These Were Better As Trailers: 15 Previews That Outdid The Movies

Great Expectations: 15 Films That Did Not Live Up To Their Preview

Prometheusn Poster PF WENN


The late film critic Roger Ebert once admitted his personal disdain for movie trailers. To paraphrase his viewpoint, Ebert believed that the ads gave away the best parts of a movie and often misrepresented storyline, characters and performances. Sure, we love to pour over the details of whatever trailer has got us hyped. Yet the truth is the majority of us have walked away disappointed when a film failed to live up to the trailer. Ebert had a point, one that is about to be driven home by the following list. From false advertising to previews being better than the finished product, here are 15 films that did not hold up to their trailers.

The Social Network

The Social Network lineup PF WENN


Director David Fincher has a background in directing commercials for companies like Apple and Nike. When the typically gloomy filmmaker was hired to direct The Social Network, many questioned the Fincher’s motivations in taking a corporate drama. Then the trailer was released—set to a children’s choir cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” the preview presented a dramatic take on the website’s inception while also probing the lonely narcissism of the website, its makers and its users. Of course, the finished film couldn’t live up to the brilliance of the trailer, which may explain why the otherwise solid movie got mostly snubbed at the Oscars.


Drive Gosling Premiere PF WENN

Photo: Apega/

Drive is not an action movie, yet the film’s trailer promotes it as exactly that. Therein lies the film’s biggest problem—the movie posits Ryan Gosling as a stuntman-turned-getaway-driver that fits nicely into the Steve McQueen/Clint Eastwood mold. Of course, said Driver comes up against a group of low-level mobsters and a revenge tale plays out. All this is in the trailer, but is heightened to slam-bang proportions. In reality, the film’s action hero feels more like a serial killer than a traditional good guy. The difference between the ads and the film was so jarring that a woman actually sued the producers over false advertising.

Alien 3

Alien 3 PF WENN


Alien 3 is a film made legendary for not living up to its trailer. Though David Fincher directed the film, 20th Century Fox was responsible for the trailer. A brilliantly designed ad that recalled the original Alien preview, Alien 3 took its premise to the next level by suggesting the trilogy would end on earth. By the time the film was being fast-tracked, this was no longer true—Alien 3 was reset to a desolate prison planet, thus robbing viewers to see the titular creature ransack a futuristic earth.


Prometheusn Poster PF WENN


Speaking of Alien, the film’s pseudo-prequel got a lot of hype thanks to its trailer. While the filmmakers and stars chose to downplay its connection to the Alien franchise, its trailer was designed in the mold of the series and heavily emphasized images of the creatures from the first film. What was promised to be a serious-minded, existential prequel to Ridley Scott’s classic actually turned out to be a stupidly written sci-fi B-movie with stock characters, bad plotting and tenuous connections to the far superior original.

Superman Returns

Superman Returns PF WENN


Superman Returns’ trailer was mind-blowing. Using discarded narration the late Marlon Brando recorded for Superman II (which was dropped from that film due to a payment dispute), the eloquent speech built up to the final, God-like reveal of the new Superman (Brandon Routh) in full blue-and-red regalia. While the finished film was a tribute to Richard Donner’s original films, it emerged as nothing more—Bryan Singer’s movie lacked action and suspense, thus underwhelming audiences worldwide.

Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 PF WENN


Iron Man was a breakout hit for Marvel and Paramount, who rushed Iron Man 2 into production. Despite a choppy time frame, the trailers promised the film was on the right track. With Mickey Rourke as a vengeful, Russian mafia menace and Robert Downey Jr. doing his best Bill Murray impression, Iron Man 2 was set to be a superior sequel. Sadly, the finished film trivialized the best aspects of the trailer and played more like an action figure commercial than a hit movie.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Episode I fan PF WENN


The guy in the photo above is Lincoln Gasking, the organizer of the “Countdown for Star Wars: Episode I.” If you ever saw the trailer for the film circa 1999, you would think he was doing humanity a service. The trailer was, in and of itself, an epic event. It had everything—epic lightsaber fights, a menacing villain, the Emperor’s return, pod-racing, Liam Neeson as a jedi, Ewan McGregor doing a perfect Alec Guiness—we could go on and on. The trailer was so huge people would pay for movie tickets just to see it on the big screen. If you saw the finished film, which has far too many problems to detail here, you know how sad that sounds in retrospect.


Cloverfield PF WENN


After Cloverfield’s cryptic, shaky-cam trailer premiered, moviegoers had one question on their minds: what in the name of all that is good is destroying New York City? The brief clip was all explosions, screaming and then the head of the Statue of Liberty rolled down a street. J.J. Abrams and company kept a tight lid on the film until its release. The opening weekend brought in huge box office, but left many disappointed that the film was little more than a found-footage Godzilla movie (albeit with no Godzilla).


