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2017: The Year Movie Trailers Were Better Than Movies

Did you see all the movies that came out this year? Boy, were they bad. One letdown after another, it felt like. Whether they botched a beloved franchise or just didn’t live up to the hype, you were generally wasting three hours of your life with every single trip to the theater.

Meanwhile, the trailers were right there — shorter, freer and much better.

This wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, previews were unbearably cheesy compared against the polished films they advertised. Perhaps you remember Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, a 2002 remake of a Norwegian psychological thriller, as eerie and suspenseful. But try convincing yourself that it’s any good while watching this awkward, hammed-up ad featuring the dulcet tones of that “In a world…” voiceover guy.


But things have changed in the last 15 years. Now movie trailers are masterfully edited, an art in their own right, while the movies are sprawling, bloated messes that barely hang on to a narrative, let alone continuity. In many ways, to watch a trailer is to watch a more coherent if radically condensed version of the film. And why read the novel when the back cover blurbs tell you everything?

It’s time we judge Hollywood not on its output but how they sell it. Here then are 2017’s best movie trailers.

10. Baywatch

Critics panned Baywatch, and audiences were meh, which led to whispers that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s era of box-office dominance had come to an end. The trailer, meanwhile, is a master class in revealing every last joke, stunt and slow-mo boob-bounce the failed reboot had to offer in just two and a half minutes. Spellbinding.

9. Baby Driver

Looking back at this unsatisfying action-caper-comedy mashup, ruined further in retrospect by Kevin Spacey, we should’ve known that the trailer had enough adrenaline to get us where we were going. (I’m sorry, Jon Hamm is so boring.)

8. Dunkirk

Oh hey, it’s Nolan again. The moody Brit attempted to put his mindfucking spin on a big-boy war drama with interlocking parallel timelines in the largely forgettable Dunkirk. Unless you have a serious thing for the masked and muffled version of Tom Hardy, you can stick with the nail-biting trailer, which conveniently edits out a lot of shitty dialogue.

7. War for the Planet of the Apes

Didn’t end up seeing this one for a few reasons:

  • Haven’t seen the others.
  • Would be heartbroken if the apes lost somehow.
  • I think we got like the highlights of like four different Woody Harrelson monologues in this trailer alone.

“So emotional” indeed.

6. Mother!

I have to give Darren Aronofsky credit: Even knowing in my heart with absolute certainty that this would be one of the worst films of the decade — and it assuredly is — the trailer convinced me I needed to experience the full running time. I was wrong, and I suggest that you end your relationship with anyone who tries to defend this “arty” torture porn.

5. The Fate of the Furious

The genius of the Furious franchise is that even its twists adhere to a formula, ensuring there are never any unpleasant surprises for an audience besotted by muscle cars and musclier men. Once you know Vin Diesel has betrayed the family, that the Rock will have to team up with Jason Statham and that Charlize Theron is a cyberterrorist with some kind of weird hair extensions on, you can pretty much figure out the rest yourself.

4. Blade Runner 2049

Though the plot stands up to no scrutiny, the fanboy in me wants to defend Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner sequel — or at least the first two hours of it. But given that almost everyone hedged their critique by calling it “visually stunning,” I think the associative montage of the trailer gets the story across. Special shout-out to Ryan Gosling for nailing the now-requisite shot of a protagonist screaming without context.

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The most overrated film of 2017, Three Billboards is so tonally jarring and irredeemable you come out of it understanding why normal people just see a dozen Marvel movies a year. Which makes it all the more impressive that the trailer represents it as a mid-tier Coen brothers affair. Hard to say how much of that is Frances McDormand, though.

2. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

What is happening in this trailer? Why am I so creeped out? Do I even deserve the continued renaissance of Colin Farrell? Somehow I suspect the movie will answer none of these questions and leave me as haunted as ever. May as well stick with this.

1. Logan

Okay, yeah, using Johnny Cash is kind of a cheat, but so is grafting your most overused superhero onto a hard-boiled apocalypse that’s Children of Men meets The Road meets Mad Max meets every Clint Eastwood Western. Besides, the chills are undeniable, and they did us the favor of not spoiling Logan’s many ridiculous bloody murders. Nice!