Movie trailers have a long history in Hollywood, dating back to the early twentieth century, and ever since, audiences have had a love-hate relationship with them. On one hand, movie trailers can clue you into the look, style, feel, and story of a film. On the other hand, movie trailers can reveal too much about a film, potentially ruining the surprise of critical moments or leaving viewers feeling as if they have already seen the film. Despite how viewers feel about trailers, they have only evolved as an industry and now, movie trailers are used more than ever. To that end, because movie trailers are so common, many of them are generic and forgettable. The action movie genre, surprisingly, has some of the blandest trailers ever made. However, there are also action movie trailers that stand out on their own as art pieces. These trailers not only manage to get viewers excited for the film’s release, but they also have their own way of telling a story. Here are 20 of the best action movie trailers of all time.
Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novel is one of the most celebrated works in the history of comics, and its 2009 film adaptation directed by Zack Snyder is seen as a worthy successor. The trailer for Watchmen depicts the dark and gritty tone of its fictional dystopia. It also gives us a glimpse into Snyder’s striking visual style that captures the aesthetic of the graphic novel. The movie takes place in 1985 where former superheroes exist and the murder of a colleague sends active vigilante Rorschach into his own investigation where he uncovers something that could completely change the course of history as we know it.
District 9 was groundbreaking when it was released in 2009. The visual effects were technically brilliant and the story still has relevant messages about society and oppression. Directed and written by Neil Blomkamp, the film is regarded by many to be one of the best science fiction films in the 21st century. The District 9 trailer was created to pique curiosity about the film’s unique narrative. It doesn’t reveal much but what is revealed makes viewers curious for more information. District 9 is about the violence that ensues after an extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth finds a kindred spirit in a government agent exposed to their biotechnology.
300 is a simple and effective film that transports viewers back to the violent past of Western civilization. Similar to Watchmen, Zack Snyder adapted 300 from Frank Miller’s graphic novel with the same name. The trailer shows the tone, visual flair, and general story of the film. All the while effectively convincing viewers to tune in to see the full-length film. 300 is about King Leonidas of Sparta and a force of 300 men who fight the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is an unapologetic action movie in every sense of the word. The film is energetic, exhilarating, and an emotionally resonant cinematic experience. The trailer captures the high energy that exists all-throughout the movie and teases viewers with some of the best action sequences. Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where a woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in search of her homeland with the aid of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.
Sicario is a gritty and cynical look at the war on drugs and the toll it exacts. A brutal and visceral thriller that was critically acclaimed upon release,the Sicario movie trailer is just as intense as the film itself and gives viewers a good idea of what they’re in for without revealing anything at all. Sicario is about an idealistic FBI agent who is enlisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.
Lord of the Rings is one of the most highly praised movie franchises of all time. Any follow up to the initial franchise had a lot to live up to. When The Hobbit was released, it got mixed reviews with most saying the film was competently made but lacked the majesty of the previous movies. Despite the mixed reactions, the movie trailer for The Hobbit promised a new epic with some of the characters we know and love. Underneath an awe-inspiring dwarf chant, the trailer teases a story centering around Bilbo Baggins and how he discovered the ring. The Hobbit follows a reluctant Hobbit as he sets out to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of dwarves to reclaim their mountain home and the gold within it from the dragon Smaug.
There were high expectations for Prometheus as it marked Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise since directing the first movie in 1979. Many were expecting a film similar to Alien with better visual effects but instead got a deeply philosophical sci-fi that lays the groundwork for many sequels. The movie trailer for Prometheus is effective in depicting a thought-provoking science fiction film that turns into a horrifying fight for survival. Prometheus is about a team that follows clues to the origin of mankind and finds a structure on a distant moon, soon realizing they are not alone.
Clint Eastwood directed a biopic of Chris Kyle, an American war hero, in 2014. The film proved to be a tense war film that doubles as a contemplative study of the toll fighting in war has on a soldier. The trailer for American Sniper manages to convey everything you need to know about the movie by focusing on a single moral dilemma that Kyle has to face in the line of duty. American Sniper is about U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) who becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history and struggles to leave the war behind when he returns home.
Most movie franchises are inconsistent in quality after the first film, but the Mission Impossible films seem to get better over time. Mission Impossible: Fallout has everything you want in an action flick, and the trailer has everything you’d want out of an action movie trailer: crazy stunts, incredible action sequences, and a fast-moving story. Mission Impossible: Fallout is about Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies who race against time after a mission gone wrong.
