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14 Amazing Classic Movie Previews

Updated on September 14, 2014

Movie Trailers from Some of the Best Movies Ever

Ever wondered what The Godfather movie trailer was like? How about the preview for It's a Wonderful Life? Well that is one of the truly great things about youtube. Now we can take this trip down memory lane with the original movie previews and trailers from these good old movies.

Movie trailers got their name because they were originally shown at the end of feature films instead of the beginning. Of course, we can all see how that method was flawed because most patrons would leave and not stay to watch the trailers. Ultimately, they were switched to previews shown before the film but the name stuck.

The first movie trailer was shown in 1913 by the Advertising Manager of the Marcus Loew theatre chain. For decades, movie previews and trailers were actually created by National Screen Service, a film distribution company that prepared the trailers for film studios. However sometime in the late 50s and early 60s, the studios realized that the trailers could be key competitive advantages if the studio controlled production of these movie trailers.

I have arranged these trailers in the order of appearance as it is very interesting to watch how movie previews and trailers transformed over the years. You can also see quite a difference between films expected to be blockbusters, like Casablanca and more ordinary films, like Citizen Kane which did not gain legendary status until years after its initial release. But what is most striking is the difference between the old trailers and the newer trailers of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Over time, the art of the trailer actually evolved into film-making itself. These short 3 minutes trailers are actually short movies in and of themselves.

We have compiled this group of movie previews from youtube for the best classic movies of all time. I used the Rankography top ten movies website to find some of the consensus picks as the best movies of all time from any era.

Over time I will add more classic movie trailer previews as I find them on youtube or other sites. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list but just some good old movies . If you have other suggestions, please comment in at that bottom of the page. And don't forget to vote for your favorite classic movie trailer previews below.

If you enjoy this lens, you might also want to check out some of our other classic movie trailer lens such as Best Comedy Films trailers or Best Animated Movies previews.

Kim Lewis, "A True Classic" print courtesy of, you can buy it here.

All rights reserved. Copyright 2014 Tonto Murray on Hubpages

Gone with the Wind (1939) - Possibly the Greatest Epic Film Ever

While Gary Cooper was a brilliant actor, he was not quite a film visionary. He was first offered the role of Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) but turned it down saying that he thought Gone with the Wind was going to be a huge flop and he was glad it was Gable flopping not him. Oops. The ending line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." was ranked the #1 movie quote of all time by the American Film Institute. The film still ranks as the #1 highest grossing film of all time (when adjusted for inflation), see the full list here.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) - One of the Top Classic Noir Films of All Time

Actor George Raft was actually offered the Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) role before Bogart but turned it down citing a clause in his contract that said he did not have to accept a studio role in a non-significant film. Apparently, he was not interested in the role because the screenwriter, John Huston, was going to direct his first film. Oops, we all know how that turned out!!

Citizen Kane (1941) - Oft Cited as #1 on the Best Classic Hollywood Movies list

Citizen Kane was Orson Welles directorial debut for a full feature film. In the film, he used a technique he learned from John Ford in Stagecoach in which the camera looked up at significant characters like Charles Kane (Welles) and Jedediah LeLand (Joseph Cotton) while looking down on lesser characters like Susan Alexander Kane (Dorothy Comingore) and Mary Kane (Agnes Moorehead).

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Casablanca (1942) - One of the Best Drama Films set in Wartime

One of the most famous elements of the film is the singing and piano playing by Sam (Dooley Wilson). Producer Hal Wallis nearly cast a female in this role with Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald were considered for the part, but ultimately he settled on the male figure who also created a strong friendship role with Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) character. Interestingly, Wilson was actually a drummer and could not play piano so he had to fake the playing and actual piano playing was done behind a curtain by Elliot Carpenter.

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) - An Uplifting Philosophical Film about Life

It's a Wonderful Life was filmed in 1946 right after the end of World War II and the US was ready for a "feel good" film like this one. Jimmy Stewart, after learning to fly as a young man, was drafted into the Air Force in 1940 initially as a flight instructor in the States. However after the invasion, he moved to Europe for bombing raids and other missions over Europe. He remained in the Air Force through the entire war rising to the rank of Colonel. It's a Wonderful Life was Stewart's first role after arriving back in Hollywood after the war.

