10 Trailers That Were Better Than the Movie


Plenty of people grumble about trailers not delivering the movie they promise, but only one man — New Zealander J. Congdon — got Paramount Pictures to refund the cost of his Jack Reacher ticket, because the movie didn’t include the badass cliff explosion that got him to spend money on a Tom Cruise movie in the first place. In fairness to Paramount, this kind of thing happens all the time; trailers are often cut months before the picture itself is finalized, leading to all sorts of shots, jokes, and scenes that don’t show up in the finished product. It’s all part of the tricky world of film advertising, where the goal is to lure you into the theater, and not necessarily to reflect the tone, story, or (certainly) quality of the film in question. Trailer cutting is kind of an art form unto itself, which is why we so often see trailers that get us all in a tizzy, only to wander out of the movie they’re selling in a befuddled and disappointed stupor. After the jump, we look back at ten movies that were far better in two-minute form.

Independence Day

People gazing towards the heavens in awe! Giant shadows moving over national landmarks! Huge fireballs engorging city streets! A big fucking UFO blowing up the White House! At 92 seconds, this teaser for the 1996 smash Independence Day seemed to have it all; what it didn’t have, aside from the brief and forgettable prologue, was a lot of “characters” engaging in “behavior” and saying “dialogue” to each other, which turned out to be something of a gigantic weak spot if you had to sit through the endless 145 minutes of the film itself.

Moulin Rouge!

Spotlighting impeccable production design, stunning visuals, juiced-up music, and over-the-top emotion, this was one of the best trailers of the young century, making its throwback story seem altogether new, hip, and fast. Trouble was, the movie itself was a 130-minute version of that trailer: big, loud, over-caffeinated, and over-edited (Luhrmann and cutter Jill Bilcock will never use one edit when they can use three). By the hour mark, this viewer wanted to shake the damn movie, just to calm it down.


The trailers for last year’s big Pixar release promised a fierce female protagonist, some Scottish humor, and (the hot movie trend of the moment) archery. You know what they were short on? Characters who turned into bears for half the movie. Come to find out, that’s a whole lot of what Brave was about! Any way you slice it, Brave was far from Pixar’s best work, but that particular bait and switch seemed to indicate that even the people who made the movie knew they had a turkey on their hands.

The Limits of Control

Jim Jarmusch was coming off Ghost Dog and Broken Flowers, two fairly traditional stories given fresh air by his off-kilter style, when The Limits of Control was released in 2009. I remember showing the trailer to my wife, who said, “It looks interesting. What’s it about?” I told her I didn’t know. Turns out, neither did Jarmusch. The trailer emphasizes the film’s striking visual, cool music, and the chiseled features of star Issach De Bankole; unfortunately, the film is little more than 116 minutes of the same, a maddeningly repetitious and ultimately empty test of his audience’s patience and endurance.

Bad Teacher

Particularly in its foul-mouthed “red band” form, the Bad Teacher trailer lands easy but hearty laughs with its premise of Cameron Diaz as a rude, crude, wildly inappropriate high school teacher. But here’s the trouble with a one-joke movie: when the joke is told, there’s nowhere for the movie to go, and it turns into the cinematic equivalent of plunking the same note on a piano, over and over, for 90 minutes. And when the one joke has already been told in the trailer, the movie itself is all the more agonizing and tedious.

American Gangster

It’s understandable that, for all the electricity Jay-Z’s “Heart of the City” brings to the trailer for Ridley Scott’s 2007 crime epic, it couldn’t make its way into the film itself (which is set well before the song’s release). What’s unfortunate is that Hova’s track is the kind of throwback-with-a-modern-twist that American Gangster should have been, and wasn’t. Its two-sided look at ‘70s era NYC, from both the side of the gangster and the cop, looked like a mash-up of Black Caesar and The French Connection via Heat, but the disappointing final product felt more like a dull recycling of those influences than a reinvention of them.

Spider-Man 3

Remember how excited we were for Spider-Man 3? After all, the second film had surpassed the first by wild, web-slinging leaps, with a delicious villain, an increasingly interesting romantic entanglement, and a series of terrific set pieces that showcased the confidence and skill of director Sam Raimi. The trailers for part three seemed to indicate more of the same — big action, big emotion, new villains, and an intriguing dark edge for Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. Then we went to the movie, only to find the Peter/MJ relationship given the flaccid complication of an uninteresting Bryce Dallas Howard, the narrative cluttered by an overabundance of antagonists, and the dark side of Peter dramatized by the immediately notorious emo-Peter disco-dancing.

Feeling Minnesota

Don’t remember this one? Don’t feel too bad — even those of us who saw it barely recall it. But when this trailer hit back in ’96, it looked like the next Pulp Fiction: hip soundtrack, impressive ensemble cast, bursting with indie cool. Hell, it even bore the label of Jersey Films, which brought Fiction to the screen. And that “Ring of Fire” cue? Perfect. But the trailer’s sly style was sorely lacking in the film itself, which turned out to be yet another clumsy Tarantino wannabe.

Vantage Point

Taut, tight, and exhilarating, the trailer for Vantage Point promises not only a fast-paced thriller but an ingenious gimmick: a Presidential assassination told from eight different perspectives, Rashomon-style. Trouble is, if you’re not Akira Kurosawa (and director Pete Travis, turns out, was not), Rashomon is much harder to pull off in practice than theory, and his limp, generic picture had little of the efficiency or energy of the teaser.

“Frenzy of Blood” Double Feature (I Dismember Mama/The Blood-Splattered Bride)

Okay, confession: we haven’t actually seen I Dismember Mama. Or The Blood-Splattered Bride. But seriously, could they possibly be better than this?