10 Things Movie Trailers Need To Stop Doing

Batman V Superman - Doomsday screenshot

You're browsing Screen Rant, so you probably love a good movie trailer. Now that we have the internet and thus the ability to pull it all apart frame-by-frame and analyze every juicy second, trailers are more prominent than ever before, and are even being critiqued like mini-movies in and of themselves.

Maybe a bit more of that needs to happen, because as you might have noticed, a trailer has the potential to ruin a film before it even gets to premiere. Here are 10 things that movie trailers really, really need to stop doing if they want to keep us on the hype train.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

New York City - Ghostbusters Trailer Shot
Start Now

10 Pointless City Shots

New York City - Ghostbusters Trailer Shot

Every word in this sentence is a link to a trailer that does this.

Is there some crucial insight we gain by seeing the camera sweep past a random cityscape? Aerial city shots are impressive, sure, and trailers are supposed to include impressive things to make you see the movie… but not when they serve all the narrative purpose of filming an empty bus station for a few seconds.

They’ve become trailer shorthand for ‘this is the beginning of our trailer. We can afford a cool aerial shot so it’s probably big budget, maybe’. You could say they’re trying to establish the setting, but that’s not something trailers need to do. Really, they don’t. Once we’ve seen Iron Man blasting off from Stark Tower or a shot of the Ghostbusters’ iconic headquarters, that’s all we need. A shot of a bunch of generic buildings really is just what it sounds like.

9 Hyping Things That Are Barely in the Movie

Transformers Age of Extinction Dinbot

In many ways, trailer editors have a tough job. The job is often done out-of-house, they don’t always get the full movie and at times they’re not really told what the director wants to show, instead having to rely on executive meddling urging them to show all the cool bits.

And yep, those Dinobots sure did look cool, for seven minutes of screen-time at the very end of a movie that seemed to drag into eternity. The marketing is also to blame here, since every poster was dedicated to Optimus sitting astride his robot T-Rex, but you can see the wider problem. So often we see a character or setting shoved into front a center for all the cool trailer shots, only to find that it’s all a bait-and-switch. There’s a fine balance between making your trailer look amazing and hyping up something that’ll inevitably turn out to be a disappointment.

If you thought Pacific Rim was going to be a massive punch-fest between the Jaegers and the big monsters, tough; most of them show up to get destroyed before the main characters step in. Monica Bellucci’s ‘Bond Girl’ from Spectre got a grand total of two scenes before being drop-kicked from the movie. In some cases a big name will warp the marketing around them… and in others, it’s just straight lies.

8 Completely Misrepresenting the Tone

Merida in Brave - Best Pixar Characters

Pixar’s Brave got hit by this one hard, as audiences went into the movie expecting a Pixar-esque action flick and actually got a fairly straightforward fairy-tale with a few bits of action scattered here and there. This was mostly down to the trailer, which you’d be forgiven for thinking was about Scottish Katniss Everdeen hunting down a witch in the midst of a brutal war. It was a fun movie, but it wasn’t that.

You expect trailers to manipulate things to a degree, but when the movie they try to sell you is tonally the opposite of what you paid for, that’s where you have the right to be narked. Action movies get this treatment when the trailers try to make them out to be a heck of a lot more romantic than they actually are. Batman Begins as an inspirational romance with some action on the side? Sure, whatever reels in the female demographic. Meanwhile, viewers of Bicentennial Man were tricked into thinking they were watching a goofball comedy about a robot butler and soon found themselves in a three-hour exploration of the human condition. You can see how this would raise a bit of frustration, especially when money is involved.

7 The Same Songs, Over and Over

X-Men Apocalypse Trailer Egypt

There was a time in the early 2000s when you couldn’t throw a stone at a rom-com trailer and not hit James Brown's "I Feel Good." "Requiem for a Dream" became so overused that you could’ve been sick of it if you went to the movies once a year, and Imagine Dragons are probably at this very second rolling in the massive piles of cash they’ve made from "Radioactive" being used in every TV-drama trailer in the last five years. Hollywood, there are other songs.

Another trend swiftly wearing out its welcome is that of a sad version of an upbeat pop song playing over… anything. Scenes of destruction, scenes of hooking up, just grab the nearest singer with an idiosyncratic voice and have them record a positive song in a warbling fashion. Boom, instant trailer music, even though it’s becoming the white bread of trailer tropes. Even games are getting in on the trend, with Final Fantasy XV overlaying scenes of intense monster battles with Florence Welch crooning "Stand By Me." It doesn’t fit. They never fit.

6 Those Generic 'Wham' Lines

Suicide Squad Trailer Barinholtz Guard

Most trailers for fantasy/sci-fi movies can be predicted beat-for-beat, which isn’t entirely a bad thing when they avoid all of this list’s other pitfalls. Still, there’s one part of pretty much every one of these trailers that reeks of sheer laziness: the 'wham' line.

Usually found lurking right before the final, spoileriffic montage, the line attempts to… actually, what does it attempt to do? What crucial, enticing bit of info does Will Smith’s Deadshot impart to us when he blandly comes out with “Let’s go save the world”? It doesn’t match the entire premise of Suicide Squad in the slightest, or Deadshot’s character. It just kinda had to be in there, since it’s a comic book movie trailer.

And when Mystique says “Let’s go to war,” in the same tone you’d use to announce your departure from the house to get some milk, are they expecting us to feel something? We already know Age of Apocalypse has fight scenes; the rest of the trailer makes that much clearer than Jennifer Lawrence blithely repeating a line that tried to sound cool and falls flat on its face.

