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In a World
"In a World..."
Don LaFontaine on everything.

In a world where movie trailers and common phrases collide... one article describes the practice.

There are certain conventions when creating movie trailers; these differ depending on whether the trailer is for comedy or for drama. Usually, you can tell which kind you're going to get depending on the first few voice-over lines of the trailer; if it starts with "In a World" or no voiceover whatsoever, you can expect drama, especially Speculative Fiction. However, if it begins with cheery music, it's going to be a comedy, even if the soundtrack turns sour as the narrator discusses the plot's primary conflict. In both cases, the voiceover is Always Male.

These archetypes are increasingly becoming subverted and may even be leaning toward being discredited. Increasingly, movie trailers feature no narration at all.

The trailer for Comedian does a good job of showing how certain styles of trailer-talk do not mix. See They Fight Crime for this kind of plot-pitching used for Television.

Named for a line commonly attributed to "That Guy from the Movies", the late Don LaFontaine, who very likely single-handedly brought this trope into being.


Common Dramatic Elements, in order:
  • A (green) MPAA Rating Card reads "The following PREVIEW has been approved for / ALL AUDIENCES / by the Motion Picture Association of America" and then "The film advertised has been rated PG-13..."
  • "In a World [Where]"
    • And its related forms, "In a Land", "In a Time", etc.
    • Often (immediately) followed with "...where X and Y collide"
    • This page lists several examples real-life "in a world" trailers, most of which are non-parodies and most of which are by Don Lafontaine, though few actually begin with the phrase in question. This is just to officially prove, if such proof be needed, that the "in a world" trope is not a Dead Unicorn Trope.
  • "When your life is no longer your own"
  • "One man/woman/boy/girl [must]"
  • "Will change the world"
  • "Will embark on a journey"
  • "Things are about to get..."
    • Or: "...until NOW".
  • "A hero will rise"
  • Darker lighting, tends to feature very few speaking portions of the film
  • Taglines said/shown one word at a time, interspersed with kickass clips.
  • Monologue from the lead character will summarize their struggles.
    • It's been 42 Days since...
    • I keep on running...
    • But I can't...
  • "One Woman's Journey"
  • An increasingly frantic soundtrack for action/adventure movies, abruptly silencing for a character to make an ironic remark, then finishing with one last BUM-BUM-BUM BUMM!!!
  • A fairly recent addition has been the use of whooshes (as in sound effects) and plenty of them, usually punctuating cuts from scene to scene or scenery pans. Expect on occasion a boom hit to mix things up.
  • Chanting or cheering (often gradually increasing in volume as a fade-in happens). Especially common for sports movies.
  • Montage increases in speed as the trailer progresses, until what you get is a succession of one-second shots, often followed by a Fade to Black, and then the movie title.
  • Whatever the movie's actual soundtrack is, the trailer's own soundtrack will be Carmina Burana, Lux Aeterna or scratchy, tension-filled electronic music.
    • Unless it's a sequel, in which case it will usually use the first film's soundtrack.
    • Or a guitar-heavy rock song that doesn't appear on the soundtrack playing over action-packed, fast-cut footage from the movie. This is usually done in TV commercials for the movie instead of the full trailer.
    • A popular choice in films made since 2004 has been the track "Hello Zepp" from the Saw soundtrack. You'll know it when you hear it.
      • In the six Saw sequels since then, perchance?
  • Paramount/Columbia/Whatever Pictures [proudly] presents...
  • When is the film coming? It's usually Coming soon...
    • Or it is Now in theaters [everywhere].
    • Or possibly This summer...
    • Some dramatic display of the date, especially when the date is something like 6/6/2006.
  • Often finished with one final tagline and possibly a split-second shot of the monster/hero.
  • "....and this time, it's war/serious/personal...."

Common Comedic Elements:

Common for both:
  • "(Coming) this year/summer/fall/winter/soon (to a (movie) theatre near you)"
    • This has since been condensed to simply 'This summer/fall/July/whathaveyou'; in particularly poisonous cases, this is followed several cuts later by an exhortation for the audience to PUNCH CRIME or otherwise do something that the characters in the film will be doing (rather than, more sincerely, exhorting them to purchase a ticket and see their film) They may also be asked to go on an adventure "beyond imagination", or beyond something similar. This was perhaps a fair cop in Zardoz's advertising campaign (well, it was in keeping with the lunatic bombast of the film, at least), but when attributed to the Mummy films, it just looks desperate.
  • The trailer often ends in a shot of the movie's title; it may or may not be spoken by the narrator.
  • If the title shot isn't the end, there'll be The Stinger with a particularly cool or funny moment from the movie.
  • For suspense pictures, the title shot may be accompanied by a particularly chilling line from the film.
  • The suggestion that "If you only see one movie this summer/fall/winter/spring, make it..." A Dead Horse Trope now seen only in subversion.
  • "All [character, often a child] ever wanted was..."
  • "From the creators/producers/director of (movie title) comes a story..."
  • Starring [Academy Award winner/nominee] X, [Academy Award winner/nominee] Y, [Academy Award winner/nominee] Z...
  • A display of Sundance Film Festival Awards, for that indie look.
  • Someone from Rolling Stone/Time/Whatever magazine says it's "Stunning/Awesome / The best film of the year".
  • "If you liked (title), you'll love (other title)."
  • Sometimes seen in remakes, or sequels of really old moves (Often promising the Duke Nukem effect), Several dark, quiet, or shaky camera shots, followed by a very quick glimpse of something recognizable from the previous film.
    • The best example would be the Star Trek movie (2009) teaser, where you couldn't see much, until the last shot showed that it was the Enterprise.

