Movie trailers that lied to you

Sometimes, seeing the trailers for upcoming features can be the best part of going to the theater. The excitement of anticipation for a new release—and the quick edits of some of the movie's best moments—often leave us eager to buy a ticket for the film in question as soon as the trailer's over. But as we all know, the final product can be very different from the way it's portrayed in the promo clips—in fact, sometimes, trailers flat out lie to us. Here are some of the worst offenders, but look out for spoilers for some of the movies on this list.

Snow Dogs (2002)

Snow Dogs sure looks like it has all the hallmarks of a classic live-action talking animal movie: it's made by Disney, produced by one of the producers of George of the Jungle and Charlotte's Web, and the trailer even ends with a clip of wisecracking dogs. Instead, viewers expecting a raucous fish-out-of-water story with funny canines and copious pratfalls were given… well, pretty much that, but without the talking animals.

Despite the trailer spotlighting each of the eponymous dogs' names and personalities, the animals are basically superfluous to the plot—except for the main dog, Demon. Anyone expecting Air Bud is going to be disappointed. The actual scene where the dogs mock Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character is actually from (you probably guessed it) a dream sequence.

The trailer's so concerned with showing the dogs—and Gooding acting like a fool—that it neglects to even touch on the actual plot of the movie: the main character searching for the father he never had and dealing with a weirdly dark story of parental abandonment. Snow Dogs ultimately feels like three different movies rolled into one, so maybe it's not anyone's fault that the trailer is so confusing.

Kangaroo Jack (2003)

The blatantly misleading trailer for Snow Dogs was a direct inspiration for Kangaroo Jack's infamously misleading marketing. Inspired by the earlier film, producer Jerry Bruckheimer helped turn Jack from a dark mafia comedy into a mildly light mafia comedy that focused more on kangaroo-related hijinx. 

Like the other movie's trailer, a brief (dream) sequence of a kangaroo talking, combined with nigh-constant shots of the lead characters screaming and pratfalling, helped to convince parents that the movie was goofy family-friendly fare. Instead, thousands of kids found some surprisingly lewd humor and a baffling plot about adult friendships and failed dreams, which nonetheless led the film to the top of the box office over its opening weekend—and encouraged Hollywood to keep putting out more of these misleading trailers.

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad came out during an interesting time for the DCEU. The follow-up to the massively successful but critically panned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it had a lot of responsibility for fixing the perceived structural flaws of an entire superhero franchise. The first trailer certainly seemed to show it was willing and able: snazzily edited and cut to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," it showed off its sense of humor and the bevy of talented actors in the cast.

Longtime fans of the Suicide Squad comics had good reason to be excited, and the combination of a dark tone with characters that weren't afraid to laugh or crack jokes seemed like the perfect solution to the unrelentingly grim tone set in earlier DCEU movies. Unfortunately, the trailer didn't really reflect the film. The humor fell flat, the cookie-cutter plot was uninspired, and the visuals were overloaded with clichés. Why couldn't we see the movie the trailer promised?

Drive (2011)

Drive showed Ryan Gosling had come a long way from his roots at the Disney Channel and demonstrated an undeniable talent from director Nicolas Winding Refn. The movie is a slow, thorough examination of crime and career criminals, wrapped in layers of allegory and striking cinematography—which is why it's so ridiculous that the movie makes it look like a Fast and the Furious prequel, all pulse-pounding chase sequences and fight scenes. The marketing was so misleading that one woman even sued the distributor, complaining that the movie had "very little driving."

She wasn't exactly wrong. The movie's car chase sequences are quick, and the most impressive driving moments are placed in the trailer without the slow, deliberate context of the actual film. All the trailer's really missing are the dulcet tones of Vin Diesel shouting about "family" to slot perfectly into the Fast and the Furious cinematic universe.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Would it be fair to say that Tim Burton has a type? Shadowy, gothic architecture and imagery, Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp in pale makeup, and probably some bloodletting as a metaphor for sexual congress. One thing Burton's less known for, on the other hand, is musicals—which is why it's easy to sympathize with the confused audiences who packed into theaters to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Yes, technically the show's been a musical on Broadway for decades, but the trailer does everything it can to hide that fact. A few seconds of Depp sing-talking are buried within a clip that makes the gothic musical look more like a combination of Dexter, The Count of Monte Cristo, and an action thriller. Why the trailer does everything it can to hide its musical roots is anyone's guess, especially when it looks identical to every other Tim Burton movie without it.

Observe and Report (2009)

Observe and Report is a viciously grim movie, an unrelenting, in-depth examination of a profoundly disturbed individual and the ways in which the society around him acquiesces to his deranged ideals. It's Taxi Driver filtered through the madcap antics of Seth Rogen's everyman comedy stylings, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell by watching the trailer, which makes it look like a stealth sequel to Paul Blart: Mall Cop—or at least a rated-R parody of such.

