Welcome back, True Believers! We’re guessing that since you’re reading this article you share our affinity for superhero movie marketing! Specifically, movie trailers. In our last article we took a gander at rankings 7 through 12 of our top superhero movie trailers. This time we’re taking on the best of the best with our top 6. Hopefully our choices don’t astonish you too much. If you dare to dive in, scroll below to see our picks. You’ll never believe which one we placed in the top spot!
6. Watchmen (2009)
Just because a film didn’t turn out the way a majority of fans had hoped doesn’t mean the trailer wasn’t well done. Such is the case with 2009’s Watchmen. Over ten years before the critically acclaimed HBO series, the first trailer for Watchmen debuted to impress and confuse audiences everywhere. The trailer itself contains no story and very little dialogue. Instead we get an incredibly stylish music video with striking visuals of a superhero world unlike any Marvel or DC had shown us on the big screen before. The dark and gritty images, recreated directly from the comic, are cut to The Smashing Pumpkins’ haunting song “The End is the Beginning is the End.” The trailer sums up its somber mood with Rorschach’s famous line from the comic, “The world will look up and shout ‘save us.’ And I’ll whisper ‘no.’” The absorbing piece of advertising sparked intense interest in the original Watchmen graphic novel, as well as causing the 12-year old song to break into the iTunes top 100 list.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
When the mega successful Marvel Studios decided they wanted to branch out from the classic superhero genre and try something a little weird, they reached for the stars. At the time, the Guardians of the Galaxy were obscure characters even to comicbook fans. The first trailer had to sell a walking tree and talking raccoon to general audiences. So, how do you do that exactly? By having the main character flip off the camera, of course! The Guardians’ first trailer introduced us to the group of cosmic a-holes as hardened space criminals in a police line-up, and people instantly fell for the lovable rabble rousers. The bizarre collection of alien misfits coupled with director James Gunn’s off-brand sense of humor instantly struck a chord with fans. Add to that the vintage pop-song that no one expected to hear in a superhero OR sci-fi movie, “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede, and audiences knew this was something they hadn’t seen before.
4. Logan (2017)
Similar to the Watchmen trailer, Logan stands out with an inspired music choice. The preview for Wolverine’s third solo movie outside the X-Men franchise effectively uses Johnny Cash’s 2002 cover of the Nine Inch Nails track “Hurt.” The trailer itself feels like the swan song of a broken-down cowboy from westerns of old. We see jarring and disturbing images of the once merry Marvel mutants Wolverine and Professor Xavier, now old and beaten. They’re almost unrecognizable with grey hair and scars. The mighty X-Men are extinct. What’s left of our once great heroes are destitute beings, living in the desert waiting to die, until a young mutant comes looking for their help. The trailer expertly plays on the emotional attachment we as an audience formed for these characters over the years. The melancholy music and pace pick up ever so slightly, and we are given a glimmer of hope that maybe ol’ Wolvie can set things right before the inevitable end. The only way to find out if he succeeds is to see the movie. You can’t ask for a better trailer than that.
3. Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Led Zeppelin. “Immigrant Song.” That’s really all you need to know about this bombastic ballad of a fist-pumping trailer. After a lackluster sequel in Thor: The Dark World, Marvel announced their reinvention of the God of Thunder with the first preview for the sequel flick. Opening with the shocking destruction of Thor’s hammer, we follow Goldie Locks as he’s banished from Asgard and turned into a gladiator on an alien planet. The colorful extraterrestrial aesthetic is a love letter to Thor co-creator Jack “King” Kirby. The Asgardian flashbacks look like beautifully painted 70s rock album covers. The tone is more in line with the irreverent Guardians of the Galaxy movies. But the entire core of the trailer revolves around one BIG reveal. The stunning surprise comes when none other than The Incredible Hulk unexpectedly bursts out onto the intergalactic gladiatorial ring to do combat with his former teammate. It’s a rousing moment that had audiences cheering for a movie they hadn’t even seen yet. ‘Nuff said.
2. Suicide Squad (2016)
Who would have thought that the trailer for Suicide Squad would turn out to be more fun than the actual movie? We don’t mean to rag on the flick, but as we’ve said before, people love a good team-building montage, and when it’s set to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” there’s just no contest. The Suicide Squad trailer tries to capitalize on the Guardians of the Galaxy success by turning it up to 11. The villains introduced to the squad such as Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Killer Crock actually feel like dangerous and deranged criminals as opposed to the more family-friendly MCU. The supernatural threat the baddies go up against is barely glimpsed but frightening nonetheless. The editing is fun and fast paced, using diegetic sound synced up with beats from the music to incorporate the villains into the melodic fun. The whole unhinged attitude of the trailer poses the possibility of super villains pitted against a threat more dangerous than themselves. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite get that movie. But we can always hope for the sequel! In the meantime, the Suicide Squad trailer is one of the best around.
1.Superman Returns (2006)
Here it is, our number one pick for best superhero movie trailer of all time, and it proves to be a confoundingly controversial choice! Many fans might not remember the teaser trailer for Superman Returns. The film is known more for its soft rebooting of the Man of Steel without giving him a threatening villain to fight, as well as grounding the blue boy scout with an illegitimate son. Despite the flick’s perceived flaws, we think its first teaser trailer is one of the most powerful and inspiring pieces of superhero advertising ever created. Hear us out.
At first glance the trailer is very simple. It fades in and out of images of Superman iconography: the Kent farm, a crashed ship, a hair curl, the Daily Planet. Some shots act as pure nostalgia for the 1970s Superman movies, while others are reminiscent of Smallville, the teenage Superman show that was on the air at the time. The visuals work, but where the trailer soars is the sound. John Williams’ stirring score coupled with the late Marlon Brando’s voice recordings from the original Superman movie are pure exhilaration.
The moment that solidifies the trailer’s #1 spot is the shot of Metropolis citizens gazing up to the sky in awe as Brando declares, “They can be a great people Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show way.” It induces goosebumps every time. As Superman floats above Earth, Brando finishes, “For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you. My only son,” evoking the Messiah-like parallel. The trailer ends with Superman plummeting into Earth’s atmosphere to lift up humanity. It might be hyperbolic to say that a trailer for a maligned 13-year-old movie can give you hope for mankind, but we think the teaser for Superman Returns just might hold the key to peace on Earth. No big deal.
And behold! It has been revealed! Our complete list of the top 12 superhero trailers of all time! This wasn’t an easy list to compile; we had to leave out some of our favorites just to maintain a somewhat sensible length (sorry Avengers: Infinity War and X-Men: Days of Future Past!). We hope we didn’t foolishly forget about one of your personal beloved trailers! If we did, please try and find it in your heart to forgive us. What superhero movie trailers do you remember seeing for the first time and what emotions did they evoke?