Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Marketing Slip-Ups That Spoiled Famous Movies

Simply making a movie and putting it in theaters isn't enough. For a high-profile release, studios spend tens of millions (as per The Hollywood Reporter) on advertising, marketing, and promotions to make sure that public awareness of their newest film is through the roof. After all, a movie can't be a hit if it doesn't get throngs of excited movie-goers buying tickets.

Sometimes this takes the form of billboards, TV commercials, and trailers, often expanding to merchandising campaigns that feature toys, games, and more. But all that marketing just means more and more people are involved in promoting the film, which brings added complications that can sometimes cause problems. On more than one occasion, a marketing plan has gone awry and revealed more about the movie than the studio intended.

Whether it's a soundtrack that spoiled a film's dramatic ending, a toy that spilled a film's secret, or an actor who accidentally gave away too much in an interview, there are countless ways movies have been ruined by their marketing. So take a seat and dim the lights, because we've found the best marketing slip-ups that spoiled famous movies ... but be warned, this article is packed with spoilers!

Batman's toy aisle blunder

In 1992 "Batman: The Animated Series" premiered on television, delighting children and adults alike. Its mix of dark, crime noir, and colorful superhero adventure made it a groundbreaking and seminal work of children's fare whose legacy is still felt today. Not long after its debut though came "Mask of the Phantasm," a feature film that hit theaters in 1993. And at the center of the story was the enigmatic villain The Phantasm — a new creation foreign to even the most diehard comic book readers — whose unknown identity drove much of the film's mystery. 

Unfortunately, even the most casual fan of the film didn't have to go far to find out who the Phantasm really was, they just had to go to a toy store. Because the aggressive marketing saw a line of toys on the shelf well before the movie released. In one of the most head-scratching moves, the Phantasm figure revealed the character's true identity, displayed for all to see when the figure was packaged unmasked.

In fairness, Phantasm's identity wasn't hard to deduce, at least for any adults paying attention. But for the audience of kids, it may very well have come as a real shock, and given that the villain and their alter ego had two different voice actors (Stacy Keach and Dana Delany), it's clear that the producers were trying to make Phantasm's identity a major twist.

Cast Away gave it all away

A lot of movie-goers in recent years have complained about movie trailers revealing all of the biggest moments in the film. While some movies have done well to hide crucial twists, others seem to give away far too much. But this has been going on longer than some may think, and one of the worst offenders is the Tom Hanks drama "Cast Away."

The story of a fastidious FedEx employee who becomes stranded on a desert island is a tale of personal struggle and inner strength, as hopelessness gives way to a fight for survival. A key element of the film is the question of whether Hanks' character will ever find rescue, but most movie-goers already knew the answer: of course he did, because it had been a major highlight of the film's pre-release trailer. In fact, as many have rightly pointed out, the trailer is essentially a condensed version of the entire film, with some of its most dramatic and moving moments shown for all to see (per LADBible).

There's still plenty to enjoy about "Cast Away," and Hanks' performance as the lost and hopeless Chuck Noland needs to be seen to be fully appreciated. But when much of the suspense hinges on the question of whether he makes it home to his girlfriend (Helen Hunt), you have to wonder what the film's marketing team was thinking.

Mark Ruffalo couldn't keep his mouth shut

When it comes to movie spoilers and shocking twist endings, it doesn't get any bigger than the final moments of the 2018 blockbuster "Avengers: Infinity War." That film concludes with half of all life in the universe turning to dust, including a majority of the biggest Marvel heroes, such as Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and even Black Panther — whose own movie had just crossed $1 billion a few weeks earlier

But flash back almost a year, and you'll find a July 2017 interview where Mark Ruffalo — who plays the Hulk — spoils the entire ending. While doing press for the MCU films at Disney's D23 Expo, Ruffalo appeared with co-star Don Cheadle in a joint interview with Good Morning America. To everyone's utter dismay, Ruffalo lets slip that "everyone dies" at the end of "Avengers: Infinity War." The comment didn't go unnoticed either, as GMA dedicated an entire YouTube video to the spoiler, and outlets like Digital Spy shared the story widely.

While "Spider-Man" actor Tom Holland is known for accidentally spilling the beans on Marvel movies during his press tours, it seems Marvel might need to watch Ruffalo closely. If you think he learned a lesson, think again, as just a few months later he was caught inadvertently live-streaming the premiere of "Thor: Ragnarok."

A phantom spoiler on a Star Wars soundtrack

There may never be a movie event more widely anticipated than the release of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" in 1999. Not only did it see the long-awaited return of one of the greatest franchises to the big screen, but it also revealed the origins of some of the most beloved characters in cinema history. But as the successor to a saga that rewrote the rules of merchandising, it boasted a new media and marketing blitz that led to one of the biggest mistakes you're likely to see.

