What Movie Trailers Actually Tell Us

It has been really interesting to see the reaction to the new Ghostbusters movie coming out soon, particularly in regards to the trailer. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and it is okay to think a movie should never have even been made, but passing judgment on a movie based on the trailer really is not fair. A trailer does not actually tell us what the movie as a whole is going to be. It can give us glimpses, but really all a trailer does is tell us what the studio thinks we want to see. There are things that we can figure out from a trailer, but in the end unless you watch the movie you cannot really make your own judgment call. At the same time there are certain things that a trailer can tell us.

Cast and Crew

This might seem like an obvious thing, but these details can make the difference between wanting to see a movie or not. Certain actors or directors can be that little extra nudge in one direction or another. When you see that a movie is directed by Tim Burton, Michael Bay, Quentin Tarantino, etc. then you know exactly what you are in for in a movie. Then there are movies with actors that we love and have watched everything by that person or it is an actor we cannot stand. It gives us at least a bit more information to help us decide whether we want to see the movie at all.

Special Effects

Now the trailer does not show everything that happens, but it usually tries to show the more impressive scenes, which includes the special effects. There are definitely some movies that depending on the visuals I might decide that it is worth while to see it in theaters. Jupiter Ascending is a terrible movie, but the trailers were visually stunning, which is what drew me in to go see the movie. Now the movie was not so bad it was good, but the visually stunning part definitely held up. Then there was the Hulk movie with Eric Bana and the trailers made the special effects look horrible so I have never seen that movie and from what I have heard from others I am not disappointed.

Basic Story

Now the most obvious thing is that the trailer gives you the basic story being told. You can tell who is the main character and a general idea of the journey that they are going on. At the same time trailers can be misleading so while there are definitely a lot of elements that they get right there are still some interesting times where the trailer can be completely misleading either on purpose or accidentally. Movies such as Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness are playing up misdirection to try and avoid audiences from seeing the truth. Then there are movies like Hercules with Dwayne Johnson where the movie shows that it is the tales about the character Hercules, but all of the scenes that are shown in the trailer have nothing to do with what actually occurs in the movie.

General Movie Information

Now the most important piece of information that you get from a trailer is the movie title and release date. The entire purpose of a trailer is advertising for when a movie is supposed to get released. It is trying to give you some basic information so that people show up to the movie theater and if it gets people to show up for opening weekend more power to it. The thing is until you actually see the movie you cannot say whether it is good or bad you can only say what you think it will be.

5 responses to “What Movie Trailers Actually Tell Us

  1. Oh, please, not another “don’t judge a movie by the trailer” post. It’s, imho, nonsense. If he had the time and money to watch all movies in the world then yes, this would hold water. But this isn’t the case. We are more or less like the one sitting in human resources, having to sort out the applicants. First step is to sort out those, who don’t have the right qualifications (which means in this case, those movies who are either thematically not interesting for us or those, which are made by questionable teams aso). And then we look at the rest and decide based on the representation. A trailer is the calling card of a movie. And when people say “this calling card is smudged all over” that is their good right.

    Once the movie is actually out and critics say it is good, that is the time at which we might have to reconsider that opinion. But I tell you now: When something looks like a turd, and smells like a turd, it usually is a turd. And should it not be, well, the movie has everyone’s attention good or bad. If the critics say it is good, all those people who are now complaining about it will consider watching it.


    • I’m pretty sure from your comment you didn’t read the post, since Holly didn’t talk about whether you can tell if the movie is going to be good, though that does seem to be what people try to judge from a trailer. But I can understand your frustration with all the trailer talk these days, especially as related to Ghostbusters where it’s caught so much attention.

      I would also largely disagree with waiting to hear from the critics – we trust trailers more than critics in our house 😉

      One of the first things we started doing on the blog years ago was talking about trailers. I personally love the trailer as an art form – particularly any that watch like a music video. With the addition of the Geek Baby, and the very few movies we are actually getting the chance to see in theaters, trailers are feeling essential. They’re also super easy to get access to on our Apple TV with their trailer feed, combined with YouTube. So at this point, we watch way more trailers than movies… Sorry if we talk about them a bunch 🙂


      • “passing judgment on a movie based on the trailer really is not fair.”

        “There are things that we can figure out from a trailer, but in the end unless you watch the movie you cannot really make your own judgment call.”

        “The thing is until you actually see the movie you cannot say whether it is good or bad you can only say what you think it will be.”

        Yep, I did read the post, and those were the parts which set me off. I think it is totally fair to judge a movie by the trailer. You might realize later on that you have misjudged the movie…but, like I said, calling card. There is not much to go off after all, other than Critic opinions…and yes, I do put stock in those, because trailers are always what the studio wants us to see, and it is difficult to figure out who put a marketing campaign together. With critics, I usually have a few whose bias I know, so I can use them as baseline…but naturally first I need to be interested in the movie in the first place, and that is usually the job of the trailer.


        • Well you are entitled to your opinion, but I disagree, as obvious by my post. Now I will clarify that I do not mean that we don’t judge a movie by the trailer to say whether we see it. We do make a judgment call in that way. I really disagree that someone can say that a movie is the worst movie ever made without watching it (like is happening with Ghostbusters). If all you have seen is the trailer then yes you can judge whether you think the movie is worth your time. There are plenty of movies that I do not watch because I do not consider them worth my time. That does not mean that I can make any sort of final stamp of approval or rejection on that movie without watching it.

          Taking your example of HR if the application is like the trailer then trying to say how good or bad a movie is based on the trailer is like trying to do a full evaluation on an employee with just the application even though you have not seen the person’s actual performance. You can make an initial judgment, but you cannot say that they would definitely be a good or bad employee and would not pass your judgment along to a separate employer.

          In the end we are making a speculation about the movie and not a real judgment on it. That speculation then drives our decisions about whether to watch or not.


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