Mike’s Favorite Movie Trailers of 2019

Sometimes I question putting up all these ‘favorites’ list each year. Because everyone puts up some version of them But I realize as I do it each time… not one puts the amount of care and effort into the lists the way I do. I always stumble upon a ‘favorite performances’ or ‘favorite trailers’ list on a site or two, and it’s always the same shit you’d expect to try to appeal to the most amount of people. Hustlers and Joker and The Irishman and all the same films that are gonna get the most searches. No one’s actually talking about the content itself. So that’s why I keep doing it.

That was a long way of saying we’re talking about my favorite movie trailers today. Another art that’s on shaky ground. Not as much as posters are, but they’re not doing great. Trailers now are either completely abstract and designed to give you nothing about a movie or spell out the entire plot of a movie from start to finish. There’s really no in-between most of the time. Unless, of course, the trailer actually does its job. And that’s what we’re gonna try to get at today.

My viewing of trailers tends to ebb and flow from year to year. I’m usually in a theater a lot, so I’ll catch a fair amount. And some of the bigger ones I will watch. Sometimes I’ll get bored every two months or so and then pull up like ten that I just missed to see if they look any good or see if they’re selling the movie well. Because I’m gonna watch all this stuff anyway, so trailers really aren’t doing anything for me. They’re not really moving the needle all that much. The only thing a trailer will do is make me reconsider (or further convince me) if I should see a movie in theaters or not or make me more excited for something than I already am (which, in those particular cases, is usually a lot). But I make myself write up this article so I can really look at what trailers are doing their jobs exceptionally well. Because people do this for a living. Their job is to make these things. So it’s only fair they get their just shout outs for doing their jobs well.

Here are my favorite movie trailers of 2019:

25. 1917

I just love World War I. So this trailer excites the shit out of me on imagery alone. Plus it’s playing on that Dunkirk theme of time and tension building, which totally works. Mostly it’s just awesome images and the sense that you’re gonna get some intense shit. Which is awesome. This is the kind of trailer that works great as a teaser and not a full trailer, because you have all you need to know what the film is about. More can only spoil stuff for you. Plus I like this idea of huge titles that take up the entire screen. I feel like I haven’t really seen that before, and it’s nice.

24. Jumanji: The Next Level

This one is just fun as hell. We know what they did with that first one, so now they’re just playing off the twists they’re gonna give you in this new one. The old school song blaring over it is a nice touch too. But honestly, you give me The Rock doing a Danny DeVito impression, and it’s already one of my favorite trailers of the year. Mostly what this does is remind you of what you loved about the first one and tell you, “Don’t worry, you’re gonna get more, and we’re not gonna just do the same thing again.” And it works. It feels like the kind of sequel you want to watch.

23. The Peanut Butter Falcon

The trailers that tend to do well for me and make this list are the ones that immediately make me want to see the movie way more than I did beforehand. And while I probably expected the movie to be solid when I previewed it in January… I preview a lot of movies in January. I need to be reminded of stuff. And this one, immediately when I saw this trailer, not only was I in, I was very in. It’s your standard Fox Searchlight, uplifting indie trailer. And I get that. But hey, just because it works doesn’t minimize how well it works. Plus, the film gives you something you haven’t seen before, which I like a lot. That’s what’s so great about this movie — you tell most people, “Do you want to watch a movie about a kid with Down’s Syndrome?” And instinctively most people will say no and that the movie isn’t for them. But you watch this trailer and you go, “That looks good.” It just makes you feel good.

22. Avengers: Endgame

It’s this second trailer that does the job. That first one didn’t do it for me. It’s this one that really gives you the scope and depth of the film we’re getting. Because it’s showing you, “Look at all the history you have with these people. They’ve grown so much in the past decade, and you’ve done it with them. They’re showing you everything that matters to these characters and how it was all taken away and actually making everything that’s happened in the previous films, namely Infinity War, actually have consequences. So while in most superhero movies, when they go, “Let’s get this son of a bitch,” you go, “Okay, cool, we know how this goes,” here you actually go, “Okay, I get it. I get why this is a big deal.”

21. Fighting with My Family

This was the first trailer of the year that I saw and went, “Wow, maybe I’ve been underestimating this one.” Granted, that’s because it came out the earliest, but still. This went from something I dismissed because it was about a wrestler that’s still on TV now (and I’m about 15 years past my wrestling watching days, so it doesn’t really mean anything to me anymore) to something where I went, “Oh, this might actually be a good story.” They get you with that twist in the beginning of expecting it to be one kind of movie, but then the dad shows him how to put her in the chokehold, you immediately get it. And then it’s just this uplifting sports movie about people fighting for their dreams. The jokes land, and while it does got a bit heavy on the emotion aspect, it does show you that the movie has more to it than you may have immediately assumed when you heard about it.

