What Makes a Powerful Movie Trailer?

What Makes a Powerful Movie Trailer?

Movie trailers are marketing tools with the purpose of pitching upcoming films to potential audiences. A good trailer is a multi-tasker: It should excite potential filmgoers while telling them what the film is about. What makes a great movie trailer? Tone? Music? Today I am going to deconstruct some of what I think are the best movie trailers of 2017 and explain why they are so effective.


Kuso is a body horror comedy directed by Steven Ellison, who is also known as the multi-talented music producer Flying Lotus. It’s creepy, weird, unsettling, and original - a desperate breath of life into an industry bloated with cinematic universes, and unnecessary reboots and sequels. Flying Lotus tracks used to get a lot of play on [Adult Swim], so it’s no surprise that the tone and visuals bear some resemblance to something [AS] could’ve aired back when the late-night block was at its best.

Black Panther

Black Panther is the freshest superhero offering from Marvel Studios since Guardians of the Galaxy. The actors, set pieces, costume design -- all of it is stunning! Black Panther features Marvel’s first non-white led super hero flick and takes place in the thriving African Nation of Wakanda. With all the acting talent, lavish scenery, and superhero coolness packed into one trailer, it wasn’t a shock to anybody when #BlackPantherSoLit was trending on Twitter.

Murder on the Orient Express

Produced by Ridley Scott, Murder On The Orient Express has everything going for it. Based on the bestselling Agatha Christie novel of the same name, the cast is jam-packed with A-list talent. Not only does this trailer seamlessly introduce you to all of the potential suspects, but it looks super slick while doing so. This trailer achieves so much (like introducing us to several key players at once, including the victim and detective) just through panning down one long continuous scene in a rail car as one of literature’s greatest detective informs the characters that a fellow passenger has been murdered.

Baby Driver

The idea for Baby Driver started when director Edgar Wright was working on a music video for Mint Royale’s single “Blue Song.” The music video Baby Driver is based on is fun and cute, but the trailer shows us just how well Wright managed to flesh this concept out into a feature length film. The trailer is fast paced (obviously good for a film about a getaway driver) and the tone is both comedic and cool. It’s fun to watch, even including some well-placed Mario Kart sound effects, and showcases everything we’ve come to expect from Edgar Wright’s next cinematic thrill ride.

Blade Runner 2049

I realize that everyone is trying to dismiss the Blade Runner sequel because the original was amazing - and I used to be in that camp, too. After watching the trailer though, I’m more inclined to give it a chance. This trailer is offering up strange set pieces, weird and ever present symmetry in nearly every shot, and replicants (or Androids, if you aren’t familiar with the original) being born out of disturbing ziploc chutes. And that’s to say nothing of Harrison Ford’s return and those amazing synth notes near the middle of the featurette. If that synth didn’t get you hyped, it’s time to turn your 80s sci-fi fanclub card for good.

So what did these trailers all have in common? The music was thematic and appropriate. They communicated what the viewer needs to know about the plot without giving too much away. They aren’t misleading. Most importantly however, the tone of each trailer is consistent with respect to its genre. There are heavier plot elements in Baby Driver, for example, but the editors knew better than to try and shoehorn heavier themes in between the punchlines and fast cars.

What recent trailer has made you the most excited to go to the movies? Tell us in the comments below.

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Posted by Britta Archer

Britta Archer

Content Producer- Britta excels at pitching high concept ideas. As screenwriter and director, she tackles her projects with Kubrick-style dedication and commitment to quality. As an avid coder, she can be found building websites and arguing the merit of tabs vs spaces. She'll resist everything but temptation.