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

And then there were two: the “Creep”-scored trailer of ‘The Social Network’ versus the “BWONG” of ‘Inception’

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 four rounds of the Best Movie Trailer bracket in the books, we’ve reached the final. One of our two remaining trailers will officially be crowned the best modern movie trailer.

The Field

The Final

(1) The Social Network vs. (1) Inception

In a bracket with 32 trailers that spanned the past 28 years, we’re down to two films from 2010. Both of these movies were Oscar winners the following year—The Social Network won three, including one for adapted screenplay, while Inception took home four awards, one deservedly for cinematography. But let’s strip away the prestige of both of our finalists and judge them on the merits of their trailers.

Inception, which BWONG’d its way into theaters after The Dark Knight, was Nolan’s attempt to capitalize on his Batman hype with an original blockbuster. Therefore, the trailer leaned a little more toward exposition—how else can one explain jumping into other people’s dreams and folding city structures like they’re made of papier-mâché? Because of these brief moments of audacious visual achievement, the trailer was just asking to be viewed several times until you could see the full picture on the big screen. The end result was a movie that grossed over $800 million, and put Nolan in the exceedingly rare group of filmmakers (Steven Spielberg, James Cameron) who can bring audiences to theaters in droves, no matter what the movie. Perhaps Inception would’ve attracted huge theatergoing audiences regardless, but a scintillating trailer only expedited that process.

The Social Network, on the other hand, was coming from a place of derision. Despite the fact David Fincher was directing off of an Aaron Sorkin screenplay, the initial news of a Facebook movie drew skepticism—indeed, how do you make a still-young social media site seem interesting? Making a convincing trailer would be a start, and boy did they. The all-time great trailer—notably the almost-one-minute opening montage of Facebook activity, and the haunting cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” that accompanied it—seemed to reverse that narrative overnight, the first small step on the road to The Social Network now being considered one of the best films of the 21st century.

Whether it’s imaginative dream-hacking or a movie about the inception (heh) of one of the most influential and controversial companies on the planet, the winner of this bracket isn’t just an awe-inspiring film, but one with a trailer that helped deliver thrills long before any of us had the chance to view the full film.


Which Trailer Should Advance?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    (1) The Social Network
    (5973 votes)
  • 48%
    (1) Inception
    (5733 votes)
11706 votes total Vote Now
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