The 15 best (and 5 worst) movie trailers of 2017

Photos: Warner Bros.; Marvel Studios; Universal; Paramount
Photos: Warner Bros.; Marvel Studios; Universal; Paramount

It was a great year for movies, and an equally strong one for movie trailers, which once again teased and tantalized with cunning and skill. As always, the best of the promotional lot ramped up excitement for their forthcoming full-length sagas by focusing on suggestion and suspense, all without giving away crucial surprises. While cinephiles know that the surest method of avoiding spoilers is to bypass advance peeks altogether, these 15 standout trailers illustrated the many inventive ways of enticing viewers — and, as our attendant worst of the year list confirms, also showed that there are plenty of ways to turn prospective fans off.

The 15 Best trailers of 2017

15. Dunkirk trailer (May)

Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic is light on dialogue and heavy on expertly staged spectacle, and its initial full-length trailer does a superb job suggesting the large-scale insanity of its action while also conveying its trifurcated land-sea-air plot. Plus, the soundtrack’s tick-tick-ticking really jangles the nerves.

14. Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser (April)

Rarely has a film needed to sell itself less than The Last Jedi, so it was a relief that the teaser for Episode VIII provided lots of rousing sights — and Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker stating his belief that the time of the Jedis should end — without even hinting at plot specifics.

13. Phantom Thread trailer (October)

Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis is a thoroughly unconventional romantic character study, and its sole trailer perfectly captured its refined-yet-uneasy atmosphere. It also conveyed the expert precision of its star’s superb performance.

12. Blade Runner 2049 teaser (May)

Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic may not have satisfied many moviegoers, but its trailer was a work of evocative beauty, delivering Roger Deakins’s lovely imagery with only oblique mentions of the “war” at the center of its narrative.

11. Brawl in Cell Block 99 trailer (September)

Segueing from intimidating thudding to sultry soul music, this promo for S. Craig Zahler’s film shows flashes of the extreme violence that’s central to its story about a man (Vince Vaughn) who finds himself compelled to do awful things while in jail. It’s at once menacing and mysterious.

10. Deadpool 2 teaser (November)

Subtitled “Wet on Wet,” this longform tease for next summer’s Deadpool sequel is an all-original vignette in which Ryan Reynolds’s wiseass assassin channels a bonkers Bob Ross, before giving way to brief glimpses of the manic mutant action featuring Josh Brolin’s Cable among other newcomers. And remember, hugs not drugs.

9. Black Panther teaser (June)

Marvel’s Black Panther is one of 2018’s buzziest films, in large part thanks to its best teaser (set to Run the Jewels’s “Legend Has It”), if only because it refrains from spelling out the superhero saga’s story.

8. Baby Driver trailer (March)

There’s too much plot revealed in the trailer for Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, but the sharp and swinging editing of this clip — perfectly in sync with the film’s music-oriented action — is so spot on, it’s hard to resist.

7. The Disaster Artist teaser (July)

By focusing on an abbreviated single scene that highlights the incompetence of its subject (and his notorious passion project), this teaser for The Disaster Artist does a phenomenal job at imparting a clear, concise and amusing sense of its insane true-life story.

6. It Comes at Night teaser (April)

Panning from a painting of hell to a dark corridor, all set to ominous dialogue about a door that should not be (but was) opened, this exceedingly creepy clip becomes a montage of disquieting sights that crescendo with expert precision.

5. Mother! trailer (August)

Love or hate the film, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! boasted one of the year’s most enticing trailers, transitioning from domestic bliss to hysterical madness with syncopated violin-plucking suspensefulness.

4. Thor: Ragnarok teaser (April)

Taika Waititi’s comedic take on the God of Thunder was apparent from the first bright, goofy clip for Thor: Ragnarok, which climaxes with the film’s big (green) reveal — and then its hero’s hilariously excited reaction to that bombshell.

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer trailer (August)

A teenage girl’s a cappella rendition of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” serves as an unnerving counterpoint to the beguiling imagery of Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which gets crazier and scarier as the teaser proceeds.

2. Atomic Blonde red-band trailer (March)

The year’s best action scene was the stairwell fight between Charlize Theron and some nasty adversaries in David Leitch’s Atomic Blonde, and that superlative skirmish — as well as quite a few others — is prominently featured in this propulsive red-band trailer.

1. It trailer (March)

No trailer this year generated the excitement of the first promo for It, whose collection of snapshots — of terrors lurking within sewers; of balloons hovering in rural fields; of kids fleeing unseen monsters — made clear that director Andy Muschietti had captured the small-town spirit of Stephen King’s magnum opus, as well as created a faithful, and unique, version of the author’s famous clownish specter, Pennywise.

And the 5 Worst

5. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword trailer (April)

Just like the film, this trailer for Guy Ritchie’s take on the Arthurian legend is a mishmash of ill-fitting elements, from all-over-the-place performances and rapid-fire editing to CGI monsters and the sounds of Led Zeppelin.

4. The Dark Tower (May)

Whereas the It trailer indicated that it understood its Stephen King’s source material, the first promo for The Dark Tower did the polar opposite — namely, sounded the alarm that Nikolaj Arcel’s movie appeared to be a generic and slipshod reconfiguration of the author’s beloved novel. I mean, why are orcs in this thing?

3. Baywatch trailer (March)

There isn’t a single funny line or gag to be found in Baywatch’s full-length trailer — but there is quite a bit of the smug profanity and tiresome posturing that the film tried, unsuccessfully, to sell to summer audiences.

2. The Emoji Movie trailer (May)

“Meh” doesn’t begin to describe the off-putting humorlessness of this colorful, hyperactive trailer for The Emoji Movie.

1. CHiPs trailer (January)

Lame buddy-cop action with plenty of juvenile crotch-related jokes — this CHiPs trailer seemed designed to repel audiences.

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