As recent releases like Disenchanted and Top Gun: Maverick have proven, a well-crafted poster can grab the audience’s attention and drum up interest in the movie. However, some films are so desperate to broaden their appeal that they stretch the truth with their marketing and deliver posters that are downright false.
From sci-fi horror classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still to mediocre action flicks like Terminator 3, almost every genre is guilty of misleading the audience with posters that misrepresent the film in question. Though there are innumerable examples, users on Reddit took to the site to call out movie posters that were especially egregious.
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We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
A strong cast is usually all it takes to get audiences to come to see a movie, but sometimes a studio gets cold feet and decides to try to trick the viewer. Citing an obvious case of back peddling, user jon_fisk said “We Need to Talk About Kevin…the poster has John C Reilly and Tilda Swinton’s characters…with a balloon. Balloons are happy. That movie was not.”
Offering a dramatic look at a couple’s response to their son’s heinous acts, We Need to Talk About Kevin wasn’t the quirky movie that the absurd poster made it out to be. The obvious attempts to lump it in with indie dramedies failed miserably, and it left audiences stunned when they were shown a totally straight story.
Return To Oz (1985)
Misleading movie posters aren’t usually harmful, and the worst they do is trick an audience into seeing a movie they wouldn’t have otherwise. However, user highway_robbery82 mentioned an example that was a bit darker, saying “I still like how misleading the Return to Oz poster was considering how much childhood nightmare fuel that film contained.”
Immediately lambasted by critics and parents alike for being too frightening, Disney’s Return to Oz had some of the scariest scenes in children’s film history. The poster is beautifully designed and leads the audience to believe that they are in for a Disney-fied fantasy romp. However, what they got was a twisted adventure that wasn’t poorly made, but suffered from a bad case of advertising spin.
If one genre is most guilty of using its posters to misrepresent its product, it would certainly be the horror film. Recounting a particularly obvious example of horror movie trickery, user yodango wrote “Said this before and I’ll say it again…Frogs (1972).”
Now mostly remembered as one of the worst animal movies ever, the eco-horror film Frogs pulled out all the stops when it came to misleading the audience. The movie’s eye-catching poster features a gigantic amphibian with a human hand coming out of its mouth, but no such event happens in the film. In fact, the titular frogs are all normal-sized and aren’t even the only animal that menaces the human characters.
Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)
The Terminator franchise has a legion of adoring fans, but the third installment not only failed to deliver, it wasn’t entirely truthful either. A deleted user picked apart the movie’s marketing when saying “Finally the fight between the survivors and the machines…Never mind, just a rehash of Terminator 2.”
Not only is the tagline off-base, but the poster made it seem as if the film would take place post-judgment day and give the audience more of the apocalyptic landscape that had only been hinted at before. Unfortunately, Rise of the Machines mostly spun its wheels and failed to move the story forward in any meaningful way.
Muriel’s Wedding (1994)
Tone is an important part of storytelling that can sometimes be overlooked, and in the case of Muriel’s Wedding, the tone of the poster certainly didn’t match that of the film. User RudyThree noted the tonal difference, commenting “The poster shows Muriel in her wedding dress, laughing…In reality, absolutely depressing movie which focuses on familial abuse.”
With its mostly white design featuring Toni Collette looking happier than ever, the audience went in expecting a rom-com along the lines of Four Weddings and a Funeral. However, what they got was a mostly dramatic take on social pressures and an unbelievably dark narrative about abuse. While it is a pretty good flick, the disparate relationship between film and poster left most viewers stunned.
Even auteur filmmakers like Martin Scorsese aren’t immune to the bad marketing bug, and his 2011 film Hugo was nothing like the advertisements made it out to be. Breaking things down, user MegaMaverick said “It looks like a nice Narnia type adventure judging by the poster. When in fact most kids would be bored.”
While the film had a somewhat whimsical tone, the poster made it out to be some sort of fantasy when it was mostly rooted in reality. Seeing the main character swinging from the hands of a clock is a striking visual, but it over represents a relatively small moment in the film. Still, the eye-catching poster helped Hugo become one of Scorsese’s highest-grossing films at the box office.
Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989)
Earning its reputation as a low point in a franchise that isn’t known for its quality, Jason Takes Manhattan was not only bad but misleading as well. Skewering the film, user RiemsMUFC said “The title and poster…would make you assume that Jason is in NYC the entire time…he’s only in NY for a few minutes.”
Promising a lot more than it could deliver, Friday the 13th Part VIII spends the bulk of its time on a boat, and really only shows the machete-wielding madman in Time Square before retreating to backlot sets. All the film’s posters are dynamic, but the specter of Jason looming over Manhattan is grossly exaggerated.
Rocky V (1990)
After the fourth installment breathed new life into the franchise, fans had high hopes when Rocky V finally hit theaters in 1990. Expressing disappointment, user AdmiralAubrey wrote of the poster “It makes it look like Rocky will once again be triumphant…rather than a brief street fight after a movie that is a dramatic departure.”
The previous two films had taken the franchise in a sillier direction, and fans were somewhat perplexed when Rocky V was a serious look at the perpetuation of violence in society. In the long run, it was a brilliant move to push the movies back to their roots, but the image of Rocky punching into the air in victory isn’t exactly the feeling that the movie imparts to the audience.
The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
The 1950s were some of the best years for sci-fi movies, and The Day the Earth Stood Still is a shining example of that era’s quality. However, user BigWurm took umbrage with the poster when saying “What does the giant monkey paw grabbing the Earth have to do with anything? The heroine is not blond. The poster seems to suggest a lot more action.”
In the years before a strong commercial presence on television, the poster was often the only thing a studio had to entice viewers. As such, the poster of The Day the Earth Stood Still is a jumbled mess of things that never actually happen in the film. Despite the misleading nature of the one sheet, the hand-painted design is a marvel to behold.
Reign Of Fire (2002)
Even though the epic flop Reign of Fire had a lot to work with, the marketing still opted to misrepresent the film with its poster. User Wealthy_Gadabout summed up the failure brilliantly when saying “The poster…promises multiple dragons fighting a squadron of Apache helicopters…nothing like this scene occurs in the film.”
Predominantly set in the post-apocalypse, the film is actually a lot more understated than the poster makes it out to be. It was nowhere near as bad as many of the reviews said it was, and the main reason for its failure was that audiences went in with unrealistic expectations based on the misleading poster.
NEXT: 10 Best Movie Posters Of All Time, According To Reddit