A song can spark such an emotional response, letting someone relive a moment in time as fully as when it first occurred. Paired with the right imagery, a song can also evoke a complex emotional response in otherwise disparate viewers to build real enthusiasm for that with which it is paired. Not surprisingly, this is a pretty useful thing to achieve when releasing a trailer you hope will attract hordes of movie-goers. Sometimes the movie doesn’t live up to the trailer’s promise (and sometimes the box office falls short even when the movie delivers—hello, Edge of Tomorrow), but that doesn’t mean that perfect combination of a song and visuals doesn’t deserve credit. Here’s a look at some of the best uses of songs (so far) in the trailers of 2014.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy: Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”
“Oogachaka!” It’s the familiar chant that can be heard in Marvel’s impending summer blockbuster. The song obviously connected with audiences—its digital sales went up 700 percent after the first trailer aired on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this year. The catchy tune is no stranger to pop culture references, but pairing it with a talking raccoon adjusting his junk? Hmmm … that’s the stuff.
2. Edge of Tomorrow: Fieldwork’s “This Is Not the End”
has to live, die and repeat in this Groundhog Day-meets-potential-alien-apocalypse film. But even if the box office returns were anemic, this melodramatic song pushes the trailer through the high and low notes. It cuts out when a dramatic moment happens, and kicks back in harder with an even more action-packed scene. (And considering the film’s plot, having a song that just repeats “this is not the end” was rather perfect.)
3. Wish I Was Here: Radical Faces’ “The Mute”/The Shins’ “Untitled”
The two songs in this trailer really help anchor all the emotions present in the two minute, 24 second-long trailer. The “ooo-ooos” is always a great way for any trailer to start out. But, it really wouldn’t be a Zach Braf film without The Shins. Their untitled new song is what really pulls at the heart strings, delivering the emotional heaviness in the trailer. James Mercer’s lyrics convey the weight of such moments as dealing with a sick father, taking care of two children and navigating relationships with a wife and brother.
4. Boyhood: Family of the Year’s “Hero”
This song plays into Linklater’s film in so many different ways. Shot over the course of 12 years using the same actors and telling the story of a boy growing up, Boyhood could be a difficult film to condense into one trailer, yet paired with such a gentle song, one with touching lyrics like “let me go … I don’t want to be your hero” is enough to bring a theater audience to tears.
5. Maleficent: Lana Del Ray’s “Once Upon a Dream”
This teaser for the Angelina Jolie blockbuster boasts an eerie and near-perfect cover by Del Ray of the song written for the original 1959 animated film. Jolie herself picked Del Ray to perform the song. Good call.
6. Gone Girl: Richard Butler’s cover of “She”
Although Gone Girl is scored by previous David Fincher collaborator, Trent Reznor, the trailer is soundtracked by Psychedelic Furs front man Richard Butler. The trailer and the song combine for a haunting encounter. The ballad’s lyrics (“the meaning of my life … she…”) pairs with the last words of the trailer spoken by Ben Affleck (“I did not kill my wife.”) to great effect. (Those who have read the book may have a better understanding as to the song choice, but don’t spoil it for everyone else.)