Two For the Road (1967): Of course, it’s perfectly understandable: Investors want a profit. So when what they’ve funded proves too challenging to mass audiences, it’s only natural—if slightly unethical—to do some fibbing. Released as a new freedom swept Hollywood, Stanley Donen’s marital saga is both formally radical and brutally honest, showing a couple (Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney) at their most foolishly in love and most depressingly bile-filled. Naturally, the trailer largely showed the former, and even repeated a banal line about them making “something wonderful out of being alive” three separate times—anything to assure viewers they wouldn’t see the movie they would see.
Cockfighter (1974): When he bought the rights to Charles Willeford’s novel, producer Roger Corman assumed audiences would eat up a film about its widely illegal sport. He was wrong. But Corman allegedly never lost a dime, and so he briefly retitled Monte Hellman’s astute character study as Born to Kill , then fitted it with a new trailer, one that never mentioned lead Warren Oates’ profession. Corman even spliced in footage from other Corman products.
Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989): Steven Soderbergh’s debut won the Palme d’Or over Do the Right Thing , but acclaim wasn’t enough. So, Miramax emphasized the first part of the title, selling it as a Skinemax film that happened to star James Spader and Andie MacDowell. Hey, it worked.
Solaris (2002): Poor Soderbergh. In exchange for $50 million to faithfully remake Andrei Tarkovsky’s space epic, he had to put up with ads that sold it as a sci-fi thriller, complete with producer James Cameron’s name before his. Hey, it didn’t work.
Bug (2006): Cinemascore participants were so pissed that the intense horror film they’d been sold was a talky Tracy Letts play that they awarded it an F—one of four times that’s happened (see: directly above).
Certified Copy (2010): Sorry, folks, but that Before Sunrise -looking film about Juliette Binoche and some dude strolling through Tuscany and falling in love? It’s actually a crazy mindfuck from Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami. Go see it anyway.