Ten Movie Trailers That Spoil Their Movie

Ten Movie Trailers That Spoil Their Movie (photo)

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“Don’t Let Anyone Tell You What It Is.”

That’s the tagline on the poster for the new documentary “Catfish” from directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Maybe what they meant to say was “Don’t Let Anyone But Us Tell You What It Is.” Because when the “Catfish” trailer debuted on the web last week, all anyone could talk about was whether or not it gave too much of the film away. That said, any description of the film at all could be considered “giving the film away,” since as soon as you start mentioning a twist people can’t help but start guessing at what it is.

“Catfish” certainly isn’t the first trailer to spark a debate on how much or how little information movie advertising should provide. Modern coming attractions routinely spoil comedies’ best jokes and thrillers’ big twists. The big question is, why? If the the thrill of discovery isn’t driving people to the theater, what is? We decided to look for the answers in some notable spoilery trailers. And it should go without saying, but we are going to spoil the hell out of these movies in a second. But don’t blame us: the trailers did it first.

Adam Sandler Doesn’t Die!
“Funny People” (2009)

Directed by Judd Apatow

It can’t be easy to sell a comedy about a guy dying of cancer. Which is probably why the marketing departments at Universal and Columbia went the spoiler route with their trailers for “Funny People.” Though their tactic completely spoiled the film’s major plot twist — that Adam Sandler’s character’s experimental leukemia treatment saves his life — it also let nervous viewers know that Judd Apatow wasn’t about to kill off Happy Gilmore. But in revealing so much they also killed any of the film’s suspense: why pay 12 bucks to see the movie in the theater if you already know how it turns out? It’s a no-win situation: nobody wants a depressing comedy, but to convince people the movie’s not depressing, they had to give away the entire plot.

Robin Williams Wins The Election!
“Man of the Year” (2006)
Directed by Barry Levinson

Much like the trailer for “Funny People,” the one for Barry Levinson’s “Man of the Year” doesn’t seem to trust that its initial set-up is enough to entice people to a movie (possibly this is due to the fact that it’s at least three years past its prime sell-by date). Robin Williams plays Jon Stewart Tom Dobbs, the “biggest name in fake news,” a comedian and TV show host whose telling-it-like-it-is sass earns him a fan base so adoring an audience member suggests that he run for office himself. So far, so good — the execution aside, we can all at least get behind the idea of the outsider/critic both shaking things up on the election circuit and finding himself getting unexpectedly invested in what he’s doing. But then the movie shows that Williams actually wins (though not the desperately uninteresting way this happens), and suddenly we’re in the look-who’s-in-high-office-now territory of “Head of State” and “King Ralph.” So long satire, hello wacky fish-out-of-water comedy.

Sam Worthington is a Terminator!
“Terminator Salvation” (2009)

Directed by McG

The “Terminator” franchise has often had problems with spoiler-y trailers. James Cameron structured “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” so that it wasn’t clear which terminator was good and which was evil until the two came face to face. But the “T2” trailer spoiled the surprise by selling the film to audiences as an opportunity to Schwarzenegger play a heroic terminator (“Once,” Don LaFontaine gravely intoned, “he was programmed to destroy the future. Now his mission is to protect it!”). 15 years later, “Terminator Salvation”‘s second trailer made the exact same mistake. Once again, the film itself plays as mystery: a death row inmate (Worthington) from the present awakens in a post-apocalyptic future, with no recollection of how he got there. Too bad he didn’t have internet access. One click on YouTube would have told him everything he needed to know: that Worthington is a Terminator programmed to believe he is a human. Come to think of it, what are Terminators if not robo-spoiler trolls? They come back in time and tell us how the Judgment Day War is going to turn out. C’mon guys, let us figure it out for ourselves.

Tom Hanks Gets Rescued!
“Cast Away” (2000)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Let’s remember that this is a movie about Tom Hanks getting stuck on a deserted island. Tom Hanks, America’s everyman sweetheart, yearning for home and the wife (Helen Hunt) he left behind, struggling to catch a fish and start a fire and cling to his sanity. Was anyone really worried, when Robert Zemeckis’ film was being marketed for theaters, that it would end with Hanks resorting to self-cannibalism or getting smooshed by a falling coconut and perishing alone on the beach? And yet the trailer for “Cast Away” runs us through not just Hanks getting lost but Hanks getting found, with a rescuer noting that he’s been gone “for four years — we had a funeral, coffin,” as if to reassure audiences that not only would Hanks be ushered safely home from his splendidly shot time in survivor mode, he’d have plenty of soap operatics to indulge in when he got there. The final shot here is literally the final shot of the movie, which isn’t as uncommon as you’d think in trailerland, but seems extra unnecessary given this promo should never have gone beyond the island.

Willy Goes Free!
“Free Willy” (1993)
Directed by Simon Wincer

Here is an entire movie about whether or not a boy will free a whale from captivity. So how does the trailer end? By showing the boy freeing the whale from captivity. That farshtunken whale jumping over those rocks is the the movie’s money shot, and they just gave it away for free. Then again, so did the movie’s poster. Which returns us to the thinking behind “Funny People”: some people go to the movies not for entertainment, but for reassurance. They don’t want the show up and find out the whale dies, they want to know that everything’s going to work out fine. And it does; at least until the sequel.


Grow TFU

Adulting Like You Mean It

Commuters makes its debut on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Jared Warner, Nick Ciavarella, and Tim Dean were once a part of Murderfist, a group of comedy writers, actors, producers, parents, and reluctant adults. Together with InstaMiniSeries’s Nikki Borges, they’re making their IFC Comedy Crib debut with the refreshingly-honest and joyfully-hilarious Commuters. The webseries follows thirtysomethings Harris and Olivia as they brave the waters of true adulthood, and it’s right on point.