Dan Trachtenberg made his directorial debut with a movie that is unique and exhilarating, even though it was mostly set in a single location. The Cloverfield movies are known to have unorthodox marketing efforts and 10 Cloverfield Lane is no different. The movie trailer compellingly conveys the main conflict of the film while gradually revealing to us that there is something wrong with the bond between these three characters. 10 Cloverfield Lane is about a young woman who is held in an underground bunker by a man who insists that a hostile event has left the surface of the Earth uninhabitable.
Godzilla (2014) was the first movie about the King of Monsters since 1998. Critics and fans alike have remarked that the film effectively blends the visual spectacle of a disaster movie with enough human drama to provide stakes for the story. The teaser trailer for the Godzilla movie premiered at Comic-Con and thrilled the many fans who watched it. Godzilla is about a world beset by the appearance of monstrous creatures, although one of them may be the only one who can save humanity.
Marvel Studios has become adept at creating movie trailers that are memorable and perfectly capture the tone of their films. The trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron is an exception, as it expresses a tone that is much darker than the film itself. Ultron’s menacing voice and the creepier version of Pinocchio’s “I’ve Got No Strings” in the background creates a grim atmosphere that is effective in conveying the threat of the film’s villain. Avengers: Age of Ultron is about Earth’s mightiest heroes who have to stop the villainous Ultron, a dormant peacekeeping program, created by Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.
Inception was a groundbreaking sci-fi that accomplished telling an innovative original story as well as an intelligent one. The film is complex and has numerous layers that are best appreciated on a second or third viewing. The trailer for Inception was so successful that many trailer editors have since emulated it. If you’ve watched any of the trailers for blockbuster films in recent years, you’ve undoubtedly seen the inspiration. Inception is about a thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology and is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O., but his tragic past may doom the project and his team to disaster.
Wolverine’s previous solo outings haven’t been well-received, but Logan provides Marvel Comics fans exactly what they’ve been wanting from a Wolverine film. Logan was well-received on release and marked Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal as Wolverine. The movie trailer for Logan grabbed fans by teasing a war-torn future with a battered Wolverine and decrepit Professor Xavier. It also features one of the best uses of a song in a trailer, with Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” playing over shots of a battered Wolverine and a devastated world. Logan is about a weary Wolverine who meets a mutant child pursued by scientists that comes to him for safety.
Man of Steel received mixed reactions when it was released. People praised the visual style and action sequences while criticizing the narrative and characterization. Although thoughts on Man of Steel vary, the film’s trailers may even be significantly better than the movie itself. Hans Zimmer’s score takes center stage in the trailer and drives the inspirational tone home. Man of Steel is about an alien child who is evacuated from his dying world and sent to Earth to live among humans. But, his peace is threatened when other survivors of his home planet invade Earth.
The Batman was the first solo movie about the Caped Crusader since 2012. The trailers for the movie hyped up audiences because of the dark tone and the new portrayal of Batman by Robert Pattinson. The movie was well-received on release and the violent, dark atmosphere was a welcomed take on the popular superhero. The Batman follows Batman who is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement when a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham.
David Ayer’s Suicide Squad may have been the most anticipated movie of 2016. Other than the incredible cast and talented crew, the trailers for the film also promised a unique and compelling movie based around iconic villains. However, Suicide Squad was hated by fans and critics alike, receiving a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. A huge reason Suicide Squad had a lot of hype was because of the first trailer released for the film. The trailer promised a compelling narrative, a dark tone, and engaging characters but the film did not live up to those expectations. Suicide Squad is about a secret government agency that recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force.
Cloverfield is a film that caught a lot of viewers by surprise when it was released. No one knew much about the details surrounding the film but was praised for its clever narrative. The teaser trailer for Cloverfield was also clever as it revealed the appropriate amount of information to entice the viewers to want to see more. Cloverfield is about a group of friends who venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
Star Wars is a series that has had its highs and lows when it comes to the reception of the audience. The first three movies are seen as classics while the prequel trilogy is seen as a blunder. After thirteen years, Star Wars released the first movie to another trilogy and announced it with an emotional teaser trailer. The movie trailer managed to capture the nostalgia of the original trilogy while also hyping viewers up for their new characters. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is about a desert scavenger and an ex-stormtrooper who join forces with Han Solo and Chewbacca to search for the one hope of restoring peace.
Topping our list of best action movie trailers of all time is Alien. Alien did not have any previous films to build from, nor an established director to intrigue audiences, nor well-known actors to lead the cast. The film almost solely depended on the trailers and its marketing to bring audiences into the theaters. The Alien trailer is vague but the clever editing draws you into the horrifying world that the characters are living in. The trailer promises a terrifying and suspenseful ride, which is exactly what the movie delivered. Alien is about the crew of a commercial spacecraft who encounters a deadly lifeform after investigating an unknown transmission.
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