It's really true: You can't judge a movie by its trailer. Some of the worst movies had trailers that made us go, "Hell yeah, I wanna see this now." Sometimes they even make it look like a totally different movie.
After having looked through a few hundred trailers for bad movies, the striking thing is how often a bad movie has a trailer that reflects its badness. You can totally tell from watching the trailer for The Phantom Menace that you're in for a bizarre mess. The trailer for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier practically screams "trainwreck... in space!" But the hard-working, clever trailer makers of Hollywood do actually manage to put together some brilliantly watchable trailers for some awful movies on occasion. Here are some of our favorites. Feel free to suggest your own in the comments!
The Matrix Reloaded. I feel like I'd rather watch this trailer 50 times than watch the actual movie.
Star Trek: Nemesis. Spooky eye! I love the way this trailer completely misleads you about what's going in the movie. There's an evil duplicate of Picard, and they morph into each other. And it's as if part of Picard has been stolen. OMG! It's his evil Transporter twin! And now he's having sex with Troi!
Terminator Salvation. I still get goosebumps from this incredible trailer — and then I remember what the movie turned out to be like.
Rollerball. It looks so hard-hitting and awesome.
Hulk (2003). Most of the trailers for this movie do actually look terrible, because they show off too much of the whole father-son subplot and the weak action. But this Superbowl trailer, which bears almost no resemblance to the actual film, is pretty rocking.
The Fountain. I know, I know — some people really loved this movie. But even if you did love it, the trailer makes it look way more coherent than it actually was. In any case, it seems like whenever people are listing "misleading movie trailers," this film comes up.
The Island. Another film whose trailer comes up all the time on lists of "misleading movie trailers." Curiously, it shares the same tagline with The Fountain: "What if you could live forever?"
Superman Returns. There's a wonderful note of grandeur and excitement in this trailer, which makes you feel as though you're about to witness something truly unique and incredible.
The Village. A thrilling, spine-crawling trailer that promises a disturbing horror film. Even the Youtube video's own description calls it "misleading."
The Invasion. I love the snarky intertitles on this trailer, like "Go about your normal life," "You have nothing to worry about." It promises a dark, twisty film — actually I did kind of like the first half of this movie, and then the second half was a giant letdown.