Jared, Nick, Nikki and Tim were kind enough to answer a few questions about Commuters for us. Here’s a snippet of that conversation…


IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Nick: Two 30-somethings leave the Brooklyn life behind, and move to the New Jersey suburbs in a forced attempt to “grow up.” But they soon find out they’ve got a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jared: It’s a show about how f*cking stupid people who think they are smart can be.

IFC: What’s your origin story? When did you all meet and how long have you been working together?

Jared: Nick, Tim, and I were all in the sketch group Murderfist since, what, like 2004? God. Anyway, Tim and Nick left the group to pursue other frivolous things, like children and careers, but we all enjoyed writing together and kept at it. We were always more interested in storytelling than sketch comedy lends itself to, which led to our webseries Jared Posts A Personal. That was a show about being in your 20s and embracing the chaos of being young in the city. Commuters is the counterpoint, i guess. Our director Adam worked at Borders (~THE PAST!!~) with Tim, came out to a Murderfist show once, and we’ve kept him imprisoned ever since.

IFC: What was the genesis of Commuters?

Tim: Jared had an idea for a series about the more realistic, less romantic aspects of being in a serious relationship.  I moved out of the city to the suburbs and Nick got engaged out in LA.   We sort of combined all of those facets and Commuters was the end result.

IFC: How would Harris describe Olivia?

Jared: Olivia is the smartest, coolest, hottest person in the world, and Harris can’t believe he gets to be with her, even though she does overreact to everything and has no chill. Like seriously, ease up. It doesn’t always have to be ‘a thing.’

IFC: How would Olivia describe Harris?

Nikki:  Harris is smart, confident with a dry sense of humor but he’s also kind of a major chicken shit…. Kind of like if Han Solo and Barney Rubble had a baby.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Nikki:  I think this is the most accurate portrayal of what a modern relationship looks like. Expectations for what your life is ‘supposed to look like’ are confusing and often a let down but when you’re married to your best friend, it’s going to be ok because you will always find a way to make each other laugh.

IFC: Is the exciting life of NYC twentysomethings a sweet dream from which we all must awake, or is it a nightmare that we don’t realize is happening until it’s over?

Tim: Now that i’ve spent time living in the suburbs, helping to raise a two year old, y’all city folk have no fucking clue how great you’ve got it.

Nikki: I think of it similar to how I think about college. There’s a time and age for it to be glorious but no one wants to hang out with that 7th year senior. Luckily, NYC is so multifaceted that you can still have an exciting life here but it doesn’t have to be just what the twentysomethings are doing (thank god).

Jared: New York City is a garbage fire.

See the whole season of Commuters right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


C'mon Fellas

A Man Mansplains To Men

Why Baroness von Sketch Show is a must-see.

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Mansplaining is when a man takes it upon himself to explain something to a woman that she already knows. It happens a lot, but it’s not going to happen here. Ladies, go ahead and skip to the end of this post to watch a free episode of IFC’s latest addition, Baroness von Sketch Show.

However, if you’re a man, you might actually benefit from a good mansplanation. So take a knee, lean in, and absorb the following wisdom.

No Dicks

Baroness von Sketch Show is made entirely by women, therefore this show isn’t focused on men. Can you believe it? I know what you’re thinking: how will we know when to laugh if the jokes aren’t viewed through the dusty lens of the patriarchy? Where are the thinly veiled penis jokes? Am I a bad person? In order: you will, nowhere, and yes.

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Huge Balls

Did you know that there’s more to life than poop jokes, sex jokes, body part jokes? I mean, those things are all really good things, natch, and totally edgy. But Baroness von Sketch Show does something even edgier. It holds up a brutal funhouse mirror to our everyday life. This is a bulls**t world we made, fellas.


Oh Canada

After you watch the Canadian powerhouses of Baroness von Sketch Show and think to yourself “Dear god, this is so real” and “I’ve gotta talk about this,” do yourself a favor and think a-boot your options: Refrain from sharing your sage wisdom with any woman anywhere (believe us, she gets it). Instead, tell a fellow bro and get the mansplaining out of your system while also spreading the word about a great show.

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Dudes, that’s the deal.
Women, start reading again here:

Check out the preview episode of Baroness von Sketch Show and watch the series premiere August 2 on IFC.


Happy Tears

Binge Don’t Cringe

Catch up on episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia.

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Photo Credit: GIFs via GIPHY

A brain can only take so much.

Every five minutes, all day, every day, ludicrously stressful headlines push our mental limits as we struggle to adapt to a reality that seems increasingly less real. What’s a mind to do when simple denial just isn’t good enough anymore?

Radical suggestion: repeal and replace. And by that we mean take all the bad news that keeps you up at night, press pause, and substitute it with some genuine (not nervous, for a change) laughter. Here are some of the issues on our mind.

Gender Inequality

Feminist bookstore owners by day, still feminist bookstore owners by night, Toni and Candace show the male gaze who’s boss. Learn about their origin story (SPOILER: there’s an epic dance battle) and see what happens when their own brand of empowerment gets out of hand.


From Candace’s heart attack to the rise of the rawvolution, this Portlandia episode proves that healthcare is vital.

Peaceful Protests

Too many online petitions, too little time? Get WOKE with Fred and Carrie when they learn how to protest.

What Could Have Been

Can’t say the name “Clinton” without bursting into tears? Documentary Now!’s masterfully political “The Bunker” sheds a cozy new light on the house that Bill and Hill built. Just pretend you don’t know how the story really ends.

Fake News

A healthy way to break the high-drama news cycle is to switch over to “Dronez”, which has all the thrills of ubiquitous adventure journalism without any of the customary depression.

The more you watch, the better you feel. So get started on past episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia right now at IFC.com and the IFC app.

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