Idea: Stop Watching Movie Trailers

Idea: Stop Watching Movie Trailers

It’s been almost a year since I stopped watching trailers. And I couldn’t be happier. That’s worth considering if you’re losing your mind about an 88-second trailer for a Star Wars movie that won’t be out for another 12 months.

The end for me came with, of all things, Captain America. Like pretty much every other movie trailer that has been released on the internet over the last 15 years, when the first few Winter Soldier previews were released, I soaked them up. They looked great! Loads of action, big fight scenes, massive special effects.

Then I saw the movie. And all the best parts had already been in those trailers. Total letdown. It got me thinking: just why, exactly, had I watched all those trailers? I’d sacrificed the enjoyment of the actual movie for some advance gratification, and in the end, it hadn’t been worth it. So I decided to stop, and try whenever/where possible (it’s a bit hard to skip them in an actual cinema) to avoid trailers. Aside from a few accidental glances here and there, I’ve been cold turkey for most of 2014 now.

It feels great! I’ve been seeing movies based on summaries, ratings and recommendations, and while I don’t think this is having much of an effect on the type of movie I’m watching, it’s at least guaranteeing that everything I see in them is fresh, and as a result I feel like I’ve been enjoying movies more than I have in years.

I get it, the temptation to watch something in advance is strong, and in many cases might even be necessary if you’re going to decide whether to watch something or not. How would you have known what the hell Interstellar, something not based on a comic or book, was about if you hadn’t seen a trailer? You could read about it, or be invested simply in the personnel involved, but if not then sure, watch a trailer. But try watching only one. If you end up watching 3, 4 or even five clips before a 120-minute movie is released, there’s a chance you’ll have seen up to ten minutes of the flick already, which is just nuts. Especially since those ten minutes may include some of a movie’s biggest scenes!

Take a step back and remember what a trailer is actually for. It’s a hook, aimed at getting you into the cinema to watch the movie that’s being advertised. A movie studio doesn’t care if they spoil the story for you, if you paid for a ticket and your arse is in a seat, their job is done. That’s why people are freaking out about the new Star Wars trailers, or why we get the 2014 absurdity of teaser trailers for trailers; everyone is going to see these big movies anyway, but whatever, the marketing machine rolls on and fans (and websites) are caught right up in the cycle.

If it sounds like I’m just being a grump, it’s not just me: earlier this year the National Association of Theatre Owners, America’s trade group for cinemas, released new guidelines aimed at cutting down on the length of trailers. Part of that decision had to do with advertising (longer trailers meant less time for commercials), but also, as this LA Times story reports, because of fears trailers “reveal too many plot lines”.

So yeah, if you feel like modern marketing and the cult of trailers is showing you too much too soon and spoiling your enjoyment of the finished product, take a step back. Skipping trailers won’t kill you. In fact, if you’re anything like me you’ll find that avoiding them only makes the movie better.


  • I’ve been pretty much doing this for years now. And for games, too. I just kind of hit a point where I basically knew if I was interested in a game or not from its announcement, at most I’ll watch that first initial trailer but then afterwards just go on a blackout. It’s so much more enjoyable going into something without knowing anything about it and having none of the jokes or big scenes spoiled. So many times I’d see the ads on TV afterwards and how they just play every key part and think how glad I was that I didn’t see that beforehand, would have just ruined it.

    • Yep I’m with you on this one.

      For games I generally go off word of mouth, knowledge of the developer and the short summary at the end of most reviews instead of getting too deep in trailers.
      I don’t like having things spoilt for me so I try to avoid that at all costs. If a movie or game reviews well why risk spoiling something you’d enjoy more if you went into it with no prior knowledge.

      The other thing I hate is knowing how long something is.
      It stops me focusing on the moment and the story and I start thinking about how much more to go and I it spoils not knowing when the conclusion will come.

    • I think I might start doing this too, however it does mean never coming back to Kotaku in fear of in-depth spoiler ridden previews and article headings 😛

  • My fiancé does this, refuses to watch trailers and goes into movies blind.

    I would love to be able to do that, but im such a movie whore i cant stop myself!

  • Absolutely!

