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May 28, 2017 6:29 am

The Top 12 Greatest Superhero Movie Trailers Ever

The Top 12 Greatest Superhero Movie Trailers Ever

Almost every movie has at least one trailer, and like almost every movie, almost every trailer is quickly forgotten. The majority of trailers are just short previews of coming attractions, a collection of clips that explain the plot, show off a bit of the drama and/or action, and are followed by a list of stars and the title. Once the movie comes out the trailer is usually irrelevant, because why worry about the teaser when the thing it’s teasing is now readily available?

But some trailers are exceptions to this rule, and the new trailer for Deadpool 2 is one of them. The new teaser played in front of the blockbuster Logan this weekend and presented audiences with a self-contained gag about the foul-mouthed, ultraviolent hero bungling a simple mugging by getting too worried about his costume. It’s a preview that has everyone talking and with good cause, because even though it doesn’t really reveal anything about the Deadpool sequel (except for the fact that there’s going to be one), it makes all of us super excited to see it.

We’re confident enough to declare that this new Deadpool trailer is one of the best superhero movie trailers we’ve ever seen, and that’s really saying something. Throughout the history of the genre there have been particular trailers that have inspired comic book fans and newcomers to the genre to believe in superheroes, to put their faith in these movies, and to even change their mind about characters who once seemed like bad jokes.

The best superhero movie trailers aren’t just good marketing, they’re lynchpins in the industry, setting the stage for great films and sometimes even epic disappointments. They have the power to galvanize the fanbase, and now we’re highlighting the very best of them. These are Crave’s picks for the twelve greatest superhero movie trailers ever made. (Did we leave out any of your favorites? Share them in the comments.)

 

12. FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

The second theatrically released live-action Fantastic Four movie (a statement that’s weirdly complicated because of the unreleased live-action Fantastic Four movie) was not, as we eventually discovered, a major step up from the inert and jokey previous installment. But you wouldn’t know it from this impressive teaser trailer, which consists entirely of the single best part of the movie: an extended chase between the Human Torch and the Silver Surfer, which doesn’t end well for our hero. This trailer, like the next trailer on our list, wrote a check that the movie eventually couldn’t cash, but it briefly made fans believe that it was possible to course-correct the Fantastic Four franchise, and provided hope where previously there was none.

11. SUPERMAN RETURNS

Another great trailer for a somewhat disappointing movie. The first teaser for Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns used John Williams’ original, iconic score to illustrate some beautiful and evocative imagery from every comic book geek’s imagination, and to stir the nostalgic center of every audience member’s brain. It turned out that this trailer was a little TOO accurate, and that Bryan Singer’s film was so married to the franchise’s past that it never pushed Superman forward into the 21st century. But for a while this brief preview made us believe that a man could fly, and that Warner Bros. was going to strike just the right tone.

10. UNBREAKABLE

M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to the Oscar-nominated supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense reunited the director with Bruce Willis, and once again promised a fascinating concept. This muted, moody trailer simply introduces the premise of a man who cannot be harmed, and suggests that maybe it’s not a blessing. Maybe it would be a disturbing mystery. Carefully calculated, the trailer for Unbreakable is a masterful tease for a film that deconstructed the whole superhero myth, and put it back together again as something eerie and unsettling.

The Top 12 Greatest Superhero Movie Trailers Ever

9. THE MASK OF ZORRO

The trailer for The Mask of Zorro is such a product of the 1990s that it might as well wear Hammer Pants. It even begins with the beloved trailer voice-over guy saying “In a land…”, which is just a half-step removed from the even more clichéd “In a world…” But the formula became a formula for a reason, and it rarely worked better than it does here because all the material you need to sell an epic swashbuckler was already in the movie. A great premise, a gorgeous production, incredible sword fights, snappy humor, impressive stunts and a lot of sex appeal. The Mask of Zorro practically sold itself, but this trailer certainly helped.

8. DEADPOOL 2

The new teaser for the Deadpool sequel (let’s assume for a moment it’s called Deadpool 2) has no footage whatsoever from the upcoming movie, and reveals no information whatsoever about the movie’s plot. Instead it is a short film that sets audiences up for the idea that Deadpool’s saga of revenge is over, but that he hasn’t fully embraced the whole “superhero” angle. He sees a man being mugged but spends so much time getting into his costume that the victim dies, and then he steals the poor guy’s ice cream. It’s one long joke but it’s a great one, full of amusing references and the promise that the next Deadpool will be just as subversive and funny as the first one. Whether or not the film delivers on that promise remains to be seen… for now.