20. Jojo Rabbit

I like this better than the full trailer. Because it gives you everything you need about this movie in a minute. You don’t need the plot, you need to know the tone (check), the fact that it’s a funny movie about Hitler (check), the fact that it’s gonna be funny (double check) and that Taika Waititi is gonna play Hitler (check) and that it’s gonna be amazing. They do that all in less than a minute and elicit no less than two solid laughs out of you in the process. That’s a perfect trailer.

18. Piercing

This is such a grindhouse trailer. It’s so fucked up and it tell you exactly the kind of movie you’re gonna get. Now, subject matter aside, does this trailer not make you want to see this movie? Doesn’t it seem weirdly interesting? The doo-wop song is really what sells it to me. That’s what really sells the tone as this cult-y B movie that’s only meant for midnight showings. I love this trailer.

18. Shaft

I had zero expectations for this movie until I saw this trailer. This shit is funny. And the movie is funnier than this. But the trailer, you get what it’s gonna be immediately. And it’s not the cheesy version of the story that I expected when I heard about it. This trailer has to be done red band. Otherwise you don’t fully understand the experience you’re in for. This sells the movie perfectly.

17. Ready or Not

The concept is what sells it, but the trailer does a perfect job of conveying that concept and the tone of the film. You watch this, you know the film you’re getting and there’s almost no way you’re gonna not want to see it. Also, the use of “Unchained Melody” is just fantastic.

16. Amazing Grace

It’s a documentary about Aretha Franklin singing and this is the only way you can sell this movie — just have Aretha sing. How perfectly cut is this trailer? How can you not want to see this movie after watching this? Sometimes it’s just that easy to make a good trailer.

15. The Irishman

I’ll admit, I wasn’t all in on this movie after seeing the trailers for it. But going back, now that I’ve seen the film, of all the trailers they released, this is the one that I feel best sells the film. That second one, with Ray Romano asking him if he did it and all that… that’s the one to get casual people interested in it. But in terms of best approximating the film, this is the one. This perfectly captures the scope and scale of the film and just what they’re going for with it. The camera movements, the use of music… this is pure Martin Scorsese. I’m more impressed by this trailer each time I see it.

 

14. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

I struggled putting this one so high, but then I realized, who gives a shit. The trailer isn’t that well put together, it’s really all about the music and the editing. But then you realize… that’s the film. It’s about setting you into the period and making you feel like it’s 1969. And they do that really well here. The cut to ‘Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show’ is just a wonderful touch. People, if they bother to rank trailers, will probably put this higher, but for me it’s really just a trailer built on music and just throwing as much as they can in there of all the famous people to get you to want to see it. Which is fine. But ‘t

13. Honey Boy

The trailer starts the same way the film starts, which is perfect, since you immediately understand what you’re getting. You know this is a movie about Shia LaBeouf, and when you see this shot, you get it. You immediately think of him in all those Transformers movies, where his character did essentially what Lucas Hedges does in that moment. But then the lingering on the shot is what’s so great about it. Because you realize it’s not just what you see on the screen. And then you get into all the personal stuff, which is just wonderful. You can feel how personal this movie is just by watching this trailer. And it really makes you feel confident that this is not just some throwaway work by an actor bemoaning their life. You really can tell this movie is a really journey into this man’s childhood. It’s really well done.

 

11. Booksmart

There’s always at least one comedy red band trailer that makes my list each year. Because it’s so easy to cut a funny trailer with all the funniest bits of a movie. The trouble with these is actually being good past the trailer, because a lot of times they give you all the best bits. This, fortunately, doesn’t end up being one of those, but it does let you know it’s gonna be smart and funny and gives you the chemistry between Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, which is really the highlight of the film. Yes, it tries to go a bit Superbad, and yes they use the same Run the Jewels song that all these trailers use, but it works. This told me (as I’m sure it did most people) that this was gonna be a good movie, which I wasn’t entirely certain about before it. Plus that tag of the ‘shotgun’ as she goes into the cop car is really good.

11. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Tension, pure tension. The lack of a score really helps build, along with the explanation of the plot. You really start to feel what you’re gonna get from this. The slow build and the quiet, while internally the tensions rise to a fever pitch. It’s a really wonderful trailer. I’ve watched this one about five times now just to watch it, it’s so well put together.

10. The Nightingale

This fucking trailer. Oh man. If I wasn’t sold before I saw this (which I was. I was all in on this movie from the jump), this trailer is a work of art. Just watch this. How can you not wanna see this movie? Her singing over the whole thing and then the rest of it — using the juxtaposition of the song versus the horrors and violence on the screen — it’s great. But really, this just sells you on the important selling point of the film: this woman is gonna fuck some people UP. And it works.

