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Which movie trailers are even better than the finished products?

I can’t stop watching the Mission: Impossible - Fallout trailer

mission impossible fallout - tom cruise on a helicopter Paramount Pictures
Clayton Ashley , senior video editor, has been producing and editing videos for Polygon since 2016. He is the lead producer of the tabletop gaming series Overboard.

I don’t see a ton of movies in theaters — and yet, I feel like I’ve seen the Mission: ImpossibleFallout trailer 5 million times. And you know what? I’m glad, because it immediately became one of my favorite trailers of all time.

Look, I’m not invested in the Mission: Impossible franchise. It’s possible I’ll never watch this movie. But when the Mission: Impossible theme starts getting plucked on the guitar? I’m ready for two minutes of thrilling, impeccably edited action. Look at Henry Cavill punching the air extremely hard!

One of my favorite things to do as a video editor is line up my cuts with music and sound effects. The precision editing in the Mission: Impossible Fallout trailer absolutely crushes it. The driving drum beats of Imagine Dragons’ “Friction” line up perfectly when Cruise’s Ethan Hunt smashes a baddie’s face on the hood of a car. When the music drops out during a fight scene, the punches keep the beat going. Even Angela Bassett’s footsteps are in sync with the music. It makes the trailer seem like an unstoppable force pulling you along for the ride.

Movie trailers have only gotten bigger in the last few years, earning their own teasers in the lead-up to release. That’s led to this odd situation I’m in: being obsessed with a trailer for a movie I’m not anticipating whatsoever and may never see.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one at Polygon who has felt this way. Below, I collected some of our staff’s favorite trailers for movies that either didn’t deliver or we were never sold on seeing in the first place. But those trailers...

Watching the original Watchmen trailer was the first time I realized that trailers could be more than promotional material. The two-minute montage took Smashing Pumpkins’ “The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning” — itself originally from another superhero film soundtrack, Batman & Robin — and cleverly re-arranged entire verses to both match the footage and, through that connection, create something of a vague, stand-alone narrative. I’m not a fan of Zack Snyder films, but I’ll admit that his eye for visual flair is superb. This, to me, wasn’t a trailer so much as it was an extremely expensive, and extremely stylish, music video. I’d much rather watch this 75 times in a row than the actual film. Ross Miller

The Perfect Storm is the story of what happens when Mark Wahlberg is on a boat … and a storm happens? I never saw the movie, but the trailer’s final shot of a ship attempting to climb the nearly vertical wall of a monstrous wave stuck with me for weeks. I watched it over and over, and it was the perfect distillation of why I find the ocean so scary in general: It’s an endless mass of liquid that can destroy you at any moment. That final shot was a stunning image that gave me all the emotion I needed without even seeing the film. Ben Kuchera

I did not see The Mummy reboot; I was never going to. Tom Cruise action movies are the antithesis of My Thing. But when a version of the trailer stripped of its deafening sound effects — its artifice — accidentally went live, I became enraptured by it. Not because I suddenly could see the threadbare plot for what it wasn’t, or the acting for its two-dimensionality. The effects-less version of the trailer was so disquieting that it was almost like its own surrealist mini-movie. Imagine if every action movie just relied on on-set sounds! How much more fun would that be? So much more fun that Universal slapped that vid with a copyright strike and takedown way too fast.— Allegra Frank

Sam Mendes followed the one-two punch of American Beauty and Road to Perdition with Jarhead, based on Anthony Swofford’s memoir of the same name, and I remember being totally swept up by the trailer, which I watched while taking a college class that pounded “MOVIES ARE ART” into my brain. There was no resisting Jake Gyllenhaal’s intensity, the shadowy photography mixed with flaming towers of Iraqi oil or the pounding rhythm of “Jesus Walks” raising the stakes with every lyric. A few months later, I saw the movie ... maybe? It didn’t stick. Turns out Mendes’ inspection of the era’s greatest, strangest conflict only turned up some haunting, trailer-worthy images. Maybe it deserves a rewatch ... but the trailer is right here. Matt Patches

The Town looked like a movie made specifically for me. There were gangsters, creepy clown masks, Ben Affleck and, presumably, a town full of sensational secrets between ex-lovers and childhood friends. That’s my kind of movie! I remember seeing the trailer and talking about nothing else for the rest of the day. I couldn’t wait to see The Town — and then I never bought tickets. The movie came out, people went to go watch it, and I stayed home. It became available to rent, and I passed. I think it wound up on Netflix at some point, and I just watched 30 Rock again instead. I don’t know why I never watched The Town, but maybe, deep down, I didn’t want anything to ruin the trailer. — Julia Alexander

Kaiju fights! Halo jumps! A Godzilla origin story! Creepy music! Bryan Cranston wanting to talk to somebody in charge! That’s the movie I was promised by the trailer for 2014’s Godzilla. I was stoked to see this movie. Breaking Bad had recently ended, and Cranston’s character looked like the perfect mix of Walter White and Hal from Malcom in the Middle: intimidating but, like, still a good dad. Then my friend informed me that [spoiler alert] his character dies about 20 minutes in. No thanks. I’m not interested in this Aaron Taylor-Johnson family drama. (I mean, I am, just not in a movie called Godzilla.) Emily Heller

Baz Luhrmann is at his best when he’s creating opulent, musical moments with A-List celebrities (see: Moulin Rouge) and his worst when he’s asking those celebrities to speak more than eight of his words in a row (see: Australia). Which is why the second trailer for 2013’s The Great Gatsby is absolutely perfect. Gatsby wasn’t the first trailer to combine snappy editing with good music, but it’s certainly among the best at it. It’s two and a half minutes of pure mood and music, where the dialogue is more about setting a tone than it is about having any real substance. And Leonardo DiCaprio barking, “I will tell you God’s truth about myself” over “No Church in the Wild” while playing one of literature’s most famous con men remains the absolute apex of Leo as a Movie Star. With such a perfect trailer, it’s a shame that the actual movie made almost no sense. But hey, the Jay-Z produced soundtrack is still outstanding. Austen Goslin

Maybe you have a favorite trailer for a least-favorite film, too; leave it in the comments.

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