Mike’s Favorite Movie Trailers of 2018
I’m of very mixed opinions on the movie trailer. On the one hand, seeing a good one is really exhilarating. On the other, so many of them now spell out the entire plot of the movie and make you feel as if you’ve seen everything before you’ve watched it. Or they give you enough to where you can figure out all the plot twists and stuff beforehand. At that point, where’s the fun?
But, in the past few years I’ve been in theaters more and more and have seen more and more trailers, and I’m starting to come around on the better ones. Unlike with movie posters, they don’t really exist in perpetuity. They’re there to sell you on a film, and once the film is out, no one particularly remembers the trailer. Sure, the good ones you maybe remember, but you don’t go back and watch them often. How many trailers do you go back and see for movies that came out 5+ years ago? Less than five, I’d guess. And most of the time, it’s not because you remembered, “Oh yeah, that was an awesome trailer.” Mostly it’s to see what the trailer looked like or to show it to a friend to sell them on the movie.
However, each year, there are some cool trailers that come out that are worth noting. So what I do, at the end of every year, is go back and watch several hundred trailers (often multiple trailers for each film), and pick out what I think the best ones were. Usually I’ll have half a dozen in my head that I remember having liked, and then I’ll think of some more along the way. But mostly I’m going back and seeing which ones ended up being the most artfully done.
Here are my favorite movie trailers of 2018:
I’d like to point out, before I begin — do a quick search for “Best Movie Trailers 2018” and see what comes up. I guarantee you nobody will have put as much thought into their list as I have mine.
I also guarantee you that every other list will include stuff like Infinity War and Black Panther and Incredibles and all the big, mainstream movies. To them, they’re just trying to get clicks. They look at what trailers got the most views, and what films are the most talked about, and believe that makes a good trailer. I’m actually looking at a good trailer. That’s why you come to me. Because I’m trying to show everyone what the good trailers actually are, and not saying something is good because the publicity machine made people pretend like it was good because that’s what was talked about for two days before the cycle moved on.
So if you want all the bullshit, go read those other lists. Otherwise, keep reading.
25. The Old Man and the Gun
It starts off so nicely. Redford, Spacek — it’s a rom com. And then, oh yeah, he’s a bank robber. And it maintains that light, pleasant tone throughout. And then it turns into a nice meditation of aging and living life. It makes you feel good. And it makes you want to see this movie, which, we already knew going in, was Redford’s last hurrah. It’s just a well cut trailer.
24. Sicario: Day of the Soldado
I like that it starts with the gun shots. It brings you right into it. Then you get Benicio firing the gun, which is just badass. And it’s trading on that amazing theme from the first movie, which of course it should. And it just gives you cool images and sets you up for more of this universe we really liked last time. It also threads the needle pretty well in terms of giving you the plot without giving you too much. I remember going in I was worried about how much it told us, but truly, after that moment where it’s clear Brolin and Del Toro are going their separate ways, the trailer doesn’t tell you what’s gonna happen. It’s a nice teaser for the actual film.
23. Mary, Queen of Scots
The score does the work here. It’s a classic Focus Features kind of Oscar trailer. It’s like Darkest Hour last year. Driving piano score, great visuals and great acting, building toward the big showdown between the two. Even if this isn’t your bag, this trailer does a good job of making it seem like you want to see this movie. I’m already pre-discposed to this sort of film, so it only enhanced things for me.
22. Never Goin’ Back
This is the kind of trailer where, I saw it without really knowing what the movie was. I knew broadly the title and who directed it, but otherwise knew nothing about it. And after this I went, “Whoa, I wanna see this.” It’s an incredibly well-cut trailer that highlights everything the film is about. And it actually is the kind of trailer that points to a broader appeal that the film has. If only that translated into more views. Because the movie is arguably even better than this trailer.
Jason Reitman is always good for a trailer. The music use is fantastic, establishing the set up without words, not being overly pushy about the selling points (Charlize and Diablo Cody’s dialogue), and just making it into something you wanna see. I remember when this came out a lot of people said, “I kinda wanna see that. Trailer was good.” It’s a bit too… I don’t know, indie uplifting, as trailer’s go. Making it seem like it’s more sentimental than it is. But it’s a really well-put-together trailer, and shows that you’re gonna get a smart, adult movie. That’s an underrated virtue.
