Movie Trailers that Were Better than the Actual Movie

     April 25, 2019

Movie trailers are their own art form, and sometimes the trailer for a movie ends up being better than the actual movie itself. Should we blame the filmmakers for making such trash, or the trailer editor for making such gold? It’s a question to consider while you check out the following teasers that ended up far superior than the movies they were teasing…

Cloverfield

While it’s not a terrible film on its own, the first Cloverfield movie launched a world of mystery box garbage that ultimately led nowhere. The film itself, which includes many memorable and compelling moments, has no meaning or thoughtful conclusion. It’s a dark ride that skids you outside the carnival gates, right next to a “no refunds” sign.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

The trailer is fantastic but bittersweet, because it’s exactly what spawned the success of the Abrams “mystery box” style. It makes you want nothing more than to see this film, even though you have no clue what the film may be. But frankly that’s a relief compared to the oversharing style that some modern trailers have adapted.

Superman Returns

The oft-forgot Brandon Routh version of Superman is technically a good film — in that it’s a slightly-worse copy of Richard Donner’s work. Quality-aside, there are a plethora of reasons to not talk or think about this movie — from the problematic cast and crew to the fact that the villain’s big evil plan is land ownership.

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

In terms of teaser trailers, however, you can’t deny that this movie got you freaking pumped — solely on the meaty foundation that is Marlon Brando’s narration. It wasn’t a lie either; thanks to unused footage and a little CGI Brando is 100% in this movie. And while that was really cool at the time, little did we know the haunting precedent it would set.

Alien 3

Some might argue that Alien 3 isn’t a bad movie. After all, it’s a (very frustrated) David Fincher film. On the other hand, it did kill many important characters off-screen and therefore completely negated the efforts of the previous film. On the other-other hand, it also give us this hilarious test footage of a confused dog dressed like an alien.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

The original trailer painted a much different picture — as the early idea was to take the franchise to Earth. This makes the teaser both exciting and a cruel lie, but also probably better than what we got. With the exception of a few terrible Alien vs Predator films, it’s downright shocking they’ve never tried this premise ever again.

Femme Fatale

This Brian De Palma movie isn’t bad so much as it’s highly forgettable while somehow being over-the-top ridiculous at the same time. Its trailer, however, is aggressively original in its TMI approach to marketing. After all, it shows you the entire movie — albeit an extremely sped-up version.

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Sadly, that’s probably all you need to see. And quite frankly every boring thriller should at least have a “double speed” option where patrons can pay half-price to see a fast-forwarded version in theaters while still getting to feel like an adult for sitting through it.

Be Kind Rewind

Considering the massive talent behind it, it’s surprising how little Be Kind Rewind is discussed by even the snobbiest of filmgoers. The movie just kind of passed everyone by — its gimmick of “sweded” reshoots far exceeding the movie’s narrative in terms of staying power. Honestly, how many of us can remember the actual plot of this film?

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Image via New Line Cinema

So naturally, part of the promotion was to “swede” the trailer itself in an ultra-meta way that only Michel Gondry can achieve. Truly this was a wonderful moment in movie history where this art-maniac was given free rein over a major project — something that would last exactly until the release of The Green Hornet.

The Minus Man

Statistically-speaking, you probably didn’t see The Minus Man — a movie that certainly isn’t bad. This isn’t about the quality of that motion picture, so much as the amazing creativity that went into its marketing. Specifically, a trailer completely made up of original footage that showcases two people talking about the movie being advertised.

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Image via Artisan Entertainment

But then, in a wonderfully dark twist, it gets revealed that one of the two characters is late to her job… as a pool lifeguard. It’s essentially a two-minute short film in itself, complete with a satisfying ending. Maybe it’s not better than the film it’s advertising, but it’s definitely better than a lot of films out there.

Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines

Released over a decade after the first two, Terminator 3 was but one of many flaming dumpsters that would embody the remainder of this ongoing slog of a franchise. This film — while not terrible — broke the seal, allowing a world of darkness to cascade forth like the White Walkers through the ice wall.

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

But hey, the teaser kind of rocks. It doesn’t even say the name, as the music and gooey metallic logo was all we needed to be 100% pumped for this future disaster. It’s the equivalent of disguising a slaughterhouse like a giant delicious hay bale. But instead of murdering the cows, the factory just made them wish they were dead.

Man of Steel

There was a brief moment in time where Superman fans could perhaps imagine that the upcoming Man Of Steel wasn’t going to be two hours of the before footage to a Prozac commercial. This first trailer was the peak of hope, soon to be dashed with wailing screams over a freshly-snapped Zod.