9. The Last Black Man in San Francisco

This is just a beautiful trailer. They’re selling this on the ethereal beauty of something like Moonlight, which is fine. But there’s really something so gorgeous about how they cut this trailer. It comes from the way they shot the film, with those beautiful slow-motion images and shots of San Francisco that really lend themselves to a trailer like this. But it’s the beautiful rendition of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” that really elevates this into something beautiful. How can anyone hear the last half of this trailer and not get goosebumps?

8. Good Boys

So this is 2019’s example of the comedy trailer that does generally waste most of the funny bits in it. The movie isn’t so much better than this trailer, but still, trailer’s the trailer, and it works. The opening with Rogen telling them they can’t watch the trailer is what makes it work. But then you get to the actual trailer. The bit about them not knowing the sex toys and then the notion of little kids cursing… it’s funny. It’s inherently funny. The one knock against it is the Run the Jewels song, which again is in every goddamn trailer, especially comedies (it was in the damn Booksmart trailer!), but otherwise this is a very funny trailer that makes you think you’re getting something you haven’t seen before. Which is half the battle for a movie like this.

7. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It’s Star Wars, man. I’m always gonna go for a trailer like this. The original one might have been the choice, if it weren’t for the damn Palpatine laugh at the end. This one, though — it works. It builds the excitement for the finale, even though I’ve long stopped caring about this new trilogy and long since given up any hope of them being great. But you get Rey vs. Ren on the ship with the rain, the iceberg planet, which looks dope, and then John Williams’ music, which is really what makes everything work as well as it does anyway. The big, epic theme that gives you the sense of a finale… it’s hard not to get swept up in that.

6. Waves

This trailer is just stunning. It’s another A24 trailer trying to be like Moonlight, even though it differentiates itself pretty quickly. But still, it sells the point of the film… love above all else. And it doesn’t quite give away the plot, which is good, but just gives you a sense of the transcendent beauty this film has. It’s this trailer that got me to go see this movie in a theater. It just filled me with such emotion that I just instinctively knew this movie was gonna be great. It’s so good. The bad version of explaining this is the tagline they trot out every time they want to sell an Oscar contender — “some movies you see, others you feel.” But that’s how it is with this trailer… you feel it.

5. Ad Astra

I wasn’t as in love with the first trailer they released for this movie. But this one… this is the trailer. Because you get it. Pitt delivering the message to his father as the framing device and then the operatic space score — it’s so good. This gets you excited for the film. And it’s not throwing space action at you, which I like. It’s grounded purely in character and human drama. Big, big fan of this trailer.

4. Dolemite Is My Name

This is just a perfect trailer. It goes too far in telling you the story, but it doesn’t matter. Because it gives out the vibe, and that’s what you need. I smile every time I watch this. “God DAMN, Dolemite!” Come on, you know this is a great trailer.

3. Knives Out

This one has you from the opening seconds. With that score. And then it starts giving you the milieu and the characters, and you’re just in. Pure mystery, pure editing, pure characters. It’s the total package. And it’s following the progression of the film — Craig stays in the background for the opening segments and then takes center stage. It’s awesome.

2. Ford v Ferrari

This is just good, old-fashioned fun. It’s just classically made. Set up your characters, set up your story, and then boom, “Gimme Shelter.” How can you not get excited about this movie from this trailer? This one doesn’t even need me talking about how it works. It just does. You see it as you watch it. This is everything you want out of a movie.

1. Joker

It is the most memorable marketing campaign of 2019. I can’t really say otherwise. While the three trailers below this I enjoyed more, I can’t say there was one more memorable or more revelatory than this one. Or the two others they released. Because this was the first time we all knew for sure this was gonna be a good movie. You really get the sense of what they were going for with this. It gives you the iconic images of him on the stairs, and really gives you the sense of atmosphere and period they were going for. Plus the Jimmy Durante version of “Smile” is just perfect. It’s a really operatic trailer, and I love the big font, too. Apparently it was decided this was the year of big fonts and old-timey songs permeating trailers, because there are at least two uses of each on this list. I saw this trailer in 70mm for the first time and it blew me away. It didn’t fully eliminate my apprehensions about the film (which, it turns out, were warranted, but in a slightly different way than I was expecting), but it did at least show me that they had a plan for this movie and that they executed the exact type of film they wanted to make, which is a movie reminiscent of 70s New York character pieces. And however you feel about the film (and that includes me), I can’t deny that this was the trailer that achieved the most for its film this year.

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