5 Just Spoiling Absolutely Everything

Terminator Genisys Cast

Not to prod a fresh wound, but…Doomsday. The Batman V Superman trailer that revealed him is going straight down in history as a movie that handed us its plot on a silver plate and had the gall to ask us to be excited about it anyway (admittedly, it worked).

Meanwhile, Terminator: Genisys couldn’t content itself with just showing us one of the ample scenes with Lee Byung-hun’s genuinely impressive performance as the T-1000. Nope, the ‘twist’ of John Connor being converted into a Terminator had to be shoved right in our faces in both the trailer and on the posters. Even when trying to be careful, pasting in a cool shot without thinking about the level to which a trailer will be dissected has led to accidents.

This one’s mostly on whoever makes the trailer, as a number of directors have come out and expressed their frustration that their carefully crafted movie is being butchered by the marketing. It’s almost like the two parties need to communicate or something.

4 Trailers for Trailers

Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man 3

There’s most definitely an art to making a trailer. We’ve seen brilliant trailers (10 Cloverfield Lane) and horrific ones (Ghostbusters 2016), and also trailer campaigns such as the one for The Muppets, with multiple spoofs and an abundance of creativity throughout.

Acknowledging all of that, this idiotic trend of trailers for trailers needs to end. Sure, people get hyped for the release of a trailer…because it gives them a glimpse of something they actually want to see in its entirety. No one excitedly watches a movie trailer, loves it and completely ignores the main movie because they’re totally fulfilled. The whole purpose of a trailer is to point to a movie, which means the little TV spots that promise that the trailer is ‘coming soon!’ give off a vibe of being so awfully full of themselves.

It’s like they’re boasting that they have you so firmly trapped in the palm of their hand they can get you losing your minds for a few crumbs, where in reality it’s just an irritation. By this logic, there should be no problem with making trailers for trailers for trailers and beyond, because they seem to think that the trailer is a feature in itself. It’s really not. That defeats the entire purpose of the movie.

3 Trailer-Exclusive Scenes (that make no sense)

Greatest Superhero Films Guardians of Galaxy

This is a tricky business, since exclusive trailer scenes will always be a necessity. Civil War has given us multiple reshoots as the cast are steadily revealed, to the point where we’re totally disoriented as to how the final showdown happens. Are Team Cap running along and later joined by Ant-Man? Do they all just run at each other, stop, let Spider-Man have his moment, return to their starting spots and run at each other again while Spider-Man twiddles his thumbs off-camera?

That stuff is fine, because it promises awesomeness while not letting us know exactly how it happens. On the flip-side, we have early trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy, which features the Nova Corp officer declaring that “They call themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy”… during the scene at the prison. This at a point when the main characters don’t know each other, aren’t a team and have no business calling themselves anything. They just really wanted the name to be in there somewhere, so they shot a scene of nonsense.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 goes out of its way to convince us that Norman and Harry Osborn are having clandestine meetings to plot evil things regarding Peter Parker, even though in the final cut Norman has nothing to do with any of that and dies pretty quickly. You can expect a certain amount of manipulation, but shooting scenes for the whole purpose of misleading the audience? That’s just confusing.

2 Re-Using the Same Types of Shots

The Huntsman Winter's War

Trailers often finish with a massive montage of the best moments, hopefully lacking in context so we don’t figure out the entire plot and can just admire the scattered bits of cinematography. This was the case in the recent trailer for The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which gave us the idea that there was going to be a lot of axe-flinging and CGI magic and probably not much of anything else.

Except for the brief shot of the male and females leads getting down to some romantic business, which may be familiar because it seems like it shows up in every trailer ever. No matter the genre or content, it’s practically trailer law that we have to cram in that brief shot of guy and girl tearing off their clothes and smooshing their faces together to prove that this movie definitely has a steamy love scene. You know the scene will be about four seconds long, the trailer people know, but it just has to be there.

And then there’s always that laughter scene (or occasionally some kind of 'ugh!' reaction) that can be spliced into any of the trailer’s jokes, except for when you watch the movie and find that it's in a totally different place. Like how Sue Storm from the Fant4stic trailers will basically giggle at anything. Because the audience won’t be laughing, and someone has to.

1 Ruining All the Good Jokes

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Speaking of Fant4stic, you probably found Reed’s botched fist bump funny the first time around, because it was a pretty decent visual gag and even helped to establish his character. Then we saw it again and again in every trailer, until ultimately Sue Storm was the only one still laughing (because she laughs at anything). Same goes for Anchorman 2, which famously used everything funny about the movie and left nothing much to enjoy once it was actually released.

Trailer-makers can often find themselves hamstrung by this one, as you can’t afford to not include any funny moments at all. We expect comedy trailers to be funny, otherwise no one would see the actual film. What should happen is a balance between the two, where what we see entices us to see more without making the cinema experience completely stale. It was a rare unicorn of a cinema-goer who actually laughed at the 'Spider-Pig' gag from The Simpsons Movie, because we'd all seen it a thousand times. We knew months beforehand Samuel L. Jackson's feelings about all those snakes on the plane, because it became a meme months before the movie came out.

Though to be fair, that was one of the only moments from Snakes on a Plane you'll ever need to see.


Any other trailer tropes that get on your nerves? Let us know in the comments...

More in Lists