Movie trailers have changed considerably in the century or so since they first appeared. From self-aggrandizing hype-building of the 1950s to the mini-movie of the 1980s to the more visceral coming attractions of today, movie trailers can serve as a cinematic tree-rings, helping to date any given production.
Imgur user profoundwhatever has cataloged a history of trailers dating back to 1913, when they were first inspired by a promotional short film for musicals no less. Trailers didn’t even play before the movies back then—they got their name for trailing the end-credits.
The in-depth history follows the breaking up of a third-party monopoly on producing trailers, the influence of the up-and-coming medium of television, and a schism in the 1970s, when enigmatic, atmospheric trailers split from the blockbuster model of presenting miniaturized versions of the full film.
While many of us remembers hating The Phantom Menace, we might have blocked out that people actually paid money for Meet Joe Black just to see a glimpse of Darth Maul, and leave before the feature attraction. (Presumably, Apple created the “trailers” section of their website the next day.)
And if you’re wondering, yes, Hans Zimmer’s “BWAMPs” are covered, and yes, he’s gone on record as hating their proliferation. In addition to historical innovations, the gallery covers other creative decisions, including special shoots for trailer-exclusive footage, and what happens when producers decide to insert a key spoiler into a movie trailer.