/ Technology

Are film trailers spoiling movies?

In April we asked if high ticket prices were ruining your visits to the cinema. Yes, you said overwhelmingly. But something else has put a strain on my relationship with the cinema – and it’s not the popcorn.

Have you ever gone to your local cinema to watch a new film only to feel you’ve seen it before? I know I have. ‘Spoilerific’ film trailers are now often so detailed it seems hardly worth watching the movie itself.

Imagine if the trailer for Casablanca told you whether Ingrid Bergman went off with Humphrey Bogart or Paul Henreid at the end. Or if the trailer for Citizen Kane revealed just what the dying man meant when he muttered the word ‘Rosebud’.

And it seems that even some film directors agree. Colin Trevorrow, director of new film, Jurassic World, has said he think that trailers have shown far more of the film than he would have wanted.

‘Spoilerific’ film trailers

In the last couple of months, I’ve paid £17.50 a ticket to see two films I’ve been anticipating for some time. OK £17.50 sounds steep, but that was for iMAX 3D and I’d still have paid more than £10 for a ‘normal’ ticket.

But I left the cinema unfulfilled, because I felt like I’d seen them both six months before.

In both cases the trailer revealed the entire structure of the story, key plot twists and expensive action sequences. Throw in a few character deaths for good measure and you’ve got the basis of a significant chunk of what you’ve paid your money for.

I really did feel cheated by what the studio had wanted me to see in advance.

So is this just a modern trend? I checked out trailers for 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, and 1964’s Goldfinger to get a bigger picture.

Both revealed some well-known scenes (including Goldfinger’s iconic laser and dialogue), but the plot basics were instead explained by voiceover, rather than any especially huge visual giveaways.

Besides, the chance of actually seeing these trailers was significantly lessened due to the technology available at the time of release. Which got me thinking further.

Technology makes spoilers hard to avoid

‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch it’, I hear you cry. I wish it were that simple. In the age of the internet, exposure has increased tenfold.

Marketing campaigns target social media and television, while the days of a simple poster are gone. Why commission a still image when you can display scenes from the film on a screen in a station or other public place?

Not only that, but trailers are also forced upon you in the cinema itself before other films. Without a blindfold and a soundproof booth to hide in you have little choice.

It’s not that I have a problem with marketing and ads. But they’re spoiling the experience. I don’t want to see all the best bits wrapped up into two minutes, six months ahead of release.

Have you had a film spoiled by its trailer/marketing? Is Hollywood revealing too much in a desperate attempt to put bums on seats?


I recall feeling massively elated after watching the Prometheus trailer only to find that it gave away almost every major plot point when I watched the film proper. And let’s not even get into the quality of the flick. Ugh!

And another problem is that every film now has a trailer of the trailer of the trailer. With so many trailers, it’s no wonder we’ve seen half the film before we settle down to watch it at the cinema!

Maureen says:
17 July 2015

This ‘Trailer Trash Syndrome’ also applies to TV drama/films and other programming (e.g. BBC’S ‘Fake or Fortune’) where so much of the plot/storyline is given away, that it reduces any interest or pleasure in watching the whole. What do film/TV producers hope to achieve by this – it’s such a turn-off?

Paul Leogue says:
9 July 2015

There should be a special Oscar. Best trailer for worst film

If there was a lifetime achievement award for the ‘Best Trailer for the Worst Film’, it should surely go to Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Paul.

One day the awfulness of that film is going to hit me like PTSD.

I’m not sure, Graham. I think the trailer for Hana-Bi was great but the film, well let’s say no more…

There are no words.

I urge everyone to watch the masterpiece that is Hana-bi, but skip the rubbish trailer.

Is it on Netflix? What’s it about? If so, perhaps I’ll have a watch of it during the weekend 🙂

Paul Leogue says:
9 July 2015

Graham, I have only two words to say to you. Jack Reacher.

I enjoyed that film but I had not seen the trailer nor had I read any of the books.

Part of the very best bit of the film is in the trailer.

Rob says:
9 July 2015

[err, SPOILER ALERT for Lord of the Rings 2]

I too have found trailers increasingly give away the entire plot and/or very significant plot points, and have, for some years, looked down and mumbled “la la la” to myself if there’s a trailer for a film that I already know I want to see.

I first remember noticing this when LOTR 2’s trailer showed a great big shot of Gandalf stomping around with a new set of robes. I guess they wanted to sell the film to people who wanted his presence, but that would have been a great thing to hide.

Noted but a certain author had already published the plot spoilers…

I’ve not personally found that trailers really spoil a film for me, as I’m the kind of guy that can watch a favorite film many times over if I really like it.

What I do think though, is that the cinemas dedicate far too much time to trailers and adverts prior to the main show. If the film is scheduled to start at 8:30pm, then that’s when I expect it to start. It’s always anything from 15 mins to 30 mins later once we’ve been subjected to all the rubbish prior.

I strongly object to having my time wasted like this!

Clare says:
10 July 2015

Watching the trailers is one of my favourite parts of going to the cinema. It annoys me more that so much time is dedicated to general advertising for mobile phones and coca-cola, rather than spending more time on the film trailers.

According to the industry the average ticket price is £6.74, And the average spend around £17.60.
What I am surprised at is that with 157m visits a year against a population of 60m people must be going three times a year or that some people go an awful lot. I think the latter more likely and I suspect it is a core of less than 10m who make up the vast bulk of attendances.

