ByDaniel Pearson, writer at

Movie trailers have never been as important to a movie's success as they are today. It's been a very long time since trailers were mystical things only seen by cinema goers and perhaps the odd film critic; nowadays, anybody with an internet connection and the most basic of smartphones can view them at the click of a few buttons.

Which means that if somebody's interested in seeing your movie, they're going to watch your trailer - so it HAS to be a good one. Thus, distributors have pumped in more and more money to produce the best one possible.

The good news is that we get big, beautiful, awe-inspiring trailers that leave us begging to see the movie, the bad news is that it gets harder and harder to tell a potential classic apart from a potential stinker.

The trailer from 'Gone with the Wind' (1939)
The trailer from 'Gone with the Wind' (1939)

The real interesting thing about this change, however, is how it's affected the style, format and looks of the trailers themselves. As you're about to find out, it's actually quite moving - and in a strange way beautiful - to watch.

Steven Benedict has produced this excellent video essay which tracks the evolution of film trailers throughout the years, from the very first movie advertisements all the way up to the proliferation of red-band trailers.

Watch the video in full below, but first, here are a few snippets.

The gif you see above is taken directly from Blow-Up (1966), an art-house flick by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni. Benedict cites the trailer for this movie as the root of all modern trailers. It was the first, he argues, to use daring soundtracks and actor close-ups to portray a mood and style, rather than just blandly telling the audience what the film was about.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Later, when Star Wars returned to the big screen for The Phantom Menace in 1999, movie trailers were experiencing possibly the biggest change in their history: the advent of trailers on the internet.

There was a big debate surrounding copyright of trailers at this point: distributors were angered at cinema-goers who attended screenings only to record trailers aired before the movie and upload them to the internet. Whereas fans were begging to have them made freely available online.

Find out more in this glorious video essay below.

So, so interesting!


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