Today the nominations for the Golden Trailer Awards are announced. That’s right, the people who make trailers, just like everyone else in Hollywood, like to give themselves a pat on the back for their hard work making bad movies look good and good movies look like something you would sell your first born child to see (for example, the new Dark Knight Rises trailer.) But even the trailer makers can mess up big time. So to help today’s nominees look even better by comparison, here’s some of the worst trailers from recent years for movies that should have stood a chance.
(Since it would be impossible to include all really bad trailers here, feel free to point out the ones we missed in the comments.)
The Double (2011)
Cassius was a Soviet assassin that Richard Gere hunted down and killed. Cassius is dead. We know this because this trailer tells us that three times in 30 seconds. Richard Gere shot him. He’s dead. Did I mention his name is Cassius? Because just in case you forget the trailer reminds you no less than eight times. Cassius. Don’t forget. Also, Richard Gere killed him.
But this trailer is famous for being terrible because it tells you who the double agent is 90 seconds in. To be fair, the movie does this just 30 minutes in, but the trailer didn’t have to; any of the three stars could realistically have been Cassius (who Richard Gere killed. Except maybe not.)
Lions for Lambs (2007)
Despite and A-list cast including Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep this movie tanked at the box office, probably thanks in no small part to its trailer. It tells you almost nothing specific about the plot. Robert Redford is a teacher somewhere who had two students join some branch of the military. Tom Cruise is a politician, maybe the President? No wait, he’s a Senator. Meryl Streep is a reporter at a newspaper or possibly a magazine. The government is changing strategy in Iraq, or is it Afghanistan? It might be neither. Then something non-specific goes wrong while the military is doing something undefined. And it’s all our fault because we don’t care enough to hold our elected leaders responsible.
The people who threw this trailer together obviously thought hitting you over the head with liberal and conservative stereotypes (“They bank on your apathy. They plan strategies around it.”; “Do you want to win the war on terror? Yes or no.”) would get war-weary butts in seats.
This arthouse film, Stephen Soderbergh’s follow up to Ocean’s Twelve, was apparently pretty good and has a 72% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But if the people who made this trailer had their way, no one would have ever found that out. The trailer is a minute and a half of quick shots of different doll parts, set to some dramatic classical music. That’s it. And while the first few shots are a little creepy, by 45 seconds in you are bored. Right, doll parts are creepy, we get it, move on. By the time it is finally over you want that 90 seconds of your life back and still have absolutely no idea what this movie is about, who stars in it, or why you shouldn’t hunt down Soderbergh and punch him in the face for being a pretentious twat.
Speed Racer (2007)
There was a lot of hype built up around this film, and considering the decent cast it might not had bombed as badly as it did if the trailer people didn’t just say, “Screw this,” and make the film look even more ridiculous than it actually was. This trailer is so over the top that by the time you get to the bit with a kid and a monkey in the trunk of a car you’re thinking, “Finally, something normal.”
The International (2008)
This trailer seems to think we need a twenty second setup to convince us that banks could be bad, and this was at the height of the financial crisis. People were already convinced banks were bad, I doubt they trailer needed to, via close up shots of ATM transactions and annoying words on the screen, hit home the point that banks could also possibly be super-duper evil. (Regarding those words on the screen: if you are going to ask a question in text, you should probably put a question mark at the end. If you think it looks stupid, maybe drop the whole text thing completely.)
After that the trailer fails to let us know anything important about the movie. Banks are buying missiles and this is bad because… well it certainly seems bad. And Clive Owen decides to stop them for some reason. And Naomi Watts is there at one point. But seriously, 2008 audience member, banks are evil and if they screwed you over you should spend $10 of the little money you have left and see this movie to remind yourself just how bad they are.
About a decade ago, someone in Hollywood managed to get an A-list cast to agree to make a romantic comedy about the zany antics that ensue when Kate Beckinsale finds out that her fiancé’s entire family are dwarfs, one of whom is played by Gary Oldman, on his knees. That all makes for one dumb trailer. But the best bit is towards the end, when you realize that the trailer people are trying to frame this movie as Oscar-bait, with Oldman in “the role of a lifetime.”