Subversions, Parodies, and Lampshade Hanging:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Played mostly straight in the English dub of Burst Angel, where a movie trailer seen by some characters gets an "In a world of violence, one man got a second chance..." narration.
  • Played straight by John Avner's narration of Berserk, where every episode begins with Void's "In this world...".

    Comic Books 

    Film 
  • A 2013 comedy starring Lake Bell, about a young lady seeking to follow her father's footsteps into the trailer voiceover business, is titled, naturally, In a World....
  • Most Real Trailer, Fake Movie examples
  • The Mother of All Trailers.
    • ...and Edward Norton.
      • Until now.
  • The aforementioned trailer for Comedian, which actually features Hal Douglas, the other movie trailer guy.
  • 5 Men and a Limo.
  • The trailer for the film of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was narrated by the Guide, as an entry in the Guide on movie trailers, spoken by Stephen Fry. It consisted of one continuous Lampshade Hanging and parody of science fiction action movie tropes. It can be found here.
    • Often, this section is preceded by the words "In a world" ...[Earth explodes] but sometimes not.
      • Trailers also normally employ A DEEP VOICE that sounds like a seven foot tall man who has been smoking cigarettes since childhood.
    • The goal is create a piece of advertising that is original and exciting, yet intelligent and provocative. In other words, lots of things blowing up. *cue explosion montage* Occasionally interrupted by a girl in a bikini.
  • Subtly invoked by the Australian trailer for The Proposition, which starts with a stark shot of the outback and Ray Winstone saying "Australia. What fresh hell is this?"
  • The "trailer" at the end of Kung Pow!: Enter the Fist was just scenes cut from the film along with this kind of narration.
  • The trailer for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which came out the same summer as Star Wars Episode I, after doing a fake out bit about Star Wars, had the narrator say, "If you only see one movie this year... make it Star Wars. But, if you see two movies this year..."
  • In The Holiday, Cameron Diaz's character Amanda works in Hollywood editing movie trailers, and even when she gets away on vacation a voice in her head (Hal Douglas!) sometimes reflexively narrates her emotional ups and downs using trailer-voiceover-speak, laden with this trope. The whole movie has numerous affectionate shout-outs to the film industry.
  • Done straight and with a twist in the trailer for Heavenly Creatures: "In a world where dreamers and believers are miraculously transformed..." "But ours is not a world that believes in magic..."
  • Like virtually every other Hollywood cliche, Team America: World Police (specifically, its trailer) satirizes this mercilessly.
  • The trailer for Borat was narrated by the main character himself. ("See my moviefilm. If it is no success, I will be execute!")
  • The trailer for Knights Of Badassdom:
    In a world within our world they've created a world unlike any other world!
  • The trailer for Angels And Insects:
    In a world of wealth and privilege, he was an outsider ...

    Literature 
  • In Moving Pictures, the standard phrase is "Against The Backdrop Of A World Gone Mad!" At one point Soll is attempting to negotiate with a group of dwarfs who object to being stereotyped as miners ("But most dwarfs are miners!" "Yes, but we're not happy about it."), a troll who wants to play the leading man, and various other people nitpicking the plot, when someone asks him why all Mr Dibbler's pictures are set against the backdrop of a world gone mad. His response is "Because Mr Dibbler is a very observant person."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Parodied on The Colbert Report in the intro to a segment on movies. "In a world... [Record Needle Scratch] until he met her!"
  • On the pilot for Frank Caliendo's short-lived show, Frank TV, there is a segment parodying the Three Tenors where three movie announcers go on tour. It guest stars Pablo Francisco and Don La Fontaine, and begins, "In a world..."
  • The opening narration for Xena: Warrior Princess.
  • Played with in a commercial for Hogan's Heroes which was written by Stan Freberg. During a TV commercial where Freberg interviews star Bob Crane:
    Freberg: Shall we say, "If you liked World War II, you'll love Hogan's Heroes?"
    Crane: No, let's not say that, no.
  • When Chuck kinda almost proposed to Sarah.
    Morgan: "In a world full of awkward Chuck and Sarah moments, comes a moment so awkward..."
  • Lampshaded in Dollhouse.
    Topher: "In a world where all men are guilty until proven dead, one man stands as our only hope in the fight against..."
  • In How I Met Your Mother when Lily was forced to paint Barney nude. He imagined it would begin with "In a world that needed a hero..."
  • Parodied in Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide.
  • "In a land of myth, and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name... Merlin." ("Young man" as of Season 4.)

