That Trailer Looked Awesome! The Film, Not So Much. 10 Killer Trailers To Bad Films.
This list is dedicated to the talented men and women who work tirelessly every day to craft amazing trailers for the films we, the audience, are excited to see. It is their perseverance, eye for detail, and mastery of editing that helps even the most terrible movies become box office gold. Here's to you, brave trailer editors. We salute you.
With the pomp and circumstance out of the way, here is a list of some of the Best Trailers for the Worst Films ever made.
There was so much energy behind the trailers for Godzilla. From Taco Bell tie-ins to making Matthew Broderick look like an action star, Roland Emmerich's 1998 stinker was supposed to be the first time we got to see the King of the Monsters with a new look and more attitude. Sadly, it was none of these things. 1998s Godzilla redesign made him look like a cross between a T-Rex and an iguana, touting the ability to run, swim fast, and somehow hide throughout New York City without being caught.
The film was a major letdown for the studio and fans, even if it made its estimated $130,000,000 budget back at the box office. Dull, silly, and riding the Jurassic Park hype train from years earlier, the trailers promised a spectacle for the ages, and, well, it certainly was a spectacle. In fact, it was so bad, Japan went back to its roots and made Godzilla 2000, where the rubber suit Godzilla fights and defeats the American version.
Godzilla is streaming on Netflix.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
From the trailers, we were promised a dark, hardcore, drag-out battle between the two titans of DC Comics. Instead, director Zack Snyder created a bland, overlong, grey-scaled mess that didn't quite get the essence of what the origins of the characters were really about.
Bat-fleck rocking an armored suit, zipping around with grappling guns should have been a sight to behold. Instead, most of the best parts were peppered throughout the excellent trailers we were given. Wonder Woman was shoehorned in, Batman and Superman find out their mothers have the same name, and for some reason, Batman goes completely off the rails and definitely kills bad guys, sometimes even using a shotgun. The film was panned by critics and fans alike, leaving a small contingent of loyalists to try to convince others that it was watchable. Well, the trailers definitely are.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is available on HBO Max.
The Last Airbender (2010)
Based on the popular Nickelodeon Americanized Anime, Avatar: The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan decided to just do whatever he wanted, thinking he had a grasp on the source material. Fans were excited by the trailers, showcasing fun locales, slick CGI character designs, and kid's doing some decent martial arts. Then it came out.
Fans were none too pleased with M. Night's need to change all of the races around while white-washing the heroes. That, and the movie is dull as dirt. Slow, meandering, and acting that would make a grade school play look like Shakespeare. Totally lied to by the trailers, this mess of a film, which was to have sequels, quickly soured audiences enough to shelve the idea. Hopefully, the new Netflix live-action series and breathe new life into an otherwise brilliant show.
The Last Airbender is on TBS and TNT.
Wild Wild West (1999)
Coming off of the popularity of Men In Black, Will Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld were a Hollywood pairing made in heaven. The trailers for the western/spy show reboot had audiences excited for a property most of the young audience had never seen, let alone heard of. But star power and a crazy special effects budget don't always mean good.
Critics and audiences panned this wrongheaded, mildly racist, flick, giving its star Will Smith a learning lesson early on in his career. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Smith was quoted as saying,
I had so much success that I started to taste global blood and my focus shifted from my artistry to winning. I wanted to win and be the biggest movie star, and what happened was there was a lag - around Wild Wild West time - I found myself promoting something because I wanted to win versus promoting something because I believed in it.
Lesson learned, Mr. Smith.
Wild Wild West is streaming now on Netflix.
Tron: Legacy (2010)
Oh, the geek in all of us perked up when it was announced that a latter-day sequel to 1982s popular Disney special effects-driven Tron was announced. Bringing back star Jeff Bridges as Flynn, using de-aging CGI, the trailers for Tron: Legacy looked pretty great. Trying to keep the nostalgic look but in a modern film, fans were feverish for this one to hit theaters.
And then it did.
People were not kind to this, somehow, boring film about a person who gets to play a video game from the inside. Much of the heart of the original was lost in the sequel, leaving fans less than engaged. Although, it does have a few die-hards who support it, Tron: Legacy was one of the bigger letdowns of the time.
