9 Spoiler-Filled Trailers That Gave It All Away

Trailer Spoilers

Everybody is talking about that new Prometheus trailer unveiled last week. You know — the one that spoils most of the movie. At least that’s what they’re saying. I haven’t seen it and I don’t intend to. It’s bad enough the first trailer showed what I suspect is a major character’s “I’m dying” face. Hollywood needs to take a lesson from the original Alien, whose trailer is the gold standard of film promotion: Aren’t you glad it didn’t spoil the chestburster scene? Or show Tom Skerritt getting it in the air duct? The following trailers, however, are the equivalent of pyrite. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

9. Speed (1994)
Pop quiz, hotshot. You make a movie about a bomb on a bus and it’s time to cut the trailer. If you show the hostages witnessing the bus’ explosion from a safe distance, the audience knows everybody survives. What do you do? What do you do?

8. Dream House (2011)
The first of two Jim Sheridan films to appear in this list, Dream House took some punches last year for revealing itself in the trailer to be the poor man’s Shutter Island. Is a movie only as smart as its trailer, or is a trailer only as smart as its movie? Because Dream House’s full 92 minutes, and especially those of the final act, were not smart at all.

7. Rope (1948)
Alfred Hitchcock: “They call me The Master of Suspense. Cut me a trailer befitting that title.”

Warner Bros. Marketing Department: “We’ll put the whole ending in the trailer, and the audience will be on the edge of their seats wondering how it all began!”

6. Double Jeopardy (1999)
We’ve all learned what the term double jeopardy means from one law show or another on television. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that Ashley Judd’s 1999 thriller is about a woman who hunts down her very much alive ex-husband after being falsely imprisoned for his murder. But you know what else doesn’t come as a surprise? Any of the movie’s surprises, which were all judiciously laid out for us in the trailer.

5. Letters to Juliet (2010)
Why pay $11.50 for 105 minutes when you can watch 2 minutes and 31 seconds for free right here? You won’t even miss a beat. Will Vanessa Redgrave reunite with the man she left behind decades ago, and has spent a good portion of this movie searching for? Yes! Of course she will! And he’ll be on horseback when she finds him!

4. Free Willy (1993)
If a movie trailer is designed to bring viewers to the theaters, then why reveal every twist and turn in the movie, including the climax? If the question on viewers’ minds is not “What happens next?”, then what is the question? Why go see Free Willy if you know Willy makes the jump at the end of the movie and goes... free? Viewers slap down their money in the hopes that all those minutes not seen in the trailer offer up something just as spectacular as the trailer’s collection of shots. This list shows just how often that’s not the case.

3. Brothers (2010)
It’s understandable that Tobey Maguire is a name actor and he needs to be seen in the trailer, so I can forgive the trailer for revealing that Maguire, an Iraq War vet presumably killed in action, is not actually dead. Fine. Maguire comes home and this domestic drama explores the impact of war on family. All good. But I didn’t need to know just how out of control Maguire gets after learning brother Jake Gyllenhaal hooked up with his distraught wife Natalie Portman. Where can this movie go after you’ve already seen Maguire firing off a loaded weapon while police guns are trained on him and Portman and Gyllenhaal are freaking out in the background?

2. Quarantine (2008)
Horror movies are a frequent offender in this category. This could have been a whole series on movie deaths spoiled by trailers if we’d wanted it to be. Think Alison Brie in last year’s Scream 4, or every victim ever killed in a Final Destination movie. Horror trailers need audiences to wonder whether the protagonists will make it out alive; it’s part of the identification and catharsis process. Though, when you think about it, the essence of “found footage” horror movies should preclude the possibility that anyone in the movie will survive. That being said, was it really necessary to use the final shot of Quarantine for use in the trailer, on the poster, and the cover art?

1. The Double (2011)
I bet you approached this list with caution. I bet you expected me to spoil a movie or two beyond what was already spoiled for you in the trailers. But I’ve been good. And I wouldn’t dare tell you what happens to Topher Grace at the end of The Double, after he teams up with retired CIA operative Richard Gere to hunt a Soviet assassin who turns out to be Richard Gere after all and of course is now a psychotic danger to Topher Grace and his family. I wouldn’t dare spoil what happens after all of that.

Michelle Welch is a freelance writer who has also contributed at The A.V. Club and PopMatters. She tweets her pop culture ramblings as @stayfrostymw.


  • Erica says:

    In partial defense of "Letters to Juliet", Redgrave's story was only one part of the movie. But those type of romance movies are predictable anyway; with or without the help of the trailer.

  • filmfather says:

    A college buddy of mine from Jersey had the best comment after we saw the Free Willy trailer in a theater: "Why do I need to see it now? I know the whole story: They catch the whale, they f*** with it, they let it go."

  • Wildeyed says:

    Waitamminit. Several of these are only spoilery if you have already seen the movie. Out of context a lot of the flagged scenes mean little.

  • Andrew says:

    You're missing the worst offender of all time. "What Lies Beneath". Without the trailer, no one would have gone in knowing that Harrison Ford had an affair, killed his mistress and was willing to kill his wife once she found out. That's every reveal the movie had and they were all in the trailer.

    Without that trailer, people would have gone in thinking it was a haunted house movie about a happily married couple being tormented by a mysterious ghost.

  • CineRam says:

    Um..."Cast Away", anyone? The first trailer ended with Tom Hanks staggering around the island for the first time after the plane crash. The second trailer gave us a wee bit more...everything up to and including THE FINAL SHOT OF THE FILM.

  • Caplan Monroe says:

    "Viewers slap down their money in the hopes that all those minutes not seen in the trailer offer up something just as spectacular as the trailer’s collection of shots. " That would be the definition of a movie trailer... I don't quite think you've grasped the reason trailers are released, to drum up buzz for the film, not to show the first 2 minutes of a movie. You even cite the Final Destination trailers as ruining character deaths. The plot of those movies are only about the death of the characters. Just like the plot of Free Willy was *drum roll* to FREE Willy. If the trailer just showed Willy swimming around a tank nobody would care enough to see the film.

  • Jackie Diane says:

    The Double trailer does not reveal it's twist ending. What it sets up is the agonizingly repetitiveness of the movie. The real twist ending has ABSOLUTELY no setup in the trailer OR the movie, no hints and no clues to lead you to it. The movie trailer sucked because there no way to imply any further twist because it wasn't addressed until the last 7 minutes of the movie. We know who Cassius is in the first 20 minutes. The rest looks like a thriller and escape plot UNTIL... Spoiler Alert... Topher Grace is revealed to be a Cold War era Soviet sleeper agent who's mission is to kill Cassius. The movie was terrible and the trailer had NOTHING to pull from because there was NO setup for the Topher Grace reveal.

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