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8 Movies That Were Better as Trailers

November 9th, 2011 by Hulu Blog

It’s Oscar Movie Trailer Season, so we’ve been holed up in hulu.com/trailers trying to figure what to watch in a theatre in a post-Turkey coma. It got us thinking: We do this every year and get ceaselessly excited about some of these previews, but sometimes the experience of watching only the trailer is better than seeing the whole movie. This doesn’t mean the movie is unwatchable or even mediocre. It sometimes just showcases that trailers can be a work of art by themselves. So we’ve decided to commemorate a few of them—eight, to be exact—with a list to let them know that we love them.—Ed.

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

Based solely off of the trailer, “Battle: Los Angeles” was toward the top of my list of “must-see movies,” with its creepy, robotic soundtrack provided by Johann Johannsson and the images of the destruction of familiar Santa Monica landmarks by unknown alien aircrafts. Being a huge disaster movie fan—as well as a big alien invasion movie fan—I was sold.  The trailer itself is just gorgeous, action-packed, and full of emotion.

The movie is none of the above.

Luckily, I was unable to catch the movie in theaters, but was able to catch it late on an uneventful Friday night thanks to VOD.  The movie was a mess and immediately I was able to catch things that were featured in the trailer, but completely failed in the film:

1) Familiar Los Angeles landmark destruction – Living in L.A., I love seeing how films get creative in destroying most of the city.  Being filmed in Baton Rouge, La., this was nearly impossible for the “Battle: L.A.” crew.  No Dodger Stadium.  No LAX.  No Staples Center. Most of the movie takes place in a foggy “Santa Monica,” making it more like Battle:West Side, than Battle:Los Angeles.

2) Alien attacks galore – Not only did the trailers show about 90% of the total amount of alien attacks in the movie, but alien attacks were featured only in about 30 minutes towards the beginning of the film.  The rest of the film turned into an extended U.S. Marines commercial, with a lack of alien viewing.

3) Humanity vs. the Unknown – The most impressive part of the trailer was how the trailer makers were able to capture certain emotions from every walk of life. A marine with his crew.  A person watching the news.  A woman with her child.  I was expecting more of a look into the trials of humanity that would come with what seemed to be a never before seen traumatic event.  Unfortunately, the movie focused so much on “killing the alien scum” and protecting our rights as Americans that it completely glossed over the idea of the everyman and the events taking place.

When the credits rolled, I realized that the movie was hands down the worst trailer to movie ratio of goodness I had ever encountered. From most anticipated movie of the year, to most disappointing movie of the year in a short 116 minutes.—Gabe Pasillas

Up In The Air (2009)

This is the mother of them all, a big, gutty mission statement and a full piece of art itself, compacted into two minutes and narrated by George Clooney. If that sounds like everything life should be, it is.

The book of the same name by Walter Kirn is this toothy, assured ode to a warm voice. It’s a Mad Men episode written by Hemingway in the sky. It’s Brooks Brothers and Cognac and a put-together woman that wants to live in your briefcase but you won’t let it happen.

Director Jason Reitman found it in a used bookstore a few years ago and fell in love with it. That’s how you create a very good movie. The trailer is his impersonation of the voice of that book condensed into a few short, prescient sentences.

The movie wound up covered in sap. It ran back on itself, tripped on its heels a little, and swallowed the first third when it fell. It’s still a borderline great film, but the trailer is everything you’d want in a movie, spoken in hot breath.—Ben Collins

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

The first stills from Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” were thrilling and tantalizing- Ann Hathaway appeared ethereal and haunting, Mia Wasikowska was at her pale, wan best, and Johnny Depp looked, well, actually not that crazier than he usually does after teaming up with Burton. We waited with bated breath for the trailer, which didn’t disappoint. Love him or hate him, Tim Burton is an expert at creating new worlds, and this preview of his dark, gritty Wonderland was a surreal treat.

But like so many of Burton’s recent efforts, “Alice” had little of his earlier projects’ charm and delight. Burton’s Wonderland was hostile and forbidding, and the plot strayed drastically from the irreverent whimsy of the original story. Alice is all grown up in this sequel, bearing the weight of Wonderland on her shoulders. The excitement of the stunning visual design wore off as the storyline proved extremely conventional. Audiences searching for a fanciful escape found themselves trudging tediously through this movie.—Naivasha Dean

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

You’re not going to believe this, but Julianna Marguiles is the female lead in this movie.—Ben Collins

The Break Up (2006)

