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Our top 10 movie trailers of 2015 are...

Posted Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 3:17 PM Central
Last updated Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 3:17 PM Central

by John Couture

I have said it so much, that I should probably just go ahead and get it tattooed somewhere on my body. But, it remains true, "the long-lost art of creating a great film trailer is bordering on extinction."

There are so many bad movie trailers out there that we would need a hundred of these articles to even scrape the surface of all of the ones that are putrid. Sadly, it was much easier to come up with this list of the top 10 best trailers of 2015.

In reality, the pool of true contenders for this prestigious honor was quite small. I would say that I considered around 25 trailers before finally settling on this list. And yes, the last trailer or two cut hurt the most, but what was really painful is that there weren't even 50 trailers that I would consider great this year.

At first blush, you might consider 50 to be an astronomical number but when you consider that thousands of movie trailers were released this year, 50 is a pretty small fraction of them. On this site alone, we added a total of 1,606 trailers in 2015 and we sadly don't have the manpower to add every single one released. If I had to guess, our number is probably pretty close.

If you figure 550 films released each year between wide and limited releases and those films that release trailers for films coming out next year after you factor in an average of three trailers per film, I would say that roughly 2,000 film trailers are released each year.* So, the fact that only about 1% of them are considered great (by my standards) is a major travesty.

So, what are my standards? Well, that's a great question and I wish that I had a better answer for you. Basically, a great trailer is one that becomes obvious when you watch it. A truly great trailer will move you in a way that you will be emotionally charged to want to go see that film in theaters. It feels like editors these days are choosing volume over substance. Don't give me more, give me less, but make me feel more.

Obviously, not all trailers are created equally. What works great for a comedy would not serve a drama and vice versa. They should give the viewer an idea of what to expect from the film, but they shouldn't let it all hang out like Grandma Betty in a Muumuu on New Year's eve.

No, a brilliant trailer will capture the magic and essence of the film it is advertising without leaving you with the feeling that you've seen the entire film already. Trailers for action films tend to pack in as many explosions as possible and you'll notice from their lack of domination in this list that it's not always a good thing.

I tried to be fair while also considering trailers from as many genres as possible. It killed me to leave out the trailer for the documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck as it was well done, but I had to be true to my vague criteria. Likewise, Creed, Ex Machina and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl all had great trailers but were all on the outside looking in.

This is probably a good spot to mention that a great trailer does not automatically indicate a great film and vice versa. I chose the best trailers, not the best films and some of these films were terrible, but their trailers were superb.

Without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 trailers of 2015.

  1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

    From the same cats who brought us, um, Cats & Dogs (yes, seriously), comes this quirky comedy about a female correspondent stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan. The trailer says that it's based on a true story and this is a good example of how a comedy can have both laughs and emotions at the same time.

    Sure, the female driver joke at the end is old and cliché, but that didn't stop me from laughing out loud. You contrast that with the emotion of Tina Fey visiting an injured Margot Robbie in the hospital and you are immediately hit with a vibe that I haven't seen in a war comedy since Good Morning, Vietnam.

    I have no clue if the movie is any good, but this trailer intrigues me and that WTF title is just the cherry on the sundae.

  2. Goodnight Mommy

    Twins are freaky enough, but when you throw in a recovering from plastic surgery mother in the mix, the creep factor jumps all the way to 11. This is how you pique the curiosity of an unsuspecting audience.

    The trailer lays out the breadcrumbs of a mystery and it's up to the viewer to follow them all the way into the theater. For creepiness alone, this trailer makes the top 10.

  3. Hail, Caesar!

    While it's usually just enough to tout the Coen brothers' name to fill up a theater, their films are tough sells for some because they are usually original ideas. You can't trade in on familiarity or nostalgia to reach a larger audience.

    That means that their trailers have to be that much better and thankfully their editor has been up to the task time and again. For this film, we get the gist of the caper and the major players while keeping the bigger secrets under wrap. While not completely necessary to be considered great, the Coens' always does a nice job highlighting the A-list cast that their projects attract.

    This trailer really made me think of the trailers for The Grand Budapest Hotel, which were some of the best ones in 2014. Bravo!

