The 15 best sci-fi and fantasy movie trailers of 2011

Just as you can't tell a book by its cover, you can't tell a movie by its trailer. But a great trailer is like an expertly crafted short film—by turns moving, thrilling and gob-smacking. Here are some of the best to come down the pike this year. Warning: There be superheroes and hobbits.

Again, this list has nothing to do with the relative quality—or lack thereof—of the movies that followed these trailers. This is all about the craft of the trailers themselves.

So, without further ado...


Immortals


"From the producers of 300" comes at you in large type, and it sets the stage for this spot, which summons all the glossy, slow-motion carnage it can. Successfully, too.


Limitless


This viral ad for the mystery drug at the center of this Bradley Cooper sci-fi drama is a pitch-perfect sendup of late-night pharmaceutical infomercials. But with a lethal twist.


Sucker Punch


Director Zack Snyder's real gift is for orchestrating mayhem and delivering spine-tingling chunks of awesome. Which is why his trailers are so amazing and, sometimes, the movies that follow aren't.


Hanna


A little girl kicking ass in surprising and inventive ways. When is that ever not fun?


Prometheus


Still not completely sure what's happening in this one, but that's okay. I don't want my trailers to explain everything. I do want them to show me tantalizing glimpses of a master returning to the genre that put him on the map.


The Hobbit


Talk about a trailer that didn't have to do much to score: All we needed to see was Ian McKellen back in the nose as Gandalf the Grey and all would've been right with the world. And yet we got so much more. Singing dwarves!


The Avengers


Here's another trailer where the bar for success was pretty low. Fans lost their marbles over the mere sight of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor in the same frame. Mate that with some of director Joss Whedon's trademark patter and boom, home run.


Snow White and the Huntsman


Finally, someone made me want to see a Kristen Stewart movie. That counts for a lot.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2


No time for subtlety, Dr. Jones. This trailer adheres to the school of "We're just gonna flood you with fantastic and hope you relent." And it works.


Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance


He's peeing fire, folks. Peeing. Fire.


X-Men: First Class


"Peace was never an option" might be the best line in a trailer this year. It perfectly set the tone for Charles' and Erik's relationship. Plus, that music killed.


Battle: Los Angeles


Perhaps the biggest gulf between quality of trailer and quality of movie was here. The trailer was all mood and dread and haunt. The movie was, well, less.


Rise of the Planet of the Apes


A good trailer hooks you on a movie you'd already written off as skippable. Was I as excited to see James Franco walk with the animals before this trailer as after? Hell no. Gorillas attacking helicopters has that effect on me.


The Dark Knight Rises


No, we still can't quite make out what Bane's saying—he could be director Christopher Nolan's take on the Hamburglar for all we know—but it hooked us all the same.


Wrath of the Titans


The prize for "Seems to Be Most Improved Over Its Crappy Predecessor" goes to this. Of course, time will tell. But at least this looks like shaggy, dirty, epic divine fun.

What were your favorite previews of the year? Let us know!

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