Best Movie Trailers of 2012
Mark Wahlberg and Ted in Ted
TOC's annual year-end festivities, including our choices for the best movies of 2012, are still on the horizon. But to appease list-loving readers—and satisfy my own insatiable appetite for hierarchy—here's a look at the year's finest movie trailers. These were the buoys of artistry in a sea of bad advertising. And in some cases (see: No. 10), they were stronger than the films they were designed to promote.
10. Beasts of the Southern Wild
The preview showcases the whimsy and wonder of Benh Zeitlin's art-house sensation, minus all but a hint of its toxic politics. It gets extra points for utilizing that stirring original score, which—as in the film itself—does most of the emotional heavy lifting.
9. The Raid: Redemption
All action, all the time—just like the movie it's advertising. More effective than the full trailer that followed it, this teaser provides no hint of plot, no point of identification and (shrewdly) no subtitles. After all, the language of martial-arts ass kicking is universal.
The genius here lies in teasing out just enough of the Alien references to get fans salivating. The editors cut around the absence of a certain acid-bleeding extraterrestrial, using familiar music and images to evoke an original that Ridley Scott's prequel scarcely resembles. For the uninitiated, the film just looks like a killer sci-fi thrill ride.
Never underestimate the power of "Gimme Shelter."
It opens with a great mislead, à la last year's terrific Muppets spots, before descending into some choice NSFW naughtiness. We'd be tempted to dock this red-band trailer points for spoiling the best gag—Wahlberg rattling off white-trash names—if it wasn't that very riff that made the movie look like a must-see.
Like The Raid's teaser, this is a model in how to artfully disguise a subtitled movie. What they're basically selling here is a mood, using a few carefully selected shots and a sound design—built around star Matthias Schoenaerts's heavy breathing—to express the primal emotions at the movie's core. In some respects, the trailer is more poetically constructed than the film.
4. Moonrise Kingdom
Could this picture look any more Wes Anderson? Focus's trailer plays like the movie in miniature, cherry-picking great lines ("That's a loaded question") and exemplary images.
3. Zero Dark Thirty
The official trailer for Kathryn's Bigelow's new movie, about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, manages to amp up anticipation while telling us almost nothing about the plot. It tantalizes by withholding—the mark of a truly great preview. Terrific final shot, too.
2. The Master
All three of The Master's trailers are stand-alone works of art. But we give the slight edge to the second teaser, which manages to elucidate the film's central relationship in a brisk, strange 90 seconds. It's subtitled "Hopelessly Inquisitive"—an apt description for how we all felt after laying eyes on this immaculately conceived spot.
1. The Dark Knight Rises
With director Christopher Nolan retiring from the cape-and-cowl business, might we suggest handing the reins of the Batman franchise to whoever cuts these trailers? The third and final Dark Knight Rises spot is the finest, pairing Nolan's most haunting, iconic imagery with his best dialogue. There's a narrative structure to the piece, one that reflects (but doesn't spoil) the resurrection arc of the movie. It's the rare trailer so beautifully conceived you want to return to it after seeing the film, just to appreciate how skillfully it isolates and rearranges all the components.