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The Battle for the Best Movie Trailer Since 1990: Round 2

‘The Tree of Life’ is gone, ‘Pineapple Express’ survived, and two classic action movie trailers are set to face off. Voting for the second round of the tournament is now open.

Since the advent of YouTube, trailers have functioned as a high-performing emotion-elicitation program. It’s not just what the movie is about or who appears in it. It’s how this movie will make you feel. And the best of them can trigger that emotion, over and over again. And that’s why the trailers are so damn good, if a little scary. (It’s a little disturbing how easily and repeatedly trailers can manipulate your emotions, isn’t it?) And that’s why we made this bracket to decide the best trailer since 1990. With the first round of the Best Movie Trailer bracket in the books, we’re down to just 16 trailers. Let’s review last round’s biggest surprise and then take stock of the next round’s matchups on our way to crowning the best modern movie trailer.


The Field

Note: This bracket has been updated to reflect the proper location of each matchup, but no seedings have been changed. For a breakdown of Round 2 results and a look ahead to the Elite Eight matchups, click here.

The Wildest Thing That Happened Last Round

The Tree of Life fell victim to Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, which is shocking—not only because The Tree of Life is a much better movie than The Phantom Menace, but because its trailer was far better, too. The Tree of Life trailer is a stirring meditation on nature, humanity, and, well, life; The Phantom Menace trailer has John Williams. Apparently that’s enough. You guys really aren’t here for Brad Pitt, Texan, cradling the foot of a newborn? You’d rather have Jar Jar? SO BE IT.

Star Wars fans can agree on very little these days, but enough of them can apparently come together and stage the biggest upset of the opening round. As Darth Vader said—way after he was podracing and explaining his extreme distaste for sand—don’t underestimate the Force.

The Most Interesting Matchup of the Second Round

Region 4

(1) Inception vs. (5) Mad Max: Fury Road

Inception had its way with Fast & Furious 6, but it faces a much sterner test in another trailer laced with fast cars and epic stunts. Mad Max: Fury Road is perhaps the only action movie that can make the Fast & Furious franchise seem like it’s still observing the speed limit: Quite simply, it’s metal as shit. The Fury Road trailer is a cacophony of explosions and death-defying stunts; it’s a perfect sampler of chaos for one of Hollywood’s most thrillingly chaotic movies.

Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster, however, is no slouch. Armed with the iconic BWAAAM that spawned early-2010s memes, Inception is a tour de force of dizzying imagery, heavy-handed (but charming) Nolanian exposition on dream theft, and Leonardo DiCaprio desperately vying for an Oscar. Only one of these trailers will make it to the gates of Valhalla.

Poll

Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    (1) Inception
    (6718 votes)
  • 37%
    (5) Mad Max: Fury Road
    (4061 votes)
10779 votes total Vote Now

All of the Other Matchups

Region 1

(1) The Social Network vs. (5) Guardians of the Galaxy

After David Fincher handily dispatched … himself when The Social Network took on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in the first round, the former now takes on the first Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. In essence, it’s buff, shirtless, and weirdly brooding Chris Pratt against twin Armie Hammers. Ooga-chaka!

Poll

Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    (1) The Social Network
    (7013 votes)
  • 34%
    (5) Guardians of the Galaxy
    (3654 votes)
10667 votes total Vote Now

(6) Independence Day (teaser) vs. (7) Pineapple Express

The Pineapple Express trailer managed a very narrow upset over the Cloverfield teaser, and is now faced with the surprisingly restrained teaser for Independence Day. We’ll see if the wandering charm of Seth Rogen’s stoner comedy can outlast another disaster movie, one armed with the instantly memorable shot of the White House getting decimated.

Poll

Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    (6) Independence Day
    (5444 votes)
  • 46%
    (7) Pineapple Express
    (4789 votes)
10233 votes total Vote Now

Region 2

(1) Kill Bill: Vol. 1 vs. (5) The Wolf of Wall Street

There’s nothing particularly subtle about either of these films, which makes this matchup especially enticing. Take your pick: the violent excess of Quentin Tarantino’s revenge fantasy, or the vibrant excess (and money, and drugs, and Yeezus-era Kanye) of Martin Scorsese’s Wall Street satire.

Poll

What Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    (1) Kill Bill: Vol. 1
    (4283 votes)
  • 57%
    (5) The Wolf of Wall Street
    (5838 votes)
10121 votes total Vote Now

(3) No Country for Old Men vs. (7) The Blair Witch Project

I’m not sure what’s scarier: the minimal, slow-building tension of The Blair Witch Project, or Anton Chigurh and his horrifying bowl cut asking you to call a coin toss. In this matchup, you’ll vote for whichever trailer gives you the fiercest existential nightmares.

Poll

Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    (3) No Country for Old Men
    (6658 votes)
  • 31%
    (7) The Blair Witch Project
    (3083 votes)
9741 votes total Vote Now

Region 3

(1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs. (5) Skyfall

Both blockbuster trailers bested smaller studio fare in the first round, pitting the last James Bond movie that was decent (let’s all forget Spectre exists) against a new era of Jedi. John Williams against Adele. It’s anyone’s game.

Poll

Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    (1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    (6825 votes)
  • 31%
    (5) Skyfall
    (3139 votes)
9964 votes total Vote Now

(3) Black Panther (teaser) vs. (2) Magic Mike

The trailer with a killer Run the Jewels drop takes on the trailer with a ton of male strippers. This is going to be a stern test for Magic Mike, by virtue of Black Panther being the biggest blockbuster of the year and the movie freshest in the minds of voters. Black Panther is riding hotter than Villanova from distance; best of luck to Channing Tatum.

Poll

Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    (3) Black Panther
    (7563 votes)
  • 22%
    (2) Magic Mike
    (2139 votes)
9702 votes total Vote Now

Region 4

(3) Prometheus vs. (7) Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace

Prometheus is prodding, and surprisingly (and unnecessarily?) philosophical, plus it has perhaps the most technically impressive trailer in this bracket. Meanwhile, The Phantom Menace has Star Wars nostalgia, which somehow even extends to the dismayed prequels. One of these movies with less-than-stellar reputations but stellar trailers will make it to the quarterfinals. (I’d say it’s cool to imagine Darth Maul fighting an alien with his lightsaber and avoiding acid blood, but Ridley Scott was too busy with his biblical undertones to show a Xenomorph-type creature for more than a few seconds!)

Poll

Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    (3) Prometheus
    (6189 votes)
  • 35%
    (7) Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace
    (3477 votes)
9666 votes total Vote Now
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