- Spoiling key movie moments in trailers is a common practice in film promotion that has been happening since the early days of the film trailer.
- Revealing plot points and twists in trailers can actually generate more interest and excitement from audiences.
- While some trailers have been criticized for giving away too much, it can be an effective marketing strategy that contributes to a movie’s success.
The history of film promotion is filled with incredible movie moments being spoiled in trailers, oftentimes ruining the intended experience for audiences. Contrary to popular belief, spoiling key movie moments through the film’s trailer isn’t a new phenomenon at all. It’s a practice that’s almost as old as the film trailer as a promotional tool, and it remains a vital aspect of movie marketing today.
Even some of the best new trailers of 2023 are guilty of giving away key moments. Trailers often walk a fine line between enticing viewers and revealing too much. However, the latter typically results in better overall success for new movies. “Nine times out of 10, the more of the plot you give away, the more interest you garner from the audiences,” explains Matt Bubaker of Trailer Park (via EW) “Audiences respond to the trailers with more of the movie.” Though not everyone likes it when incredible movie moments are spoiled in the trailers, it’s just as effective of a marketing strategy today as it was in the past.
10 Most Deaths In Friday the 13th (1980)
The trailer for the very first of the Friday the 13th movies gave away nearly all its kills. Essentially acting as a spoiler for those pivotal moments, the Friday the 13th trailer almost completely eliminated the element of surprise. In this case, the marketing might have leaned a bit too heavily on showcasing the horror elements, inadvertently giving away crucial plot points. It’s a delicate balance to maintain suspense while still enticing audiences to watch — especially in this genre. To be fair, however, the trailer didn’t reveal the identity of the killer, which is the main twist in the first Friday the 13th movie.
9 The Green Goblin Twist In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s trailer faced criticism for revealing Harry Osborn’s transformation into the Green Goblin. By showcasing pivotal scenes of his metamorphosis, this preview preemptively spoiled a significant plot twist — and fight — that happens late in the film. The trailer also shows the very last scenes in the movie where Spider-Man acrobatically begins a fight with the Rhino in slow motion. Combined, all the elements in The Amazing Spider-Man 2‘s trailer revealed nearly the whole movie, except for its most shocking twist. The fact that Sony’s Sinister Six plans were also teased in the trailer, only for their movie to never happen, only adds insult to injury.
8 The Island’s Real Purpose In The Island (2005)
The trailer for The Island is notorious for giving away almost all the key plot elements that were meant to surprise viewers. This includes the fact that protagonists Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) are clones that were bred to provide fresh organs to those who could afford the service. The movie’s trailer also reveals that the titular island doesn’t exist, and is just a lie meant to keep the clones placated and contained within their special compound. From just watching the trailer, it’s obvious how clones who win the lottery to go to the island are actually due to be harvested for their organs.
7 Chuck Getting Rescued In Cast Away (2000)
A famous example of a movie trailer that gave away too much information to audiences, the spot for Cast Away drew criticism for divulging Chuck Nolan’s eventual rescue and return home. By showcasing scenes of Chuck interacting with people and his return to civilization after his time on the deserted island, the Cast Away trailer spoiled a central element of the film. It’s a shame because this movie showcases one of the best performances ever by lead actor Tom Hanks, who even got sick because of his method approach to playing Chuck. Fortunately, despite its trailer spoilers, Cast Away remains one of the most acclaimed survival-themed dramas of all time.
6 The Reveal About Quaid’s Wife In Total Recall (1990)
The Total Recall trailer faced scrutiny for unraveling a crucial plot point: the real identity of Douglas Quaid’s wife, Laurie. Even though it’s a reveal that comes pretty early in Total Recall, it’s still a significant moment in the movie, as it confirms that Quaid’s memories have been fabricated. Moreover, the trailer even reveals that Quaid later kills his fake wife, an event that happens in the latter half. Apart from these revelations, the trailer also shows many of the unbelievable visual effects of Total Recall, which ultimately diminished their intended shock value. That said, these reveals likely contributed to the iconic sci-fi action movie’s overall box office success.
5 Willy Gets Freed In Free Willy (1993)
The Free Willy trailer deliberately revealed Willy’s fate as a marketing strategy to emphasize the heartwarming and liberating themes of the film. While incredible movie moments spoiled in the trailer can ruin certain films, this wasn’t the case for Free Willy, as it succeeded in drawing audiences through the promise of an uplifting narrative in the third act. After all, Free Willy is a family drama, and revealing how the movie would have a happy ending was crucial to convincing parents that it’s appropriate for children. Revealing and withdrawing information is typically a balancing act in trailers, but it works for family-oriented films like Free Willy.
4 Gandalf’s Return In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The second of the Lord of the Rings movies, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers revealed in its trailer how Gandalf the Grey, who presumably died in the prior installment, would return as Gandalf the White. This wasn’t a spoiler for audiences who’ve read the books, of course. However, most viewers were robbed of the surprise of Gandalf’s unexpected return. After the stellar reception of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, it’s likely that the studio wanted to divulge the return of the beloved character to ensure the franchise’s continued success — and it worked.
3 The Biggest Plot Beats In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
The various trailers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom practically allow viewers to piece together the entire film just from the previews. For starters, the first trailer shows the incredible volcanic eruption that occurs in the first part of the movie, which was the main catalyst for the plot moving forward. Another trailer reveals the entire theme of the latter half of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, in which the movie shifts genres from action adventure to slasher thriller. In this case, spoiling every significant plot point in the movie seems to have been the right move, at least in terms of its box office gross crossing the billion-dollar mark.
2 The Secret Ingredient In Soylent Green (1973)
The key twist of the dystopian sci-fi classic Soylent Green is that the titular mass-produced food is actually made from people. Considering how the entire movie revolves around Charlton Heston’s Detective Robert Thorn finding out the horrible truth, it wasn’t the wisest decision to divulge this surprise in the trailer. The movie’s iconic twist has since been a recurring topic and joke across entertainment and has been spoiled for most audiences. However, it’s a pity that even moviegoers in 1973 were already privy to Soylent Green’s secret ingredient, a reveal that is masterfully teased throughout the film.
1 Who The Aliens Are In Oblivion (2013)
Although trailers for Oblivion left a few mysteries intact, they spoiled the key twists in the movie: that Tom Cruise’s Jack Harper isn’t alone on earth; and that the scavengers are actually humans. Oblivion‘s marketing team simply couldn’t resist revealing another superstar cast member in Morgan Freeman, who plays the leader of the scavengers in the movie. It’s difficult to determine whether these reveals hurt Oblivion‘s box office gross or not, as the movie is just fairly successful despite the above-mentioned A-listers in its cast. In any case, Oblivion and its trailers exemplify how a film’s objectives don’t always line up with how the trailers are cut.