Are Trailers Ruining Movies?

And the award for crazy lawsuit of the day goes to the women who is suing the film studio, Film District, because she claims she was misled by the trailer she saw for “Drive.” The Hollywood Reporter reports that Sarah Deming charges that the trailer for the Ryan Gosling flick, “promoted the film “Drive” as very similar to “Fast and Furious”…”. When it wasn’t even close to her expectations, she filed suit for false advertising.

I’ve spoken with many directors who say they have no control over how a studio cuts together the trailer for their film. Directors are responsible for making sure the movie is good. The marketing departments are responsible for getting butts in the seats. That tends to be why you see the best parts of a film in most trailers, which ruins a lot of movie going experiences.

If Sarah Deming wanted to sue for a film’s trailer being misleading, why not go for “The American” starring George Clooney. That trailer made the film out to be the next Jason Bourne film, but it was a slow, subtle, drama. It did poorly not because it was a bad but because the audience expected something else.

“The American” Trailer

The trailer for “The Big Year” made it out to be a comedy. The only funny moments were in the trailer but it was a much more reality-based film than the trailer suggested.

“The Big Year” Trailer

The best example ever of a misleading trailer is “Marley and Me”. It looked like a sweet puppy movie for families during Christmas time yet it turned out to be one of the depressing films I had ever seen.

“Marley and Me” Trailer

But even if there was such a thing as the right to sue for false advertising in movie trailers, Ms. Deming would not have a case against the film makers of “Drive.” Re-watching “Drive” trailer, you can see that the studio used a lot of the best parts of the film. The trailer is very action-packed but I don’t get a “Fast and Furious” vibe from it.

“Drive” Trailer

Just because cars are driving around doesn’t mean Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are going to show up and race each other. Sure, the film is very slow at times but it is those slow moments that make the film even more exciting. The trailer represents the film’s action moments, which are all there on screen when you sit in that theatre. It is the build up of those sequences that make those scenes even more worth it. The trailer represents exactly what you will be experiencing, i.e. a driver who works as a hollywood stunt man but also a wheelman for criminals. He falls in love with a women and has to protect her family.

What is up with trailers showing the ending sequences of a film? As I re-watched the “Drive” trailer, they show a sequence where Albert Brooks is talking to Gosling about looking over his shoulder. That is from the ending! That happens all the time. Look at the original trailer for “Paranormal Activity”.

“Paranormal Activity” trailer

Literally, the last shot of that film is in the trailer! That is mind-blowing! If I were a film maker, I’d freak out having those scenes in the trailer.

I’ll never forget getting so excited about a movie trailer for a film called “Face/Off”. It raised questions; it didn’t answer them. The camera spun around John Travolta’s head and he became Nicolas Cage. It was the perfect “tease” to the film and I was immediately hooked. I couldn’t find just the plain teaser trailer. I remember seeing the trailer with just the spinning camera. The one attached has scenes from the film after the tease.

“Face Off” Trailer

Do you remember the excitement you felt when you first saw the teaser trailer for J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” or the amazing “Spider-Man” teaser, which was removed from theaters after 9/11?

“Star Trek” Trailer

“Spider-Man” Trailer

Those were the perfect trailers because they didn’t necessarily show you footage from the film but you got the gist of what they were going for. That’s much more exciting than a two minute trailer that show you all the best parts. Which leads me to my solution for this whole trailer problem for studios. Instead of giving away all the good parts in the trailer and mis-representing the film, why not make them all “teaser” trailers like the “Face/Off” one? And here is my proposal for moviegoers. Don’t watch trailers at all!

When I watched the Woody Allen film “Midnight Night In Paris”, I had not seen the trailer and knew nothing about the plot line. I just expected another dialogue-heavy Woody Allen film, covering the same themes again. As the film went along, I was as surprised as Owen Wilson’s character at what developed. I felt this rush of excitement jump through my body. Nothing had been spoiled for me so I had no clue what to expect. As the scenes unfolded, there was never a moment where I said to myself, “Oh, here comes that scene from the trailer.” It was pure movie bliss!

I was at lunch recently with a fellow critic and friend, Nell Minow, who does film reviews for her amazing website, We had just exited the latest Rowan Atkinson flick, “Johnny English Reborn” and I proceeded to tell Nell how much I laughed at a particular sequence in the film. Nell smiled and said, “yeah, but I already saw that in the trailer.” How much better would the film have been for Nell if she had not seen the trailer? If I had seen the trailer for “Johnny English Reborn,” would I have laughed as much at the ridiculously dumb sequence?”

What are your thoughts? Should full trailers be taken away and replaced with teasers? What trailers have ruined movies for you? What trailers have mis-represented a film? What’s your favorite trailer?

Leave your comments below!

Kevin McCarthy

Edited by: Nell Minow (

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7 thoughts on “Are Trailers Ruining Movies?

  1. Thanks , I’ve just been looking for info about this subject for a long time and yours is the greatest I have came upon so far. However, what about the bottom line? Are you sure in regards to the source?

  2. Great article. I agreed with everything you said. My all time favorite trailer is the one for “The Shining” where it’s just a static shot of a wave of blood crashing toward us. I wish more directors would be like Kubrick, or PT Anderson, and edit their own trailers too. I think it is important for trailers to be as vague as possible. Recently I cut a trailer for a short film I directed and someone who had watched it said “It looks really cool and interesting, but I really have no idea what it is about.” My reply: “Perfect.”

  3. I think it does not ruin the movie but…. I always me think there are gonna be no better scene / sequence than trailer. They show people best part which they know its edited awesomely.

  4. I completely agree about trailers ruining the best parts, but how the filmmakers have no control over it.

    I would like to say Midnight in Paris is actually a really good trailer that doesn’t even highlight or mention one of the biggest plot points of the movie.

    Also, the first Cloverfield trailer was pretty kickass. I wrote a similar ‘article’ about this a couple months ago:

  5. “The Muppets” teaser is a good example of what a trailer should be. Nothing is given away, you see the two leads, the Muppets everyone knows, and a joke to advertise the movie. That’s it. No need for a real trailer to come out.