Time, like the theatrical run of “Your Highness,” has disappeared quickly this year. It’s hard to believe it was almost 12 months ago that we were settling into our seats to check out Nicolas Cage’s “Season of the Witch.” That didn’t work out so well.
And so, as the MTV Movies team begins our look back at the cinematic year that was 2011, we’re reminded that time is precious. We don’t have much of it; we must use it wisely. That’s why we’re beginning our series of best-of stories with movie trailers — those neat little packages of footage that let us know in a few minutes’ time whether the full movie is going to be worth it. Picking our 20 favorite trailers was a tough call; just look at the ones that didn’t make it, like “The Avengers,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Breaking Dawn – Part 1.”
In the end, though, we selected the trailers that truly stuck with us — some since the early days of the year and some newer ones that are sure to haunt us into next year. Read on for our picks for the 20 best movie trailers of 2011.
20. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”
The trailer teases everything the movie delivers — a slowly building whodunit of a plot, an ominous score, period details so depressingly ’70s-era British that the footage should come with a voucher for lithium — while at the same time succeeding in one area where the movie falters: It’s not pull-your-hair-out, whisper-to-the-person-next-to-you, throw-your-hands-up-in-defeat confusing.
19. “The Muppets”
An unlikely companion piece to the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” teaser listed below, this “Muppets” trailer — one in a long line of pop-culture mash-ups — had the lovable felt creatures laser-beaming one message to viewers: Our movie may be rated PG, but we swear you’ll totally dig it. And hey, if you want to get stoned in the parking lot beforehand, that’s fine, dude.
The “Battleship” trailer got a lot of crap when it dropped in July — was this just “Blue Crush” meets “Armageddon,” with neither the former’s sugary, shameless sex factor nor the latter’s Bruce Willis? Instead let us float another way of viewing it: as an utterly wacky, probably nonsensical yet potentially blockbustering summer movie for a “Transformers”-less 2012.
17. “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
The footage builds and builds its claustrophobic tension, finally giving way to John Hawkes’ homespun singer/songwriter tuneage, which somehow still doesn’t allow you any catharsis, any chance just to catch your breath: All is not well in Elizabeth Olsen’s world. And it’s simply addicting to watch.
16. “The Woman in Black”
The tagline could have been, “Abandon hope, all ye Muggles who enter here.” The first full trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-“Harry Potter” film was simple and creepy and effective — and unlike anything the boy wizard has ever encountered.
15. “Red Tails”
The second trailer starts off a little hokey, but it soon morphs into a shoot-‘em-up dogfight between the Tuskegee Airmen and the Axis powers. Every piece of American history should come wrapped in such fiery pop-culture packaging.
14. “Devil’s Double”
Torture, guns, chicks in bikinis, Dominic Cooper doing double duty as wide-eyed innocent and psychotic tyrant — what else can one ask for in a trailer?
13. “Super 8″
While our favorite “Super 8″ trailer dropped in 2010, the one J.J. Abrams unleashed this past March — with its classic movie-monster intrigue and Spielbergian patina — was still pretty kick-ass. If only the film itself had lived up to the potential of these early looks.
In a word: cool. In a few more: awesome score, awesome car chases, awesome hints at violence, awesome performance by Ryan Gosling. Mainly, though: cool as sh–.
10. “American Reunion”
We didn’t realize we actually missed Jim and his randy pals until we glimpsed the goofball and his flute-loving wife separately, secretly pleasuring themselves to R. Kelly’s “Bump N’ Grind.”
8. “Like Crazy”
One of the best movies at Sundance became the hands-down finest trailer for a romantic drama in 2011, capturing all the beauty and sadness and magic that echoes between Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones in the film.
7. “Rise of the Apes”
Anyone mocking the idea of bringing back those damn dirty apes with James Franco in tow was roundly silenced when the teaser dropped in April and we peeped Andy Serkis’ Caesar and his ilk unleashing simian fury on San Francisco.
6. “X-Men First Class”
Was it the sizzling score? The historical weight imbued by JFK’s voice-over? The quick looks at all those mutants? Every single frame in which Michael Fassbender was onscreen? It was all of it and more that made this “X-Men” trailer one of the most epic of the year.
5. “The Hunger Games”
After the most teaser-y of teaser trailers debuted at the MTV Video Music Awards , Lionsgate came through with a ton of footage in November: districts, tributes, games-makers, the Hunger Games arena and three teens looking to swipe the throne of tween obsession-dom from Edward, Bella and Jacob.
4. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”
The feel-bad movie of Christmas gave us zero dialogue, oodles of fresh looks without anything so troublesome as context getting in the way, and Trent Reznor and Karen O’s cover of “Immigrant Song.” Oh, and chills: it gave us chills.
3. “Snow White and the Huntsman”
Our expectations were not high. So let us apologize to Kristen Stewart and all who are involved with this adaptation: Well done, folks! Sweeping in scale and containing some truly creative visual effects (huge crows splintering into hundreds of smaller crows, an anthropomorphic golden mirror), the trailer already would have been a 2011 highlight on its own merits. But when the silly trailer for “Mirror, Mirror,” a competing Snow White flick, dropped days later, we had to revise our expectations for “Huntsman”: This is how you adapt a centuries-old fairy tale for the 21st-century multiplex.
2. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″
Sure, we whooped it up to “Woman in Black.” But the final “Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ trailer? That sucker was not only the best “Deathly Hallows” trailer, it was arguably the best trailer of the entire franchise.
1. “The Dark Knight Rises”
This teaser should be encased in glass and studied at every studio in Hollywood as the perfect way to build excitement, deliver what core fans wants and yet not give away the whole shebang — and leave everyone dying to see more, more, more. There is simply no question: This was the best trailer of 2011, and we have a feeling it’s teasing what will be the best movie of 2012.
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