Posted by: Alan | October 5, 2009

The 10 Most Misleading Movie Trailers

Movie Trailers are something I’ve had to learn to take with a grain of salt over the years. In learning that the director’s don’t generally make the trailers, I’ve learned they don’t always portray the movie in the way it’s supposed to be taken. And the fact that much of trailer’s footage is taken from deleted scenes makes me lenient to expect everything from a trailer to appear in the film itself. But there have been a slew of trailers that are just incredibly misleading, to the point where they make you think you’re seeing a completely different movie than you signed up for. In fact, a popular thing to do on youtube is to create ‘recut’ trailers for classic films making them seem like something else entirely, such as The Shining made to look like a comedy or Mary Poppins made to look like a horror film.

Here I’ve made a small selection of the ones I can remember being the worst offenders, whether they are misleading on purpose or just shitty marketing strategies.


10. The Road (2009)

This is a preemptive strike, as this film isn’t actually out yet. But as a fan of the book, I can tell you that this trailer is incredibly misleading (unless they stray from the book A LOT). The trailer makes this story out to be an action film rather than the slow, relationship driven story of a father and son in a post-apocalyptic world. It also has several shots of news reports, and the wife/mother of the story who, in the book, died long before the story takes place (I’ve heard those scenes are ‘flashback’ scenes but the trailer makes it seem like they are happening simultaneously with the father/son stuff). In addition there is a focus on explosions, gunfights and a Wilhelm scream so I wouldn’t be surprised if people go to see this movie in droves expecting another shoot em up and end up hating it. Which sucks because I think it will be a wonderful film.

Watch the Trailer:


9. Black Christmas (2006)

This is a more notorious example of a misleading trailer, something actually pretty common with trailers in general. It seems that the majority of what is shown in the trailer is actually not in the film at all. This happens all the time, in comedies especially, and usually it’s because the trailers are cut before the final version of the film is done (so footage for the trailer could still be cut before the release date). This trailer however is almost ENTIRELY absent from the film itself. So while the tone of the trailer is right, the footage is not, and it left a lot of people disappointed that some of the ‘cool’ shots were not in the movie.

Watch the Trailer:


8. Primeval (2007)

The trailer is pretty terrifying. It talks about one of the world’s most prolific serial killers, who has claimed over 300 victims, and is still at large. It was also ‘inspired by a true story’ which, while usually bullshit or stretching the truth A LOT, is kind of cool. Then of course it says that the killer is ‘not human.’ Woah. Shit. This sounds creepy. Some supernatural killer who still exists and has killed 300 people? Why isn’t this something I’ve heard of before?

Oh yeah, cause it’s a crocodile.

Yep, the ‘non-human serial killer’ is actually a regular old crocodile. Not as scary anymore huh? I guess that’s probably why they left that little tidbit out of the trailer. People went to this movie expecting Texas Chainsaw Massacre and instead got Lake Placid. It’s kind of a shame.

Watch the Trailer:


7. Red Eye (2005)

This trailer actually starts out purposely misleading you. It shows Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy meeting each other, with a lighthearted music undertone, and it seems like it’s going to be a romantic comedy of sorts. Then it changes it’s mood and you find out it’s actually a suspense/horror film by Wes Craven! Which is all fine and good, except for some reason they digitally altered a shot of Cillian Murphy so that his eye glowed red (like the title! get it?). This does not happen at any point in the movie, and there are no supernatural aspects to this film at all. Cillian Murphy is a human being and it’s more of a suspense film than anything (and not a bad one, actually). But the combination of the glowing red eye immediately before Wes Craven’s name pops up (who is known for horror films, specifcally Nightmare on Elm Street) makes you think this is some supernatural thriller, and Cillian Murphy is a demon or something.

Watch the Trailer:


6. Snow Dogs (2002)

Here we have a very clear example of trying to draw in audiences with a misleading trailer, in this case children. Snow Dogs is about a Dentist (Cuba Gooding Jr.) who learns that he is adopted and goes to Alaska to find out about his real parents (and inherits a pack of sled dogs). The story is essentially about Cuba Gooding Jr. learning about his roots and his parents – but good luck finding that in the trailer. They name all of the sled dogs in the trailer, making you think the story focuses on them, and digitally makes them wink and raise their eyebrows throughout. Then at the end of the trailer it shows them all sipping drinks in beach chairs and talking – something that is actually a dream sequence in the movie itself. Most kids who saw the trailer assumed it was a ‘Look Who’s Talking This Time! It’s Huskies’ movie which, being Disney, wouldn’t have been surprising. How disappointed they must have been when there was NOT a jive talking dog, a sexy lady dog, and a heroic male lead dog they could buy toys of afterward.

