Don’t Believe The Hype: The Problem With Trailers, Titles And Misleading The Audience


This could easily be my favorite movie news story of the year: A woman is suing the distributor of recent Ryan Gosling movie Drive because, she says, there wasn’t enough driving in it. But why stop with Drive? There are so many other movies that don’t live up to their titles.

The woman in question, Sarah Deming, is suing distributor FilmDistrict as well as her local theater because, she says, the movie was advertised (and titled) in such a way that suggested a Fast and Furious-style chase thriller instead of the critically-acclaimed thriller that it actually is. The lawsuit says that the actual movie “bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film … having very little driving in the motion picture.” There is no way to get around this: This is amazing.

But it got me to thinking: Aren’t there so many more movies that deserve to be dragged into the courts for having entirely misleading titles? And the answer is: Oh, yes. Many.

The Greatest Story Ever Told
Potential lawsuit: Does this 1965 epic adaptation of the New Testament of the Bible really live up to its title? It’s hard to say for sure – After all, it’s “greatest” a subjective opinion? What if someone prefers Star Wars or GI Joe: Rise of Cobra? But more importantly, the title can easily be proven to be misleading because how can anything be the greatest story ever told when “ever” is still ongoing? For all we know, there’s an even greater story just around the corner.

The Last Picture Show
Potential lawsuit: With a title like The Last Picture Show, you’d expect it to either be the end of all cinema, or at the very least, such a satisfying movie that you never need to watch another motion picture. In both cases, this 1971 drama fails significantly; cinema has continued to grow both technologically and artistically since this movie’s release and, as hard as Peter Bogdanovich may have tried, there’s little about this movie that would make you feel as if cinema has peaked, although it could be argued that Cybill Shepherd’s movie debut could have driven people from cinemas for other reasons.

Naked Lunch
Potential lawsuit: Say what you like about David Cronenberg’s 1991 adaptation of the admittedly unfilmable William D. Burroughs novel, but if there are two things that it’s not about, it’s the meal from the middle of the day nor people enjoying said meal without clothing. Interzone tripping and bug powder dust are all well and good, but they’re not exactly what the title promises, and isn’t it really assuming a little too much that moviegoers would be familiar enough with a classic 1959 book that arguably changed American literature to know the difference?

Million Dollar Baby
Potential lawsuit: This 2003 film may have won roughly several million (Okay, four) Oscars, but it’s worth noting that none of them were for truth in advertising. I’d argue that, yes, knowing that this is really a boxing movie starring Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, there is still a chance that this could actually be a movie about an infant worth one million dollars: What if the baby of the title was somehow an awesome boxer, and won a championship that had come with the million dollars, leading to a screwball comedy where the baby’s mother (Swank) and grandfather (Eastwood) have to stop it going on a spending spree with hilarious consequences? Alas, that’s not the case – and that’s why this movie misleads fans of the rich child genre and is open to potentially crippling legal action.

30 Minutes of Less
Potential lawsuit: Today’s world is a faster-paced one, with people perpetually on the go – And that’s why something called 30 Minutes of Less seems like such a great idea: A complete comedy in under half an hour? Who could say no? But, sadly, this summer’s 30 Minutes outstays its promise by 53 minutes, making a mockery not only of its own title, but also of those who may have paid good money having been lured by the false promise of a compact comedy. Never mind Drive – which does, at least, feature a car and some driving, even if it’s not enough for some people; this is the movie that people should be filing lawsuits about.

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Comments

  • Mythos

    I hated The Dark Knight. It wasn’t really that dark and there were no knights in it! I mean, I go watch a movie about a dark knight and somehow Batman shows up; like, what’s up with that?

  • Mr. Q

    Didn’t the Simpsons make a joke about Bart and the gang going to see Naked Lunch?

  • Russell Crowe’s Thrown Phone!

    Same thing happened to me long ago when I saw the movie My Favorite Year. The movie was about an Errol Flynn type of actor who guest starred on a live comedy sketch show in the 50s that was live broadcast. The actor was an alcoholic and followed around by a smallish jewish fella played by Cousin Larry Appleton (or “App-leh-tone” as his cousin Balki would say it) from the tv series Perfect Strangers, who was trying to keep him out of trouble.

