When “Watch the Throne” came out in 2011 it was such a music and cultural phenomenon because it took two of the best rappers out and let them create music without holding back any indulgence. Jay-Z and Kanye West together is fantastic, but on their own they have each proven to be at the top of their genre. So when a movie trailer uses one (or both) or their songs it’s usually a positive for me. Now this doesn’t just guarantee a successful trailer. One of my inspirations for making this list is The Great Gatsby‘s trailer questionable inclusion of “No Church in the Wild” in their trailer. As soon as it started in the trailer I sort of cocked my head and thought “why is this here?”. Just because the trailer features such a great song doesn’t mean it’s going to make sense. The entries on this list, however, I think nailed it.

“Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” from American Gangster

This song just hits the right note of ruthlessness that the trailer promises for the movie. You just know Denzel is going to handle shit without an ounce of compassion. The movie also has a suitable soulful vibe thanks to it’s sampling of Bobby Bland’s 1974 R&B hit. It goes well with the period of the movie but the rap compliments the gangster side of things. It also has the added pleasure of corresponding with Jay-Z’s album American Gangster with music all inspired by the film.

“Oh My God” from Gangster Squad

This one really is all about the editing. Every moment of badassery is punctuated with the beat of the song pulsing in. Gun shots, car stunts, punches, explosions, and of course the cross cutting to cast names all blend seamlessly paired with Jay-Z’s song. It bothers me to no end when songs have a defined rhythm but the trailers don’t abide to it while editing. It really should be trailer 101 at this point. And this is a perfect example of this. It doesn’t hurt that the “they gunning for me/wanna see me fall” comes through to compliment the content.

“No Church in the Wild” from Safe House

Here we get the best of both of them. While The Great Gatsby had a lukewarm use of this Watch the Throne gem, Safe House completely rocked it. The first half makes the movie seem like a fairly run of the mill action movie with Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington. Looks to be business as usual. Right at the half point of the trailer “No Church” kicks in and the results are brilliant. It made me actually change my mind about wanting to see the movie. I went from being pretty neutral about it, to bouncing my head to the catchy beat and feeling pumped to check the movie out.

“Jesus Walks” from Jarhead

What a great song to go with a movie about soldiers in war time. “Welcome to the suck” is right when you’re about to live in the desert for months, not ever sure if you’ll actually get back home. Once again the beat of the song drives the second half of the trailer after setting up a bit of the soldier life, but bringing the reality of war back into the picture. “Jesus Walks” is one of Kanye’s more haunting songs, and this war imagery becomes even more grim and effective thanks to it.

“Power” from The Social Network

This is easily the cream of the crop. Not only does the song match thematically (maybe a little on the nose, but who cares) but it’s just a really striking song to pair with the film. You’ve got to love the story of the nerdy but eager Mark Zuckerberg paired with a song by someone who fancies himself one of the coolest men in show business. It’s almost too perfect. It also followed in the second trailer behind the chorus version of “Creep”, switching the vibe from something pretty serious and tragic sounding to one that’s a little more fun and exciting. Combine the two and that’s what you got from The Social Network. That’s how you do trailers.


Do you agree with my picks? Or are you just so tired of “Power” being overused that you could use a break from all the Kanye & Jay trailers?