7. THE DARK KNIGHT

Christopher Nolan’s first superhero movie, Batman Begins, was a respectable hit but not a runaway blockbuster. It took this particular trailer to finally sell audiences on the filmmaker’s vision for the Batman franchise, and to accept the previously unthinkable idea that Heath Ledger – the star of Brokeback Mountain and 10 Things I Hate About You – would be an acceptable Joker, especially after Jack Nicholson made the role so indelibly his own in 1989. This preview is centered almost entirely on Batman’s nemesis, proving that this movie was going to introduce a whole new brand of chaos into the Dark Knight’s life, and that Heath Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker was distinctive and frightening. And it works, in every way.

The Top 12 Greatest Superhero Movie Trailers Ever

6. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

Most of the big superhero movies have been about characters audiences have at least HEARD of. Even supposedly b-list costumed do-gooders like Iron Man and Doctor Strange were at least on the periphery of popular culture for many decades. But Marvel took a big risk on Guardians of the Galaxy, a series based on pretty darned obscure characters like a talking raccoon and a talking tree, and the studio needed to convince audiences as quickly as possible that not only would these characters be interesting, but that their film was a “must see.” Enter this exciting and hilarious preview, which gave the whole ensemble cast a moment to shine and showed how the film’s now-indelible 1970s pop soundtrack would be used to make Guardians of the Galaxy even more distinctive and cool. Everyone who saw this trailer was curious about this movie, and pretty much all of them went to see it in theaters.

5. IRON MAN

The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was also not based on a universally well known character. Even crazier than that: it starred Robert Downey Jr., an actor whose hit-and-miss acting career and well-publicized history of substance abuse made him a very risky proposition for the studio and the audience alike. The trailer for Iron Man had to make you excited to see an action movie based on a relatively minor Marvel character but more importantly it had to make you fall in love with Robert Downey Jr. all over again. And it worked. Robert Downey Jr. was on fire throughout the whole film, giving the editors more than enough material to sell the story, the character and the actor to audiences who would soon clamor for more, more, more.

4. X2: X-MEN UNITED

The first X-Men movie was encouraging but it played more like a proof of concept than a truly great superhero movie. For the sequel, Bryan Singer and 20th Century Fox had to deliver the goods and give the fans what they really wanted. So they doubled down on everything that X-Men geeks loved – the relationship between Professor X and Magneto, Wolverine’s mysterious past and propensity for shocking violence, grotesque government persecution – and shoved it all into one trailer, to prove that this franchise wasn’t fucking around, and that they really did plan to get the X-Men right. And fans were convinced.

The Top 12 Greatest Superhero Movie Trailers Ever

3. SPIDER-MAN 2

The downer ending of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man became one of the best cliffhangers in superhero movie history. The hero was so guilt-ridden by the end of the movie that he refused the love of the only woman he ever cared about, promising a sequel with more action (obviously) but also more of the tragic romance that made Spider-Man a crossover hit that elevated the whole superhero genre into the dominant blockbuster genre of the 20th century. This fantastic trailer for Spider-Man 2 capitalized on the soap opera “will they/won’t they” drama and then cuts it short with over the top action, and introduces one of the best-looking villains in movie history: Doctor Octopus. The craziest thing about this early trailer for Spider-Man 2 isn’t that it made audiences believe the movie would deliver in every conceivable way, but that the movie eventually did just that.

2. SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE

Superman: The Movie wasn’t the first superhero film (you’d have to go back to the silent era for that), but it was the first proper superhero blockbuster, a film that dared to translate the comic books faithfully and unironically to the big screen in all of their Americana glory. The special effects were, at the time, the best that the industry could muster. The cast was out of this world. The music by John Williams was so fantastic that it drove not one but two of the trailers on this list. All they had to do was show a little bit of Superman: The Movie and everyone who ever loved comic books – which at one point or another was all of us, even in the 1970s – had to admit that it did really look, for the first time, as though a man could fly.

1. SPIDER-MAN

The first Spider-Man trailer was an event for many reasons. It proved that Spider-Man’s web-swinging (an effect long thought nearly impossible to pull off on the big screen) could look amazing on-camera. It showed off what was, at the time, one of the best live-action superhero costumes we’d ever seen. And this self-contained Spider-Man story, about a group of bank robbers who run afoul of the webslinger, concluded with an unforgettable image… of their helicopter trapped in a giant web, between the Twin Towers.

The preview premiered before the tragic events of 9/11 and immediately after those events, the trailer was immediately shelved for obvious reasons. Even now it’s sometimes hard to find. But while the notoriety of the first Spider-Man preview makes it all the more historically fascinating it would have made our list even in a cultural vacuum. It’s a spectacular introduction to the character that gave audiences something they had never seen before and would never, ever forget. And that’s why it tops our list of the best superhero movie trailers of all time.

Jeff Hemingway

It's not easy being a movie blogger. I even have to finish the bad movies all the way through.