In the lead-up to the film's release, there were many questions surrounding the film's new characters, from the villainous Darth Maul to the young Queen Amidala. In particular, star Liam Neeson seemed poised to anchor this new trilogy of films as Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn. So imagine fans' surprise when the movie's pre-release marketing revealed the early death of its lead character, laid out plain as day as a title on the film's widely available soundtrack.

These days, movie studios have learned a lesson from this goof, with some productions like "Star Trek: Picard" delaying the release of their own soundtrack to avoid such spoilers. But in 1999, diehard fans knew going in that the movie's biggest hero would meet his demise in the film's climax thanks to the tracks "Qui-Gon's Noble End" and "The High Council Meeting and Qui-Gon's Funeral."

There'd be no surprises on Friday the 13th

When it comes to horror movies, a big part of the appeal has always been the shocking, ultra-violent kills. Whether it's a clever way a psycho murders his victim, or an over-the-top, blood-spurting death, we flock to the movies to see the horror of a sudden kill. That's why it's all the more perplexing that the marketing team working on the very first "Friday the 13th" film made the unusual choice to spoil every major kill in the very first trailer.

Not only did it give away who would die and how, but even when in the story, because it shows each death in sequential order. Admittedly it does make for a fun little trailer, as it counts each death one by one with a comical number on the screen accompanied by a melodramatic voice-over. But the trailer eliminated the unexpected kills, leaving few surprises for the audience. 

Of course, it's hard to find much fault here after the fact, decades since its release. In the end, the film did more than 100 times its budget and sparked a long-running franchise that today includes nine direct sequels, a crossover with "Nightmare on Elm Street," a 2009 remake, a TV spin-off, and countless merchandise. Maybe there's some genius to spoiling horror movies after all.

An entire Wolverine movie leaked to the public

Comic book movies are often the biggest blockbusters, raking in billions at the box office. So after three successful "X-Men" films, it made perfect sense to give Hugh Jackman his own spin-off, 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Anticipation for the film was high, with audiences eager to see Wolverine get the spotlight.

But even putting aside the mixed response from critics and audiences, the film was done no favors when just weeks before its release a full-length work print of the film somehow leaked out onto the internet, as reported by CNN at the time. Though the version that made its way to file-sharing sites lacked completed VFX, this early edition was a high-quality pirated print. Ultimately, it was downloaded by eager fans more than 4 million times according to Fox COO Peter Chernin. This was a complete disaster for the film's marketing, not to mention the movie's sky-high box office hopes.

Following three wildly successful films, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" was released in a coveted early summer slot and expected to do big business. But when it landed an $85 million opening weekend — significantly less than "X-Men: The Last Stand" had earned just three years earlier — it forced many to wonder what kind of effect the leak may have had on its box office totals.

Shrek's ending found in a fast food box

When it comes to marketing a new movie, toys, merchandise, and tie-in promotions help movies rake in millions of extra dollars beyond the box office. But sometimes those promotions and marketing can do more harm than good. Case in point is 2001's "Shrek." At the time, the titular ogre Shrek wasn't the pop culture icon he is today.

But back before the movie was released, nobody saw the film's big reveal coming — that Princess Fiona would be magically altered into an ogre just like Shrek. Nobody but kids who dined at Burger King that spring, that is. Because even before the movie hit theaters, a promotion at the fast food chain featured a kid's meal toy that revealed Fiona's final form for all to see.

The item in question was part of a line of key ring toys, each including a motion-activated feature. This included a Duloc Puppet Box that would dance with the push of a button, a Donkey figure whose teeth chatter, and yes, a "Magic Makeover Fiona" toy. The latter figure transforms Fiona from her human form into her final ogre look, which ruined the end of the film. Maybe kids didn't mind, or maybe they didn't pay as much attention, but it seems like an odd choice to spoil a film's ending in a burger meal.

The Island has no more secrets

Some of the best science fiction movies tackle social issues and use a captivating mystery with an unexpected twist to hammer home a moral lesson. Oftentimes trailers for such movies will tease out an intriguing puzzle, luring in audiences with the promise of an answer. To get it, you'll have to go to your local cineplex and cough up your hard-earned money for a ticket.

But one such twist-laden sci-fi adventure, Michael Bay's 2005 film "The Island," said to heck with all that and spoiled every secret that the film offered in the trailer. And if you think we're exaggerating, wondering if perhaps the trailer just hinted at what to expect, see it for yourself. The story revolves around a strange future where people live sterile, saccharine lives while awaiting the chance to go to "The Island," a supposed paradise. 

