Movie trailers are an art unto themselves, but the creative minds who come together to make them are rarely given proper credit from fans or the media. As important as footage from a film is, the music in a trailer is equally key to its success. With that in mind, TheWrap presents the 10 Best Songs Used in Movie Trailers in 2015.
Now, a few caveats before we get started. Like last year, movies such as “Love & Mercy” were disqualified from contention because they have access to the entire catalogue of a single artist (like The Beach Boys), so the challenge to find the perfect trailer song likely wasn’t as difficult with the artist pre-determined.
Furthermore, judging music is completely different than judging movies. Opinions about movies can be right or wrong (it’s true!) but opinions about music are even more subjective, as there’s a wider ranger of musical tastes. So keep in mind that it can be extremely tricky when judging a song in a trailer, since you must take into account the song’s length, context and how it compliments the footage it’s playing over.
While last year’s list didn’t mention musical scores that feature no words, we’ve included an additional four trailers this year — the creepy synth of “It Follows,” the emotional triumph of “Chappie,” the terrifying drone of “Sicario” and the Chromatics’ cooly sinister riffs for Ryan Gosling‘s directorial debut “Lost River.”
Without further ado, get your iTunes Store account ready and listen to the Top 10 Songs Used in Trailers This Year.
1. SUICIDE SQUAD (Warner Bros.) – “I Started a Joke,” a Bee Gees cover by Confidential Music feat. Becky Hanson
Warner Bros. was left fuming when its special Comic-Con presentation of “Suicide Squad” footage was leaked online, but the joke’s on them, as there was no better trailer in 2015. Fans are dying to see Jared Leto‘s take on the Joker and this dark, creepy cover of a well-known Bee Gees song was the perfect opportunity to pay homage to the Clown Prince of Crime. I literally bookmarked this song on my iPhone so I could drive around L.A. chillin’ like the ultimate villain.
2. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (Universal) – “Post Tropical” by James Vincent McMorrow
We loved the opening riff of this trailer and the way its editing lined up with this song’s percussion, but Patrick Starr, SVP of Creative Advertising at Universal Pictures, said it best: “NWA is known for hardcore gangster rap, but we didn’t want to sell it as a biopic. In creating the trailer, we wanted to make sure we were broadly appealing and come out of the gate with something that felt cinematic and based in character, so we could build up their stories. Using that piece of music allowed us to introduce characters that people can connect to right away, not just their music. With the help of a music supervisor, the trailer’s editor and producer went through hundreds of songs until they found something that fit the tone we wanted, and then they presented it to me. The editor of this trailer is so in tune with music that when he found it, it just clicked immediately. Then we built a piano track around it, to help bridge the song with NWA’s music.”
3. TRIPLE NINE (Open Road) - “Pigs (Remix)” by Cypress Hill and Atticus Ross
This little piggy went straight to Twitter (along with many others) to ask his followers which demented artist was responsible for this bad-ass riff on the beloved nursery rhyme. Of course, it turned out to be Oscar winner Atticus Ross, who worked with Cypress Hill on a remix of the group’s police screed “Pigs.” The resulting collaborating creates a chilling effect that was the perfect fit for the film’s red-band trailer.
4. FANTASTIC FOUR (20th Century Fox) - “Main Theme” from the soundtrack to “Broadchurch” by Olafur Arnalds
Josh Trank‘s take on Marvel’s First Family may not have turned out as hot as the Human Torch, but admit it, you were pretty stoked to see it after this initial teaser that featured the theme from “Broadchurch.” The haunting track created a sense of foreboding and, um, doom, that signaled this “Fantastic Four” would be different than the Tim Story movies. That turned out to be an understatement, but hey, we’ll always have this gorgeous trailer, am I right?
5. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (Fox Searchlight) – “The Big Ship” by Brian Eno
This is a bit of a cheat, since “The Big Ship” is used during the climax of the film, so Fox Searchlight didn’t have to look (or listen) too hard for a trailer song, but it sure did pack an emotional wallop. Of course I cried while watching “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” but I also cried watching the trailer — multiple times. This was the only trailer to make my eyes consistently well up, though “Eddie the Eagle” got to me as well.
