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The Battle for the Best Movie Trailer Since 1990: The Winner Is Inside Your Head

After thousands of votes across multiple days, a champion is crowned

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. After five days of voting, the final round of the Best Movie Trailer bracket is in the books, and we’re ready to crown a winner.


Do you hear that? Just out over the horizon. Press your ear to the ground—you might even feel the rumble.

BWOOOOOONG.

After five days and thousands of votes across Twitter, Instagram, and right here on The Ringer dot com, it’s official: Inception is the Best Movie Trailer Ever (Since 1990).

The 2010 Christopher Nolan masterpiece pulled in 53 percent of the vote, toppling The Social Network, which many considered the favorite to take the crown. It wasn’t a surprise that the two no. 1 seeds made it this far. As my colleague Miles Surrey pointed out on Thursday, the two films—both released in 2010—combined to win seven Academy Awards, including the prizes for cinematography and adapted screenplay, and grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide. In each case, the finalists played to their strengths.

The trailer for The Social Network—a film written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher—showcased its banter, iconic characters, and instantly recognizable music cues (shout-out to that Belgian women’s choir and their hauntingly beautiful cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”), all under the cloud of the behemoth Facebook would soon become. Inception’s trailer, meanwhile, did what a Nolan film does best, and built suspense and raised viewers’ heartbeats with every quick-plucked string instrument and dizzying visual shot.

During the past week, we’ve described The Social Network’s trailer as the Duke of this bracket. Now, on the biggest stage, it folded, just as its basketball forerunners did before it. In the end, it doesn’t matter that a billion votes is cooler than a million votes if you still lose by 1,206.

Since the first round of voting went live on Monday, I’ve watched as the field dwindled from 32. Some trailers I enjoyed fell early. Others lived to fight another day. But all the while, the constant was the belief that no trailer—be it Marvel Universe darling or Martin Scorsese capitalism wet dream—could ever best The Social Network’s promo. I was wrong. Maybe this was destined, though. Inception’s trailer is, as the voters have decided, one of the best produced snippets of cinema in the past 28 years, and arguably one of the greatest of all time. More often than not, it’s the upsets we remember, not the front-runners. Truman defeated Dewey, after all.

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