But the trailer let us know — with absolutely no apologies — that the island wasn't real, and the people were just organ farms for the rich, a powerful social allegory for economic inequality. These reveals had the potential to be downright jaw-dropping, akin to the best episodes of "The Twilight Zone." But with every secret already laid bare, there wasn't much to motivate audiences to show up, and it barely scraped past its budget.

Sylvester Stallone posted Creed's ending on Instagram

Over the past decade, social media has become increasingly integral to marketing and promoting major movies. From Facebook to Twitter, movies set up pages to promote their films and amass an eagerly awaiting audience of fans who will lap up new images, trailers, and tidbits to tease out their next project. Oftentimes, studios will even enlist their actors to help, who will post new promotional images or behind-the-scenes stills to their millions of followers.

In the excitement to get fans amped, they risk giving away a little too much by mistake. This is exactly what happened in 2014, when ahead of the release of the "Rocky" spin-off "Creed," franchise creator Sylvester Stallone posted a photo on his Twitter account of his desk, with the caption "Where the screenwriting is done." The tweet included an image of a page from the script, which is credited to writer and director Ryan Coogler ("Black Panther"). The only problem was that some astute fans took it upon themselves to do a little detective work, and they discovered plenty of spoilers for the film's final act hidden on that page.

These eagle-eyed fans of the "Rocky" star uncovered dialogue and stage cues that hinted at the results of the film's climactic boxing bout. But most surprisingly, the page posted also gave away that Rocky Balboa was suffering from cancer, an element that serves as a major plot reveal in the middle of the film.

Cinema's biggest secret was revealed two years early

If someone asked what the biggest plot twist in movie history was, "The Empire Strikes Back" would have to be high on the list. In 1980, it left audience mouths agape at the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father, but it's really a wonder that anyone was shocked by this turn of events. Because the beans had been spilled not once, but twice before the movie hit theaters.

Most famously, the movie's novelization made no attempt to hide the truth when it was published on April 12th, weeks before the film was seen by millions. But far more surprising is that actor David Prowse — who played Darth Vader himself — spoiled the twist two years before the film was released. Believe it or not though, in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner in July of 1978, Prowse gave it all away when speaking to a group of fans about his role in the saga (via Retroist).

In addition to claiming there were plans for at least three sequels, he also made the stunning statement that Darth Vader and the film's hero Luke Skywalker were father and son. He talked about a coming confrontation between them in the then-untitled sequel but revealed that both characters would live to tell the tale. Not only that, but they'd live through both "Star Wars II" and "Star Wars III," saying "Father can't kill son, son can't kill father, so they live again to star in "Star Wars IV."

The Invitation trailer requires no RSVP

It takes some serious hubris to give your new horror film the same title as another highly acclaimed movie in the genre that was released less than a decade before. But that's just what Jessica M. Thompson did when she released "The Invitation" in 2022, just seven years after Karyn Kusama's 2015 film of the same name. But as it just so happens, that's not even the gutsiest thing about the movie's marketing, as its eye-popping, spoilerific trailer can attest.

Some movie trailers can feel like a story breakdown or spoil too many secrets, while some fans complain that they give away the best action scenes or dramatic moments. But "The Invitation" trailer goes even further, literally telling the whole story from start to finish, spoiling each of the movie's well-hidden secrets one by one in succession. Centered on a young woman invited to a wedding at a gothic mansion, she arrives to find much more than she bargained for.

But while the movie's official plot synopsis kept things appropriately vague, the trailer tells us right away the movie's big twist: that the host and the guests are all vampires. It also reveals that she's been invited to her own wedding, and she's being forced to marry a vampire against her will and become a bloodsucker herself. Worst of all though, the final shot of the trailer even shows her killing the movie's villains, so we know she wins the day.

A website slip-up spoiled Rey's dark fate

By the time it came to the release of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" in 2019, there was plenty to keep fans speculating, and the rumor mill was spinning faster than ever. So when a new snippet of footage was released to market the upcoming release and hinted at' hero Rey turning to the dark side, it sent them into a veritable frenzy at first. But many weren't fooled, believing it was either an illusion, a nightmare, or some other kind of misdirection.

Well, fans would get their answer sooner than expected when a marketing mistake revealed the truth about Dark Rey. Because immediately after the footage dropped, the official "Star Wars" website published a report that recapped the trailer's screening at the D23 Expo, describing its imagery in surprising detail. Though the administrators quickly scrubbed the original text that accompanied it, some dedicated fans were able to screengrab a curious note that revealed that 'Dark Rey' was not what she appeared. 

The post mentioned that the clip included a "vision of Rey with a reticulated red blade," shocking fans. Quickly realizing their slip-up, the studio revised the text and removed the word "vision," but the internet never forgets. Reddit users immediately shared their discovery and fans knew they'd stumbled on a massive accidental plot leak.