10 Bad Trailers for Good Movies
Not all great movies find their audience. Sometimes they suffer from a poor release date, sometimes it’s just bad timing, but sometimes it’s all to do with the film’s marketing campaign. A bad trailer can turn off an entire potential audience, and while this isn’t an insurmountable problem, it’s certainly a hurdle.
There are a number of different ways a trailer can be “bad” — it can be wildly misleading, it can give away the entire plot, or it can just be unexciting on a base level. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the most glaring examples.
Guillermo del Toro himself has admitted that he was no fan of the way Crimson Peak was marketed, but he also acknowledges that given the size of the budget, the studio needed to target a wider audience. And thus, the trailers for Crimson Peak suggest that del Toro has crafted a scary R-rated haunted house horror film, when instead he made a Gothic romance. That’s made particular clear in the film’s first act, which has no major scares whatsoever and is very much in the Gothic romance vein. So this trailer in and of itself isn’t terrible, it’s just selling a movie that’s completely different than the one del Toro made.
This is what we call a trailer that gives away the entire movie. Easy A is an incredibly charming and memorable comedy anchored by Emma Stone, but for whatever reason the studio decided they needed to work overtime to convince audiences to see this one, so we get a trailer that is packed to the gills with narration that basically steamrolls over the entire film’s plot. Bad trailers are something of a refrain for director Will Gluck’s films, as the actual movie almost always turns out to be far better than what the marketing would have you believe.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Filmmaker Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service is a foul-mouthed, hilarious and exciting romp, but the trailer instead essentially teases a Young James Bond movie. While the Bond influence is all over Kingsman, the film itself is also an absolute blast—something you really don’t get from the trailer, which plays things straight as an arrow, backed by a pop song.
The Cabin in the Woods
The Cabin in the Woods famously sat on the shelf for years before it was released, so perhaps it wasn’t exactly a surprise when the marketing failed to truly telegraph how unique Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s horror film was. This trailer looks like it’s targeted directly at fans of Rob Zombie movies, making the film look like a niche, gory horror slasher instead of a smart and sophisticated breath of fresh air for the genre. Admittedly it’s hard to promote this movie without giving away its secrets, but surely they could’ve done better than this.
Filmmaker Andrew Niccol’s sci-fi drama Gattaca is one of the best sci-fi films ever made, but it got the world’s most basic trailer. The 1997 film is a brilliant rumination on eugenics and destiny, but instead it was marketed as something more in the vein of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 90s sci-fi movies. And that dreadful voiceover, oof.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
For two films in a row, filmmaker Guy Ritchie crafted wonderfully refreshing and wildly entertaining movies that failed to find an audience. And while The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s marketing was actually pretty on point, the trailers for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword betray just how fun this fantasy actioner really is. Granted the film reportedly went through a lot of rejiggering in post-production so perhaps the movie teased in this trailer was the actual tone of the film at one point, but the final product is a flighty, charming, and unabashedly weird twist on the King Arthurtale. Like a mix between the fun of U.N.C.L.E. and the fantasy of Skyrim. Unfortunately, you can’t tell any of that from this trailer.
Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body is a whip smart comedy about femininity and misogyny, but it was sold as a horror monster movie with a Scream-liked meta twist. That did Diablo Cody’s script no favors, as audiences were primed to see what they thought would be a scary horror film, but what was instead a dark comedy with a lot more on its mind.
The trailer for Cast Away shows just how far we’ve come in the past couple of decades in the world of trailer creation. Robert Zemeckis’ somewhat groundbreaking survival drama is instead framed as a feel-good Hallmark Original Movie with what I’m pretty sure is the Braveheart score. And yet, this is actually kind of par for the course when it came to Oscar-y films in the 90s. Sappy and sweet, with a movie star front and center.
This is quite possibly one of the most misleading trailers in recent memory. With Drive, filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn made a meditative, dialogue-light drama with a John Hughes undertone. What FilmDistrict marketed was a thrilling getaway movie starring Ryan Gosling. Audiences were so mad.
How do you make a Hellboy trailer with almost no Hellboy? Writer/director Guillermo del Toro’s comic book adaptation was a solid start for the franchise, but it was crystal clear that the John Myers character was likely a studio request as an audience surrogate—a “normal guy” to serve as the audience’s POV into the weird Hellboy world. And making him the focus of this debut trailer, especially when he factors negligibly into the film itself, was a mistake.