Ah, those old days of browsing the video store looking for the latest and greatest '80s horror movies, most extreme '90s action movies, and funniest '80s comedies to rent. Back then, of course, we didn't have the internet, so all that we could go on were covers - and distributors obviously knew that. While we're told never to judge a book by its cover, the same should probably also go for movies, especially given some of the incredibly misleading VHS covers that used to hang out in the video rental aisles of our favorite Blockbuster stores.
Here are a few of our favorite misleading VHS covers that absolutely tricked us into thinking we were getting a very different movie...
- Photo: MGM
How scary can a movie about cartoon mice be, anyway? Anyone who has actually seen this 1982 Don Bluth film knows the answer: pretty scary. After all, the mice in question are not just having cute cartoon adventures; they're actually being pursued and experimented on by the titular NIMH, which stands for the National Institute of Mental Health. Pretty heady stuff for a children's cartoon, although fans of Don Bluth's other cartoon films, including All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Land Before Time, may not be too surprised to find darker themes present in The Secret of NIMH.
At least its VHS cover is less misleading than the later DVD cover, which gives absolutely no indication at all as to the horrors that await within...
Is this a lie?
- Actors: Shannen Doherty, Wil Wheaton, Derek Jacobi, Dom DeLuise, John Carradine
- Released: 1982
- Directed by: Don Bluth
- Runtime: 82
- Premiered: July 30, 1982
- Characters: Auntie Shrew, Teresa Brisby, Timothy Frisby, Martin Brisby, Billy Fitzgibbons
Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 know it as The Final Sacrifice, but this low-budget Canadian flick from 1990 was also released on VHS under the title Quest for the Lost City, complete with an extremely misleading cover. Not only are none of the people on the cover anywhere in the movie - and the "lost city" in question doesn't quite resemble the one in the film - but those pictured also look a whole lot more like typical action heroes than our notoriously beery and nerdy protagonists.
In fact, that guy with the gun looks an awful lot like a low-rent Kevin Sorbo...
Is this a lie?
- Actors: Bryan C. Knight, Aus Greidanus, Christian Malcolm, Ron Anderson, Shane Marceau
- Released: 1990
- Directed by: Tjardus Greidanus
- Characters: Cultist, Cultist, Aunt Betty, Cultist, Cultist
- Photo: Studio Ghibli
One of the first films from acclaimed anime director Hayao Miyazaki to be translated and released in the United States, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was originally dubbed, edited, and retitled Warriors of the Wind to try to sell it as a children's adventure film. Excising more than 20 minutes of footage, Warriors of the Wind notoriously garbled the plot of Miyazaki's environmentalist fable, and changed the lead character's name from Nausicaä to Princess Zandra.
None of the revisions that were made to the movie, however, were as misleading as the cover it was stuck with at most video stores. Featuring a cadre of characters not appearing in the film, the cover boasts, among other things, a pegasus, what looks to be a robot skeleton firing a laser, and a red energy being wielding a Star Wars-style lightsaber. Needless to say, kids who picked up Warriors of the Wind did not know what they were getting into.
Is this a lie?
- Actors: Jōji Yanami, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Ichirō Nagai, Sumi Shimamoto, Gorō Naya
- Released: 1984
- Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
- Runtime: 118
- Advisories: Adult Situations, Violence
- Characters: Asbel, Commando, Kurotowa, Kushana, Master Yupa
- Photo: Cinedigm
William Hurt won an Academy Award for his role as the transgender woman Luis Molina in this film, which was also nominated for best picture, best director, and best adapted screenplay. Not bad for a movie that looks and sounds an awful lot like a Val Lewton horror picture from the 1940s, at least based on its cover. The film is actually about a pair of political prisoners who become friends and eventually lovers in their cell, all the while alternately being caught up in and resisting the machinations of their jailers. Not much like the spooky thriller that the cover implies.
However, while there are probably more than a few people who picked up Kiss of the Spider Woman expecting some Lewton-style chills, the cover isn't entirely misleading, either. Molina helps her cellmate pass the time by recounting the plots of movies she has seen, including melodramas that would have been right at home with titles (and covers) like the one this movie received.
Is this a lie?
- Actors: William Hurt, Raul Julia, Sonia Braga, José Lewgoy, Nuno Leal Maia
- Released: 1985
- Directed by: Hector Babenco
- Runtime: 119
- Advisories: Adult Language, Adult Situations
- Premiered: June 29, 1985
- Characters: Luis Molina, Valentin Arregui, Leni Lamaison/Marta/Spider Woman, Warden, Gabriel