Movie trailers are designed to briefly sum up a movie’s plot, vibe and key scenes to cinema patrons so audiences will consider going to see the movie when it is released. While most trailers are fairly accurate representations of the movie they are trying to sell, there are definitely some trailers that completely misrepresent the movie.
Some reasons why this happens is perhaps the studio’s marketing department had no idea how to market the movie is not something mainstream audiences would generally go to see, or the movie is much more slow paced than the trailer makes it seem to be, so the trailer was edited to make it look more appealing. In other words, they flat out lied to the public with false and misleading advertising.
So when people walk into a movie theatre to see a movie with certain expectations of it because of the trailer, patrons will leave scratching their heads at the completely different experience they had. So while the following movies are not necessary bad movies (some of them are great!), the trailer that lured people in is almost nothing like the actual film itself.
1. The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)
The trailer for Luc Besson’s sci-fi flick The Fifth Element successfully conveys the sense of action and adventure throughout Earth and the fate of the universe, and the flashy looks and colours of the future.
However, the trailer gets the tone of the film completely wrong. Although the film does have a lot of serious scenes, the film has so many comedic, campy and sometimes just downright silly scenes as well that make The Fifth Element so fun to watch.
The trailer completely omits the film’s comedy, and perhaps tactfully, did not give audiences the chance to see too much of the flashy costumes some of the actors were wearing, particularly what Gary Oldman and Chris Tucker were wearing.
2. Observe And Report (Jody Hill, 2009)
Observe And Report came out the same year as Paul Blart: Mall Cop, another comedy about a shopping mall security guard. This made audiences somewhat dismissive of this film, and that’s partially because of the misleading trailer. The trailer makes the film look like a typical Seth Rogan comedy where he plays a mall security guard who takes his job way too seriously, mainly in order to impress a girl who works at the mall. Sounds like a pretty straightforward movie, doesn’t it?
What the trailer omits is the fact Rogan’s character has bi-polar disorder and his perception of reality and his ego get out of hand, and that he is as much of a danger to others as the flasher terrorising the mall is.
Many critics have compared Rogan’s character to Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver, in that he’s obsessive, delusional and crazy, a far cry from Rogan’s typical stoner characters. Audiences were not expecting Observe And Report to be so dark in its humour because of its more light-hearted trailer.
3. The Cable Guy (Ben Stiller, 1996)
Jim Carrey’s career boomed in the mid-1990s thanks to roles in zany comedies like Dumb & Dumber, The Mask, and the two Ace Ventura movies. The studio behind The Cable Guy would have thought to promote the film to appear to be like Carrey’s aforementioned hits. Both the funny clips and the music used in the trailer makes the film look more like the typical light hearted type of movie Jim Carrey was known for at the time.
The actual film has a much darker tone, and Carrey’s character, rather than being a charming kook, is a creepy stalker. A hint of this sinister type of character was displayed when Carrey played The Riddler in Batman Forever the previous year, who was obsessed with Bruce Wayne, but that movie was an over the top superhero movie, so that overshadowed how creepy The Riddler actually was.
While The Cable Guy certainly is a comedy, and a very funny one at that, people who saw the trailer first were not expecting Carrey to make them feel uncomfortable from anything other than making them laugh too hard.
4. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol, 1997)
Science fiction thrillers set in a dystopian future have always been a popular genre, but Gattaca has the distinction of being dystopian for being about a utopian society based on genetic perfection rather than an unlawful society.
The trailer makes the film look more like a fast paced thriller about a man pretending to be someone else to get a highly sought-after job, whereas the actual film is quite slow and is more of a study of a society obsessed with genetic perfection.
The trailer focuses more on the protagonist’s deception rather than the character study the film actually is about the discrimination he’s faced in his life due to being naturally conceived rather than genetically engineered.
There is no mention of the murder mystery in the film that could threaten to reveal the protagonist’s true identity, which is odd as it would have added even more tension to the trailer.
5. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most popular American filmmakers in the world, and he is known for making violent but fun action films. The trailer for his western The Hateful Eight appears to be along the lines of Tarantino’s usual fare. The trailer emphasises on humour a lot, and makes the film look more like an action romp than it actually is.
Audiences who expected to go to the cinema for a rollicking good time to be entertained by over the top violence and performances were in for something much more sinister. The film is very dark and graphically violent, and it is a study of paranoia and the horrible things people are capable of when their lives are threatened.
6. Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
The trailer for acclaimed director David O. Russell’s film Three Kings is designed to look like an action/comedy film with light hearted rock songs blasting, footage of soldiers cheering and movie stars making jokes. George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg’s typical charismatic performances are on display in the trailer, making it appear that they will make audiences laugh one minute and be tough guys the next.
While Three Kings is very humourous at times, it is a mostly violent and depressing look at the affect both the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein had on Iraq. In fact, the violence is quite downplayed in the trailer, especially as it does not show the affects a bullet has on someone’s body once they have been shot.
7. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
This film was always going to be hard to sell, as it’s a mix of romantic drama and science fiction, and predominantly set inside a man’s mind. What makes Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind work is mixing the good times of a relationship and the melancholy of a breakup well, something everyone who has been in a relationship can relate to.
So what did the marketing team do to promote it? The trailer they made makes the film look like a quirky romantic comedy, especially with the music the trailer used. The film itself is actually a very depressing study of love and heartbreak, which is nothing like the trailer.
8. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
Eyes Wide Shut was promoted to look like a sexy film along the lines of Basic Instinct, where the audience could get a thrill out of seeing good looking actors act out graphic sex scenes. The Chris Isaak song ‘Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing’ in the trailer suggests that the film is an erotic drama where Tom Cruise seduces various women.
It is not until the end of the trailer that the audience are given only a hint of the dark nature of the film, as well as the fact it was directed by Stanley Kubrick. It is a dark and surreal examination of people’s sexual desires and how they can be perverted and the consequences of acting upon them. Besides the sex, the film explores the hardships of maintaining a marriage and staying faithful to your spouse.
It’s actually quite insulting to cheapen the work of someone like Kubrick to looking like a cheap sex flick. In fact, the sex scenes are not erotic at all, they were filmed in a very cold, emotionless manner. People who saw the trailer may have walked into the theatre expecting a fun and sexy movie; what they got was a cold and disturbing look at the harsher realities of love.
9. Bicentennial Man (Chris Columbus, 1999)
There have been many science fiction movies made about robots learning what it is to be human, and the trailer for Bicentennial Man made it appear that the film would be a comedic spin on this story. Robin Williams had starred in a lot of movies where his character was in an unique situation that he grew from, such as Hook and Jack, so this seemed like a typical Robin Williams movie in that sense.
The film looks like a family comedy that even banks on Robin Williams’ previous family comedy Mrs. Doubtfire, which was also directed by Chris Columbus. It even has cheesy upbeat music in the background.
However, the actual film is a thought provoking science fiction drama about a robot gaining sentience who outlives the family that purchased him. The trailer used the few humourous scenes in the film to mislead people into thinking the whole movie was a comedy. People would have expected a delightful romp about a family and the shenanigans their robot gets up to; they instead were treated to a serious film discussing what it means to be human.
10. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2013)
From Porky’s in the 1980s to Project X in the 2010s, teen party movies have always been a popular genre. The trailer makes Spring Breakers look like a party movie aimed at young people, but with a crime element. There are good looking women in bikinis, rappers and parties involved.
The footage shown in the trailer, as well as the music used in the background, makes the film look like a fun film that the studio would hope teenagers will flock to. The trailer is also topped off with the girls singing the Britney Spears song ‘Baby One More Time’, suggesting that the film will appeal to female audiences too with the girls singing a “girl anthem”.
The actual film goes at the speed of a snail’s pace, excellently conveying the bored vibe the girls feel when they are stuck at college because they cannot afford to go to Spring Break. While the pace picks up during the Spring Break scenes, it slows down once again to convey the sense of dread the girls feel once they get in too deep with the local criminals.
Some critics have taken the film to be a critique of both superficiality and over-stylised media, which is the type of film Spring Breakers appears to be in the trailer. So when the film’s audience who went to see a party and crime film, they had no idea how thought provoking it would be.
11. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)
The Wrestler was a very hyped film upon its release in 2008, mainly because of the incredible performance by its lead actor Mickey Rourke. The film was set to make Rourke an A-list movie star again like he was in the 1980s, and what a parallel the film’s plot was with Rourke’s own career.