Watch the Trailer:


5. Gremlins (1984)

The studio doesn’t seem to agree with Steven Spielberg’s career choices. He started out doing suspense/horror films like Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, so when he made E.T. the trailer almost made it look like another scary alien movie. When that did well, and he produced this Joe Dante helmed film, they again messed up the trailer. They make it seem like another E.T. about a boy and his cute little pet Gremlin. In reality, this is a (admittedly very campy) horror movie with evil Gremlins that actually scared me as a kid, and if I had seen this trailer back then I would not have expected to be scared. Unfortunately, yet another marketing strategy is to play up to people’s love of previous films, as you’ll see in the next example.

Watch the Trailer:


4. The Village (2004)

M. Night Shayamalan is very hit or miss with me. But I do appreciate that he’s actually made a pretty varied assortment of films, even if the trailers would say otherwise. After making it big with The Sixth Sense, and then Signs, his name became synonymous with ‘scary’ and ‘twist ending.’ So just announcing that this is his film in the trailer automatically makes people think it’s going to be scary (when I saw Lady in the Water’s original teaser, there was a collective gasp in the audience when it showed his name). But this movie, which does have some suspenseful moments (he’s actually pretty good at suspense, at least until the Crap-fest The Happening) is primarily a love story – something the trailer gives very little indication to. There are actually several ‘twists’ in the story but they are revealed a lot less Sixth Sense/Signs-esque ‘Here is the twist now here are some clips from the movie that supports that twist’ and more methodical and paced throughout. I actually think the biggest reason people disliked the film was because of the misleading marketing campaign, which is too bad.

Watch the Trailer:


3. Kangaroo Jack (2003)

Like Snow Dogs before it, this trailer uses a very small part of the movie itself and plays it up heavily in the marketing and trailer in order to attract a younger audience. In addition to making the Kangaroo the title character, they include a dream sequence where the Kangaroo speaks and raps in a thick australian accent to make it seem like this is the main focus of the movie. In reality, the movie is a buddy comedy filled with sex jokes and things unsuitable for children, which makes it a much worse offender than Snow Dogs, in my opinion. Jerry Bruckheimer should be ashamed of himself.

Watch the Trailer:


2. Man of the Year (2006)

Robin Williams movies seem to love misleading trailers. Bicentennial Man, Jack, The World According to Garp, even Patch Adams. All the trailers make it out to be a hilarious comedy filled laugh fest starring the zany Robin Williams, but turn out to be something completely different. In my opinion, this was the worse offender. It was about a comedian running for president and winning, and seemed like it could be funny. But it turns out it was a pretty slow moving drama about a corrupt voting system or something, and he wasn’t president for long and then the movie just fell on it’s head. It was pretty disappointing.

Watch the Trailer:


1. Bridge To Terabithia (2007)

I absolutely loved this book when I read it in school. I remember hearing they were making a movie of it and got pretty excited to see it. Imagine my disappointment when I saw this trailer, which was filled with CGI creatures and fantasy elements that I did not remember from the book. As it turns out, the fantasty element is very minimal in the movie and the film is grounded in reality much more than the trailer lets on. Now the director said he undersood the marketing decision, as it was done deliberately to draw in an audience who had not read the book, but for me it was something that stopped me from seeing it. I feel that in trying to reach a wider audience they alienated the fans of the book, which I guess I can understand, but it’s still kind of a shitty thing to do.

Watch the Trailer:

– Alan



  1. […] This post was Twitted by AlanJ […]

  2. Hang on. So am I to understand Snow Dogs was NOT the talking-animal Alaskan romp that you (Alan) so much wanted to see? Your will to watch these movies astounds me.

    Was that the film that earned him an Oscar? I always forget.

  3. Snow Dogs was playing at Paramount when I worked there. And I never really watched the whole thing. A lot of these I haven’t actually seen, this is a much more objective list than I usually do.

  4. “Taken” was a movie that I was disappointed in because they had some kick as scenes in the trailer that made me want to see it…and then those scenes were absent from the movie. ugh.

  5. […] trailers” on the internet. Bridge to Terabithia, a movie I haven’t seen, topped one blogger’s top ten. So despite Faster’s best efforts, I managed to learn something: fantasy elements are not as […]

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