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Imagine a version that is both Dark Knight serious while maintaining the values of the titular character. Imagine had this movie correctly set the tone for the franchise to follow, instead of kicking off one of the most depressing cinematic universes ever attempted. Alas such a film exists only in this brief trailer, never to be heard from again.

The Day After Tomorrow

Who says you can’t warn society about the perils of climate change while also being a lumbering trash-giant of a film? The Day After Tomorrow is a beautiful time capsule of an era where we were maybe, kinda, thinking about fixing the environment and also giving Jake Gyllenhaal a career. And we really only got around to one of those things.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

The initial trailer, however, was red hot. Roland Emmerich, while having a few recent whiffers to his name, was still trusted enough to destroy a city. And boy did this effectively-creepy teaser promise the type of destruction we had grown to crave. What we never could have predicted was the seemingly-hours of snow hiking.

Red Eye

The full story of Red Eye is one of many twists that ultimately lead the audience right back to where they start. The trailer tricks you into thinking you’re witnessing a mediocre love story, only to delightfully reveal what appears to be a supernatural Wes Craven horror taking place on an airplane. What fun!

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Image via DreamWorks Pictures

But then the movie came out, revealing yet another twist that this movie you thought was a mediocre love story and then thought was a supernatural horror is actually just a mediocre thriller. To say the least, it was disappointing to come nearly full-circle — leading audience members to promptly forget this movie ever existed.

Super 8

Until the eventual Hilton biopic, this is clearly the best movie to be named after a hotel chain. But despite this high honor, Super 8 really seemed like a cobbling of ideas that J.J. Abrams just didn’t know where to put — even though some of them weren’t exactly original.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

The trailer, however, yet again brought out that patented mystery box hogwash to hook us into a shadowy monster story that ultimately led nowhere interesting. But hey, who would have possibly known that the guy responsible for Lost would make so many rambling narratives?

Prometheus

The trailer to Prometheus is so good that if it weren’t for the huge featured cast, it would come off like a fan film. The way it slowly ramps up into full-blown chaos resembling the original film’s trailer is brilliant and hair-raising. It looked too good to be a new installment of the Alien franchise… and it turned out that was absolutely the case.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

In short: this movie was too many things. If Ridley Scott wanted to prequel Alien then he should have put the classic aliens in the film. If he wanted to spin-off into a different story involving the Engineers and androids, then he should have done that. What he shouldn’t have done is tried to do both, giving us only enough Alien action to please the producers.

Toys

Had the movie Toys been two-hours of a coked-up Robin Williams doing comedy bits while standing in an open field, it wouldn’t have just been better than what we got… but also the best movie ever made. It would win all the awards that year, and every year following it.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Spoilers: this isn’t what the movie Toys is about. In fact, we’re not even sure what Toys is about. It’s the kind of madness that could only exist in the fevered brain of a dying serial murderer. It’s the movie The Cell but somehow more haunting to watch.

Battle: Los Angeles

The idea of a gritty Black Hawk Down-style war movie between humans and aliens is a fantastic idea that several trailers have promised in the past and failed to deliver. Battle: Los Angeles is probably the biggest disappointment of them all, as it currently exists in a gray realm of only half-existence. Like a story you can’t remember you dreamt or not.

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Image via The Asylum

The trailer, however, is memorable. It takes the old lore of UFO sightings and transitions it into a modern battlefield setting. It gives us Iraq War-era news footage of a crumbling Los Angeles. But in the end these brief glimpses of the movie proved to be the only footage worth seeing.

Transformers

It’s easy to forget that the Michael Bay that made the first Transformers wasn’t yet the Michael Bay responsible for the head-pounding corporate noise that were the sequels to Transformers. In other words: the director of Bad Boys and Armageddon was doing a Transformers movie and that was — at the time — super awesome.

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Image via DreamWorks Pictures

The first teaser reflected this, using found footage of “real” Mars rover POV as a way to get us super pumped for the robot chaos that would surely come. Had the rover been attacked by insufferable comic reliefs and blatant product placement, we probably wouldn’t have been as excited.

Spider-Man 3

If the trailer for Spider-Man 3 proves anything, it’s that Sam Raimi hadn’t lost his visual style while making this movie. If you were to watch single clips of action sequences or simply been given a still image of the symbiote suit, you would have no idea it was from a terrible movie.

