Surely you know there are plenty of ways to find movie trailers online for upcoming flicks. Did you know the web is also a rich resource for finding and downloading old movie trailers? Given the variety of sites offering classic movie trailers, there’s definitely an appetite for this sort of thing.
At first blush, it seems like a strange pursuit. If you’ve already seen the movie, why would you want to watch the trailer? If you haven’t already seen, say, Citizen Kane, is the trailer really going to tip the scales one way or the other? It just might.
On the other hand, if you’re a serious film buff there’s something to be said about studying old movie trailers. At their best, they were masterpieces of editing and narration, giving enough information to pique your interest but, not so much that you no longer need to see the film. Unlike today’s previews that basically give away the entire movie — or at least the best jokes — old movie trailers were often mysterious and elliptical. Check out the trailer for Taxi Driver to see for yourself. Plus, you get a glimpse at actors/actresses such as Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, and Cybill Shepherd performances in the early stages of their careers.
Filmmakers used to take the medium seriously, elevating movie trailers into works of art in and of themselves. For Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick employed a montage of quick edits, bringing the film’s off-kilter satire in even greater relief. To promote Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock starred in a guided tour of the Bates Motel.
WHERE TO FIND OLD MOVIE TRAILERS
Old movie trailers never go out of style. Download RealPlayer free and save movie trailers to your RealPlayer library with just one click and take a walk down memory lane.
Several sites have sections devoted to trailers of classic films. On Reel Classics’ video gallery page, you’ll find the original trailers for such movies as 12 Angry Men (intense), The Maltese Falcon (intriguing), and 2001: A Space Odyssey (as inscrutable as the movie itself). Most of the clips are QuickTime MOV files that you can download directly from the website. Just install the free version of RealPlayer, mouse over the top right corner of the video player and click Download This Video. It will be downloaded into your RealPlayer library where you can you play it or use the video format converter to transfer it to other devices.
Movie List also has an extensive selection of old movie trailers, although most of the films are of a more recent vintage than Reel Classics’ selection. Here you’ll find the original trailers to such titles as 12 Monkeys, Pulp Fiction, and Purple Rain (a classic example in which the trailer is better than the movie). Like Reel Classics, Movie List offers MOV files that you can download directly from the website.
Along with an extensive collection of full-length public domain movies available for free download, the Internet Archive offers several dozen old movie trailers, mostly in the science-fiction B-movie realm. If you haven’t experienced the incompetent genius that is Plan 9 From Outer Space or Attack of the Giant Leeches, you’ll surely want to download the free movie versions after watching the trailers. Most clips are in MP4 or OGG formats, which you can download directly from the site and then watch the videos in RealPlayer.
OLD MOVIE TRAILERS ON YOUTUBE
Not surprisingly, YouTube offers the broadest range of old movie trailers, but you can get lost for hours making your way through the various sources. Fortunately, the Old Hollywood Trailers channel organizes its enormous selection by decade. Covering the 1930s through 2007, you’ll find classic trailers from Grand Hotel to American Graffiti, from Mrs. Miniver to Moonstruck.
You can save trailers from YouTube using RealPlayer and save them in the RealPlayer Library whee you can watch them as many times as you would like. You can also transfer them to your smartphone and watch them on the go using the free RealPlayer Android app.
Do you watch old movie trailers? Do you think they’re better than today’s movie trailers? Tell us why and let us know your favorites in the comments section.
John is a longtime technology journalist and author — long enough to remember when the CD-ROM was going to change the media landscape as we know it. He’s written for PC Magazine, CNET, CNBC, and CNN/Money among other media outlets. His favorite lost cause: the New York Mets.