1 – Watchmen
It begins with slow, thumping, vaguely industrial-sounding music. Then a man trapped in a small room as lightening flickers behind him. "IN 2009," the title screen reads, "EVERYTHING WE KNOW WILL CHANGE." So far, nothing exceptional. Most action trailers at one point will boldly inform us that everything we know will change. Said man explodes into a burst of lightning, and then, a black screen. Then things get awesome. A weird spaceship! A scantily clad hot chick! Superheroes! Explosions! Violence! Hell, there's even a man with a flamethrower! Another dramatic pause so that we can ask ourselves: "What is this movie even about? And more importantly, do we even care?" Thirty more seconds of slow-motion and special effects and then: WATCHMEN. Take note that there are only two lines of dialogue in the whole thing. This trailer isn't about exposition; if you want to know what happens, read the comic book. It's about spectacle and director Zack Snyder's hyper-stylized vision. And slow-motion. Lots of slow-motion.
2 – Where the Wild Things Are
Traditionally, trailers are just a collection of interesting shots, compelling dialogue, and titles set to music. The trailer for Where the Wild Things Are is no exception, but it does its job exceedingly well. It gives you the gist of the film without revealing the whole plot (but was there one, really?), and the shots are grouped thematically instead of chronologically to illustrate the film’s different moods: “Inside of all of us is…ADVENTURE” it tells us, and "Inside of all of us is… FEAR." I can even forgive it, barely, for "Inside of all of us is…HOPE." Yet, that moment of corniness is dwarfed by the sincerity and—must I say it?—childlike wonder of the events transpiring on screen.
3 – District 9
It starts out like a trailer for a documentary, something about refugees or racism or whatever it is they make documentaries about these days. It looks like it could be good, but who watches documentaries, anyway? You're about to stop paying attention, and then: Bam! Aliens! This trailer does the switch-genres-halfway-through gimmick better than almost any trailer I’ve seen. Plus, the shameless name-dropping of Peter Jackson gives the film instant sci-fi credibility that luckily turned out to be well-deserved.
4 – Nine
It begins and ends with the marvelous Judi Dench, and the rest is all song and dance. And the superstars keep on coming—Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Fergie, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson, and—is that Sophia Loren? By God, it is! With simplicity and something I can only describe as razzle-dazzle, and a lot of classiness thrown in for good measure, this trailer is a little cryptic and a lot intriguing.
5 – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Explosions, robots, and Megan Fox. What more do you need? It’s action-packed, exciting, and, well, like I said, it has Megan Fox. The trailer was just like the movie, except shorter and minus the cracked-out plot. Just think, you could have saved your 10 dollars and gotten the same thrill in less than three minutes.