Movie trailers have a difficult job. They have to condense a full feature film into an exciting, bite-sized morsel without giving away too much. Some do the former great, but blow it when it comes to the latter. Here are 12 trailers that are packed with spoilers.
1. Children of Men
In 2006, director Alfonso Cuarón dazzled audiences with the dystopian Children of Men. The film takes place in a dying world where women are infertile and the human population dwindles as a result. The trailer manages to spoil the film’s entire narrative arch, which features Clive Owen trying to get the world's only pregnant woman to safety. For moviegoers who saw the trailer first, the big reveal that the character is pregnant wouldn't have been much of a surprise—not to mention the climactic boat voyage to possible safety.
2. Free Willy
Everyone knows the story of Free Willy: A boy befriends an orca held captive at a local amusement park and releases it into the ocean. People knew that before the film came out, too—the trailer includes almost every major plot point in Free Willy, including the whale’s daring escape and release into the Pacific Northwest's open waters. (The trailer isn't alone here; Free Willy's poster also spoiled the film’s final scene.)
3. Cast Away
In 2000, Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks reunited after the worldwide success of Forrest Gump for Cast Away. Hanks plays a FedEx employee lost at sea after a terrible plane crash. Will he ever return home after such an ordeal?
The film’s trailer goes out of its way to answer that question, spoiling the movie's resolution. (Yes, he gets off the island.)
4. Terminator: Salvation
Terminator: Salvation was the first Terminator movie to completely take place in the post-apocalyptic future described throughout the franchise. The trailer reveals the mystery behind Sam Worthington’s character Marcus Wright, who is a machine that thinks it’s human.
5. The Island
Michael Bay’s science fiction action flick The Island saw moderate commercial and critical success in 2005. Perhaps the lukewarm response was due to the fact that its major plot twist was literally a line said in the trailer: "There is no island!" Oh, it also gives away the fact that Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson are clones.
Roman Polanski’s masterpiece about crime and political corruption in Los Angeles has one of filmmaking's greatest (and most depressing) final lines: “Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.” Rather than let audiences go for the ride leading up to it, the trailer throws it all away.
7. Carrie (1976)
Director Brian De Palma’s Carrie was a box office hit and pop culture phenomenon in 1976. Sissy Spacek plays Carrie, a misfit who seeks revenge on high school bullies. The trailer played up the film’s mysteries, but ruins it all by revealing the now-iconic climax at a high school prom with pig’s blood and destruction.
8. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
At the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, audiences were shocked that Gandolf the Grey plummeted to his death after a daring battle with the Balrog. When the first trailer for its sequel The Two Towers came out, viewers were shocked yet again—this time by the sight of Gandolf the White, who survived the fall and continues on in the journey to Mordor to destroy the One Ring.
Contagion's trailer wanted to highlight the film’s star-studded cast, but it also disclosed one of its most shocking revelations: Gwyneth Paltrow dies. Although her character dies early on in Contagion, the film’s trailer undercuts what would've been a massive shock for audiences who wouldn't have expected to see a major star kick the bucket.
10. Total Recall
Total Recall's trailer spoils a lot of the action movie’s surprises: Quaid’s disguise as a fat woman; the scene where he shoots his wife, played by Sharon Stone (and one of the all-time great one-liners, “Consider that a divorce”); and the film’s climax.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope is one of his most ambitious thrillers. The film takes place in real time and involves a series of stitched-together continuous shots that expertly build tension and suspense. The trailer features the last act of the film, reveals its ending, and spoils the discovery of where the murderers hid the dead body. So much for all that suspense.
Speed was one of the '90s most fun and suspenseful thrillers, but the trailer left little to the imagination. It includes footage of the hostages watching the bus explode from a safe distance, as well as the film's climactic subway chase—in other words, the ending.