    Radio 

    Stand Up Comedy 

    Table Top Games 

    Theatre 

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner spoofed this repeatedly in the Strong Bad Email narrator, where Strong Bad went around narrating the everyday lives of his friends and neighbors as if they were movie trailers: an argument between Bubs and Coach Z over napkins becomes a trailer for a post-apocalyptic action film, a tiff between Marzipan and Homestar over a goofy novelty chef's hat becomes a trailer for a romantic dramedy, the Poopsmith shoveling... whatsit becomes a trailer for a snooty French art film, and Strong Mad and The Cheat playing Battleship becomes a trailer for a buddy comedy. Butt Monkey Strong Sad is "fortunate" enough to get two trailers: one for a comedy where he gets hit in the face with an octopus, and one for a horror movie where he gets hit in the face with a dead Canada goose.
  • Here Comes Dr. Tran revolves around a five year-old boy getting harassed by a movie trailer narrator.
    Narrator: He...is a man of action... He...is a man of honor...
    Tran: Who is that?
    Narrator: He...is a man of duty...
    Tran: Are you talking to me?

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • South Park episode, "The Biggest Douche in the Universe": While the boys are on a flight to Chef's parents' house to release Kenny's soul from Cartman's body, they are subjected to a handful of trailers for Rob Schneider movies, most modeled after roles he played in The Animal and The Hot Chick, and given similarly ridiculous titles such as ''Rob Schneider is...A STAPLER!" and "A CARROT!" One particularly ridiculous trailer starts out like this:
    "Rob Schneider derp de derp. Derp de derpity derp a-derp, until one day...a-derp a-derp a-derpa-derp."
    • The later episode "Stanley's Cup" takes it even further. Stan is forced to coach a Peewee hockey team to pay off a ticket, living out many Sports Movie tropes in the process. Meanwhile, the court clerk is following him around with a record player, narrating everything he does in the In a World voice.
  • In a tragically hard-to-find-online clip, the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode "One False Movie" climaxes with the Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot opening of Bloo and Mac's Colon Cancer-patient film, which appears to be a trailer for itself. "In a world where chaos reigns like cats and dogs in a hailstorm of... passion, a retired cop must settle one last score. [Against ninja.]"
  • A trailer for Brother Bear starring a moose where the moose and his friend narrated the trailer. It begin with, "If you only see one movie this year-" "Wait, hold on, if they only see one movie, wouldn't it be the movie they're watching right now?" And then a plea to stop watching the current movie and then watch their movie... or just watch two movies this year.
  • Phineas and Ferb: "The Chronicles of Meap" did this little send-up trailer as a tribute to the late Don LaFontaine: "One Man, In A Land, In A Time, In A World... All His Own."
    • Then subverted by LaFontaine himself: "In a world...there, I said it. Happy?"
  • Played straight (well, sort of) on Fillmore! when they have the man himself do the opening voice-over for every episode and every "chapter."
  • In the DVD Commentary for Hoodwinked, the creators mention how trailers always seem to start with the phrase "IN A WORLD..." They go on to joke that all they know about the planned sequel to their movie is that it will take place "IN A WORLD."
  • Parodied in Johnny Test. Susan and Mary build a machine that allows people to warp reality by beginning a sentence with "In a World..." and speaking into it. Things get way out of hand.
  • Home Movies incorporated this in Brendon's first movie ever shown on the show, Dark Side of the Law: "In a world gone mad, there stands one cop fighting against evil and injustice!".
  • The commercial for Cartoon Network's The Amazing World of Gumball seen here has one of its characters doing this over the trailer.
    Darwin: In a world in chaos...where love has no place...two heroes fight for the power of friendship.
    Gumball: Dude, what's with the voice?
    Darwin: It's my movie voice.
  • Metalocalypse's Blood Ocean starts with this very line. It has something to do with Space Vikings.
    • I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!
  • In the Rated "A" for Awesome episode "Voice of Lars" Lars gains a deep movie trailer voice and finds he can control people with it. He words all his commands this way.
  • American Dad!: Spoofed by a drunk Roger, complete with a mock dramatic voice.
    Roger: In a world where vomit comes out of my mouth...(throws up)
  • Sonic Boom manages to spoof this as well in the second TV trailer.
    Narrator: In a world where speed is survival... and evil never surrenders... ...only one man... *record needle scratch*
    Sonic (to Tails in actual clip): "Yeah, um... about that..."

    Real Life 
  • Frequently parodied by British film critic Mark Kermode, eg "in a world of queens, she was her majesty..."
    • And now for the trailer for Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins:
      "In a world in which narrative coherence is under threat, it takes a real hero not to lose the plot, and in a world in which holding onto a penguin can mean holding onto the woman you love, one boy better make sure he doesn't lose the plot."
  • The 76th Academy Awards present The Return Of The Host.
  • On the Cineworld hompage is the byline Welcome to a world without booking fees.


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alternative title(s): Trailer Conventions
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