20 More Recent Trailers With Sad Cover Versions of Popular Songs
When we talk about a “trend” in Hollywood, what we’re really talking about is someone having a good idea and then a lot of people copying it. When the trailer for The Social Network arrived with a haunting choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep,” it felt special, and it made the movie feel special too. It was unique.
But not for long.
Within a couple years, it seemed like almost every trailer was scored by a sad cover of a famous pop song. Over a year ago, I got so fed up with this trend that I made a list of 15 of the most egregious examples. I thought that identifying this cliché might begin to make it just a bit less popular.
Obviously, I was wrong. 15 months later, I’ve got a whole new list of recent trailers with sad cover versions of popular songs and it’s longer than the original list. There are two examples from just this week!
As I compiled this list, I thought a lot about why this particular trope became so popular. I began to wonder if it’s because sad covers of popular songs perfectly encapsulate the vibe Hollywood seems to be going for with every single movie they make: Something that is simultaneously familiar and novel. They want to convince the potential customer that their product is something they’re guaranteed to like (because it’s related in some way to a movie or comic or board game they’ve previously enjoyed) and also something new enough to to warrant a trip to the theater. Everyone knows “This Little Light of Mine,” but you’ve probably never heard it this way. The trailers feature sad covers; in a sense, the movies they’re advertising are sad covers. Like:
Featuring “Every Breath You Take”
There’s an unconfirmed rumor that the latest film from You’re Next director Adam Wingard is actually a secret remake of The Blair Witch Project. Based on this trailer, it certainly could be. If so, that does nothing to disprove my theory that these sad covers work because they embody the spirit of the films they’re designed to sell.
Featuring “I Started a Joke”
Because The Joker, you see. (I will say the lyrics “I started a joke which started the whole world crying / But I didn’t see that the joke was on me” does nicely sum up the mindset of longtime DC fans worried about the state of their cinematic universe post Batman v Superman.)
Featuring “Don’t Panic”
Many of the sad covers are deployed ironically. So don’t panic, even though Apocalypse wants to destroy the human race. We live in the beautiful world, now watch as Magneto tears that beautiful world to pieces. Bonus points to Apocalypse for finding an insanely depressing cover of a song that wasn’t exactly chipper to begin with.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
The recent death of David Bowie lends an extra bit of oomph to this sorrowful cover of his uplifting classic “Heroes.” And as Kristen Stewart’s final line in the trailer reveals, there’s an ironic dimension to the use of this particular Bowie song in this context, a film about the treatment of veterans when they return home from war.
The Girl on the Train
Perhaps not technically a cover, but certainly in the same vein (and probably spurred on by the popular and successful trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey with a moody remix of “Crazy in Love”), the upcoming adaptation of The Girl on the Train was heralded by this bummer of a trailer with a downbeat variant of Kanye West’s “Heartless.” Hm, I wonder, perhaps, if one of the women in this movie could be heartless? Must do additional research; will report back.
In the Heart of the Sea
This echoey remix transforms Beck’s “Wave” into the ominous sonic backdrop for this sad tale of sailors under attack from a giant whale. It could have been worse; at least they didn’t use a gloomy cover of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ Safari.”
Mad Max: Fury Road
Featuring “Wild World”
Songs with the word “world” in the title are a popular target of sad movie trailer covers, probably because of the enormous scale intrinsic to modern blockbusters. Most of the Mad Max: Fury Road trailers featured classic music, but the Comic-Con teaser for George Miller’s mega-chase featured this almost unrecognizable riff on Cat Stevens’ “Wild World” by Junkie XL of all people. WITNESS!
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
Featuring “What a Wonderful World”
Yet another “world” trailer. Yet another ironic use of an upbeat song to sell a downbeat premise. Maybe all the trailers sound the same because all the movies look the same?
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Featuring “New World Coming”
This world is not wild or wonderful, it’s new! (Asterisk, it’s based on a book and the whole thing looks like Tim Burton’s version of the X-Men.) Go watch Mama Cass sing this, then go back watch the trailer; it’s way funnier that way.
This trailer holds the rare distinction of capitalizing on two completely different trailer music trends. It starts with the sad cover (a twinkly piano take on the Ray Parker Jr. hit) then segues into a dubstep version (WUBWUBWUB BRAHHHHHHHHM.) Who you gonna call? (Is “A new music supervisor!” an acceptable answer?)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Featuring “Born to Be Wild”
So many of the song choices on this list are really on the nose. At least this one, for the genre hybrid Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has the off-kilter pick Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild.” The trailer didn’t work I suppose (the movie was one of the year’s biggest flops so far), but at least it showed a little bit of creativity in music and image juxtaposition.
Featuring “Break On Through (To the Other Side)”
Some of these are just punishingly literal. Victor Frankenstein is a scientist who wants to break on through to the other side (the other side being death), so this trailer uses a sluggish, fuzzy cover of the The Doors’ iconic single. Try to run, try to hide, you cannot escape these sad cover song trailers.
Featuring “This Little Light of Mine”
Edward Snowden had a light. He shined it on the NSA. Or maybe the real Snowden just really likes this song. Who knows. Let’s move on.
Featuring “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Horror movies loooooove the sad cover trailer convention, because they really evoke a dark and foreboding mood. I didn’t see The Gallows; was it about a slasher who kills people who smell like cheap deodorant?
Featuring “Sleep Walk”
Speaking of dark and foreboding moods, “Sleep Walk” by Santo & Johnny is already one of the most atmospheric songs of the last century. An even eerier version (sung by Renee Olstead) just piles on the willies.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Featuring “I Think We’re Alone Now”
Not quite a cover, but made with the same spirit. In this case, an old recording of Tommy James and the Shondells begins the trailer; little by little the tempo slows down as the events onscreen turn more and more disturbing. It’s an effective way to reveal that things are not what they seem in this clip, which sets the stage nicely for the reveal of the title, 10 Cloverfield Lane, which promises more shocking twists.
Featuring “I’d Love to Change the World”
There are a lot of these sad cover trailers, but for the most part they’re all different sad covers. But here is the trailer for Terminator Genisys, featuring a cover of “I’d Love to Change the World” by Jetta (The original song was by Ten Years After.) This same cover also turned up in…
Featuring “I’d Love to Change the World”
… the trailer for the TV tabloid drama Nightcrawler. It also showed up, sans lyrics, in…
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Featuring “I’d Love to Change the World”
…this trailer for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. To be fair, it’s pretty unrecognizable here; you kind of have to know the track to recognize it in this context. But still, three trailers with the same sad cover song in the span of two years. This is also something I’d love to change about the world.
Gears of War 4
Featuring “The Sound of Silence”
Lest you think this is just a trope in movies, here is a particularly egregious example of a sad cover song used in the trailer for a video game. I will say this much: The sound of silence would preferable in a lot of these commercials.