    For the last 5 years or so at least, I have practiced good movie hygiene, no trailers, no ‘behind the scenes’ no reading articles and avoid any information as much as possible.
    I enjoy movies *so* much more, I think it is a big reason movies were ‘bigger’ back in the 70s and 80s etc. because you hadn’t seen half the movie, had the effects illusions destroyed, heard all the good lines etc. before you got into the cinema.

  • Have started doing the same with a lot of games, will check scores/ general summaries of them, and the odd announcement/initial trailer.. But basically try and avoid getting too much info on them.

  • How about this….only watch the trailers. I swear there should be an Academy Award for deception. Ie. Best Trailer Worst Movie award. So many movies these days have good trailers that turn out to be utter turd movies.

    • On imdb each movie page should have a rating for the movie and a rating for the trailer. ie. Inception trailer 9.5, movie 7.5.

  • I dunno. Do you really enjoy a movie based purely as a checklist of one time only moments? I mean what’s 3 seconds of an action sequence out of context? Yes, we know Captain America is going to punch a dog right in the face. That might in fact be the high point of the movie, but we’re talking about stories and sequences. A movie is more than just a collection of bullet point moments you can talk about on the way out of the theater. I’ve got to wonder if you’re going to enjoy the movie at all when you’re that disconnected that you can think ‘oh, this is leading up to the bit I saw in the trailer’.
    Watching a good trailer gets me excited about watching the movie and is just generally a fun thing to do. It gives me a chance to think about the possibilities and I really like that. It lets me enjoy the idea of the movie before the movie itself. It lets me get a taste of what sort of mindset the movie is in. The cost is that I now know some minor plot points about Avengers 2. If the movie falls because I know that [so-and-so] is going to make an appearance then I’m going to say the movie has deeper problems than a trailer.
    Even when it’s a comedy and they’re putting their best jokes out there a decent movie can stand up against that. Some of my favourite moments in Dumb and Dumber were in the trailer and they still worked just fine. Unless they’re straight up revealing twists and explaining the context of those twists are you really losing anything?

    • My logic is (and you can read my post a few comments down) having the movie mapped out for me. For example, The Wolverine trailer told me this: the movie starts with bearded hobo directionless Wolvie wandering around, going under the radar. A young Japanese woman finds him and tells him her master can offer him mortality. He accepts and goes to Japan. He is deceived, a fight occurs at a funeral and then at a train. Later on he fights a bunch of ninja at night time in a Japanese style village. Basically the movie flowed like the trailer. I found myself thinking: oh, a funeral, gun fight about to happen. Oh, a train, I know what happens here. We’re getting towards the end of the film, he must be headed towards the Japanese village for that last fight now. I just find myself predicting each turn because I know it’s coming.

      For me it’s about the overall plot and visual vocabulary of the film being given away too soon. When I watched Days of Future past I had no idea which mutants would star in it, I had no idea what the future scenes would look like, it was nice for every element of the movie to unfold in one go after the curtains rolled back. It’s nice to have no idea what to expect, to have no idea what countries and predicaments and battles the characters will find themselves in.

      The Planet of the Apes trailer (not the most recent but the second last film to come out) basically gave the whole plot away. I understand this may not bug some but it worsens a movie for me.

  • Waht drives me up the wall is trailers where they just don’t give a fuck if they spoil the movie or not. It’s all about the spectacle now. It’s even creeping into DVD/blu-ray menus. The last three movies I’ve watched on blu-ray, Prometheus last night being the most recent/worst offender just slap spoilery shit into the front menu pre-roll. We’ve already seen the movies so whatever but imagine we popped a movie in because our buddy hadn’t seen it. It would suck!

    • Seriously, publishers please stop putting spoliers in the BD menus. Or the covers for that matter.
      The original Planet of the Apes BD has the ending right there on the cover and the BD menu FFS.

    • I hate that too. The Game of Thrones Blurays have huge, epic moments playing behind the menus and that really annoyed me the first time through. I really didn’t want to see any of it before binge watching the season, and to have that plan foiled right when you’re about to press “play all” is really quite irritating.

