Hello, and welcome back to The Friendly Film Fan! Ladies and gentlemen, it is finally that time. Time to start publishing end-of-the-year movie lists for 2020, despite the fact that we’re already a month into the following year. As a result of the expanded release/awards season, many 2020 movies are still releasing theatrically, but their trailers (in some cases) managed to make it just under the wire. And that is what we are here to talk about today.
We all love movies. Whether they end up good or bad, making movies is an art requiring skill of the highest caliber, the most dedicated of craftsperson. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. One part of moviemaking seemingly everyone can agree works most of the time, though, is the putting together and subsequent releasing of a movie trailer. Trailers are an art form unto themselves (hell, even most prestige television shows come with movie-trailer-like ads): a good one can get you excited for an upcoming release from its editing alone, whereas others can totally turn one off from even the idea of going to check out whatever film it happens to be advertising. But regardless of how one feels about the finished product, a great trailer is a great trailer, and they deserve to be celebrated just as much as their movies may or may not. So I won’t drone on any longer; instead, I’ll cut right to the chase. These are my picks for the Top 10 Movie Trailers of 2020!
10. Dune – Official Trailer
Dune was the most anticipated movie of 2020 for any number of people, but the anticipation for its first full-length trailer might’ve been even higher. Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the iconic sci-fi novel boasts a stacked cast, an incredible production team, and a director who’s all but mastered how to re-energize the blockbuster sci-fi genre on the big screen. And the first official trailer did not disappoint. Paying tribute to Pink Floyd’s original involvement with the David Lynch adaptation of the film, this look at the world of Dune had a ton of intrigue built in, some incredible first looks at significant characters and cast members, and of course, visual splendor to spare (including our first official look at the sand worm). Some, such as myself, didn’t quite think this was as good as a different trailer for Dune that we’d already seen, but its raw power is hard to shake, especially in a movie theater setting.
9. Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Main Trailer
While the film itself didn’t quite turn out to be the smash hit Warner Bros. had hoped for, this second trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 managed to be just the alternate to the first that a lot of fans were hoping for. Dripping in 80’s vibes, giving us a look at Cheetah, spending more time with fan-favorite Steve Trevor, and seeing the Kingdom Come armor in action made this an appropriate expansion to the film’s marketing, and it was hard not to get excited when Diana shed those golden wings to throw down with Kristin Wiig. (Although, to be honest, the humor in this doesn’t quite hit the way it’s meant to.)
8. Nomadland – Official Teaser Trailer
In less than a minute, and with a single, un-broken shot of Frances McDormand walking through a crowd of vans, adrift among drifters, Chloé Zhao tells us exactly what her new movie Nomadland is all about. The exact tone, vibe, what-have-you of the film is captured and teed up magnificently with nary but a piano score, and it’s exactly the kind of teaser trailer that gets film enthusiasts like myself excited about a hot new project from a trailblazing director.
7. Mank – Official Trailer
When it was announced that David Fincher would be returning to the silver screen to film an adaptation of his father’s script based on the making of Citizen Kane, there wasn’t a movie fan in the world who didn’t anticipate it. Our first official look at the film not only confirmed that this would be something wildly different for the director of Se7en and The Social Network, but also that its technical elements would be unassailable in their presentation. Regardless of how one feels about the film itself, no one can deny that this trailer captured the film’s aesthetic and tone perfectly, or that it elevated the film all the way to #1 in terms of awards season anticipation.
6. Dune – Tenet Trailer Teaser
The first official trailer for Dune would be released on September 9th, but until that date, all fans had to go on was a small teaser for the full-length trailer which played in theaters before showings of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi thriller Tenet. And while that official trailer is certainly a force of nature in its own right, it’s this initial teaser which takes the cake here as the best piece of marketing yet for Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation. The other trailer gives us a much better look at many of its characters, but this teaser gets the tense, desperate tone of the film under the viewer’s skin as they listen to Timothée Chalamet’s screams of anguish, and hearing Hans Zimmer’s magnificent score over the title card indicates without doubt just how epic this will be to watch in a giant movie theater. (Apologies for using the Canadian French version - it's the only one I can find anywhere online.)
