When it comes to the level of any film’s success, a ton of factors come into play. There’s the popularity of the lead actors, the uniqueness of the plot, the level of interest in that genre, and of course, the feedback from critics. But even if a movie is met with stellar reviews, or even if it turns out to be a groundbreaking film that’s filled with A-Listers, none of it really matters unless the marketing campaign is on point.
In the past, we’ve seen so many epic trailers grace our TV screens. In fact, some were done so well that they turned out to be even better than the movies themselves. However, we’ve also seen our fair share of corny montages and boring visuals – and surprisingly enough, the films that they were promoting far exceeded our expectations when we finally saw them. So this got us thinking: Why in the world do some of the most powerful movies wind up with such bad trailers?
We imagine that, for some, it was a challenge to pack so much information into two or three minutes worth of time. Or perhaps their attempt to withhold major plot twists caused them to create trailers that were totally misleading. But whatever the reasons might be, the sad truth is that these trailers pushed some audiences away. It truly is a shame, considering that some of the movies on this list are among the best that were ever made…
(Here’s a tip: you can click the movie title to watch the trailer itself.)
1. Jennifer’s Body
The movie is actually about a high school girl whose demonic possession turns her life upside down and totally destroys her friendship with her BFF. It did an amazing job of portraying how even the closest of friends can become enemies – but you wouldn’t know that from the trailer. Because it only highlights the fact that Jennifer is a total babe who makes out with other girls and can do fire tricks with her tongue. A typical viewer would’ve never guessed that this movie had so much more substance.
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
It’s one of the most unique, poignant, and thought-provoking romantic films that we’ve ever seen. It was critically acclaimed and even went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. But according to the trailer, it’s nothing more than your average feel-good rom-com. If this promo weren’t so predictable and misleading, the film could have done so much better at the box office.
3. Star Wars
We get the fact that this trailer came out a really long time ago, but to say that this pales in comparison to the actual film is a drastic understatement. Maybe a trailer like this would’ve gotten us excited in the ’70s because of the futuristic vibe. But it was just so poorly cut to the point where it felt kind of awkward to watch. Thankfully, this didn’t prevent the movie from doing extremely well.
4. Batman Begins
Seriously though, what were they thinking with this ad? Nickelback playing in the background? Cheesy romantic scenes? Katie Holmes‘s character getting all the spotlight rather than Batman himself? Literally everything is wrong with this trailer and it actually makes us cringe. Thank goodness it’s not the only one that got released…
5. Bridge to Terabithia
This trailer does look pretty enticing. It shows two young kids entering into a magical world and embarking on adventures with mythical creatures… Except that’s not what it’s really about. It’s actually a moving story about two kids who create their own fantasy world. Even the film’s screenwriter, David L. Paterson (who’s also the son of the author who wrote the book), agreed that the trailer practically sold everyone a lie.
He said: “We don’t really think that it’s an appropriate way of selling the movie, but they’re convinced that that’s the way to get kids interested, and hopefully they will be positively surprised. If they are anticipating a Harry Potter movie, then we are in trouble. It is not a Harry Potter kind of a movie.”
6. Cabin in the Woods
The first few moments of this trailer had us chuckling from time to time, and it gave us all the impression that it was this feel-good, family-friendly comedy. But then, out of nowhere, it turned into what looked like a typical horror flick. We do appreciate the fact that they didn’t spoil the film by revealing its biggest twists, but the trailer was filled with enough clichés (from the abandoned cabin in the middle of nowhere to the small group of people failing to stick together) to turn a lot of viewers off. The film itself turned out to be extremely creative and totally bizarre – but in a good way.
7. The Abyss
If we saw this on our TV screens today, about 90 percent of us would either switch the channel within seconds or just get away from the television. We’re made to feel as if we’re traveling underwater (or, most likely, at an aquarium) while the most boring voiceover plays in the background. It feels more like a pale documentary, rather than the action-packed sci-fi adventure that it is.
Omg. This trailer just reeks of corny. It’s essentially a montage of cheesy romantic moments with a few battle scenes mixed in. Add an even cheesier instrumental with a voiceover and voilà — there’s your trailer.
