Sometimes a movie’s trailer is the perfect window into the heart and soul of a movie. It shows you what you can expect from the movie without giving too much away. Many argue that all too often trailers show the best parts of the movie, especially in regards to comedy or action films, and all too often they’re right. And let’s not forget the National Treasure fiasco from a few years back in which much of what was shown in the trailer wasn’t actually in the movie. Sometimes, however, there is a third problem – the trailer completely misrepresents what the movie actually is.
How annoying is it to see an awesome trailer on television or before a movie only to find out the trailer is nothing like the movie? Alternatively, have you ever skipped on a movie because the trailer looked terrible, only to watch the same movie later and learn it was much better than the trailer led you to believe? The misleading trailer is often used to try to market a movie to a larger audience but sometimes that backfires and the ploy completely misses the audience that would actually appreciate the movie. Let’s take a look at then of the most misleading movie trailers ever released and imagine what would’ve happened had the studio decided to be a bit more honest.
10: Burn After Reading (2008)
Judging by the trailer, you’re in for a fairly lighthearted, wacky comedy from Joel and Ethan Cohen. Anyone at all familiar with the Cohen Brothers, however, should really have known better. Sure Brad Pitt is all dressed up in a weird workout suit and he’s dancing all weird to his little walkman, but honestly, it’s the Cohen Brothers – you should have known something dark and wrong was going to happen. It’s a fantastic film and I actually like the trailer. I’m just not sure they played to their strengths with this one.
09: Lost in Translation (2003)
No one will every argue the fact that Bill Murray has done some pretty wacky roles in his time and if you believe the trailer, Lost In Translation is another title to add to the list. The truth though is that this movie is much, much more than that. It’s about loneliness and isolation. The story goes far beyond the language barrier an aging American actor might face when working in Japan. It has comedic moments but they’re more awkward than laugh out loud funny. Fans of Groundhog Day probably aren’t going to get what they’re looking for out of this one, but they may be surprised by how much they actually enjoy it.
08: In Bruges (2008)
In Bruges is not the Guy Richie style gangster flick the trailer leads you to believe it is. While it may share some of the characteristics of movies like Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Rock ‘N’ Rolla, this is a much, much darker tale than any of those. This isn’t the lighthearted comedic crime caper story the trailer would lead you to believe. The twists and turns in the plot are surprising and artfully crafted but you need to know that there are some truly disturbing elements to this story that you need to be prepared for. This one is dark and it’s disturbing but it’s also an incredible movie with one of Colin Farrell’s finest performances to date.
07: Love Happens (2009)
Billed as a dramatic comedy, the truth is that Love Happens is heavy on the drama but very light on the comedy. You wouldn’t really know that from looking at the trailer though. That’s really a shame. By pushing it as a sort of romantic comedy/date night movie, the studio really cut its own throat with this one. Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart turn in amazing performances and the heart this movie shows is truly moving. Exploring the depths of grief and rebirth, this is an absolute must see film. Sadly, the lack of an effective trailer really limited the audience interested in taking a chance on it. Word of advice, if you have a spare hour or so, check this one out. Well worth the time for Aniston and Eckhart alone.
06: Life (1999)
When people heard Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence were teaming up for a movie about two criminals who only discover the meaning of life after being sentenced to spend theirs in prison, people expected a laugh out loud comedy that would have them rolling in the isles. the trailer seemed to back that up. That isn’t really what makes Life though. While Murphy and Lawrence are funny, it’s really the drama that makes the movie compelling. What is even more appealing is that the comedy and the drama work so well together. If you’re looking for the lighthearted comedy the trailer promises, you may want to skip Life because while you’ll definitely laugh out loud, you may just find yourself on the verge of tears a time or two as well.
05: The Rules of Attraction (2002)
There are a few things wrong with the trailer for The Rules of Attraction. First, it reduces this fairly complex and intriguing movie to another typical teen sex comedy which doesn’t come close to doing this one justice. Second, it doesn’t do anything to showcase the incredible performance James Van Der Beek turns in for this movie. I am not a Van Der Beek fan and never have been but he was amazing in this movie. By marketing the movie as another American Pie rip off, the studio completely destroyed any chance the movie had of connecting with its core audience which is a shame as it was an amazing yet terribly underrated film which should have secured Van Der Beek’s reputation as a serious actor.
04: The 5th Element (1997)
When I think of misleading trailers, this is definitely one of the first that comes to mind. Watching the trailer for The 5th Element one gets the impression that this is just another cheesy, over-the-top action/sci-fi flick when the truth is that it is so much more. Bitingly funny and fantastically written and directed, this is a movie everyone should see at least once. Sadly, the trailer alienated much of its target audience, relegating what should’ve been a blockbuster to cult film.
03. Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
After watching the trailer for Bridge to Terabithia many people expected another sort of children’s fantasy story but this movie is much different than what you’d expect. It is appropriate for children although there are a few parts here and there that may frighten them. The message of the movie is a wonderful one to share with children but it won’t lose the adults – something a great number of parents were concerned about thanks to the trailer. In truth, this one just offers a great family movie experience everyone will be able to enjoy but don’t worry – most of the real ‘fantasy’ parts are shown in the trailer so you don’t have to worry about sitting through a lot of them.
02: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Sweeney Todd is one of my absolute favorite musicals. The problem with the trailer for this incredible film though is that, quite simply put, you wouldn’t know it’s a musical from the trailer alone and that’s bound to make some people a little upset. The trailer seems to give the impression that this is just your typical Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film that happens to feature Johnny singing a song or two. What the trailer doesn’t really share is that pretty much the entire movie features one character or another singing. It’s a musical. It probably would’ve helped the public’s reception of the movie if they’d made that a little clearer in the trailer.
01: Man of the Year (2006)
When Man of the Year came out, people went to see it expecting what the trailer promised – a straight out Robin Williams comedy and that just isn’t what this movie is. It is a comedy in some ways, but there is a whole lot of drama. Many people were disappointed, bad reviews poured in and the movie more or less tanked which is a shame. It’s a pretty great movie and features excellent performances from the entire cast. The studio would’ve been much better off presenting the movie for what it is – a dramatic comedy, perfectly blending the two genres to create one terrific film.