Movie trailers are designed to briefly sum up a movie’s plot, vibe and key scenes to cinema patrons so audiences will consider going to see the movie when it is released. While most trailers are fairly accurate representations of the movie they are trying to sell, there are definitely some trailers that completely misrepresent the movie.
Some reasons why this happens is perhaps the studio’s marketing department had no idea how to market the movie is not something mainstream audiences would generally go to see, or the movie is much more slow paced than the trailer makes it seem to be, so the trailer was edited to make it look more appealing. In other words, they flat out lied to the public with false and misleading advertising.
So when people walk into a movie theatre to see a movie with certain expectations of it because of the trailer, patrons will leave scratching their heads at the completely different experience they had. So while the following movies are not necessary bad movies (some of them are great!), the trailer that lured people in is almost nothing like the actual film itself.
1. The Fifth Element (Luc Besson, 1997)
The trailer for Luc Besson’s sci-fi flick The Fifth Element successfully conveys the sense of action and adventure throughout Earth and the fate of the universe, and the flashy looks and colours of the future.
However, the trailer gets the tone of the film completely wrong. Although the film does have a lot of serious scenes, the film has so many comedic, campy and sometimes just downright silly scenes as well that make The Fifth Element so fun to watch.
The trailer completely omits the film’s comedy, and perhaps tactfully, did not give audiences the chance to see too much of the flashy costumes some of the actors were wearing, particularly what Gary Oldman and Chris Tucker were wearing.
2. Observe And Report (Jody Hill, 2009)
Observe And Report came out the same year as Paul Blart: Mall Cop, another comedy about a shopping mall security guard. This made audiences somewhat dismissive of this film, and that’s partially because of the misleading trailer. The trailer makes the film look like a typical Seth Rogan comedy where he plays a mall security guard who takes his job way too seriously, mainly in order to impress a girl who works at the mall. Sounds like a pretty straightforward movie, doesn’t it?
What the trailer omits is the fact Rogan’s character has bi-polar disorder and his perception of reality and his ego get out of hand, and that he is as much of a danger to others as the flasher terrorising the mall is.
Many critics have compared Rogan’s character to Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle character in Taxi Driver, in that he’s obsessive, delusional and crazy, a far cry from Rogan’s typical stoner characters. Audiences were not expecting Observe And Report to be so dark in its humour because of its more light-hearted trailer.
3. The Cable Guy (Ben Stiller, 1996)
Jim Carrey’s career boomed in the mid-1990s thanks to roles in zany comedies like Dumb & Dumber, The Mask and the two Ace Ventura movies. The studio behind The Cable Guy would have thought to promote the film to appear to be like Carrey’s aforementioned hits. Both the funny clips and the music used in the trailer makes the film look more like the typical light hearted type of movie Jim Carrey was known for at the time.
The actual film has a much darker tone, and Carrey’s character, rather than being a charming kook, is a creepy stalker. A hint of this sinister type of character was displayed when Carrey played The Riddler in Batman Forever the previous year, who was obsessed with Bruce Wayne, but that movie was an over the top superhero movie, so that overshadowed how creepy The Riddler actually was.
While The Cable Guy certainly is a comedy, and a very funny one at that, people who saw the trailer first were not expecting Carrey to make them feel uncomfortable from anything other than making them laugh too hard.
4. Gattaca (Andrew Niccol, 1997)
Science fiction thrillers set in a dystopian future have always been a popular genre, but Gattaca has the distinction of being dystopian for being about a utopian society based on genetic perfection rather than an unlawful society.
The trailer makes the film look more like a fast paced thriller about a man pretending to be someone else to get a highly sought-after job, whereas the actual film is quite slow and is more of a study of a society obsessed with genetic perfection.
The trailer focuses more on the protagonist’s deception rather than the character study the film actually is about the discrimination he’s faced in his life due to being naturally conceived rather than genetically engineered.
There is no mention of the murder mystery in the film that could threaten to reveal the protagonist’s true identity, which is odd as it would have added even more tension to the trailer.
5. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino, 2015)
Quentin Tarantino is one of the most popular American filmmakers in the world, and he is known for making violent but fun action films. The trailer for his western The Hateful Eight appears to be along the lines of Tarantino’s usual fare. The trailer emphasises on humour a lot, and makes the film look more like an action romp than it actually is.
Audiences who expected to go to the cinema for a rollicking good time to be entertained by over the top violence and performances were in for something much more sinister. The film is very dark and graphically violent, and it is a study of paranoia and the horrible things people are capable of when their lives are threatened.
6. Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
The trailer for acclaimed director David O. Russell’s film Three Kings is designed to look like an action/comedy film with light hearted rock songs blasting, footage of soldiers cheering and movie stars making jokes. George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg’s typical charismatic performances are on display in the trailer, making it appear that they will make audiences laugh one minute and be tough guys the next.
While Three Kings is very humourous at times, it is a mostly violent and depressing look at the affect both the Gulf War and Saddam Hussein had on Iraq. In fact, the violence is quite downplayed in the trailer, especially as it does not show the affects a bullet has on someone’s body once they have been shot.
7. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
This film was always going to be hard to sell, as it’s a mix of romantic drama and science fiction, and predominantly set inside a man’s mind. What makes Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind work is mixing the good times of a relationship and the melancholy of a breakup well, something everyone who has been in a relationship can relate to.
So what did the marketing team do to promote it? The trailer they made makes the film look like a quirky romantic comedy, especially with the music the trailer used. The film itself is actually a very depressing study of love and heartbreak, which is nothing like the trailer.