The trailer capitalises on this by making the film appear to be about a washed up wrestler trying to get his life back together, and the Bruce Springsteen song in the background makes it seem that way.
Both the footage used and the media quotes used to emphasise Mickey’s Rourke triumphant performance that will get him back into the spotlight, make it appear that Rourke’s character Randy “The Ram” Robinson is indeed going onto better things in his life.
However, the actual film has a much more depressing tone. Unlike the trailer suggesting that the protagonist will get his life back together, the actual film is about past regrets and how they still affect peoples’ lives years later.
The protagonist is still living in the past by always talking about his past glories as a big time wrestler in the 1980s and is deluded into thinking he can come back on top when deep down he knows his glory days are behind him and that he will die from a heart attack if he wrestles again. There is very little hope for these characters, despite what the trailer suggests.
12. Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith, 1997)
As director Kevin Smith was building his following at the time Chasing Amy was made, the film could not be marketed as the type of raunchy comedy Smith is known for. So the trailer portrays the film as a fairly standard story of a boy trying to win over his dream girl, albeit with a lesbian spin on the story.
While the film itself is very funny and is indeed a romantic comedy, the film is also an exploration on sexuality and sexual hang ups and self-doubting. The trailer only vaguely points out that Alyssa is a lesbian.
Although this is stated in the trailer, it is very downplayed, especially in regards to the graphic sexual humour throughout the film. The trailer makes the movie look like a very tame and inoffensive romantic comedy, but the sex talks the characters have are very explicit (and hilarious).
The fact the trailer omits that the love interest’s name is Alyssa probably made many people incorrectly assume that she was the Amy the title refers to. The trailer also barely has any references to comic books, which play a big part in the film’s plot.
13. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
As Paul Thomas Anderson’s career has developed, his films seem to become slower and denser. Anderson’s earliest big hit was Boogie Nights, a fast paced and accessible, but deep and dark film that won Anderson many fans among moviegoers.
With talk about a Jewish man wanting to be a Nazi, Joaquin Phoenix’s character freaking out over a photo of someone, and Josh Brolin speaking bad Japanese, the trailer for Inherent Vice suggests there is a lot of quirky comedy in the film. Phoenix’s character looks like a free spirit who going on one big ride, and the trailer’s funky 1970s music suggests that Inherent Vice will be a rollicking good time akin to Boogie Nights, but with a detective mystery angle.
Despite the trailer promising a fun film, Inherent Vice is closer in tone with his previous movie The Master, in that it has as dense plot where the audience needs to concentrate to understand what is going on. Both the humour and tone of the movie is quite dry and bleak.
14. Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011)
The trailer for Drive makes it look like a fast paced heist movie with a car focus, like The Fast & The Furious films. The trailer was clearly marketed to car enthusiasts and those who enjoy movies with car chases and stunts. The protagonist played by Ryan Gosling is a movie stunt driver, a mechanic, and a getaway driver; these factors were used in the trailer to make it appear that Gosling was a cool and calculated man of action.
In reality, Drive is actually a slow paced character study. Gosling’s character looks like a confident criminal in the trailer, but in the film he is a very quiet man with bad social skills. The trailer really misrepresents the type of performance Gosling gives in the film, making him look like a typical movie action hero, which is a shame, because it is a great performance.
Only a hint of the film’s artfulness is conveyed towards the end of the trailer when orchestral music is being played to slow motion footage of violence. But that still would not prepared audiences for what the actual movie was like.
15. Bug (William Friedkin, 2006)
The trailer makes Bug appear to be a horror movie where literal bugs are trying to kill the main characters. That sounds fine, if not a little B-grade, but there are few, if any, actual bugs in the movie at all! The protagonists are slowly going insane as they believe bugs are trying to kill them; it is their own paranoia working against them.
This is definitely the most misleading trailer on this list. People who saw the trailer would have gone to the cinema expecting to see a gross horror movie about insects that kill people. This lie was further conveyed by the voiceover as the trailer points out that the director of The Exorcist, often considered the scariest film ever made, was behind Bug.
What audiences got was a psychological thriller about two lovers losing their minds together. Imagine how disappointed horror fans would have been with realising they had been flat out lied to. While Bug itself is not a bad movie, the trailer is truly atrocious and completely misrepresents what the movie is about.
Originally published here at tasteofcinema.com on Saturday 17 September 2016