5. Black Widow – Final Trailer
Black Widow has had a rough go of it lately, what with all the delays, as well as Disney’s insistence that they will not be sending the film to Disney+ despite fan concerns and endless clickbait articles to the contrary, resulting in the streaming services’ show WandaVision being the first MCU property to be released in over a year. Back when the film was going to open in November 2020, after its first release delay, Marvel Studios’ released a final trailer set to AudioMachine’s “We Are Gods” instrumental track, and boy, did it work. This music increased the feeling of desperation for whatever mission the titular character is on, and its wider look at the villain Taskmaster held many key moments for those who know what that villain’s actual shtick is. However the final film turns out is anyone’s guess at this point, but this trailer only increased excitement for the project, even for those who weren’t initially on board.
4. Nomadland – Official Trailer
There was a time when I was wondering if we would ever get a full trailer for Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, as it had already screened for most critics (including myself…more on that later), and its December release was inching ever-closer. Then came the release delay that placed the film in mid-February, and in place of its original release date, Searchlight Pictures released the official trailer for the film, which I can say with confidence captures the tone and tenor of the movie almost perfectly. Set to beautiful piano music from Ludovico Einaudi's “Seven Days Walking,” (just as the film is), this trailer covers all manner of the various aspects of the Nomad life, and showcases even more of Joshua James Richards’ stunning cinematography.
3. The Batman – DC FanDome Teaser
Matt Reeves’ The Batman has been shaping up to be one of the most significant and likely highest-rated superhero movies in years, with a breathtakingly great ensemble cast, and a director that managed to bring Planet of the Apes back to the top of the list in terms of sci-fi blockbuster IP. Fans watching the live DC FanDome event got a lot of first looks at a ton of new DC movie properties, including a pretty neat behind-the-scenes look at James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, but none were as talked about, as hyped-up, or as explosive as the first trailer for The Batman. Apart from a tone eerily reminiscent of Se7en, production design as dark and dingy as the city of Gotham itself, some queries from the Riddler, and a truly inspired alternative Nirvana track, the crown jewel of this trailer is its showcase of Batman’s speed and brutality in combat. The Batman films we’ve gotten over the years (save for one scene in Batman v Superman) haven’t quite managed to capture the master of combat the character truly is, but all worries were laid to rest when one random thug attempts to step to Robert Pattinson’s dark knight, and the Lighthouse actor lays him out with extreme prejudice, capping off the takedown by saying one of the character’s most iconic lines: “I’m vengeance.” It’s a perfect moment in a trailer comprised only of footage the crew already had, as they had yet to film more than 25% of the movie, and that’s impressive enough to land it at #3 on this list.
2. No Time to Die – Trailer 2
Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond is sure to be arguably the most watched movie of 2021, if we do get to see it this year after all (with up to three release delays now, it’s hard to say with confidence that that will be the case). Nevertheless, the second trailer for Beasts of No Nation director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s entry into the iconic franchise is chock full of things for Bond fans to love. New gadgets! Gunfights! Jeffrey Wright! A mysterious villain played by Rami Malek! Ana de Armas! And it’s all set to a tone and action-packed visuals not just worthy of the Bond moniker, but which manage to elevate it to such a level that I almost put this at #1 purely based on how good the trailer was. But there was one other trailer released in 2020 that hit so hard, so suddenly, and with such force, that it became the #1 trailer of the year in less than a week.
1. Judas and the Black Messiah – Official Trailer
Judas and the Black Messiah’s first trailer was a force of nature, burning so hot and containing so much raw energy that when it dropped, I knew that whatever else came out, I had to see this movie as soon as humanly possible. With Creed and Black Panther director Ryan Coogler producing the film for director Shaka King (someone I haven’t heard of before but am now extremely aware of), this tale of the assassination of Black Panther Chicago chapter leader Fred Hampton was sure to be one of the most-anticipated movies of the 2020 awards season from the get-go. The fact that a trailer this powerful managed to be its first true piece of marketing, coasting on the strength of Daniel Kaluuya’s calls of “I am a revolutionary,” is truly a remarkable feat, and it sure doesn’t hurt that Lakeith Stanfield’s lead (William O’Neal), or the always-great Jesse Plemons, are there either.
What are some of your favorite trailers from 2020? Did you like any of these? How did you feel about the films in question after seeing them? Let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan