With the arrival this week of Marvel Studios‘ Thor: Ragnorok trailer, the MCU is now entering a brand new phase. Not movie-phases as in “Phase 4” of the MCU or anything, but rather how Marvel and Disney promote their movies. Because with the Thor: Ragnorok trailer the mega-corporation is now actively promoting three big-screen movies at the same time pre-release along with Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Just how Marvel Studios will handle that and make sure one film doesn’t dominate the other remains to be seen, but it got us wondering just what are the best trailers for a Marvel Studios property.
First, some ground-rules. We’re talking main trailers and not TV-spots. Secondly, we’ll only be picking trailers for movies that have actually come out. That way we can access whether or not these trailers accurately represent the final product and that potential spoilers didn’t detract from the overall experience. And finally, we’re only talking movies and not one-shots, TV/Netflix shows or video-game tie-ins. Without further ado, let’s go back to where it all began;
#10 – Iron Man – Main Trailer
“What are you building, Stark?”
This trailer may give away the nuts-and-bolts of the movie to quite a severe extent (we even get snippets of Stark’s press-conference which ENDS the movie) but when you cast your mind back to 2008 when comic-book news and trailer breakdowns didn’t dominate the blogosphere, this first look at Jon Favreau’s Iron Man outside of Comic-Con immediately caused audiences to take notice.
Iron Man was NOT a big name outside of comic books before the MCU started (shush you, random commenter. He really wasn’t) but once he fired that tank-missile at the end of the trailer and walked away from the explosion, people sensed that Robert Downey Jr’s depiction of Tony Stark would be one to remember. The trailer is heavy on spoilers but we get a great sense of the movie’s tone, the terrific effects from Industrial Light and Magic and it’s interesting to see a trailer that doesn’t even remotely hint at a larger universe. The Black Sabbath music at the end is also a very nice touch.
#9 – Captain America: The Winter Solider – Trailer 1
“This isn’t freedom. This is fear.”
In many ways, the second trailer for Captain America’s second solo outing is better as it represents the brilliant set-pieces better, we get more Falcon and Black Widow and the music is more appropriate and the sense of escalation is edited a lot smoother (this trailer does not remotely earn that helicarrier crash at the end) but we still chose this initial tease because ending the trailer on the titular Winter Soldier catching Cap’s mighty shield is the type of money-shot that MAKES a trailer like this.
It’s mainly for that final shot that this trailer makes the list because it’s the first time we truly see Captain’s presence in this Universe effectively challenged. We also get some hints in this trailer at the over-arching theme of post-9/11 style paranoia that was at the heart of Marvel’s “Phase 2” slate. This may be one of the weaker trailers on the list, but as a first impression for audience-members (especially since Captain America: The First Avenger was not a huge box-office hit) it provided plenty of intrigue and spectacle.
#8 – Ant-Man – Trailer 1
“My days of breaking into places and stealing stuff are over. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to break into a place and steal some stuff.”
In the public consciousness Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man movie had an uphill battle. Not only was it based off a comic book character who seemed especially ridiculous but having lost beloved director Edgar Wright meant that several corners of the internet were actively rooting against the film on principal alone. Thankfully, a brilliant marketing campaign and a strong lead-cast helped the film to cross over $500M worldwide and a big part of that can be chalked to the effective humour in this trailer.
In the lead-up to Ant-Man’s release this trailer played in front of some massive films and the end gag with the Thomas the Tank Engine train “crash” killed every. single. time. There were tears of laughter from audiences and it was at that moment that people were on board for Ant-Man. Not to mention the fact that the film showed off the hook of the character, the emotional through-line of the film and it was all underscored by some powerful trailer music (“Visionary” by Hi-Finesse). This trailer was a complete package, but that crash gag at the end was just the perfect bow to put on top of it.
#7 – The Incredible Hulk – Trailer 1
“There are aspects of my personality that I can’t control. And when I lose control it’s very dangerous to be around me.”
This criminally underrated MCU Phase 1 film also had some audience members trepidatious. While in Phase 1 the Hulk was the character that most mainstream audiences already had a connection with (mainly due to the popular 1978-82 TV series) Ang Lee’s Hulk from 2003 didn’t set the world alight. But this trailer does a good job distancing itself from that previous interpretation and the first half actually seems to play more as a Jason Bourne-style thriller as we see Edward Norton outrunning the U.S. Army across the globe. In fact, if you watched this trailer with no prior knowledge of what it was about then you wouldn’t even suspect much of a science-fiction/monster-movie angle until about 70 seconds in.
Once the Hulk is unleashed in the trailer, it becomes a bit more generic (not to mention heavy on spoilers) but The Incredible Hulk has some of the best action set-pieces of the entire MCU and this trailer demonstrates that selling-point effectively. If fans were worried that The Incredible Hulk would be a slow-paced, methodical and rather boring movie about the Hulk fighting radioactive dogs and a cloud that is also Nick Nolte then this trailer put those concerns to rest.
Yeah, Ang Lee’s Hulk is really weird now that I think about it.
#6 – Captain America: The First Avenger – Trailer 1
“Because a weak man knows the value of strength. Knows the value of power”.
Much like Ant-Man, the character of Captain America had a stigma against him which made him a hard-sell to mainstream audiences. It’s so easy to just assume that the character is a simple boy-scout who fights because he loves America so much. However, this trailer manages to communicate to audiences that Steve Rogers is more complex then that whilst still being incredibly endearing. The 1940s setting is adequately displayed, Stanley Tucci’s performance helps to ground the outlandish premise and even the short cameo of Howard Stark provides a great tease for Marvel fans in a pre-Avengers age.
Honestly, this trailer is a complete package in terms of representing the movie. We get teases of the romance between Steve and Peggy, a tease of Red Skull and its portrayal of advanced technology despite the World War 2 setting allows Joe Johnston to firmly leave his unique mark on the franchise. Much like The Incredible Hulk trailer, it’s the first half that leaves the biggest impact by effectively showing Steve Rogers pre-transformation but this 150 second glimpse at Captain America: The First Avenger showcases the best of its titular Avenger.
#5 – Guardians of the Galaxy – Trailer 1
“They call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy.”
“What a bunch of a-holes”
How do you effectively convey the characteristics of a superhero team when not even the most avid comic book readers know nothing about them? Well this trailer is the perfect crash-course into just who the titular Guardians of the Galaxy are. With an effective Indiana Jones-style opening introducing us to Star-Lord (“Who!?”) we get a roll-call introducing us to Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot narrated by John C. Reilly along with a flippant Peter Serafinowicz.
James Gunn’s humorous quirks are on full display but we also get really cool glimpses of the Collector, of the different alien species that Guardians will enouncter and also villains Ronan and Nebula. Really it just does everything that a first impression should do and while it’s referred to as a Trailer I think it’s more akin to a Teaser and in that respect it’s near-perfect.
And who would have thought that the Blue Swede cover of “Hooked on a Feeling” would have worked as downright epic trailer music? That was an inspired choice.
#4 – The Avengers: Age of Ultron – Teaser Trailer
“I had strings but now I’m free. There are no strings on me”
After the mammoth success of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers in 2012 expectations were obscenely high for the follow-up which would be takings its title and very little else from the 2013 comic book storyline; Age of Ultron. While this debut teaser trailer isn’t higher on the list due to its darker approach not entirely being representative of the final product (the final shot that perfectly closes the trailer isn’t even in the film) it still did its job at whetting fan’s appetite for more Avengers.
James Spader’s chilling narration, the debut appearance of the Hulkbuster armour, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch displaying their powers, seeing the Avengers turn on each other and let’s not forget Captain America’s broken shield all marry together into an unforgettable first impression. While the final film had shades of darkness, it’s understandable that some fans were left slightly underwhelmed by it because they were expecting something more akin to this incredible teaser. But still, its impact is undeniable and while Trailer 3 may be equally as good and may be more representative of Avengers: Age of Ultron as a whole, THIS is the trailer that fans remember.
#3 – The Avengers – Trailer 2
“Director Fury, I think it’s time.”
Truth be told, I hadn’t watched this trailer since 2012 and I was curious as to whether or not it would hold-up as a self-contained piece of promotion considering that superhero team-ups on the big-screen aren’t as novel as they used to be. However, once the trailer had concluded with the 360 revolving shot of the Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Thor and Captain America united against a common threat, I got goosebumps. This trailer is still amazing.
Now, the trailer may slightly lose some originality because there were other pieces of promotional material that came before it but what makes this stand out (aside from more polished VFX) is the music from City of Fallen called “Prince of Darkness” which lends the film more gravitas as opposed to a Nine Inch Nails song like in the film’s first trailer. But on top of that, we’ve got Joss Whedon displaying his great dialogue as well as his previously hidden talent as a top-tier blockbuster director. The trailer loses points for spoiling the Hulk catching Iron Man at the end of the movie, but outside from that this is a trailer that believably conveys that a far-flung future science-fiction character, a Norse fantasy god, an atomic-age monster, a modern espionage duo and an old-fashioned World War 2 era hero can not only co-exist but that this movie can effectively balance those genres.
