The Five Most Misleading Movie Trailers and Advertisements

An entire branch of entertainment marketing is dedicated to creating those snappy, lens-flare-tastic, bass-heavy movie trailers we’re treated to (or bombarded with, depending who you ask) at the movies and on television. These trailers are the film’s minute-long audition for a part in our hearts and minds, so they are created to deliver as much tempting material as possible in their view time.

What we see, then, is often a rapid series of exciting images, attractive members of the target audience’s opposite sex, and an enthusiastic narrator informing us as to what exactly the rapid images are trying to  convey.

Occasionally, for artistic reasons, you’ll see trailers or other movie advertisements that deliberately misrepresent the film. This clip, for example, was released to tease for a Western-Space Opera film. In the context of the movie, the clip makes sense and actually serves as an important plot point. Outside of the film, the clip makes absolutely no sense and has nothing to do with the movie’s genre. But what the clip did do, upon release, was cause plenty of noise among potential moviegoers who exchanged theories about what it meant and what the movie was going to be about. In this particular case, deliberate misrepresentation served to draw audiences to the film that may not have come otherwise.

There are various other reasons why a film may be misrepresented in its trailer, though poor editing and viewer deception for box office success are likely the most common. Though the exact reasons for each of these five misleading trailers deceptive nature are unknown, it is easy enough to guess what the editors were intending by making them:


For one example of marketing exchange gone right, one need only to look at the documentary, Catfish. The film’s trailer makes the movie out to be a sort of intense psychological thriller set within the context of an odd, long-distance relationship. What the audience got instead was a thoughtful tale of internet romance gone wrong. Since many audience members had gone to the film expecting twists, terror, and goosebumps, the movie was widely declared a disappointment.

Lost in Translation

The trailer for Lost in Translation presents a film that promises a lighthearted tale of romance blossoming between an actor and a married woman, set against the backdrop of urban Japan. What this trailer fails to translate is the characters’ disenchantment with life, crippling depression, and the film’s overall theme of existential despair.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

This film, capitalizing on the ever-stylish demonic lore genre, released trailers promoting it as a horror movie. The film was, in actuality, about a court case that took place long after the titular exorcism. The movie boils down to a monochromatic courtroom drama, sprinkled here and there with snippets of horror and supernatural activity in the form of flashbacks.

The Rules of Attraction

In the trailers, this adaptation from a Bret Easton Ellis novel is portrayed as a raunchy teen comedy, in much the same vein as American Pie. Many young viewers who went to see the movie based on this were shocked by the dark and ultra-violent themes of this film.

The Village

Hordes of horror fans cried foul as they left the theaters after seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village. Trailers for the village showed only brief, faded-color glimpses of a small, 18th-Century town and the citizens of said town looking all manner of terrified at some faceless evil that stalked their homes. Naturally, moviegoers were a bit put out when the film turned out to be less of a small-town slaughterfest and more of a cynical Little House on the Prairie with a drowsy pace and a deafening flopping sound as another one of Syamalan’s famous plot twists fell flat.

Most trailers these days are not so misleading—if you can look beyond the gratuitous lens flare and panoramic shots of computer-generated landscapes, you can usually discern some sort of plot happening in the background. And that plot is usually the same one that the actual movie has! Usually.

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