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What Were the Most Misleading Trailers of 2016?

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | December 26, 2016 |

By Rebecca Pahle | Lists | December 26, 2016 |

A ring-a-ding-dong of the shame bell to this year’s utterly misleading movie trailers. Nothing got me quite as incensed as Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson PeaFOR FUCK’S SAKE UNIVERSAL, DIDN’T YOU WANT ANYONE TO SEE THIS? Ahem, ahem. No, I’m good. But really, though, marketing departments: Get your shit together.

Spoilers throughout.

The Dressmaker

Hey, quick question: When you watch the trailer for The Dressmaker, do you think it’s a feel-good comedy about a glamorous social outcast who brings around her closeminded neighbors by making them fancy clothes that make them feel good about themselves? Or is this the sort of movie where a husband bleeds out on his kitchen floor after his wife—whom he’s been keeping in a perpetual state of drug-addled oblivion for years following the death of their son so he can have an affair—slashes his Achilles tendons and leaves him to die? Surprise! It’s both! The Dressmaker is weird.

Nocturnal Animals

Genevieve wrote a whole piece on how very WTF the marketing for Tom Ford’s A Single Man follow-up Nocturnal Animals is. Namely: it’s more “a film about Amy Adams having feelings about her ex-husband while moping around her very nice house or the art gallery she works at” than a “nail-biting revenge thriller,” which is how the trailers make it look.

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad has its funny moments—many of them courtesy of Jai Courtney, and who saw that coming?—but it’s much less of a romp than the trailers and posters promised. “Look! We’re just like Guardians of the Galaxy! We have songs and bright colors! We’re not at all an overly serious, grimdark, self-indulgent jerkoff session like Batman v Superman. Really! We’re just like Lisa Frank on crack!” Granted, Suicide Squad was better and more fun than its ignominious DC Universe predecessor, but it’s not like that’s hard. And for all the marketing and pre-release press went hard on Jared Leto’s Juggalo Joker, the character himself was nothing more than a supporting player, and a minor one at that. Thank God for small favors.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

The trailer made it look like it might be good. This happens with Zack Snyder movies a lot.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The marketing for Rogue One wasn’t misleading in a general sense so much as it included a ton of stuff that wasn’t even in the movie. Did you already buy your “I rebel” t-shirts/posters/custom boxes for your sex toys (I don’t know you)? Too bad, because the mic drop line from Rebel badass Jyn Erso didn’t even make it to the final cut. Ditto the BenMen space cape on the beach moment, Jyn facing off against TIE fighter, possibly another Darth Vader scene… a lot. Birth Movies Death has a rundown. For what it’s worth, director Gareth Edwards spoke on the Empire podcast about how he told the marketing department that a lot of the footage they were choosing, particularly shots hailing from the much-altered third act, wouldn’t be in the final cut, only to get a “*shrug* YOLO” in response.

Blair Witch

All the run-up to the release of Blair Witch emphasized how Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch Project sequel was a groundbreaking, earth-shattering, tie-your-dick-in-a-knot scary cinematic experience. We had no reason to suspect the film of mediocrity: Advance word was positive, Wingard had previously directed The Guest and You’re Next, and it was a genius move for Lionsgate to announce at Comic Con, mere months before the film’s release, that a mysterious film formerly titled “The Woods” was actually a sequel to one of the scariest, most influential horror movies all time. But we all got played, because mediocrity is exactly what Wingard delivered. Blair Witch has moments of fright, but on balance it was just another so-so studio horror movie in a year full of ‘em.


The trailers for Allied went heavy on the action! Suspense! Spy intrigue! Instead, Robert Zemeckis delivered a half-assed, milquetoast drama where, after the first half hour, things mostly settle into a groove of “Brad Pitt brooding around 1940s suburban London looking vaguely constipated.”

The Conjuring 2

“Who knew I’d have to listen to Patrick Wilson sing Elvis for no reason amidst a creepy story? Fuckers.” Uhhhh. Jodi is not selling me on this one.

Manchester by the Sea

The trailers for Manchester by the Sea were not so much “misleading” as “wholesale omitted a big chunk of what makes this movie so soul-destroying.” Granted, your mileage may vary on whether this is just… not spoiling the movie, especially since the revelation of [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] is only slowly teased out in the movie itself. Dustin writes that “I knew it would be a sad movie about grieving, but — and not to be THAT guy — but goddamn, I thought the worst thing that happened was that Coach died. [Vague spoilers] Parents of small kids should know about THAT thing before going. I could only pay half attention to everything that happened after that because I felt compelled to run home and make sure nothing bad had happened.”

Also: Manchester is funny? Kinda. It’s a dry, Bahhhhhstahn humor.


Hey so, uhhhh, just so you know, the premise of Passengers is that Chris Pratt’s character accidentally wakes up from suspended hibernation during a decades-long space voyage and, feeling the loneliness blues, decides to wake up Jennifer Lawrence, too. The trailers decided to treat “but how did they wake up?!?!??!” as a big mystery, possibly because someone at Sony realized “leading man basically kidnaps leading lady” miiiight be a tough sell.

Collateral Beauty

Here’s another one with trailers that completely misrepresent the premise of the movie, because the premise of the movie is absolutely horrifying. In Collateral Beauty, it’s not Love, Death, and Time visiting grieving father Will Smith - it’s three actors hired to pretend to be Love, Death, and Time, because making Will Smith think he’s going insane is a great way for his coworkers/ostensible friends to elbow him out of the company he founded for his own good. But Collateral Beauty is supposed to be a feel-good Christmas movie, so the trailers omitted the ooky gaslighting angle entirely. Incidentally, a side effect of Collateral Beauty’s dishonest marketing is that it unwittingly spoils one of the film’s plot twists: That the “actors” were really Love, Death, and Time all along. But that reveal was visible from a mile off, and who the fuck cares anyway, because this movie is garbage.

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