6. CREED (Warner Bros.) – “Prisoner” by Lupe Fiasco
The “Creed” trailer featured a couple of cool songs but it didn’t truly soar until the last few seconds, when we hear some gorgeous bars from this Lupe Fiasco song while Michael B. Jordan runs through the streets of Philadelphia. The track signaled that this wasn’t your father’s “Rocky” movie, this was a whole new adventure with no room for “Eye of the Tiger.”
7. THE GALLOWS (Warner Bros.) – “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a Nirvana cover by Think Up Anger ft. Malia J.
“The Gallows” was not a very good movie, but it’s trailer delivered the goods and made me excited to see it before reviews suggested I wait for it to hit DVD. The song matched the film’s tagline — “Every School Has Its Spirit” — and created a terrifying atmosphere that complemented all those nooses.
8. THE PEANUTS MOVIE (20th Century Fox) - “Baba O’Riley” by The Who
This classic song is used often by Hollywood, so there were no points awarded for originality here, but I couldn’t shake it. Also known as “Teenage Wasteland,” this song reintroduced us to the familiar gang of Peanuts characters while also making them seem fresh and relevant to today’s audiences.
9. STEVE JOBS (Universal) – “Lessons” by SOHN
Honestly, this was the last song added to this list, but only because its effectiveness snuck up on me. How do you make a dialogue-heavy movie like “Steve Jobs” look exciting? How do you make it feel like the “verbal action movie” that one critic described it as? This song creates a certain sense of urgency and immediacy that forces the viewer to pay attention. It feels a little techno-y, which obviously worked for a movie about computers and the people who make and market them.
10. (Tie) THE PROGRAM (eOne/Momentum) - “Running Up That Hill,” a Kate Bush cover by Placebo and THE CONNECTION (Drafthouse Films) – “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” a French cover of Cher by Sheila
Drafthouse Films created “The Connection” trailer in-house with its talented AV Creative Director Greg Maclennan. Sheila’s French cover of Cher‘s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” has many fans at Drafthouse, and Maclennan wanted to incorporate the song into the trailer. “It had an elegance to it that hearkened back to the feel and vibe of the ’70s while also providing me with some really visceral beat hits to incorporate some of the intensity the film also offers,” said Maclennan.
As for “The Program,” I loved the use of Placebo’s “Running Up That Hill” juxtaposed with Lance Armstrong’s fall from cycling grace. The lyrics alone — “it doesn’t hurt me … Do you want to hear about the deal I’m making?” — suggest that Armstrong was compromising his ethics for athletic success. If only the movie was as good as this trailer …
Honorable Mention: THE OVERNIGHT (The Orchard) – “Big Shot” by Pearls and “The Haunted” by Northeast Party House
Each of these songs provided a certain infectious energy, which prompted me to download both on iTunes. How many trailers entice you to download not one, but two songs? Hence, the honorable mention.
Best Use of Music in a Fan-Made Trailer: ANT-MAN (YouTube user Patrick H Willems) - “Hold Tight” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich
“Ant-Man” was my favorite Marvel movie, but Disney’s trailers were still lacking that something special. Fortunately, a YouTube user by the name of Patrick H Willems brought back this old ditty that really popped halfway through the initial “Ant-Man” trailer. Some smart studio is going to use this song for real soon, and when they do, watch out!
Best Song in a Bad Movie: PRESERVATION – “Farandole” by The Gentleman Losers
I wouldn’t recommend this low-budget genre movie but I was transfixed by its opening credits, which are set to this instrumental track. Another great song to listen to late at night while driving around the empty streets of Los Angeles.
Best Movie Scores Used in 2015 Trailers
1. LOST RIVER (Warner Bros.) - “Yes (Love Theme from “Lost River”)” by Chromatics
2. IT FOLLOWS (Radius-TWC) - “Title” by Disasterpeace
3. CHAPPIE (Sony) - “Main Title” by Hans Zimmer
4. SICARIO (Lionsgate) - “The Beast” by Jóhann Jóhannsson