Watchmen PF WENN


If you’ve read Alan Moore’s graphic novel The Watchmen, you were pretty pumped after seeing the trailer. If you didn’t, well, you were still pretty pumped after seeing the trailer. Set to Muse’s “Take A Bow”, the trailer presented a dark, action packed superhero tale that played out on an epic scale. Those familiar with the book could recognize certain scenes and had a good idea of what the movie would entail. Those that didn’t and expected another 300 from Zack Snyder got a mostly talky, existential R-rated superhero movie. The film did disappointingly following its opening weekend, to no one’s surprise.

Where the Wild Things Are

Where The Wild Things Are PF WENN


Where the Wild Things Are seemed like a tough adaptation to undertake, elongating the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book into a feature-length running time. However, after viewing the trailer for the film, most of us were convinced Spike Jonze had achieved something great. The trailer, set to Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up,” was a beautiful montage of imaginary monsters, fantastic landscapes, and brief, cruel reminders of the frustration of childhood. Well, it turned out these ideas were perhaps best communicated in an abbreviated fashion—many viewers were turned off by the film’s dark, sometimes scary, often depressing tone.

Mission Impossible 3


Photo: Daniel Deme/

Mission Impossible was a decent summer actioner, adapting the classic TV show in a mold not unlike the film version of The Fugitive. MI-2 was John Woo’s take on the material, a ridiculously shallow spy flick that bore little resemblance to the source material. With Mission Impossible III, it looked like director J.J. Abrams (above) was getting things back on track. The trailer played up Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character as a villain to be reckoned with, while also showing the vulnerability of Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. The finished movie had these elements, sure, but like Iron Man 2 they didn’t quite coalesce in the epic fashion originally pitched (Hoffman’s character especially).

The Shining


Okay, before you go getting up in arms, let it be known that The Shining is a brilliant, absolute classic film. However, the film’s trailer summarizes the themes of Stephen King’s original story far better than Kubrick’s film does. The premise is simple—a text scrawl is overlayed onto the image of elevator doors as creepy music plays. After much waiting, it opens, thus emptying a wave of blood towards the camera in slow motion. The trailer plays up the movie’s haunted hotel premise which, ironically, was greatly diminished in favor of psychological horror by Kubrick’s finished movie.

Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

Freddy Krueger PF WENN


You may find this to be one of the cheesier entries on this list, but stay with us here. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was the last gasp of the A Nightmare On Elm Street series, a film that promised to put a cap of the franchise once and for all. At the time of its release, the trailer turned heads—not only did the preview promise to detail the dream-dwelling slasher’s back story, but it also promised substantially more action (re: Freddy fighting) than ever before. Though the finished film did make good on its promise, the story seemed more interested in recreating the success of TV’s Twin Peaks (briefly referenced in the trailer) than being a traditional Freddy film.

The Expendables

Expendables PF WENN


The Expendables was supposed to be every action fan’s dream come true. The pitch involved all of Hollywood’s biggest tough guy stars, old and new, rubbing shoulders and trading punches in the action film to end all action films. The trailer advertised this exactly, boiling down the film’s best moments while also boasting a serious turn from Mickey Rourke (who was intended to ground the film in some drama). While the trailer dropped jaws, the finished movie fell flat, boasting incomprehensible action, terrible writing, and thin characters. The sequel, thankfully, delivered on the promise of the original last year.

True Grit

True Grit Poster PF WENN

Photo: PNP/

True Grit—the Coen Brothers 2010 adaptation of Charles Portis novel—was a great, great film. The performances, the script, the direction—the movie doesn’t have a bad bone in its whole body. Well, almost. If you’d seen the original John Wayne vehicle, you’d seen the Coen Brothers movie. That’s not a huge problem if you didn’t catch the film’s teaser—an elegant, thirty-second montage montaged the film’s darkest, most action packed moments, all set to Mosie Lister’s haunting “Where No One Stands Alone.” It looked more No Country For Old Men than John Wayne, and though the finished film was a satisfying retelling, the teaser trailer is a thing of absolute beauty.

  • dan m

    Very questionable choices here…. I didnt even finish the list after I saw that the Social Network and Drive were on there.

    I think maybe you titled the article wrong or something

    • Muhammad Bilal Islam

      Drive was not great, but The Social Network was

  • What’s wrong with being a found-footage Godzilla movie? I think that’s an awesome premise, and Cloverfield definitely lived up to and exceeded the trailer.

    • Forte316

      No it didn’t. People went to see a giant monster tearing about a city, Not shaking camera pov with brief glimpses of the monster.

  • Watchmen was a “mostly talky, existential R-rated superhero comic book,” so why would anyone be surprised that the movie adaptation was a “mostly talky, existential R-rated superhero movie”? It was a faithful adaptation, and the major change that they did make was an improvement.

    • Muhammad Bilal Islam

      Exactly right on all points.

  • williest1

    ‘Drive’ was better than the trailers! I was blown away.

    • Met Fan 4 Life


  • williest1

    I agree with ‘Prometheus’. Totally underwhelming. The high-concept premise’s 2nd act turned into typical space-horror. And in the end? ‘Alien’ prequel.

  • williest1

    well, ‘Superman Returns’ the trailer looked cheesy and the movie was, well…cheesy.