Tron: Legacy is streaming on Disney+.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Terminator was one of those movies that defined a genre. Terminator 2: Judgment Day took its popularity leaps and bounds further in terms of story, world-building, and ingenious special effects. And then James Cameron handed the reins off and the series never quite recovered. Though with Terminator Salvation, we would finally get to see what made John Conner that savior of mankind, with Nolan's Batman aka Christian Bale in the lead role! The trailers looked tight and fans were ready to see something special.
The best we got from the film, unfortunately, was that unhinged rant by Bale when he was recorded ripping into a crew member.
A total mess of a Terminator film, director McG managed to take some of the hottest actors working, namely Christian Bale, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Anton Yelchin, and made a confusing, drab, effects-heavy (in a bad way) story that really didn't showcase a damn thing about why John Conner was so special. Not to worry though, two more Terminator films came out after this and made people forget about this failed prequel (is it a prequel if it is set in the future? Best not to think about it too much).
Terminator Salvation is available on HBO Max.
Suicide Squad (2016)
Suicide Squad was one of 2016s biggest letdowns. From the trailers, all of the parts for a kick-ass comic book movie were in place: Will Smith as the lead, Margot Robbie perfectly encapsulating Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as the heavy, cool bad guys doing cool bad guy things, a sweet soundtrack, Jered Leto as The Joker (Wait! Forget that last part). DC had a major hit on their hands.
The only good to come out of this underwritten, terribly executed, edge lord bombast of a film was Margot Robbie taking Harley for a stellar walk. Other than that, yikes. This crew of super-villains, most of which didn't have superpowers, were assembled to stop, say, Superman if he got out of line. Instead, they fumble about fighting magical goopy monsters who resembled something from a Power Rangers episode. Thankfully, James Gunn came in to right the ship with The Suicide Squad in 2021.
Suicide Squad is streaming now on HBO Max.
Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
At the time, this looked like the one to go see. Aliens attacking Los Angeles and Aaron Eckhart leading a squadron of soldiers in a ground war. Handheld camerawork, frantic pacing, and fireballs galore. This was to be the next Independence Day.
We were wrong.
The film was nothing more than people running from explosion to explosion with no rhyme or reason. Character development. Nope. Likable characters. Do the aliens count? And at the end of the day, even the effects were just 'meh.' To be fair, there was very little reason to truly believe this was going to be spectacular, but, damn, if that trailer didn't say otherwise.
Battle: Los Angeles can be streamed for free on Tubi.
Pearl Harbor (2001)
With Michael Bay at the helm, Ben Affleck coming off Armaggedon, and stars galore with Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Garner, Michael Shannon, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The trailers were exciting and visceral, showing the attack on Pearl Harbor from the sailors' perspective. Pearl Harbor was going to be Bay's Saving Private Ryan.
What we got instead was an over 3-hour endeavor with terrible character interaction and a grossly inaccurate timeline of events which was more disrespectful to the events that day than not. It was Michael Bay chop-shop editing at its worst. And boring, that is until the battle begins, and then it goes back to boring. Steven Spielberg, Bay is not.
Pearl Harbor is streaming on AMC+.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Now for the biggest heartbreaker on this list. The Phantom Menace on paper should have been spectacular. Writer/Director George Lucas, himself, taking the wheel. The cast was superb. There was hype for new innovations in digital characters and landscapes. And that Duel of the Fates Darth Maul fight... Chef's kiss right there!
On the day it came out, there was a great disturbance in the Force. As if millions of voices cried out in terror, and never stopped complaining. The film was panned as nothing more than dead-eyes creatures, bad CGI backdrops, racist depictions of aliens (of all things), and pretty much a lesson in trade agreements. Besides, the Darth Maul fight (where Lucas killed off his best character) and the pod race (where Aniken is SO annoying), this film was a flop for the franchise. Sure it made bank, but the laughable lasting impact it had on Star Wars can be felt to this day. Lucas sold the rights if that says anything.
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is streaming now on Disney+.