I remember this movie getting an exorbitant amount of promotion within every marketing channel in existence. You couldn’t turn on your TV, open a magazine or newspaper, or pass a billboard without seeing Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn’s sneaky little smirks affectionately separated by a piece of duct tape strewn between them. And for good reason: This movie trailer rocks. You get Vince Vaughn’s dry, witty, under-cutting one-liners followed adeptly by Jennifer Aniston’s coy, clever, and seemingly-aloof rebuttals, interspersed with bit-sized cameo appearances by highly one-dimensional, slapstick, caricature-centric supporting characters such as John Favreau, Jason Bateman, Judy Davis, Justin Long, and John Michael Higgins. The trailer beautifully weaves together some of the films’ most absurdly comical moments while building some serious “battle-of-the-sexes” momentum, all this tied together with the film’s heavy star-power and a nude on-screen appearance by none other than the bodacious Jennifer Aniston should have given this power-packed film all the ammo it needed to be a box-office smash hit, right?

Wrong.

The problem wasn’t the content or quality of the film itself, which was, in fact, a pretty damned good film. The problem was that this film was marketed as campy comedy, when in reality, the film is actually a drama with overlays of clever comedy interspersed throughout. Unfortunately, films that live within the grey area of these two seemingly oppositional genres pose serious challenges for film marketers, because if you go too far in one direction, you risk alienating one audience, and if you waiver somewhere in the middle, you don’t create serious allure for key market demos. So they went with comedy – and audiences naively went into theatres expecting light comedy fare, only to have their emotional heart-strings taken for a fast-ride off a seaside cliff.  An unfair hand of cards dealt both to the film, and to consumers. But check out the trailer if you get a chance, because if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that this trailer will make you feel substantially better about your own messy and blissfully-drama-filled love life (or lack thereof).—Brooke Citron

Bellflower (2011)

This movie was actually very good, but I watch this trailer instead of punching people sometimes. It is a valuable tool. After I watch the third play through this thing, I feel like I’ve just drank a Miller High Life and broken up with infamous and undeserving celebrity. It’s magic.—Ben Collins

Watchmen (2009)

It hurts to think what the film version could’ve been. From the music to the cinematography (like Nite Owl’s ship emerging from water against a dark New York City backdrop), the Watchmen trailer elegantly introduced the characters and storyline with style, sex appeal and suspense. Too bad the movie itself was a disjointed mess, but I’ll blame Alan Moore’s venomous spit on that.—Sheila Dichoso

Comedian (2002)

This movie is a documentary about Jerry Seinfeld struggling to piece together a standup set. This trailer is about learning that the movie trailer voice guy might have fallen off the tire swing a few times as a child.—Ben Collins

Last comment: Jul 29th 2014 12 Comments
  • zukotan says:

    Thanks very hope

  • The Mutt says:

    The all-time winner has to be Jaws2. It actually made it seem like it would be a worthy successor to one of the greatest films ever made.

  • Paul says:

    How about this year’s Red Riding Hood, which ultimately was mediocre teen melodrama. The teaser was sleek, sexy and looked kind of dangerous, like we’d be taken on a trip through the forest that wasn’t as safe as what ultimately hit screens.

  • Michael B. says:

    Limitless, Paul, Bad Teacher.

  • Evan Graham says:

    If I were making this list, my number one would be the new Clash of the Titans movie. That trailer had so much undiluted awesome in it, from the incredible theme music to the exciting visuals, to the bold letters saying “Damn the gods.” The movie itself was mediocre at best, but I specifically remember when I saw it in the theatre, I didn’t feel cheated when I left. The way I saw it, that trailer was so good, I was glad to have paid admission to see the movie it came from, even though the movie was so unexceptional.

  • StevenTheHuman says:

    There are many films marketed as lighthearted comedies that actually have dark or sad elements in them (i.e. How To Train Your Dragon, Marley and Me, Click, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3).

  • Kristin says:

    Pineapple Express was amazing. As was Sucker Punch. And Snakes on a Plane did not look good even as a trailer. That looked like a horrible made for TV movie. Bad Bad Bad

  • Stella says:

    Godzilla circa 1998. Pineapple Express much funnier trailer than movie.Comedian was a good movie–why is it on this list?

  • Patrick says:

    where the hell is Kick-Ass?

  • Ross says:

    Sucker Punch. After the “oh my god mechs and gunkata and hot chicks” that got me and my friends into the theater, we were not happy at what we saw.

    Also, in defense of The Watchmen: It was the only one of his comic book movies Moore has come anywhere close to liking.

  • Ben Collins says:

    I really liked that movie, too, Hussein. I just thought the trailer was even better. It makes me want stop paying rent, buy a tank, and drive across the country with one change of clothes.

  • Hussein says:

    I thought up in the air was a pretty good movie

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