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Image via Sony Pictures Releasing

More than that, the trailer shows us just enough to know that this third installment was going to be a rather final conclusion to a so-far-so-good trilogy of superhero films. How we managed to end up with not one, but two dance sequences is a mystery for the ages.

A Good Day To Die Hard

In fairness, not a single person thought that a fifth Die Hard movie was a good idea — including the people making it. On paper is was an offensive thought… but the trailer had other things in mind, and managed to make the most exciting portrayal of what turned out to be a baffling and forgettable film.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Seriously, are we even sure this movie exists or is simply a Mandela Effect-style fantasy of our collective consciousness? Does anyone own a copy of it so that we may prove its physical grip on reality? Surely no human is capable of such an obvious folly as to make a half-assed Die Hard sequel.

Godzilla (1998)

Coming off the hype of the now-classic Jurassic Park, it was a bold move to have your Godzilla literally step on the bones of a t-rex as part of its movie teaser. At the time, the promise of a big CGI lizard wrecking NYC was like having pure joy injected into your brain. Even now the teaser is hair-raising in its delivery.

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Image via TriStar Pictures

That said, having received the movie we got, it’s also a hilarious act of hubris to literally crush the timeless work of Steven Spielberg with a mediocre affront to a classic series of monster movies. In fact, it ultimately proved that no… bigger isn’t better after all — making this trailer both awesome and adorably pathetic at the same time.

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3

You don’t have to have seen the third Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie to know what kind of ungodly failure it was. The director has since gone on to make such hits as Puppet Master 5 and something titled Alien Tornado. In fairness, however, they certainly didn’t assume they were making Shakespeare when they rolled out this camp.

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Image via New Line Cinema

Case in point: the fantastic teaser trailer which put Leatherface in the Arthurian Lady Of The Lake legend… only instead of a sword, he is gifted a rusty chainsaw. Does this mean he’s the chosen one destined to protect mankind? Obviously, it does. All he needs now is a redneck wizard guide to send him on a holy murder quest.

Batman & Robin

Are we saying that this 20-second teaser for Batman & Robin including zero footage from the actual movie is objectively better than the film itself? Yes, that’s exactly what we’re saying. It’s even a far more reasonable length than the final product, which clocks in at over two hours of ice puns.

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

Sure, fans would be upset if Warner Bros had simply replaced the entire film with this short clip of the moving logo… but their multiverse selves would be silently thanking them for creating a world in which some version of them hadn’t seen this movie. In the end, the universe would have been better for it.

Watchmen

2009’s Watchmen was easily one of the most anticipated comic book adaptations to ever be made, at least as far as die-hard comic book nerds were concerned. When the full trailer finally dropped a few months ahead of its release date, the hype blasted fans across their apartments and through their windows like The Comedian.

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Image via Warner Bros.

Despite a strong opening weekend (when all those die-hard fans rushed out to see it), Watchmen kind of tanked at the box office. The film is overly dense, clocking in at nearly three hours and full of so much plot and exposition that sitting down and reading the graphic novel instead would arguably be more exciting.

The Wolfman

After the surprise success of 1999’s The Mummy, Universal became hell-bent on rebooting all of their classic monster movies. One such casualty of this hubris was The Wolfman, starring Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins as the titular wolfmen. After languishing in some form of production for nearly a decade, the film was finally ready for release, teased by a truly amazing trailer that we think might be one of the best ever made.

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Image via Universal Pictures

If you’re currently asking your screen, “Wait, Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro were in a Wolfman movie?”, you are not alone. The movie turned out to be a jumbled mess, plagued by reshoots and director changes. The end result is an entirely forgettable werewolf movie doomed to play on Netflix in the background of friendly get-togethers.

Drive

Let us be clear up front – Drive is not a bad film. It’s actually a very good movie, with great performances by Ryan Gosling, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan, and Albert Brooks, who got nominated for an Oscar for his improbable role as a murderous villain. But Drive’s trailer is infamously controversial, because it presented the film as a Fast and Furious style hi-octane action flick.

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Image via FilmDistrict

Drive is a slow-paced, character-driven crime drama, with almost no action in it whatsoever. And while the overwhelming response to the movie was very positive, that didn’t stop one particularly irate ticket-buyer from actually filing a lawsuit against the film’s producers for creating a misleading trailer.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Fans of director Luc Besson’s much-beloved sci-fi action film The Fifth Element were understandably excited for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It was the first full-blown science fiction film (as in laser guns and aliens) that Besson had made in two decades, and when the trailer dropped, it promised a film that would essentially be the spiritual sequel to The Fifth Element.

