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MCFTR Ranks the Spoilers in Movie Trailers.

5 March 2007 by Gnoll 5 Comments

“Movie Surprises” have been a norm in cinema since we first learned that Rosebud was a sled. Many films have twists and revelations that have more impact when the viewer goes in not knowing them. If you were one of the first to see Vader tell Luke “I am your father”, or watch Verbal Kint’s limp go away, or find out that Haley Joel really does see dead people, or figure out that playing the Crying Game involved using a joystick, then you’d probably imagine how pissed you’d be if a trailer came out and ruined that experience for you.

In this day and age, though, the movie trailer has become nearly as lucrative as the film it’s advertising. And in some cases, they contain spoilers for the movie’s events. Now, technically, anything you didn’t know for sure being revealed is technically a spoiler. I mean, if you go into a romantic comedy not realizing the two main characters are going to eventually have an awkward first kiss, then you’re pretty much beyond help. But occasionally, moviegoers will complain about major plot points being revealed in trailers. Sometimes, these actually are real spoilers, but sometimes they’re not that important in the long run. Here are a few of the supposed offenders, and my take on whether or not they really did any actual damage to the movie they were affixed to. I’ll also give a rating to how much of a spoiler it actually was, with the higher the number, the worse the offense.

Terminator 2
We’ve all seen the movie. It only made about 37 billion dollars at the box office, and turned Arnold from action hero into megastar. But those who enjoyed the first film in the series knew that Arnold’s T-800 Cyborg was supposed to be a cold-blooded killing machine sent to destroy John Connor from the future. The trailer, however, reveals pretty early on that Arnold is playing the good guy this time around. Now, that’s not really a big deal in the long run, because you find out about 20 minutes into the film, but can you imagine how much more riveting those first 20 minutes would have been had you not known that the Governator was going to save Pecker’s life?
Spoiler rating: 4/10. It doesn’t ruin too much of the film, but the film could have stood on its own without the tease of Arnold the hero.

There’s Something About Mary
Comedies don’t usually have very intense plots, and therefore aren’t the type of film you’d usually imagine seeing on such a list. I mean, there might be a gag or two that gets teased in the previews, but what kind of plot point could you see being spoiled? Well, in this 1998 comedy, actor Lee Evans plays a crippled architect guy named Tucker who turns out later in the film to be a goofy stoner named Norm. When it happens, it’s supposed to be a pretty big surprise. That’s all fine and good, but in the trailers, there’s footage of Norm being Norm and not being Tucker, which either means to the unintiated that he’s got a twin brother out there or that a fairly major story spoiler just happened.
Spoiler Rating: 6/10. Pretty big spoiler to what’s actually a pretty well-done turn, but not enough to tank the film.

The Negotiator
In this 1998 thriller, Sam Jackson and Kevin Spacey, both at the tops of their games, play hostage negotiatiors forced into a showdown. The whole thing’s basically a cat-and mouse game, with Sam Jackson in the role of the good cop who has to become a criminal to save the day, but in the very infamous trailer, there’s a scene (which managed to be cut from the film) where Spacey and Jackson are together and Spacey says “now they have to deal with both of us”. And just like that, the entire plot of the movie is condensed into a two-minute preview which takes much of the tension out of the actual film. Of course, while the movie was still a pretty well-received thriller, it managed to sink the careers of both Jackson and Spacey for nearly a decade.
Spoiler Rating: 9/10. Makes the tension built in the first 80 minutes or so less spectacular, since we know that the two stars are going to eventually make nice.

As much as I’ve tried to put all memories of this film aside, I do recall the trailer revealing a little more than it may have needed to. Of course, that’s because the trailers for this film were fucking awesome, while the movie itself was a gigantic reptile turd. Basically, in the trailer, they reveal that Godzilla is female, and show the smaller CGI raptor-like lizards that serve to be a bigger menace in the long run than the gigantic iguana winds up being. Of course, if I recall the movie correctly, this isn’t actually discovered until the second half of the film, and is played up as a pretty big surprise when it happens.
Spoiler Rating: 5/10. I think. It’s been a while since I saw it, and I’m not looking to watch it again anytime soon.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
At the end of the first installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf the Grey succumbs to the evil Balrog in the movie’s thrilling conclusion. For the large portion of the audience who have not read the books, it’s pretty easy to assume he’s either gone for good or that he’s just been Obi-wanned, and might dispense advice from beyond. In the trailer for the Two Towers, however, off comes a hood to reveal Gandalf in all his glory — plus a little whiter in the hair area. The whole thing with spoilers in pre-established stories is kind of a grey (no pun intended) area, but considering the majority of the film’s viewers were likely not readers of the books, it’s still a pretty big blow.
Spoiler Rating: 7/10. Lower due to the preestablished fiction element to it, but still a pretty major revelation for the average viewer.

The Iron Giant
A criminally underrated animated film from the late 90s, The Iron Giant is the story about a giant robot from outer space that befriends a young boy and is hunted down by the U.S. Government at the peak of the Communist scare. The movie kicks in to high gear at the point of one the later battle scenes, when the title robot shows off an ability that changes the whole dynamic of the film — he can fly. It’s not all that much of a revelation, however, when the trailers showed the magnificent machine taking off like he was Superman.
Spoiler Rating: 4/10. It doesn’t do too much to damage the viewer’s enjoyment of the film, but it does kill much of the “ooh!” factor.