On the Waterfront (1954) - Winner of 8 Oscars - A Brilliant Classic Movie

A film primarily about the corruption of the dockworkers union, On the Waterfront actually got results after its release as the AFL-CIO expelled the East Coast Longshoreman's union because it was still run by the mafia. Marlon Brando, who won an Oscar for his leading role as Terry Malloy, initially turned down the role because he was upset with Elia Kazan's testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee and the producers were considering Frank Sinatra for the role. However, Brando eventually relented and the rest is history.

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12 Angry Men (1957) - One of the Best Courtroom Dramas of All Time

Director Sidney Lumet had all the actors stay in a room for hours on end rehearsing their lines over and over again. He did this to give them a taste for what it would feel like to actually be in a contentious jury room during deliberations. After rehearsing in that room for over two weeks, they were able to complete the entire filming in only 21 days. An incredibly fast schedule facilitated in part by the limit of only one set.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - An Epic Film and Winner of Seven Academy Awards

The legendary Peter O'Toole was a relative unknown when he was cast as the lead, T.E. Lawrence in this film. Previously, he had supporting roles in three feature films and a couple of TV series. Originally, Marlon Brando had been signed for the role but backed out for his award winning role of Fletcher Christian in Mutiny on the Bounty. Thereafter, director David Lean decided to cast an unknown in the role and had originally decided on young Albert Finney, but Finney turned it down because of the long-term contract he would have been required to sign.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) - Another Brilliant Courtroom Drama that Won 3 Oscars

Despite his Oscar winning performance as Atticus Finch, Gregory Peck was not the choice for the role. In fact, both Rock Hudson and Jimmy Stewart passed on the role before Peck accepted. Stewart felt the role was too liberal and thought the film would be too controversial.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) - Probably the Greatest Western of All Time

Note that in this trailer, the Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) character is identified as The Ugly instead of The Bad. One would call Angel Eyes evil but few would call him ugly. He was supposed to be The Bad in the trailer but when the title is translated from Italian, the Bad and Ugly are reversed in their position. The materials sent in trailer info with which character was which but it was listed in order so the translation threw things off and you will see the wrong characters identified in this trailer.

The Godfather (1972) - The Greatest Gangster Movie of All Time

The unparalleled film in the gangster films genre, The Godfather was based on the Mario Puzo novel of the same name. The film was first offered to Sergio Leone, the legendary Spaghetti Western director. When he turned down the project, a well known screenwriter but unproven director stepped in. And thus was born the legend of Francis Ford Coppola. Leone always regretted the decision to pass on this film and in 1984 directed his own American Gangster film set in NYC, Once Upon a Time in America

Jaws (1975) - It Put Spielberg on the Map and Scared us All Out of the Water

Lee Marvin was originally considered by Steven Spielberg for the tough guy role of Quint, however Marvin thanked him but replied that he would rather go fishing. Oops!! Martha's Vineyard, MA was used as Amity Island because even 12 miles out to see from the island the bottom was only 30 feet down. This made it much easier to operate the mechanical shark.

The Deer Hunter (1978) - A Psychologically Scarring War Drama that Won 5 Oscars

One of the most emotionally demanding films to make, Robert De Niro has said that this was also his most physically exhausting film. Both Christopher Walken and De Niro are known for getting deeply immersed in their roles. To get his severe, hollow look that he is supposed to have during the Russian Roulette segment of the film, Walken ate nothing but rice and bananas for days. Director Michael Cimino convinced Walken to spit in Michael's (De Niro) face in a key scene. De Niro did not know and that is why his reaction of surprise and rage is so real!

Braveheart (1995) - An Epic Tale about Ancient Scotland that Won 5 Oscars

The screenplay was written by Randall Wallace, a direct descendent of William Wallace (Mel Gibson), the hero of the film. Randall did not know about this historical figure in his families past until he came across William's statue while visiting Edinburgh Castle. As only the second film directed by Gibson, he had not planned to star in the film too. He originally wanted Jason Patric for the role, but Paramount Studios would not agree to the film unless Gibson also starred as Wallace.

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