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Image via EuropaCorp Distribution

When it finally released, Valerian couldn’t manage to drum up enough enthusiasm at the box office to cover its $200 million budget. Critics found the film boring and overlong (nearly two and a half hours), with lead characters so forgettable they could’ve been taken out of the movie altogether and no one would notice. That said, the movie does have tiny alien hamsters that poop magic pearls, so there’s that.

The Green Inferno

Horror director Eli Roth has cultivated a reputation as a master of shocking gore and violence. His film The Green Inferno, a project he frequently described as an homage to the infamous Cannibal Holocaust, almost didn’t get released. While this was primarily the result of financial difficulties, it generated buzz for the film as being “the Eli Roth movie too shocking for theaters,” which was seemingly confirmed by the movie’s intense trailer.

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Image via Universal Pictures

The Green Inferno is surprisingly tame, both for a cannibal film and for a Roth film. The cannibals don’t show up until almost an hour into the movie, and are quickly dealt with soon thereafter by the unintentionally hilarious efforts of a deforestation logging crew.

Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

Nothing compares to the wave of hype that washed over audiences in December of 1998 when the trailer for Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace was dropped on the world. It was the first new Star Wars movie in 16 years, kicking off the beginning of a prequel trilogy fans had been speculating about ever since Return of the Jedi.

The unbridled excitement for this film was so high that several people bought tickets to a different movie, Meet Joe Black, just to see the Phantom Menace trailer attached to it. This was before YouTube, you see.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

Of course, we all know what happened next. The Phantom Menace is easily the most derided installment of the much-maligned Star Wars prequels. It was possibly the first time any of us realized that a Star Wars movie could not only be bad, but extremely, unforgivably, “I-want-my-money-back” bad.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

You’ve probably never heard of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and we want you to know that it’s not your fault. This 2013 Ben Stiller dramedy based on the short story of the same name was in development for several years, with Jim Carrey attached to the title role at one point. The trailer, set to Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws”, made a huge splash when it released, drawing people into the pensive, dreamlike world of the title character. Also, it features Stiller tackling Adam Scott through a window.

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Image via 20th Century Fox

The movie itself was polarizing for audiences and critics, who all seemed to agree that the movie’s intriguing premise and likeable cast was frequently at odds with its syrupy tone. A lot of audiences also pointed out the aggressive product placement in the film, which also seemed to undermine its message of free-spirited individuality.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Zack Snyder movies make excellent trailers. And although the film’s initial announcement was met with some criticism (especially the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman), the trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had DC Comics fans pretty excited. The two biggest superheroes in history finally in a movie together? And Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to boot? We all bought tickets to this thing.

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Image via Warner Bros.

In the years since its release, Batman v Superman has become a cautionary tale of how not to launch a superhero franchise. Overly long, overly grim, and so convoluted that watching it feels like a fever dream, this movie was so bad it made the follow-up Justice League film essentially dead on arrival, forcing DC to completely restructure their cinematic universe plans.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Lord of the Rings fans were plenty skeptical about a new trilogy of films based solely on the children’s novel The Hobbit, but it’s hard to deny how good that first trailer was. Featuring a haunting tune sung in character by Thorin (Richard Armitage), the teaser for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey literally gave us goosebumps. It looked like Peter Jackson had crafted another emotionally resonant fantasy film.

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Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

The song sung by Armitage might be the only good part of this film. It takes the characters a full hour of screen time to even leave Bilbo’s (Martin Freeman) house to start the adventure. The movie’s bloated three-hour runtime, much of which is wasted on pointless side stories, didn’t do anything to reassure fans that this new trilogy wasn’t a cynical attempt to squeeze more money out of the One Ring.

The Snowman

The Snowman, an adaption of a long-running series of bestselling detective novels, seemed to have all the right components. Produced by Martin Scorsese and featuring an A-list cast including Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, and J.K. Simmons, the trailer seemed to promise a sure-fire hit for audiences looking for a gripping murder mystery in a unique setting.

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Image via Universal Pictures

The movie was plagued by production problems, including literally running out of money before filming was completed. That’s right – according to the director, roughly 15% of the script didn’t get filmed. When you watch the movie, you can absolutely tell – characters and storylines appear and disappear at random, which you might recognize as being particularly problematic for a mystery film. The end result is a tragedy you can’t stop watching, sort of like a car crash full of circus animals.

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