  4. Deadpool

    I've said it before and I'll say it again, Ryan Reynolds is the perfect asshole to play Deadpool and so far, the red-band trailers are proving that this more adult take on a comic book movie can be done properly. I have no idea if the film is any good or if it will make a ton of money.

    My gut says that the R rating will hurt it some, but I think the resounding tone of these trailers will help to negate its losses. In other words, Deadpool was facing an uphill battle and thanks to these trailers, Fox is playing it smart and positioning Deadpool to be the "must-see" movie in a crowded field of great 2016 releases.

    Oh and because I couldn't choose which Deadpool red-band trailer was the best, I included both of them. Enjoy!

  5. Sicario

    This is another example of an action film trailer that strikes the right balance between action and plot development. Being an original story, the cards are stacked against it, but Sicario delivers with haunting scenes that I've never seen before.

    The whole shot of those two dead bodies behind the drywall gives me nightmares to this day. I am literally on the edge of tearing down all of the drywall in my house just to make sure that the previous owners didn't bury any bodies before they left.

    The pacing is great and the action sequences are well-spaced out. I didn't make it out to the theaters to see this one (kids), but I can't wait until next week when I can pick it up on Blu-ray.

  6. The Witch

    We kick off the top five with this throwback creepy horror trailer. When it comes to horror trailers, you want to tease the big bad, but you don't necessarily want to show him or her. This is worked to perfection here in the trailer for The Witch.

    First off, the music and imagery are spot-on which is a must for a creepy trailer. Then there's the whole mystery of the disturbances, is it in their heads or is there really a witch out there?

    The whole time I was watching this, I kept thinking about local legend the Bell Witch and any time a trailer can evoke an emotional response to a real thing then it's making a great connection with the viewer. Best of all, this trailer makes me want to see this film and soon, I will.

  7. Suicide Squad

    I don't really take sides on the whole DC/Marvel war, but when it comes to movies, I find that I tend to enjoy the Marvel offerings a lot more. That might change this year as this film gets ready to change the complexion of DC films forever.

    Sure, DC has that other huge superhero team-up film coming out next year too, but frankly, the trailers for that film have been boring and a bit corny. This trailer, on the other hand, really finds a great psychotic edge that the film will have to exploit if it wants to keep the audience's attention from start to end.

    Again, the trailer may be brilliant and the film might suck, but I'm willing to bet that this will be a film that delivers on the promises of the trailer.

  8. Mad Max: Fury Road

    It's funny, I thought I had seen all of the trailers for this film, but as I was doing research for this article, I found this one and was blown away. Not only is it almost perfect for the film, but I had never seen it before.

    If this trailer doesn't make you want to get up right this second and march to a theater and watch it, then what will? It should be noted that the film is not currently playing in theaters.

    Still, the trailer is unabashedly an octane-filled ride of awesomeness which usually never works. Usually. It works here though and it works big time.

  9. The Nice Guys

    Shane Black is the king of Christmas films. What, didn't you know? The director regularly likes to feature Christmas in his films even if you'd never consider them a traditional Christmas movie ala A Christmas Story.

    The next time you watch Iron Man 3, Lethal Weapon or Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, you will totally get what I'm saying. Speaking of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, The Nice Guys very much feels like a spiritual sequel (prequel?) to it. That is a very, very good thing.

    This red-band trailer is everything that an action-comedy trailer is supposed to be and even makes you want to see the film despite the fact that you're staring at fat Russell Crowe the whole time. No one wants to see fat Russell Crowe, but this trailer is that good.

    One underrated thing that all great trailers share is that one "oh shit" moment and this one has it when Ryan Gosling and that other guy are falling through the air. It is perhaps the most shocking thing I saw in a trailer all year.

  10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    Stars Wars. Was there any doubt which trailer would top the list?

    Sometimes great trailers deliver even under the weight of great expectations and this trailer certainly brought the goods. It's a great trailer because it balances the old with the new and helps to sell the film to both audiences.

    Did it need a great trailer? Of course not, but having a great trailer is just another in a myriad of reasons as to why Star Wars: The Force Awakens will soon be the highest grossing film of all time.

    Go ahead, let the Force in one more time.

    * It should be noted that I'm entirely pulling this number out of my educated guess behind. The real number might 10,000 or 100. Either way, the fact remains that there should be better trailers out there.