#2 – Iron Man 3 – Teaser
“Some people call me a terrorist. I consider myself a teacher. Lesson Number 1: Heroes. There is no such thing”
After Marvel Studios set the pop culture landscape ablaze with The Avengers it was up to Tony Stark to carry the torch into Phase 2. But after what is generally considered to be a none-stop, fun-filled thrill-ride with The Avengers, the first trailer for Iron Man 3 completely subverts expectations. From its opening shots displaying a broken and beaten Tony Stark, narration hinting at a severe form of PTSD for the character, the destruction of all his previous suits and the introduction of a brand new, threatening (or maybe not) villain, this is a downer trailer in the best way possible. We even get hints of horror as Stark’s new Mk 42 suit seemingly attacks Pepper Potts in the middle of the night. But what makes this the second best MCU trailer is how its ending is totally out-of-step with previous trailers.
Think about it. How have previous MCU trailers ended? Iron Man triumphantly blowing up a tank, the Hulk about to smash Abomination, Thor bringing the Thunder, Captain America defeating Nazis and the Avengers assembling. As for Iron Man 3’s teaser, the last minute is dedicated entirely to bringing Tony Stark down. His mansion is destroyed, his suit is crippled and he’s dragged to the bottom of the ocean as his house falls on top of him. Even the film’s logo runs out of energy as its light fizzles out, culminating in one of the MCU’s most powerful images; Tony Stark alone in the snow dragging around his Mk 42 Suit, an embodiment of the weight of his past, his anxieties and his emotional baggage and insecurities that he can’t bring himself to abandon.
The finished film may not be as dour as this teaser suggests, but it still absolutely follows through on the themes and concepts it promises, with the exception of the Mandarin but that twist is so effective that it obviously can’t be spoiled in the film’s marketing. But with powerful imagery and great music (“Something To Fight For” by Sencit Music) this is easily one of the best trailers of the MCU.
Now, before we get to Number 1 I’d just like to present an honourable mention and that is;
Honourable Mention – Jessica Jones – Trailer 1
“Jessica, I’m the only one who matches you. We’re inevitable.”
Due to budget constraints the trailers for Marvel’s TV/Netflix endeavours aren’t quite as effective or memorable as their big-screen counterparts but the one exception to that is this first trailer for Marvel’s Jessica Jones series. As great as Marvel’s Netflix projects can be, their marketing often isn’t much to write home about but this debut look at Jessica Jones is haunting and helps to hit-home the concept of emotional abuse during a relationship not always ending when the relationship does. Not to mention it offered out first glimpse at David Tennant as Kilgrave a.k.a. The Purple Man and his frequent narration helps to unsettle audiences almost as much as it unsettles Jessica.
Now, without further ado;
#1 – Captain America: Civil War – Trailer 2
“Stay down. Final warning.”
“I could do this all day.”
Honestly, I don’t really know where to start here. It really is no contest that this final trailer for Captain America: Civil War is the best piece of marketing that Marvel/Disney have ever put out.
Let’s start with the trailer doing a perfect job at displaying the central conflict between the two leads. The fact that this trailer could do that in just over two minutes but Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice couldn’t do it in 151 is kind of astounding. But this trailer at its core is so well constructed as it appropriately escalates, provides the emotional anchors and outlines the premise without giving too much away. That last point is particularly impressive because while this trailer does a fantastic job at selling the film as just a spectacle-driven blockbuster, anyone who has seen the movie will know that this trailer barely scratches the surface.
There are great fan-service nods like Ant-Man riding one of Hawkeye’s arrows, the Raft and the introduction of Black Panther but it can’t be understated just how much this trailer is able to effectively communicate the schism that has developed between the Avengers over the past few years and how the unintended sins of their past are coming back to haunt them. The only real issue with the trailer is that it’s edited to make it look like Bucky Barnes shoots down War Machine which is not the case in the final film.
But Chris Evans’ delivery of “I could do this all day” seems to be the embodiment of why Marvel’s shared-universe works as well as it does because that moment is so well informed by his character and feels like a perfect call-back to those who have stuck with the franchise for over 8 years.
Oh yeah and Spider-Man is also in this.
But that’s our list of the best trailers that Marvel Studios has ever put out. What is your favourite Marvel Studios trailer? Let us know in the comments section below!