The boat sinks. The boat fucking sinks. Despite the fact that anyone who doesn’t know that the boat fucking sinks, there were actually a small number of people out there who were legitimately upset at the spectacular trailer footage of the ship capsizing. Perhaps you have a case in that some of the awesome special effects were ruined, but the idea that there was any sort of mystery in the story is preposterous. And yes, the “romantic” element I mentioned in the article’s preamble also applies here.
Spoiler Rating: 1/10. The boat fucking sinks. If you didn’t know that, you deserve to have all of your entertainment spoiled. Forever.

Cast Away
When this trailer first premiered, it made people angry. Probably more than any of the other films on the list, this one had people’s panties bunched up like no tomorrow. Basically, the previews show Tom Hanks’s character construcing a makeshift raft and getting off the island. Now, if this were a movie about a guy trying to get off an island, then they’d have a serious beef. The fact of the matter is that’s it’s not just an overblown episode of Gilligan’s Island, but rather a film about trying to fit back in to society when you’ve been assumed dead for half a decade. The period of time that the film takes place on the island is only about half its length, and is a small part of a much larger story line. This was no secret to anyone who knew even the slightest bit about the film.
Spoiler Rating: 3/10. Getting off the island was a given, as was the deluge of whining crybabies on the internet when the trailer first aired.

Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace
While it’s nothing near the big twist that Vader reveals to Luke at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, the trailer for the first Star Wars prequel does give away a pretty cool scene. Remember how cool Darth Maul looked? Remember how much cooler he seemed when his lightsaber turned out to have not one, but two blades? Yeah, that was pretty cool, but it would have been even cooler had we not seen him do it in the trailer first.
Spoiler Rating: 2/10. Yeah, it took away from the coolness of one scene, but it was only one scene.

Transformers the Movie
Considering the average moviegoer lining up to see 1986’s Transformers animated film was still a few years away from puberty, it doesn’t seem very necessary to kill off the main character of the story — especially when he’s a robot. So you can imagine my surprise when the trailers that aired while I was watching my Saturday morning cartoons posed the question, “Will Optimus Prime die?”. Well, since they were asking, even my ten-year-old noodle was quick enough to know that the answer to that question was “of course”, and as a result, the death of the Autobot leader scarred millions of young boys for life.
Spoiler Rating: 8/10. Even though it wasn’t explicitly stated, it did all the damage it needed to.


  • Dan said:

    I have to agree, the trailers can give away way too much information about the plots and reveal things early that yes, get you excited about the title, but in the long run make you sit there waiting for them. Which in my opinion hampers the whole viewing experience.

    I think another list to make would be, “Trailers that dont reveal shit.” a list of probably the about five movie trailers ever made that didnt tell you jack shit about the storyline or the characters, or frankly show much of the scenes.

  • Jim Lewis said:

    The only 10/10 spoiler trailer I know of is that Ben Affleck film from a few years ago. The one where a nuclear bomb is exploded in Baltimore and it’s his job to find out who was responsible. The trailer gave it all away by saying it was done by neo-nazis.

  • kevin said:

    You’re forgetting “What Lies Beneath” (possibly because it wasn’t that great anyway – but you included Star Wars) Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer are happily married, in the last twenty minutes of the movie, he confesses to an affair with a girl who was murdered. Shocking? Perhaps if you hadn’t seen him express in his best Harrison Ford monotone, “I slept with her” in the trailer. I’d give that 9/10

    Then there’s “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”. In the TV commercial, I remember seeing Rebecca DeMornay running around all frantic in a particular outfit, and in the trailer a stunt double in said outfit crashing backwards through a second story window of a house. I thought at the time, well, she’s not going to survive THAT. She didn’t. 10/10

  • Ryuujin said:

    I agree with Jim on that – the Movie was “Sum of All Fears”. Most cheesy Hollywood films the badguys set a nuke under the superbowl or something and the protagonists will find and disarm it with like 3 seconds left on the conveniently placed timer. Sum of All Fears makes Hollywood history by actually letting the bad guys pull it off – much to everyones shock and suprise…

    …of course, it’s only a suprise if you havn’t seen the trailers, because they tell you EXACTLY what’s going to happen in advance.

  • hogenmogen said:

    There was a movie called “Prime” with Merril Streep. She was a shrink and her son was dating one of her patients. Not to the surprise of anyone who saw the trailer. The only thing that surprised me was that the trailer was shot to make it look like it was a fast-paced supposed-to-be-all-wacky yukk-fest, but it was a slow and dreary somber tale with the one supposed-to-be-funny plot point spoiled well in advance, as was the one supposed-to-be-funny scene where Streep and her husband have to hide in a bed in a furniture outlet because they don’t want Streep’s son and girlfriend to see them. Let me throw in some spoilers of my own if you haven’t seen this piece of crap: The guy doesn’t get the girl in the end, and there is absolutely no explanation given for why it is called “Prime”.

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