What makes you want to see a movie? It could be hype on social media, amazing word of mouth, or because you’re a dedicated fan of a franchise. But mostly, it’ll be because you’ve seen a trailer. And recently, dropping the trailer for a huge movie can be almost as much of an event as the movie itself. The Avengers Endgame trailer, for example, was viewed a staggering 268 million times in 24 hours.
Whether it’s an action-packed blockbuster, an intriguing indie, a hyped-up horror, a slapstick comedy or an Oscar-winning foreign-language film, the music for the trailer can be as important as the visuals when it comes to giving the movie that ‘must see’ status. It’s got to grab your attention, fit the genre, match the visuals and create excitement and anticipation.
Looking for inspiration for trailer music? Here's our top 5:
Music for trailers
The different movie genres use a variety of music styles and artists to create a ‘shortcut’ for the audience to let them know what to expect. When audiences have short attention spans and the ability to skip past your trailer within seconds, it’s vital you grab their attention as quickly as possible.
Action movie trailer music is usually fast, furious and intense, to match the powerful visuals of massive explosions and fights, together with car chases and a ton of CGI and unbelievable stunts.
The teaser trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road, which was produced as a ‘first look’ for Comic Con, is a great example of using music to make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the death-defying chase. It’s cut together at absolutely breakneck speed, with all of the action expertly matching the beats of the twisted rock grind of the soundtrack.
There’s pretty much no dialogue, you’re not introduced to any of the characters by name, other than Max - My name is Max. My world is fire and blood – but you’re in no doubt that it’s going to be a non-stop thrill ride, as the tooled-up gangs fight it out across the Australian desert with the biggest crashes, the biggest explosions and the biggest set-pieces ever seen in a Mad Max movie.
When it comes to using epic trailer music, they don’t come much bigger than those for the MCU. Avengers Endgame became the first movie to have a billion-dollar opening weekend and the trailers for the hugely-anticipated sequel to Avengers Infinity War and the culmination of Marvel’s epic series, which has spanned eleven years, needed a suitably universe-shattering soundtrack.
Some of the best trailer music uses an iconic track from the soundtrack. Trainspotting’s featured a who’s who of 90s Britpop acts, but the trailer used Iggy Pop’s thrusting ‘Lust for Life’ to accompany the film’s hero, Renton, haring it down Edinburgh’s Princes Street, with his ‘Choose Life’ takedown of empty consumerist dreams as its voiceover.
The positive/negative elements clashing ironically against each other immediately told eager fans that director Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s cult book was going to be edgy and full of bleak humour (not to mention lines that are still being quoted now.)
When it comes to music for horror trailers, there’s still little to beat the classic Jaws.
The shark’s eye view underwater at the beginning, combined with John Williams’ ominous soundtrack establishes and ramps the tension up immediately; the high-pitched shrieks and whistles (reminiscent of Psycho’s violins) and the holiday makers thrashing around in the sea create a further sense of panic.
Watching it now, its abrupt shifts in terms of viewpoint and pacing might not have aged well, but the Jaws trailer was pivotal in creating not only a summer movie hit, but a cultural phenomenon: the summer blockbuster. It was the film you had to see – and also the one that kept a generation from ever wanting to go near the ocean again.
For more inspiration and the best trailer music, discover your ultimate soundtrack with the Maximum Impact Collection, featuring tracks composed specifically for trailers and recorded at Abbey Road Studios.