Psycho (1960) My choice for the best trailer ever produced, this ingenious promo shows only one actual scene from the picture. Instead, its star is director Alfred Hitchcock, who takes us on a leisurely tour through the Bates Motel and the Bates mansion, all the while nattering on like a congenial host. He finally pauses at a shower curtain, quickly pulls it back, and immediately we cut to Janet Leigh shrieking to the strains of Bernard Herrmann's legendary score. Nearly as great is the droll trailer for Hitchcock's The Birds, in which the director discusses the friendly rapport between man and his feathered friends; during his monologue, we notice a mounted bird on the wall behind him and watch as Hitchcock sits down to munch on a chicken dinner.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) One of the trailers used to promote Steven Spielberg's alien odyssey during its original run was a lengthy mini-documentary that interspersed scenes from the movie with interview footage of the principal actors. These days, "making-of" features are par for the course on HBO and E! Entertainment Television, but seeing one on the big screen 24 years ago was quite unique -- a bit self-important, perhaps, but the movie obviously justified the advertising approach.
13 Ghosts (1960) William Castle was the consummate movie showman, coming up with all sorts of gimmicks to promote his low-budget horror flicks -- among his innovations were having select theater seats wired to produce an electric jolt during showings of The Tingler and, for 13 Ghosts, offering "Illusion-O" glasses (basically, 3-D goggles) that would enable customers to be able to see the ghosts on screen. Naturally, he had to get the word out about his various inventions, so the trailers for many of his productions basically featured scenes from the films cut together with sequences of him talking about his latest brainstorm (and, of course, occasionally adding that the theater wouldn't be responsible if any patrons died of fright while watching his features).
Citizen Kane (1941) What I love about the trailer for this American masterpiece is its unassertive, "aw, shucks" tone. Here we have a preview for what's merely regarded as the greatest movie ever made, and it largely consists of an off-camera Orson Welles introducing his fellow actors from the film (many of whom came straight from his Mercury Theatre). This is followed by snippets (some shot specifically for the trailer) of the various characters sounding off about Charles Foster Kane. Welles was renowned for his reportedly enormous ego -- Kane co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz once noted, "There but for the grace of God goes God" -- which makes his false modesty in this trailer particularly amusing.