It was so disappointing because the film itself is quite powerful and so far from corny (okay fine, some parts definitely are). Even though it was meant to be a biographical tale about the Scottish knight, William Wallace, it turned out to be a moving story about love, freedom, and bravery. It went on to earn over five Academy Awards, no thanks to the trailer.
9. Strange Days
This is just a giant, confusing mess. While the tone of the promo did peak our interest, we couldn’t even figure out what this film was really about. It felt like someone just threw together random action scenes and images in an attempt to get the viewers excited. But if you’ve ever seen the film in its entirety, you probably understand why it was a challenge to fit all the details of such a complex sci-fi thriller into a three-minute promo.
10. The Other Guys
All buddy-cop comedies are well-known for their common tropes, like having two partners who initially don’t get along, or having the pissed-off chief who’s always disappointed in his team. This trailer made it look that this film would be no different, with random stunts and chuckle-worthy one-liners. But while we did see a lot of clichés, it was still one of the best police films we’ve seen to date. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell had amazing chemistry, there were tons of laugh-out-loud moments, and those over-the-top silly scenes truly made it stand out from the rest.
11. John Carter
So apparently, the film’s director (Andrew Stanton) is to blame for the awful first trailer. He demanded to take over the film’s marketing and do things his way, despite the fact that Disney marketing executives begged him to do something else. As a result, all of us were introduced to the film with the blandest trailer that left us scratching our heads – and the following ones weren’t so great either.
A former studio marketing chief once told Vulture: “This is one of the worst marketing campaigns in the history of movies. It’s almost as if they went out of their way to not make us care.”
12. Minority Report
Minority Report is such a well-developed and thought-provoking sci-fi film. While the promo tried its best to attract audiences with the action scenes, they only came off as weird and confusing. Even worse, it failed to mention the main theme of the film, which deals with whether free will can exist in a society where the future is already determined.
But to be fair, the film is a bit dense and over two hours long, so we understand that coming up with a trailer that makes sense was easier said than done. On the bright side, it didn’t stop people from going to see it, because it did extremely well in the box office.
13. Cast Away
Anyone who has seen this trailer probably feels like they’ve already seen the movie. Why? Well, because it felt less like a trailer and more like a detailed summary of the plot. We learn that the main character survives a plane crash, gets stuck on an island all by himself for four years, and safely makes it back home to the love of his life. Oh, and to top it all off, we also get to see how he managed to survive on that island. We’re not sure why the marketing team thought that this would be a good way to go. There is literally nothing to look forward to when you give everything away.
Gattaca a pretty amazing film about a futuristic society where genetic manipulation is common. We get to see how this affects the main character, who actually got conceived outside of eugenics and, in turn, had to deal with genetic discrimination. It’s kind of tough to not get excited about that plot, but somehow, the trailer achieved just that. The first few seconds felt more like an intro to a documentary that you’d watch in science class, while the remainder of it just felt like a complicated mess. The dull voiceover didn’t really help matters either.
Honestly though, whose idea was it to sideline the main character that the film was named after?? Rather than focusing on Hellboy in the trailer, we follow the protagonist and FBI Agent, John Myers. With brief imagery of paranormal agents (and Hellboy) helping to fight crime in the background, it certainly does look like Men in Black rip-off. But if they focused on Hellboy’s character, this wouldn’t have been an issue – and more people would’ve felt inclined to go see it.
16. The Matrix
We’ll give this trailer its props for at least trying to be accurate. But we can’t be the only ones who were a little confused by it. The stunts and actions scenes looked flashy and impressive, but it felt like those clips were randomly put together without really giving much background – aside from the fact that there’s some other secret world out there. We get that you can only do so much in a short trailer, but we feel like a bit more could have been done to make it appear less like another run-of-the-mill action pic.
17. Don Jon
When we saw this trailer (aka Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s directional debut) for the first time, it definitely peaked our interest. However, we were definitely under the impression that this would be nothing more than a typical, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy (nothing that unique about a tough guy who falls hard for a girl). And boy, were we wrong.
The movie was also a smart, relatable, and really touching drama about how porn addiction can consume a person and make their romantic relationships to go downhill. Based on this light-hearted trailer, we’d have never guessed that the film was would turn out to be this deep. We also probably wouldn’t have decided to watch it with our parents.