8. Psycho (1960)
One thing I hate most about movie trailers these days is that it feels there’s no need to actually go and watch the actual film after we’ve been spoiled with a bombardment of commercials that practically give the entire movie’s plot away. Trailer overload I guess you could say. Or too much of a good thing in some cases.
But leave it to Alfred Hitchcock to break all the rules and preconceived notions of what a trailer can and should be. His trailer for Psycho clocks in at over six minutes and is comprised of entirely unique footage shot just for the trailer!
The idea is brilliant. In the trailer ol Hitch gives the viewer a guided tour of the sets and locations used in the movie. I can’t think of any trailer that more appropriately embraces the notion of the trailer as a teaser than this one. Hitchcock spends the entire time teasing us by introducing to us the important characters and plot points for Psycho without ever spilling the beans on what exactly happens. The Master of Suspense gleefully dangles horrible carrots in front of us in total deadpan while joyful cartoon like music plays softly in the background. It all adds up to make the movie seem more like a comedy than the original slasher flick. Except for Hitchcock’s constant references to blood, and murder.
But by the end you realize you’ve been set up the whole time. The true nature of the film is revealed when Hitchcock pulls back the shower curtain to reveal a screaming, naked, Marion Crane amid the piercingly shrill Psycho theme. It’s totally unexpected and I can only image how high audiences jumped in their seats when they originally saw it in theaters. Seriously, how often does a movie trailer actually end up scaring you?
The beauty of the trailer is it tells you everything you need to know about the film while simultaneously saying nothing at all.
FUN FACT: While filming on the set, Hitchcock would often refer to Anthony Perkins as “Master Bates”.