  • *watched latest jurassic world trailer on gizmodo*
    *keeps on reminding self that the main baddie follows the 90’s tradition of genetic monsters that went rogue*
    *reminds fellow commentators that trailers always spoil tropes page on tvtropes*

  • I’ve came to love the spoiler with movie and game trailers. Show you a few set pieces from the film but it’s not the whole movie, without context some of those snippets play out in surprising ways in the film. Some trailers do this better than other where it becomes its own meta game.

    I guess the trailer ‘spoiler’ doesn’t bother me too much because the genres out there that are the worst offenders, wrought family dramas and romcoms I don’t bother with most of the time. I don’t know what it is about that genre of movies when it comes to marketing. The trailer has to give you the summary of the entire film in sequence. Boy meets girl, falls in love, breaks up, gets back together again. That’s the WHOLE MOVIE!!!!!

  • Trailers have their place.

    If I know that I want to see a movie (because of a recommendation, actor, director, whatever) then I won’t watch any trailers and I absolutely enjoy the movie more because of that.

    If I’ve never heard of a film or I’m on the fence then I’ll check out a trailer to gauge my interest. It’s a much lower investment of time and money to hate a 2 minute trailer than a 2 hour movie.

  • i have stuck to the no trailers as much as possible. Guardians of the galaxy and john wick have been the only two movies i have seen since the start of my boycott and i knew next to nothing of them and loved both of them, very small sample size i know but i have still stayed away from trailers. I haven’t watched the new star wars, Jurassic world or the last hobbit those being the next few movies i will be seeing at a movie theatre

  • Some trailers are fantastic additions to the film lead-up, and establish a tone without revealing story information (like many Christopher Nolan trailers).

    The ones I look out for are the “short-form” ones. These literally show the whole movie, start to finish, in 3 or so minutes. My most recent (in memory) offender was The Bourne Legacy. Those types of trailers just smack of either editing laziness, or corporate micromanaging.

  • Wow. That’s actually really spooky because I made the same personal decision, not because of captain America, but coincidentally it was the last trailer I watched before swearing off them. Wolverine was the trailer that got me considering a trailer abstinence lifestyle because it was basically a summary of the movie minus the ending. And like you I couldn’t be happier.

    I had no idea who was going to be in x-men DoFP, no idea what the set piece battles would be. Haven’t watched the Hobbit trailer or the avengers. Basically, my rule is that if I know I’m going to see it I won’t watch the trailer.

    Trailers used to be advertisements for the film, now they are mini-movies that include intros, character building, plot momentum, climax etc

  • I’ll avoid the trailers if I already know that I want to see the movie. Like Interstellar, I knew I’d watch that because I’m a Nolan fan so I went in blind to that one. Other movies though a trailer can convince me to see it… I’m looking at you, Sucker Punch.

  • I take it further and avoid watching the film altogether. Until it’s 2 sequels or more are out, then hit them all at once.
    The name jennifer lawrence means nothing to me for this reason. Join me up here it’s great.

  • I’ve more or less stopped watching game trailers on game news sites too for similar reasons. It still irks me when I click on an article that proclaims to have news about a game and is just a trailer.

    Part of that decision had to do with advertising (longer trailers meant less time for commercials), Please no. Movies already have literally a half hour of ads beforehand already and they’re wondering why cinemas are struggling?

  • I’m actually a mature adult who can process advertising without allowing it to influence my ultimate decision to see the film or my enjoyment of it in any meaningful way. I mean more important to me are directors and writers etc. but i’d still be interested to see a trailer to have an idea of what the film is attempting to look or feel like. If it’s different when i see the film, i’m able to make a mental note of this without assigning blame to the advertising that “made” me see it – then complaining on the internet about how something other than my personal perspective or preference entirely ruined a film in every way possible.

    Trailers can spoil plot points but to me and many other people, films are more than collections of plot points but i’m pretty sure that judging from the state of film critique and even the nature of this very conversation indicates that people don’t understand or care about the other conventions films use to tell story. That’s your prerogative but i’m not sure how conclusively people can say something is “ruined” by a trailer if it can’t even effectively use 99% of all film storytelling conventions.

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