20. Ocean’s 8
This one is just fun. And really what sold me on it is the use of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.” They’re selling it on the Ocean’s name, and they use the opening scene of the parole hearing and the split screens from the Soderbergh films, but it just gives you a good example of the stars and the great tone. It’s almost a mirror image of the first one, only here selling the group of women, whereas the original Ocean’s Eleven was selling the heist aspect. This is the most accurate representation of this movie that you’re gonna get. That’s a good trailer to me.
This is the perfect example of a trailer that made me go, “Oh that’s the tone? I’m in.” It’s also so audacious that it makes you really interested in seeing the movie. You’re like, “This is insane,” and then you realize, “Oh, this is real.” What a perfect trailer.
This one builds a nice tone. I like when something starts slow and crescendos. And it also sets up an interesting film, from great people, with great people. It’s also rare to see a movie with a good trailer that somehow ends up being better than its trailer. None of the trailers for this movie are nearly as good as the movie itself. Which is rare.
17. The Happytime Murders
The red band trailer for this movie was amazing. It oversells the movie to the point where the movie could have never lived up to it, and you get the sense of that when you watch it, but for the first thing to happen on screen is a puppet to say, “For fifty cents, I’ll suck your dick,” you’re gonna stand out. And then, the “No Sesame, All Street” tagline, mixed with the Ice Cube song? Amazing. It’s so audacious. I love it. And it ends with extended puppet ejaculation. How many trailers (aside from Mary, Queen of Scots, of course) have that?
16. Madeline’s Madeline
Not the most exciting trailer, but man does it look like someone made the entire thing in their basement with art supplies. And I. LOVE. IT. That’s the kind of vibe this movie should be giving off. This is the single most unique trailer of 2018. I can’t say it sells the movie exactly, but… can you sell this movie, and also, I think it kinda does, because this is a weird, surrealist kinda movie, so it kinda does. Still, this is the best put-together trailer of the year.
Gaspar motherfuckin’ Noé. I feel like all of his movies are gonna have great trailers. But this one is a perfect representation of the movie. Dancers, and then… fucking chaos. The way the song kicks in right as things go nuts, and then just, dancing and mayhem — it’s perfect. How can you see this and not go, “What in the hell is this?” Unless you know Gaspar movies, in which care you’re just like, “Oh, I’m fucking in.”
14. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Is it possible for this franchise to not have a good trailer? Tom Cruise (who already has high standards for his films) always ups his game when it comes to these. And man, did they come to play with this one. The nice slow beginning with the solo piano, to add seriousness to the tone of the film, leading into the guitar riff and the remix… amazing. And then it’s just stunts, which you come to expect. Apparently it’s an Imagine Dragons song they use. Didn’t realize that, but hey, nobody’s perfect. It’s a good song for this moment. This trailer just makes you hyped for the next one in the franchise. A franchise that keeps seemingly getting better as it goes.
13. Sorry to Bother You
This is the trailer we all saw a bunch before it came out and all were like, “Oh, this is looks really interesting.” None of us knew what this was, and then this trailer made us want to see it. Plus, it starts with Armie Hammer doing a line of coke across the entire screen. That’s just amazing. It definitely promises a unique time, one that I think we all wanted to see after seeing this trailer.
This trailer is just incredible. The slow, crazy visuals of this, leading into the incredibly loud music and horror imagery, climaxing with the chaos of violence and Nicolas Cage forging a giant axe and having a chainsaw fight. Some of us heard good things about this throughout the year, but we didn’t quite know what we were in for until we saw this trailer.
11. The Death of Stalin
Pure hilarity. You saw this trailer, and you laughed your ass off. It really sells the Ianucci tone he established with In the Loop and Veep and makes you want to see the movie immediately.
Love this trailer. Because it did exactly what it was supposed to do — sell me on a movie. I had preconceived notions of what this would be about, and it immediately altered those. It made it fun, which the movie is. Aside from being deadly serious, it’s also kind of a comedy. And the trailer blurs the line between the two, and even goes so far as to sell the point of the movie, which is — how can things be happy and cheerful with all this inequality and violence going on? Its a powerful trailer for a powerful movie.
