Year-end lists of the best movies of the year are fine, and we’ve even been known to make a few ourselves, but let’s face it: many times the trailers are better than the movies. It’s the anticipation of the thing. It’s often better than the real McCoy. (Looking at you, Man of Steel.) And, of course, some trailers are just a taste of the amazing things yet to come. In that spirit, here are our favorite trailers of the past year.

Suicide Squad (Above)

Originally, no one outside of Comic-Con International was ever supposed to see this trailer. But when it leaked shortly after the Con, there was no stopping its appeal. Jared Leto’s batshit Joker. Margot Robbie’s gum-popping. sass-talking Harley Quinn. Will Smith’s level-headed Deadshot. There was just too much great Skwad action to keep it under wraps. (Even if it does suck when people leak footage from Comic-Con.) It also does exactly what a teaser should do: shows you just enough to leave you dying for more. —Angela Watercutter


There was time when we thought we might never see the magical mashup of Salt-N-Pepa with a superhero movie trailer. Those were sad days. Luckily, they’re now gone. And the Deadpool trailer didn’t stop there. It also gave us all of its title character’s biting wit and excellent marksmanship—and just enough of the big, bad Ajax. There are no chimichangas, but hey—nothing’s perfect. —Angela Watercutter

Steve Jobs

When your script is written by Aaron Sorkin, that means the economy of words is far greater in your movie than in almost anything else out there. Sorkin can fit more meaning—and verbiage—into one line of dialogue than most screenwriters can get into whole pages. Nowhere was this more evident than in the first full, dialogue-laden trailer for Steve Jobs. Sure, most of the lines were grand pronouncements made to either puff up or take down the Apple founder and/or his ego, but in a movie so centrally focused on the rise and fall (and rise again) of Steve Jobs’ ego, it set a lot of the tone for the movie to come. And it did so with Michael Fassbender’s razor-sharp performance. By the time it was done we were ready to camp in line like it was the launch of a new Mac. —Angela Watercutter

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The final full-length trailer for The Force Awakens debuted during, of all things, Monday Night Football. And it was a doozy. After the initial teaser at the end of 2014, and a trailer at Star Wars Celebration in April (not to mention the onslaught of television spots and international trailers throughout late fall), this trailer offered the sharpest glimpse of how old characters like Han Solo and Chewbacca would fit in with new ones like Rey and Finn. It’s a masterwork of sound editing: John Williams’ theme for Han and Leia plays over a shot of the Millennium Falcon, and the Force Theme provides the backdrop for Kylo Ren and Finn facing off with lightsabers. Force Friday kicked off the merchandise sales for the film at the beginning of the fall, but Star Wars in the post-Lucas era didn’t hit cultural ubiquity until this trailer. —K.M. McFarland

Mad Max: Fury Road

As it turns out, nothing could have fully prepared us for Mad Max: Fury Road—it was just that kind of movie. But, dear god, the trailer for MM: FR sure did try. It established not only the frenetic pace and booming soundtrack that would be aesthetic for George Miller’s 30-years-in-the-making Max reboot (rejuvenation?), but also the film’s central concubines-on-the-run plot. Fury Road is best enjoyed at its full two-hour runtime, but if you just need a little fix, this trailer packed a lot of its punch into just two and a half minutes. —Angela Watercutter

The Revenant

Nothing said “tortured production process” quite like the trailer for Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s The Revenant. The remote Canadian setting was perfect for long takes of battle scenes between natives and fur trappers, with Leonardo DiCaprio’s gruff voiceover previewing the grueling journey he would take. He fights off certain death, crawls through frozen tundra, and battles with Tom Hardy’s antagonist—all while the sound of his belabored breathing grows louder on the soundtrack. There are several indelible images, from the skull, to the bear attack, to the final chase ahead of a group of hunters, all of which conveys the harsh crucible of an environment in which DiCaprio’s character exists. —K.M. McFarland


With lush locations, reverberating explosions, and sumptuous, form-fitting gowns, the trailer for Spectre is everything we’ve come to expect from a James Bond movie. There’s the regular cast of all-stars: Daniel Craig as our aging, stalwart Bond; Ben Whishaw, the young, hacker version of Q; and a glimpse of the sly smile of Naomie Harris as Ms. Moneypenny. But it doesn’t stop there: the trailer also promises Lea Seydoux and Monica Bellucci as the best Bond women since Eva Green. And don’t forget Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of Spectre and supervillain of Bond supervillains, calmly sneering, “It was me, James, the author of all your pain.” Now that’s a Bond trailer. —Charley Locke

The Hateful Eight

When a new Quentin Tarantino film comes around, viewers expect two things: crackling dialogue and floor-stomping music. That’s exactly what The Hateful Eight delivered. With its extra-wide aspect ratio to showcase its 70mm format, the gorgeous western vistas came to life. But more importantly, when Kurt Russell’s John Ruth brings Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in from a blizzard and meets the rest of the core cast, the familiar Tarantino rhythm picks up. Samuel L. Jackson gets the best line (“Move a little strange, you gon’ get a bullet. Not a warning, not a question—a bullet.”), but each of the titular eight characters gets a featured moment, setting up a snowy, bloody affair for the agest. —K.M. McFarland


To be haunted by Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s book, you just need to watch this 90-second teaser. (Although the full movie is worth watching, too.) Room tells the story of Ma (Brie Larson, in a performance that might be her big breakout role) and Jack, her five-year-old son, who has never seen the outside world, trapped in a one-room shed and abused by Old Nick. (Yes, watching it is as harrowing as it sounds.) The soundtrack—a crescendo of Larson’s rendition of “The Big Rock Candy Mountain”—only ups the ante. —Charley Locke

The Danish Girl

In 2015, Tangerine brought the transgender narrative to the festival scene. Transparent introduced it to the small screen, and Caitlyn Jenner brought it to magazine covers. But Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, telling the story of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to go through gender confirmation surgery, introduces the transgender narrative in its historical context—and brings it all the way to Oscar season, with Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe and Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener, her wife. —Charley Locke

The Martian

Matt Damon’s voice is the constant, calming presence throughout The Martian’s many dramatic turns. So it makes sense that the trailer relies on his voiceover—taken from his video logs—to introduce and set up most of the story. But what makes the trailer most compelling is the sequence that accompanies Mark Watney’s best line: “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.” None of the ways he attempts to survive on the harsh surface of Mars are as bleak or desperate as what goes on in The Revenant, but they’re incredibly compelling because of Damon’s affable attitude. Creating fire, growing food, getting in contact with NASA—all of it leads up to a haze of flashbulbs as Jeff Daniels stands at a press conference, faced with the idea that an astronaut stranded on Mars could still be alive. The NASA announcement of water on Mars may have taken a bit of the wind out of the movie’s sails, but this story of interplanetary survival was such a crowd-pleaser that it ruled the box office throughout much of the fall. —K.M. McFarland

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Look, this trailer could’ve been Joss Whedon with a Hulkbuster puppet saying “Come get some, green guy!” in a Mickey Mouse voice and it still would’ve had us stoked for the Avengers sequel. Luckily, though, the trailer for Age of Ultron had both the Hulk and the Hulkbuster. It also had a lot of AI supervillain Ultron (voiced by a mega-creepy James Spader), Scarlett Witch, and Quicksilver. Let’s just put it this way when shirtless Thor is the least exciting thing in your trailer, you’ve done something right. —Angela Watercutter

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A Year’s Worth of Epic Movie Trailers