10 Terrible Trailers for Great Movies

Illustration for article titled 10 Terrible Trailers for Great Movies

Sometimes trailers can be a tad misleading. We've all seen trailers that got us all pumped up for films that turned out to be kind of weak. But the opposite happens too: Sometimes a great movie has a horrible, no-good trailer. Here are 10 amazing movies whose trailers made them look dreadful.


Top image: Star Wars

Luckily, if a movie is great enough, it's hard to make it look too awful — just showing footage from the film is a great start. But some trailers do their very best to misrepresent or otherwise mishandle terrific films, making it hard to love them. See for yourselves:

1) Bridge to Terabithia

This movie has an 84 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — but you'd never know it from the trailer, which makes it look like a bland Narnia rip-off. The trailer is jam-packed with every CGI moment from the film, but no hint as to what it's about beyond the generic "kids find a magical forest" idea. People who weren't familiar with the source material were probably pretty blindsided by the heartbreaking story of kids using fantasy to escape from real-world issues.

2) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This universally celebrated film is having its 10th anniversary right now, and tons of people are rediscovering how perfect a movie it is. Sadly, this trailer starts out well — with a creepy infomercial — but then changes gears bizarrely. The bulk of the trailer seems to be trying to present the film as an upbeat comedy starring Jim Carrey, with every single scene where someone is smiling or doing motions that could be construed as dancing cut together to an upbeat song. Enough of the film's premise comes through that you might still be hooked, but it mostly looks like a terrible rom-com.

3) Star Wars

If we were watching this trailer in 1977, we'd probably still want to go see Star Wars, purely on the strength of the spaceships and the crazy pew-pew-pew shootouts that you can glimpse in it. But the trailer does its level best to portray George Lucas' saga as a tense space-horror film, with the spooky music and the quick cuts of Princess Leia looking terrified. Plus when it talks about the film being the story of a boy and a girl, it appears to be selling a romance between Leia and Chewbacca, given that their faces are shown in rapid succession, as if they're sharing a moment. (Star Wars fans will be amused by the notion that "This could all be happening now," and the misuse of light-years.)

4) Frozen

So... Frozen is a movie about the relationship between Olaf the campy snowman and Sven the reindeer? Weirdly, those are the only two characters who appear in this trailer — and a lot of the marketing for this film emphasized Olaf, to the exclusion of everything else. Olaf actually works fine in the context of the movie, but on his own he seems just like an annoying schtick character. And then the next trailer just makes Elsa look evil. There was no attempt to sell this movie as the classic Disney musical it was trying to be. To be fair, that strategy panned out.

5) Hellboy

This hectic trailer focuses on John Myers, the film's human protagonist, and massively downplays Hellboy himself. And the hectic, scampering tone seems designed to portray this movie as a weak Men in Black rip-off rather than an off-beat superhero movie in which a monster fights for humans.

6) Wall-E

The American trailers for Wall-E mostly did a really great job of capturing the magic of this film, showcasing the robot stuck alone on Earth until he meets Eva. But this British trailer doesn't trust the audience to get the idea, instead trying to push the movie as a really dumb comedy about a crazy messed-up robot, featuring upbeat quirky music and a terrible voiceover. They actually managed to make Wall-E look kind of heinous.

7) Cabin in the Woods

We could have filled this whole list with trailers that misrepresent their films — like the Unbreakable trailer that tries to portray it as a spooky horror film because The Sixth Sense had been a hit. In particular, a lot of trailers for smart horror movies try to portray them as dumb horror movies instead. (See The Innkeepers.) The worst trailer in that hideous category, though, is this trailer for Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods — which probably does the right thing by not giving away too much of the film's twist, but goes too far in the opposite direction. By portraying this as a straight-up horror film in which the clichés are done with absolute sincerity, it manages to make Cabin look kind of boring.

8) Jennifer's Body

If there's a hall of fame of good movies destroyed by terrible marketing, this would be in a prime spot. The actual film is about the friendship between two girls that goes bad as one of them becomes a monster — thus commenting on how female friendships can go south in real life. The trailer, and most of the marketing, sells the film as "Sexy Megan Fox sexy sex sexy skirt making out with girls and boys sex OMG." A lot of people skipped this movie on the basis of the dreadful marketing, especially this trailer.

9) John Carter

Annnd... speaking of terrific films that had awful marketing. We pretty much loved John Carter when it came out, despite some flaws. And it's only grown on us since then. But the marketing was legendarily bad, and director Andrew Stanton ended up getting the blame. Vulture wrote a whole long article about why this awful trailer turned everybody off the film — it makes the fun, jaunty adventure film in the vein of Star Wars look like an emo drag, with its Peter Gabriel cover of Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage" and its slow shots of nothing fun. Oh, and too much emphasis on the framing device of Edgar Rice Burroughs hearing his uncle is dead, which was one of the weakest parts of the film.

10) The Abyss

Critics loved James Cameron's undersea alien adventure movie — but this trailer makes it look like a nature documentary. With a voiceover that sounds like a really awful life coach.

Bonus: The ABC Family Promo for Batman Begins

Not a trailer, but this weird promo pushing the Batman origin story as a terrible romance needs to be included.

Additional reporting by Adam Rowe, Emma Winter Zeig, Veronica Corsaro and Brian J. Smith



It's not a terrible trailer, necessarily, but the original LotR teaser is pretty underwhelming — cheesy '90s narration, generic temp music, and an incredibly lame tagline that was retired almost instantly. Nothing really communicates the sweeping epic scope of the project, probably because none of the effects were done yet — those shots of the orcs were actually from the 1997 pitch reel. If you were hoping that the movies were going to be mind-blowingly awesome, or trying to convince someone that a Tolkien adaptation was actually feasible and desirable, or just that this could be better than the dire D&D adaptation that had recently come out, this trailer wouldn't necessarily hurt your argument, but it wouldn't help it, either. About the only thing that really works is the "proof of concept" shot of the Fellowship walking into the frame in their proper Middle-Earth sizes. (It was done for the preview, but Jackson liked it so much it went into the movie.)