This clip looks like it's advertising yet another story of a schlubby guy in a crummy job finding worth and acceptance in proving himself a hero, but the actual plot of the movie is closer to the drug-filled last days of a psychopath in a police report. The trailer cuts around all the actual consequences of Ronnie Barnhardt's (Seth Rogen) violent rampages—and his gross date with Brandi (Anna Faris)—to make the whole movie seem like a silly romp.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Audiences love Channing Tatum. The good looks, the surprisingly deft comedic timing—he can seemingly do it all. Finding out that he was set to appear in the Kingsman sequel as a stereotypically American super-spy called a Statesman, laser whip included, seemed too good to be true.

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. Tatum does technically appear in the movie, but his screen time is barely longer than the moments seen in the trailer. In fact, he spends most of the movie in a coma. The original Kingsman was a deft send-up of British spy movies, and it would've been nice to see that same comedic reinvention of American spy tropes as well. We'll just have to contend ourselves with the trailer until that story can be told.

Passengers (2016)

Passengers had one of the easiest slam dunks a marketing campaign could ask for: just informing audiences that two of their favorite actors, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, would be in a sci-fi romance movie together. Unfortunately, the movie itself is a pretty far cry from the trailers promising mystery and romance on a space Titanic.

Watching the trailer, it looks like the movie is about Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) figuring out why they were woken up too early on their interstellar voyage, and saving the ship from a galactic disaster. In reality, the trailer cuts around the central conceit of the movie: that Jim is awakened by mistake, and then he wakes up Aurora on purpose after learning about her through the ship's files—effectively killing her, since there's no way to return to their pods and there's still 90 years until the ship arrives at its destination. Audiences and critics were turned off by this twist, which changes the plot from romantic romp to stalker thriller.

Godzilla (2014)

2014 was a mourning period for fans of Walter White's meth-fueled misadventures on the popular TV show Breaking Bad—the show had been off for a year by that point, and fans were missing Bryan Cranston's nuanced portrayal of a beleaguered family man sacrificing for his family. But then the trailer for Godzilla arrived, showcasing Cranston as a beleaguered family man, struggling to balance his work (studying/stopping Godzilla) and his family (a son played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson). The movie seemed like the perfect balm for fans going through Cranston withdrawals.

Unfortunately, the trailer was clearly cut once the marketing team realized how popular Cranston had become. He's barely in the movie for more than a quarter of the runtime, and the rest of the cast is likewise absent. If you arrived in theaters hoping to see Cranston, Juliette Binoche, Ken Watanabe, and Elizabeth Olsen wow you with their acting prowess, you'll be disappointed. Most of the movie follows Taylor-Johnson's Army grunt behind Godzilla's trail of destruction in one of the worst bait-and-switches we've seen in trailer history.

Ravenous (1999)

According to the trailer, Ravenous looks like a screwball comedy, a Mystery Science Theater 3000 subject, or a Troma film that was stuck in the vault for 20 years.

What audiences missed out on was an audacious horror-comedy about the unacknowledged victims of capitalism and Manifest Destiny, with a bravura performance by Guy Pearce and a brilliantly unique score. The movie's take on cannibalism deserves to go down as a formative horror text, but it's hard to convince anyone to watch after they've seen the trailer. On the bright side, unlike many of the other movies on this list, the only lie this trailer is telling is that the movie isn't fantastic.

Collateral Beauty (2016)

A lot of trailers lie for pretty sensible marketing reasons. Maybe an actor cast in a small role has a huge uptick in popularity, and the studio wants to highlight the cameo. Or maybe the movie tested poorly at advance screenings, and the filmmakers just want to make a quick buck before word of mouth ruins everything. Collateral Beauty doesn't have those problems; instead, it's just an insane movie that no trailer could successfully summarize.

At first glance, it seems like fairly standard late-period Will Smith fare: a family man, Howard Inlet, is afflicted with a tragedy that gives Smith the chance to chew through some dramatic scenes. There's some weirdness about Howard writing letters to Death, Time, and Love, but once we see them actually showing up to teach Howard to love again, everything seems to make sense. It's Will Smith doing A Christmas Carol!

Nope. It's all an elaborate ruse concocted by Howard's friends, who've hired actors to play the personifications of Death, Time, and Love—and plan to secretly film him talking to these people, then edit the actors out of the footage to make Howard seem insane so they can take control of his business. How are these actors so gifted, yet totally unrecognizable to everyone in the movie, and completely okay with this insane scheme? Turns out they actually are the abstract concepts Howard was writing to—they were just pretending to be actors in order to teach Howard's "friends" a lesson.