I do not go other possibly once a decade but I can fully sympathise with the plot s being overly given away and being forced to endure advert after advert for new films on top of advert adverts! : )

Mr P. says:
10 July 2015

I think this problem also exists for most trailers whether it be on the TV or cinema. The trailers appear to show the beginning, middle and end. Are there people out there that need to know all this to warrant a viewing? I guess we have so many ‘invitations’ to watch things that marketing gurus are trying to entice us more and more. I do believe though that with the spoiler trailers they have gone one step too far.

I remember seeing the trailer for Tootsie back in 1982 and the trailer showed the ending when the main character reveals their gender. Consequently, I didn’t go and watch it.

For any film based on a book, or a biography or historical fact, the plot is already out there. The joy of the film is the dramatic interpretation, the quality of the acting, the direction and the production values. If all these elements are good enough, spoilers never spoil.

What annoys me about trailers is that they contain more than the actual movie: excessive sound effects, accentuated action moments, cutaways and flashbacks that don’t actually feature in the film.

I would estimate the regular [i.e. more than once a month] film audience at fewer than five million, within quite a narrow age band.

And why are there no Westerns anymore, either in the cinema or on TV?


TCM channel (Turner Classic Movies) show a lot of westerns. It only seems to be available on Sky, Virgin or TalkTalk though.

After travelling around the western US states where most of these movies were made, we also like watching westerns again. We stayed at Monument Valley on the Indian reservation and thought it quite bizarre that they had a TV in the hotel reception dedicated to westerns where the Indians usually came off worst.

Some Westerns are still made.

I recently watched The Homesman, if that counts.

As regards this thread, be warned that its trailer is a real spoiler.

As Tonto says, “You are right, ke-mo sah-bee, trailer speak with forked tongue”.

Nowadays the loan arranger will persuade you to borrow until payday at 300% APR. Forked tongue indeed.

We don’t go to the cinema but wait for films to appear on TV.

I used to enjoy watching film preview programmes but stopped when they started giving too much away. Is it that films contain too much irrelevant padding these days so there is not that much left to see?

I used to hate it when TV serials broadcast the “coming next” at the end of each episode. However, I now find that after a week I have completely forgotten what I have seen, so it no longer bothers me so much!

Yes, TV programmes are often no better. A Place In The Sun is a classic: “coming up, Steve and Rebecca love the apartment I show them in Marbella, particularly the stunning view from the roof terrace!”. Really? Great, thanks, the point of the programme is to find out what the househunters think AFTER they have seen it, not give away their reaction beforehand. Takes away all the suspense. Ok, maybe I should be watching something more exciting if I want suspense but you know what I mean. Why can’t the programme makers understand that they are putting viewers off rather than enticing them? Bizarre. Here is my suggestion: “coming up, Steve and Rebecca see a 2 bed apartment with roof terrace in Marbella, but will they like it? Find out after the break.” Simple….

william says:
11 July 2015

I get so angry when trailers are forced on me whenever I log on. So angry, that I make a point of not going to see the film they are spoiling.

Jon Godwin says:
11 July 2015

I remember early in the 1960s seeing a brief trailer for an upcoming film on BBC TV which consisted mainly of a particularly remarkable scene lasting some 20 seconds or so. When they came to show the actual film, they had forgotten to splice this scene back into the film, which was extremely disappointing!

I could forgive this in the 1960’s because completing the editing of a film master for broadcasting was quite a technical achievement, often carried out under stressful conditions. To make the trailer it had been necessary to cut a length of film stock out of the reel and then remember to put it back in again before broadcast so I assume the omission was accidental. Today there is no such excuse as digital editing suites means any amount of reworking can be done without having to physically cut and splice a length of film stock or tape, so the inclusion in the trailer of material absent from the screened movie is a deliberate deception, and it happens quite a lot.

Whilst I totally sympathise with the views expressed here, I’m with Janet A above; my memory is so poor that I have almost always forgotten the contents of any trailer, well in advance of seeing the program/film! Even quite major plot elements seem to bypass my memory, so I’m still usually surprised by all the plot twists.
However I do retain a general impression of what the film is going to be like, which may not reflect reality, which is why some of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen, have been films that I have known absolutely nothing about beforehand. I suspect that I might’ve enjoyed the films less or even not gone to see them at all if I’d seen a trailer.

Am I hallucinating or did we not have an article where all washing machine manufacturers claimed their machines were good for ten years?

I doubt if you’re hallucinating yet, Diesel, but you’ve probably come to the wrong screen. The latest release in the epic saga “The Washing Machines of Our Dreams” [featuring all the usual characters] is still running. It’s upstairs and on the right. Pick up your 3-D specs at the desk.

Probably divorced from reality, just like most films. To be accompanied by a B film mysteriously entitled ‘I posted in the wrong Convo’.

Has anyone else found that they can tell from the trailers whether they are going to enjoy the film or not? I could have skipped some real turkeys if I’d just left at the end of the trailers.

Absolutely agree. My husband and I have a subscription card for a cinema and go two to three times a month. We are sick and fed-up of entire plots being revealed in the trailers. We both try to avoid having the element of surprise spoiled by not watching adverts or social media clips. It’s absolute torture being trapped in front of an enormous screen with surround sound blasting you with every last detail of the plot, character development, action and even who the baddie is when they are supposed to be kept secret!

Off to see a re-run of Psycho at the weekend – never seen it before – and was curious to see what the trailer was like. Can you imagine anyone doing it like this now


He seems to say so much about the film and yet he leaves so much up in the air. Makes you want to watch the film straight away – well, if you like that sort of thing…