The Most Misleading Movie Trailers

Over 2.1K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Most Misleading Movie Trailers
Voting Rules
Vote up the trailers that tricked you into expecting a totally different movie.

Movie trailers aim to answer five basic questions. Who is in the film? What is the film going to be about? Where can I see it? When does it hit theaters? How is the film being presented (3D, IMAX)? A good trailer also sets the tone of the movie. Is the film going to be a serious English period drama or an entertaining popcorn flick about aliens who fight robots? However, not all movie trailers honestly depict the actual movie. Sometimes, they even purposely dupe the spectator. Here are the most misleading movie trailers ever.

Why would a movie trailer purposely deceive a viewer? It’s almost always about selling tickets. More people are likely to see a more mainstream film. For example, horror films are extremely popular with teenagers and often do very well at the box office. Gothic romances, on the other hand, tend not to be such big business.

When the marketing team set out to make the trailer for Crimson Peak, they sold the movie as a straight-up haunted house horror movie. However, the film’s director Guillermo del Toro flat-out said that his movie was a far cry from horror, “Crimson Peak is not a horror movie but it has more to the tone of a fairytale or a gothic romance, sort of a female-centric tale, than Haunted Mansion which is a ride and has to be fun and scary in a Disney way.”

Imagine going to the movies to see Crimson Peak because the trailer depicted it as a horror film, and then getting a story in the vein of Emily Brontë. Crimson Peak isn’t the only offender. Several films are notorious for marketing their movie one way in order to draw a bigger crowd, only to disappoint spectators expecting the movie they were sold in the trailer.

Make your voice heard. Vote up the movie trailers that are the least representative of the movies they advertise.

  • The Cabin in the Woods
    Video: YouTube
    The movie the trailer sold: Just another horror movie with all the typical cliches: really hot dumb youngsters (hello Chris Hemsworth), an isolated location, and something evil trying to kill them. The trailer does hint at the mysterious sci-fi angle but doesn't give too much away.
    The actual movie: First off, this is a Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard project, two really smart filmmakers who are anything but cliched. Turns out Cabin in the Woods is actually more in the style of Scream: a very self-aware, funny, clever movie that subverts the horror genre, while still being a very scary movie. The trailer has a funny line or two, but it doesn't give away that the film is more of a satire, which are sometimes tough for audiences to accept, and often don't sell tickets at the box office.
    591 votes

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  • Bridge to Terabithia
    Video: YouTube

    The movie the trailer sold: A family-friendly fantasy film a la Eragon and The Chronicles of Narnia.

    The actual movie: The film is about a preteen named Jess (Josh Hutcherson), who is bullied at school and abused at home. His world changes when he meets another loner named Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb). The friends use their imagination to create a magical world in the woods in order to escape their lives, but this film is not all about fantasy, and pulls a classic switcheroo.

    Audiences don't expect that they will need a box of tissues to go along with their popcorn after the tragic plot twist. The narrative of the film switches to how one of the characters has to deal with death and how to cope with losing a friend. In order to make sure parents bring their young kids to the theater. The trailer sells the fantasy side of the film, not the heartbreak.

    437 votes

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  • 3
    625 VOTES
    Video: YouTube

    The movie the trailer sold: A slash starring Drew Barrymore. Much of the marketing campaign for Scream was built around Barrymore, positioning the popular child actress as a major player.

    The actual movie: In what is surely one of the biggest surprises in horror film history, Drew Barrymore's character is brutally murdered in the first scene. Director Wes Craven is essentially letting audiences know that this horror movie is not going to play by the rules and is actually going to subvert the entire genre. We know now that Scream is a very clever send-up of slasher conventions.
    625 votes
  • 4
    674 VOTES
    Iron Man 3
    Video: YouTube
    The movie the trailer sold: After two extremely successful installments in the Iron Man franchise, film number three promised to be a go big or go home thriller. The grim, ominous trailer introduces the villainous Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, who looks like he could actually take down Tony Stark.
    The actual movie: By the time a franchise gets to its third movie, playing with expectations is probably a smart move. About halfway through this sequel, the audience discovers that Mandarin is not the overpowering villain the trailer suggests. He's nothing more than an oblivious actor, a stand-in for a different villain played by Guy Pearce. Iron Man 3 is way more fun than the dark trailer would have us believe.
    674 votes

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  • 5
    327 VOTES
    Video: YouTube

    The movie the trailer sold: A heavy, action-packed war movie.

    The actual movie: Jarhead is all about the mundanity of war. Based on a memoir by Anthony "Swoff" Swofford (Jake Gyllanhaal), the film focuses on the boredom of a modern soldier's existence. The major conflict of the story is not about fighting the enemy, but about never even seeing an enemy that you've been trained to kill. It's certainly a lot easier to sell an intense combat actioner than a drama that contemplates the reality of modern warfare.
    327 votes

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  • 6
    275 VOTES
    The Grey
    Video: YouTube

    The movie the trailer sold: Liam Neeson is in Taken badass mode, surviving in the wilds of Alaska after a plane crash, and kicking some wild wolf butt in an action-packed adventure story.

    The actual movie: The Grey is a survival story, but not a by-the-numbers popcorn flick. Instead, the film tells a very somber, grizzled tale about mortality. "Liam Neeson fist-fights wolves" sums up the whole marketing effort. The actual film cuts to black as he prepares to brawl with the beast. Naturally, the trailer was always going to underline the action elements and cut out the existential tone of the film.

    275 votes

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