  • williest1

    Still dont quite understand what people find wrong with ‘Phantom Menace’. It told a very important story in the SW canon. And (briefly) introduced the world to Darth Maul.

    • If you truly don’t understand, go to youtube and look up “Red Letter Media Phantom Menace Review”. It will explain everything to you… in words you CAN understand.

  • williest1

    WTH? Cloverfield was AWESOME! It was exactly what it set out to be! Why’s it on this list??

    • guest

      Cloverfield sucks.

  • williest1

    Those of us in the comic book world kinda knew that the essence of ‘The Watchmen’ wouldn’t translate well on the silver screen. And for non-geek types (ie, muggles lol) it was too high conceptual to grasp. Still, was fun seeing all our fave characters/moments being played out in reall ife 🙂

  • williest1

    i actually fell asleep during ‘MI:3’. The sad thing is that MI:Ghost Protocol is the BEST of the series, and I wonder how many ppl skipped it because of MI:3?? Hmmm.

  • williest1

    The original ‘Elm Street’ scared the crap out of a lot of people both young and older. Each release afterwards got cheesier to the point where Elm Street was more FUN to watch than SCARY to watch. I don’t want my horror to be ‘fun’; i want to be shocked. Once audiences started laughing at and cheering Freddy on? The series was over.

  • How about “The Talented Mr. Ripley”? The trailer led me to believe that Matt Damon’s character wanted to take over Jude Law’s life, including his girlfriend. “You’re shivering… may I hold you?” he says to Gweneth Paltrow in the trailer. But no. He wanted Jude Law himself… and then SETTLED for taking over his life. I was probably 1/4 – 1/3 of the way into it before I realized I was watching a movie about a gay serial killer. False advertising.

  • I find most of these to be idiotic mini-reviews. It’s like the author
    of this didn’t watch the movies at all, or has little-to-no taste in
    movies. Horrible article. Just awful.

  • E.A. Blair

    You love to “pour” over details? Is that anything like spilling milk? The correct word is “pore”, dimbulb.

    • blarga blah

      Lighten up, Francis.

      • E.A. Blair

        “I think you must learn – if you’re in any filmmaking – you must respect the single frame. And there are twenty-four of those per second. If you don’t respect that single frame you’re in the same boat with a writer who does not respect a sentence or a phrase or a single letter or whatever. You have to find the smallest unit and you have to love it and believe that one will make a difference. One frame to me will make the difference between whether the thing’s funny or not.”

        — Chuck Jones

        Don’t argue with the man who created the Coyote and the Roadrunner.

  • The best example of this is a movie called “Radio Flyer”: I never saw the movie but I read an article talking about how different the trailer was from the actual movie, and what happened to it… The trailer depicted the movie as a movie about two boys, brothers, who decide to try and turn their Radio Flyer wagon into a real working airplane. The trailer presented the movie as a “Family” movie… However, families who went to see the movie saw a movie in which the two boys were constantly being verbally and physcally abused by their stepfather. The reason for the Flyer? So the younger brother could escape the abuse by flying away from the abusive stepfather. The article stated entire families walked out of the movie.

  • el santo

    The trailer for the Social Network was great, but it was also a GREAT movie!

  • Rachel Roth

    OMG STYLEBLAZER! I am trying to read you article but each page of the article brings up the same ad and interview when trying to watch the video comparison on each page. Get it together, dummies. Never coming back here.

  • Da troof

    Watchmen = best superhero movie, ever.

  • Muhammad Bilal Islam

    How exactly did The Social Network not live up to expectations?

  • Muhammad Bilal Islam

    Watchmen was a fantastic film, it lived up to its awesome trailers and then some

  • Muhammad Bilal Islam

    Just because “Where The Wild Things Are” is supposedly dark/depressing (something tells me the person writing this article is a pansy anyway) doesn’t mean it’s not a good movie. Such a stupid list.

  • Muhammad Bilal Islam

    And who the hell expected Expendables to have a story/writing/character development?

  • silksoul

    This was a poorly constructed list. MI:3 worse than the trailer? Hoffman was exactly as depicted in the trailer if not better. He took sinister to a whole different level. The whole cast was on point.

  • D00mM4r1n3

    I almost didn’t see Drive because of the trailer, it came across as a Transporter clone with some Hollywood douche in the lead role. Bored on a weekend though I decided to see it and loved every second of it. Perfect example of a movie that was better than the trailer.

  • May I add a few good trailers?

    1. Unbreakable
    2. Transformers 2
    3. Star Wars Episode 2 (Trailer with Darth Vader breathing was far superior)
    4. The Informant – I thought it was a comedy…well

  • Met Fan 4 Life

    Oddly, I found Drive to be a far better film than the trailer suggested. While I went expecting an exploitation film, I found instead a very poignant human drama populated by people living on the losing side of the tracks, like an Upstate NY version of Taxi Driver.

  • Dan

    Ummm… Wasn’t Social Network a huge critical and commercial hit? Who makes these lists? Yes 224 million box office with a 40 mil budget. 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t even remember the trailer. So, Wrong on #1 on the list so far, let’s see what else we got.

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