20. Gremlins (1984)
You get the premise, you meet the characters, you tour the town, you even learn the three rules. Even so, Joe Dante maintains his poker face, never once revealing the titular critters or that lovable Mogwai. And yet, in the Summer of 1984, Gremlins was a major blockbuster for Warner Bros., proving once again that mystery invites company.
19. The Fugitive (1993)
For thrillers, a trailer only needs to be a tee-off — and The Fugitive is an exemplar for the genre. In two minutes, we learn the impossible stakes of the propulsive cat-and-mouse game between the blockbuster hero in Harrison Ford and the no-nonsense foil in Tommy Lee Jones. It’s a clever combination of super-stylized crosscutting and titling that’s still cribbed to this day. Hey, why fix something that’s not broken, right?
18. Man of Steel (2013)
As Christopher Nolan waved goodbye to Gotham City with The Dark Knight Rises in 2012, Zack Snyder entered Smallville with Man of Steel. At the time, though, our first glimpse of his Superman re-imagining still felt tethered to that universe, namely because Warner Bros. was still figuring out how this franchise would shake out. That makes this 90-second gasp an inspiring What-if, to say the least, amplified by Kevin Costner’s speech as Jonathan Kent, Michael Kamen’s Lord of the Rings score, and Snyder’s clear obsession with Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. The movie never reaches these heights sadly.
17. 28 Days Later (2003)
Sometimes a trailer can serve as the opening salvo for the next chapter of a filmmaker. Such is the case for Danny Boyle and 28 Days Later. In 2003, the English filmmaker was coming off of 2000’s The Beach, and this “zombie” movie felt like such a wild left turn. But what truly raised eyebrows was the film’s striking hand-held style and post-9/11 imagery, all of which this trailer capitalizes on to haunting effect. Seeing Cillian Murphy wander those empty London streets left everyone in a rage for the film’s release.
16. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
It’s easy to dismiss the mythology surrounding the Terminator franchise now. After all, there are — what — five different timelines to pore over at this point. But in 1991, there was just the 1984 original, a horror film disguised as a sci-fi stunner that only grew in popularity once it hit home video. What makes this teaser so effective is that we’re seeing the expansion of that mythology — how the machines are built — while also being informed of its return without a single hint of what’s to come. Let’s not forget, audiences had yet to fall in love with Arnold’s T-800, as the “hasta la vistas” and high fives were still to come.