I was so predisposed to this, but I don’t care. I was concerned, but not overly concerned, about what this movie would be, and this trailer immediately quelled those concerns and made me excited for what this was ultimately going to be and how it was going to stand on its own from the original film. It obviously can’t go deeper than it did (how could you, with that third act?), but man, does this sell you on the creepiness and visual look of the film.
8. American Animals
Great trailer. I hadn’t even seen this before researching for this article. I love a trailer that uses sound and sound editing to build a tempo. There’s always one that does it well. It perfectly captures what these guys felt and what propelled them into committing this crime. It also gives you a bit of the heist movie feel in the middle, while never really letting up on the seriousness of it. It strikes a very definite town that never veers too much in one direction. Great work.
7. A Star Is Born
Not gonna lie, this one’s great. Took a few watches to win me over. But using the original music for the film, which also works thematically with the story, really sells this trailer. It may feel on the nose, but it’s the kind of trailer that really makes you feel like this could be something special. And yes, I know, it’s been meme’d to death, but this story has been remade four times. It takes a special film to make it feel fresh again, and this trailer shows that. This trailer gets better every time I see it, and even now I’m considering putting it higher.
6. The Favourite
This is Death of Stalin, but with pure madness. There’s a darker comedy to this film, that’s more openly fucked up, and I think that’s why I liked it. Plus it’s the juxtaposition of 18th century London with the twisted humor that makes it work. It looks so dark and odd. And it’s just a wickedly funny trailer. I love how it goes off on the violins playing sour notes and really turning the period piece on its head.
It starts from the A24 logo made with skateboards but then just goes from there. The use of music is incredible, but it also sells you perfectly on the tone this is going for — what it’s like to be a kid at that age. I cannot underestimate how amazing the music choices here are. “Gyongyhaju lany” is a hell of a pull, and just elevates this one to another level for me.
4. If Beale Street Could Talk
Barry Jenkins cuts a hell of a trailer. This trailer is a mood piece in and of itself. It captures the movie brilliantly. I love this trailer so, so much. It perfectly captures the essence of this movie in two minutes. It’s just beautiful. The use of Nicholas’s Britell’s score is perfect, and the soaring mood at the end — man, do I love this one.
3. Bohemian Rhapsody
The first trailer for this movie was not good. That teaser? That was rough. But this one — you’re lying if this didn’t make you excited. It’s Queen’s music. That’s what they’re selling you on. And it has the right amount of clips from the film to make you think, “Oh, this might not be half bad.” They did their job. And sure, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions” are doing all the heavy lifting, but no one said cutting a trailer had to be hard. Sometimes taking the pitch over the middle to left-center for an easy triple is all you need to do.
2. The Front Runner
Amazing trailer. Jason Reitman knows how to cut ’em. The jazzy feel at the top is fantastic. They set up the story really well, and then bring in the (perfectly used) Nina Simone, right as things start to fall apart, building up a tempo as the situation gets worse and worse, and using that great technique of dropping everything out for the big moment at the end. It’s perfect. If I had to pick one trailer from the year that does perfectly what a trailer should do, this is the one I’d pick. If I were teaching a class on trailer cutting, this would be the example from 2018. Still not number one though. Because there’s technical, and there’s emotional. And this year…
1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
This made you cry at a trailer. This is so beautiful. It was only a taste of what was to come with the documentary. The score was amazing, the clips were perfectly chosen, and it was paced in such a way that it brings you back to when you watched Mr. Rogers as a child. This is picture and sound working in tandem to bring out every emotion you have about this man and what he strove for, what he wanted us to be and how he wanted the world to treat one another. This trailer is so good, they didn’t even need to pipe in the theme song at the end. We already were in. This may be a situation where a lot of the work was already done for it, but you know what? This man was special, and this documentary is special. And this is my favorite trailer of the year, because no matter who you are, when you watch it, you get choked up. You may not show it, but you’ll feel it. You will feel something when you watch this trailer. And that’s exactly what it wants to do, and that’s exactly what a trailer should do. Whatever your feeling, the trailer should make you feel something. This does that, and so much more.
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