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The Battle for the Best Movie Trailer Since 1990: The Elite Eight

Coming up: ‘Star Wars’ vs. ‘Black Panther,’ Jordan Belfort vs. Anton Chigurh, and a battle between two trailers that kid who loved philosophy class won’t stop talking about

A collage of movie characters including Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg and Will Smith as Captain Steven Hiller Ringer illustration

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 two rounds of the Best Movie Trailer bracket in the books, we’re down to just eight 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

The Wildest Thing That Happened Last Round

Our first 1-seed has fallen! In Round 2, Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was knocked out by 5-seed The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s a big upset on paper, but when you look closer, you realize that maybe the Wolf of Wall Street trailer is a juggernaut in underdog’s clothing. (Like when Kentucky was seeded eighth in 2014.) The trailer is a beast, highlighting some of the juiciest moments of Martin Scorsese’s film—including Leonardo DiCaprio’s run-in with Matthew McConaughey, who taught him how to beat his chest like a boss, and Leo shit-talking Coach Taylor himself, Kyle Chandler, before throwing literal lobster at him—and capturing the euphoric (but seriously messed up) spirit of Jordan Belfort and his cabal of sketchy traders.

That doesn’t take anything away from Kill Bill and its Uma Thurman death glares, but for those familiar with Quentin Tarantino’s work, revisiting the trailer after all these years might just feel like more of the same. Scorsese went Goodfellas With Quaaludes for two glorious minutes and, frankly, that’s hard to top.

The Most Interesting Matchup of the Elite Eight

(1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs. (3) Black Panther (teaser)

Only one of these mammoth blockbuster trailers will make it to the Final Four—take your pick. There’s no way to measure the serious feelings inspired by seeing the first full-length Force Awakens trailer—the first Star Wars movie in three decades that looked like it could be genuinely great. Who needs flashy editing when Harrison Ford is telling you the Force is real?

Meanwhile, the Black Panther trailer was our first real look at the afrofuturist utopia Wakanda, and the shot of T’Challa hurling himself from one car to the next on the streets of Busan, South Korea, was so iconic that it was used in nearly every promotional video. There’s no wrong choice here; it’s just a shame we’re going to lose one of them.


Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    (1) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    (7587 votes)
  • 30%
    (3) Black Panther (teaser)
    (3297 votes)
10884 votes total Vote Now

All the Other Matchups of the Elite Eight

(1) The Social Network vs. (6) Independence Day (teaser)

Two more tonally different movies (and trailers) couldn’t be facing one another this round. The Social Network trailer’s Facebook montage is practically the entire length of the slow-building Independence Day teaser. As twitchy, behoodied Mark Zuckerberg bickers with Harvard students, unseen aliens attack the Earth and blow up the White House. Either way, it’s terrifying stuff.


Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    (1) The Social Network
    (7095 votes)
  • 34%
    (6) Independence Day
    (3761 votes)
10856 votes total Vote Now

(5) The Wolf of Wall Street vs. (3) No Country for Old Men

In this exercise, we’re not pitting the characters of different movies against one another—but I can’t stop thinking about Leo’s Jordan Belfort being stuck in the same room as Anton Chigurh, and how quickly that would spiral into chaos. Anyway, The Wolf of Wall Street is on a hot streak after taking out two higher seeds in this tournament, but No Country for Old Men is a Best Picture winner with a dread-filled trailer worthy of the film’s sterling reputation. This should be close.


Which Trailer Should Advance

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    (5) The Wolf of Wall Street
    (5983 votes)
  • 43%
    (3) No Country for Old Men
    (4648 votes)
10631 votes total Vote Now

(1) Inception vs. (3) Prometheus

It’s the battle of Movies That One Talkative Kid in Philosophy 101 Couldn’t Shut Up About. Inception and Prometheus—and their respective trailers—have the technical chops and the wherewithal to turn every shot and every bit of dialogue into Reddit catnip. Did you know Damon Lindelof cowrote the Prometheus script? Because of course he did. In the other corner, Christopher Nolan is operating at Peak Christopher Nolan. One of these will ride a wave of overwrought think pieces into the Final Four.


Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    (1) Inception
    (8026 votes)
  • 24%
    (3) Prometheus
    (2551 votes)
10577 votes total Vote Now
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