    That movie took place over the course of ONE WEEK, NOT AN ENTIRE YEAR!!! ;)
    As such, my lawsuit against Peter O’Toole and Mark Linn-Baker is still up in the air! :D

  • Adam

    “Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulant advertising since my case against the never ending story.”  –Lionel Hutz

  • guest

    “No mockingbirds were harmed in the filming of this movie.”

  • Animeman3

     Don’t you mean “30 Minutes OR Less”? Who ever heard of “30 Minutes OF Less”? Sound like a crappy sequel title.

  • Horton

    I’m a high school art teacher and one of the things I always tell my students is that two of the most important things when going into a movie. Is 1) don’t anticipate anything/ don’t over hype it and 2) your mood going into a film can BADLY effect your view of it (for example I had gotten into a fight with my wife right before seeing The Hangover, and to this day I can’t really laugh at the movie because I’m reminded of the mood I was in when seeing it). 

    Trailers are obviously what generate the majority of movie hype and a movie trailer that is marketed wrong can horribly sway a viewers outlook on the film right from the get go.For example 99% of my students (I teach 10th- 12th graders) HATE district 9. Keep in mind they don’t hate it because its a bad film (they could care less about how good it is/ shiny plastic and bubble wrap could entertain them) they hate it because the trailers made it seem like it was going to be Cloverfield meets independence day (if you remember correctly the entire trailer was the last 10 minutes of the film).I live just outside of Manhattan, in Westchester County. It’s 13 bucks for a film here (non 3d). I don’t have the luxury of not researching the films I go to see. I like to know what I’m going into before I see it. I totally understand why my teenage students go to see whatever haphazardly, and why they often fall into the trappings of the problem in this article, it’s because there morons. They were pissed at Our Idiot Brother most recently because it was marketed as more of a comedy and less of an indy hipster drama. Last year they were complaining about that movie Gamer, which was marketed like a new Running Man, but instead they got some weird live action Sex Based Sim’s. I have no sympathy for any adult who goes into a movie and ends up being totally thrown off by what they are seeing due to the trailer. Rotten Tomatoes should be bookmarked on everyones computer, or at least one of the thousand movie review apps for your phone. We don’t live in an age anymore when you can just go to the movies on a whim and hope to god the trailer you saw was accurate to what you expected the movie to be. 

    If whoever is making up the movie trailer knows that the movie will make more money as a sci fi action film instead of a drama with a sci fi backdrop then they will cut that trailer to make it seem like it’s more of an action film. Why condemn the stupid people who are seeing it based off of the trailer alone. They want to make whatever money they can make. 

  • Sevenpenny

    What.The.F**k. Are people this damn petty? Seriously you dumbass its a movie…its “make believe”…but then again some people cant differentiant (aka tell the difference) between real life and fiction….jesus….I hope the judge tosses this case and makes the woman pay for all the court costs for this frivilous suit.

  • Hub

    Don’t be a jerk, Animeman3.

  • RunnerX13

    Who wants to join my Class Action against The Never Ending Story?

  • RunnerX13

    BTW, did anyone else besides this woman think that Drive was a F&F type movie?  I certainly didn’t after seeing the trailer.

  • Skapunkboi19

    If this lawsuit works out people who saw Green Lantern should get to sue since the trailer lead us to believe the movie would be watchable.

  • Russell Crowe’s Thrown Phone!

    Sorry, I can’t agree there. At least not from my own perspective. The Green Lantern movie was looking increasingly worse to me the more footage I saw in trailers before it’s release. I gradually started to view it as extremely unwatchable. So instead of paying to see it, I saw a bootleg and was glad I didn’t pay to see it.

  • Anonymous

    Well, in the high schoolers’ defense, shiny plastic and bubble wrap *is* pretty darned entertaining…

  • Guest

    Really? Last Pic Show was nominated for how many oscars? 

  • Btodd

    If I had any idea that this movie would be anything like that moronic Fast/Furious mung, I’d have stayed far away from it. Critical thought seems to be in short supply with average moviegoers (ever go to a theater and feel like you were dropped into the middle of a Chuck E Cheese’s?)

  • Mar

    Graeme, sorry to step on toes here, since I know what you were going for.  But “The Last Picture Show” was a poor example to use for your thesis.  If you had done the research (or chose to consider it), you would have discovered that this excellent film derives its name from the NOVEL on which it’s based, by Larry McMurtry.