Movies & TV / Columns

10 Great Movie Trailers for 10 Not-So-Great Movies

August 1, 2020 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Star WarsL The Phantom Menace Darth Maul

The first movie trailer shown in an American movie theater was in back in November 1913, when Nils Granlund, the advertising manager for the Marcus Loew theater chain, put together a short promotional film for the musical The Pleasure Seekers, opening at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway.

Movie trailers exist to entice us to spend the money to see a particular film. It can be a simple teaser or give away the whole plot of the movie. While those points are pretty clear, what’s subjective is our anticipation for a coming attraction and how well a trailer does its job to get us to see it. 

The list below is based on MY anticipation and MY enjoyment of the trailer and then my disappointment with the finished product on screen. You won’t see movies like Sucker Punch or The Last Airbender because even though those trailers looked great but (for most) failed to deliver, I didn’t have any desire to see the movies.

Same for movies like Cloverfield and Watchmen. I saw them both and felt the trailers and movies lined up well with one another. Tempered expectations played a part as well so it evened things out. 

The whole idea of this comes from a trailer I just watched again the other day. The movie was based on a book and the trailer was absolutely engrossing. Pulled me in with the characters, the quotes, and shifting points-of-view. That trailer? Cloud Atlas

Beautifully done, it captures the epic tones from the book and it made me believe that the Wachowskis has taken a difficult book to adapt and pulled off the near impossible. Alas, it wasn’t to be. The movie is highly ambitious and while not horrible, it never captures the wonder and thrill of the trailer. 

That’s a common theme here. The trailer does such an amazing job that sometimes the movie has no hope to follow. Take Where the Wild Things Are. This trailer perfectly captured the dark, edgy style of the book without going too far with it. 

I love Spike Jonze but the movie takes the darker elements we see in the trailer and leans into them to explore more adult themes we deal with as we grow up. Not saying it doesn’t make for an interesting movie but after a touching trailer, it was a stark contrast. This is one movie that I feel I should revisit though. I’m sure you can agree that how you take in a movie depends on what’s going on in your life. Did you see it in a theater? At home? With a significant other or friends? Movies that we didn’t connect with at one time may find some level of importance later in life. 

A movie like Inherent Vice is a good example of this. When I first saw the trailer, I was all in. I mean, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson. It’s Joaquin Phoenix. That cast. The dialogue. 

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see it in the theaters and every time I’ve tried to watch it, I just can’t vibe with it. The movie has plenty of moving part and while some of the characters catch my attention, too little is done to keep it and I’m playing catch up to figure out what’s going on. While some don’t mind that much work, I haven’t been able to commit long enough to find out if it’s worth it. 

Let me say this next one is COMPLETELY RANDOM but childhood Steve must include it. The year is 1983 and I watched a trailer for a movie called Star Raiders, thinking it was going to be a huge hit. 

I was an idiot. 

Moving on. When The Village came out, director M. Night Shyamalan already has established his reputation for “twist endings” and it proved to be to his detriment with this movie. 

Creepy and filled with all the Shyamalan marks, The Village turned into…a mess. The execution of the build up was too obvious, leaving us with a payoff that was both predictable and weak. 

The haunting visuals of The Village trailer caught my attention in the same way as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I remember seeing this one in the theater and if you based it’s performance on the audience reaction, I would have predicted this to be a mega blockbuster. 

Everything about this movie looked dazzling. It’s a good movie but it never ventures to great territory because it’s all style and little substance. The potential Sky Captain had based on the trailers was enormous and is one of Hollywood’s great “What ifs?”.
Sometimes we’re blinded by hope. Sometimes a cool trailer feeds that hope and raises the stakes. Like Terminator Salvation. Enough has been written about the Terminator franchise and its many failures after the first two movies. 

Salvation looked to be just what the franchise needed. 

With Christian Bale hitting all the right notes, Salvation looked to course correct things back on the right path. Only it didn’t. It made a bigger mess of things and it was another case of wasted potential. All that hope from the trailer lost.
Speaking of hope, let’s talk about Man of Steel. And yes, I know this will be a controversial point. 

The teaser and trailers for Man of Steel were incredibly well done and I still watch them from time to time. The music, the visuals, everything about them seems to capture the wonder that is Superman. With Zack Snyder, the visuals were a given. The finished product, for me, missed the mark. While I appreciated the “look” Snyder brings to his movies, there’s little beyond that that keeps me hooked. 

Not saying people who enjoy this are wrong but it didn’t do it for me. And that’s OK. I’ll always have the trailers. 

If we’re talking imagery, 2001’s Pearl Harbor was soaked in them. What you saw in the trailer never translated to the movie and with Hans Zimmer’s score in the trailer background, you didn’t really care. 

Yes, this trailer laid it on thick but it worked and some wiped a tear from their eye when it was done. I doubt anyone did that after they saw the movie. 

We’ll finish with the most obvious one out there. Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

I don’t think I can overstate how big these trailers were. We’re talking massive. Everyone was talking about them and the anticipation to see a new Star Wars was a phenomenon. It was a different time and a different fandom.

It was also the beginning of the end for the fandom. After seeing the trailers we all marched into theaters to see it and left…bewildered. I remember saying, “That was cool, right?” I really wasn’t sure. My excitement had turned into awkward confusion. I should have known better. 

Thus is the power of the trailer.