a movie. In fact, I personally don’t know anyone who liked the movie as little as I did. However, heading into opening night I was so undeniably fascinated to see what director Todd Phillips had cooked up with Joaquin Phoenix in his R-rated, non-traditional DC Comics adaptation. So much of that had to do with the marketing. Specifically, this final trailer was, as its own thing, a truly staggering bit of cinema. Phillps promised a gritty character study that would show us how the famed Batman villain came to be and this trailer made that look like a story we never knew we needed to see. The trailer, rightfully so, no matter what one’s thoughts are on the final product, paints this is a comic book movie the likes of which we’ve never seen. It’s so stylistic. So bold. Even grandiose at moments. The music. The imagery. Phoenix’s incredible transformation. No matter how I feel after having seen Joker I can still watch this trailer and marvel at it. It’s almost enough to make me want to watch it again. Almost. But given what this movie became, it’s hard to deny the power of this trailer. It sold the masses on this very out of the box idea. It is, in my humble opinion, the trailer of 2019.