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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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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