20 More Movie Trailers With Sad Covers of Popular Songs
I can’t believe we’re still doing this.
When I wrote the list “15 Recent Movie Trailers With Sad Cover Versions of Popular Songs,” I figured we had reached the apex of a trend that had really blossomed in the wake of the (admittedly outstanding) trailer for The Social Network, which hinged on a melancholic cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” That was February of 2015.
In May of 2016, I published a follow-up with even more sad cover trailers than the first list. But surely this whole notion of pairing incongruously depressing versions of upbeat music would eventually peter out, right? That Social Network trailer is approaching ten years old. Pop cultural trends in the age of the 24-hour news cycle don’t last that long.
Except this one. Here we are in February 2018, three years after I wrote the first piece, eight years after the trailer that spawned these copycats, with no end in sight. So here are 20 more of these infernal trailers (with a few bonus clips from television shows and video games as well, because this trend has pretty much infected every aspect of marketing at this point). What a mad world this is — the Gary Jules version, not the Tears for Fears one.
1. Ready Player One
Featuring “Pure Imagination”
One of the characters in Ready Player One has been compared to Willy Wonka, so the choice of the most famous song from that film makes all the sense in the world. Given this trend, though, it would have been a lot more interesting if they had just used Gene Wilder’s original recording or, if that couldn’t be purchased, dared to try to make an upbeat cover to use.
2. Tomb Raider
As is so often the case with these sad covers, the choice of songs in this Tomb Raider trailer punishingly literal. Not only because the lyrics of Destiny’s Child “Survivor” are about a woman who refuses to quit, but because the music video for the song featured Beyonce, Kelly, and Michelle on a deserted island in tattered (but midriff baring) clothes, all of which evoke the setting and costumes of this new version of the Lara Croft story. Listen to the song, trailer editors: Work harder.
Featuring “What a Wonderful World”
Oh I see, because the world is not wonderful. It is geostorming.
4. Mortal Engines
Featuring “There’ll Always Be an England”
I am told the second choice for the song for this trailer was “There’ll Always Be Cities on Wheels Roaming the Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland.”
5. Justice League
Again, only the most literal sad covers may apply. Maybe the studio execs at Warner Bros. could be heroes just for one day and #ReleasetheSnyderCut. But they won’t. Somewhere, David Bowie is crying.
6. A Wrinkle in Time
Featuring “Sweet Dreams”
Just a reminder that even bold, exciting movies that take risks in terms of content and casting and visuals can still have extremely formulaic, predictable trailers.
7. Avengers: Infinity War
Featuring “The Avengers”
A subset of the movie trailer with a sad cover song is the trailer for the movie sequel with a sad, twinkly piano version of the previous films’ bombastic orchestral score. Here, the uplifting theme from The Avengers by Alan Silvestri is repurposed as a slow lament for the fall of our heroes.
8. Fifty Shades Freed
Featuring “Never Tear Us Apart”
Hm. I am torn on this one. On the one hand, it is yet another trailer with a sad cover of a popular song. On the other hand, the double meaning here, with the subtle intimation of a bondage theme on top of the whole happy couple not wanting to be torn apart, makes it almost okay.
Featuring “Beautiful Dreamer”
No genre is more guilty of this trailer cliché than horror movies. Case in point: This ad for Winchester, the haunted house movie starring Helen Mirren currently in theaters around the country. I, too, have a beautiful dream. It is a dream where trailers try some new creative things with their soundtrack choices.
10. Death Note
Featuring “Bittersweet Symphony”
In the years since our last list, Netflix has become one of the worst offenders in the sad cover trend. This trailer for Death Note rehashes the Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony,” which makes it the second movie in a row from director Adam Wingard to succumb to this toxic trope (when his reboot of Blair Witch was still known as The Woods, its teaser had a spooky cover of “Every Breathe You Take”).
Featuring “The Distance”
Netflix also put a sad cover on their trailer for the Oscar-nominated documentary Icarus...
12. War Machine
Featuring “The Times They Are A’Changin’”
...And on their instantly forgotten Brad Pitt war satire, War Machine.
If you’re going to indulge in this unstoppable trend, the least you can do is pick a great cover version of a great song. So, fine Logan. You can have your Johnny Cash version of “Hurt.” Let’s not make too big a deal out of it.
14. Ghost in the Shell
Featuring “Enjoy the Silence”
This song choice seemed to predict the film’s reception from audiences in theaters.
Featuring “Ain’t No Grave”
I have never been more disappointed in Arnold Schwarzenegger.
16. A Cure for Wellness
Featuring “I Wanna Be Sedated”
We found it, guys. We found the absolute worst sad-cover trailer of them all. Out of all the trailers in all the lists like this I have done, this is the absolute bottom of the barrel. No additional sedation necessary; this takes care of that itself.
17. Alien: Covenant
Featuring “Nature Boy”
The incongruity of sad covers in a future world could work ... if that trick hadn’t been done at least a dozen times before in other horror and science-fiction movies. In space, everyone can hear you copy every other trailer from the last eight years.
18. Transformers: The Last Knight
Featuring “Do You Realize??”
Yes, I realize, Transformers. I wish I didn’t. But I do. Now what? [Twinkly piano music starts playing again.]
19. American Pastoral
Featuring “Mad World”
This movie was extremely bad, so I suppose this trailer was at least faithful to the spirit of the thing it was supposed to be selling.
20. Hell or High Water
Featuring “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
When Bob Dylan wrote this song in 1973 for the soundtrack of the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, do you think he knew that someday other movies would take this song, make it even more mopey and depressing, and use it in their commercials? I bet he did.
Bonus #1: A Deadly Adoption
Featuring “Silent Running”
Props to the Will Ferrell Lifetime movie spoof A Deadly Adoption, one of the few trailers I know of with a satire of the sad cover trailer trend. This is a mopey version of a Mike and the Mechanics song! That’s just incredible.
Bonus #2: Taken
Featuring “The One I Love”
This trend has spread like a fungus in the last couple years. It’s not just movie trailers anymore; it’s TV trailers too. The only way this would be an acceptable choice is if Liam Neeson had actually sang the sad cover of REM’s “The One I Love.”
Bonus #3: Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
From movies to television to video games (which, in this case, are based on movies). The Cranberries’ “Zombie” becomes the sonic backdrop for this Lord of the Rings game. Related: Can someone tell the editors who made this spot that this song is not about actual zombies?
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