15 Recent Movie Trailers With Sad Cover Versions of Popular Songs
If you’ve been to the movie theater in the last couple years — and you like to show up early — then you’ve surely noticed one of the most pervasive trends in modern Hollywood: The use of depressing cover versions of famous songs in movie trailers. It started with one brilliantly innovative coming attraction, but quickly became something of an industry standard, and then a tired cliché; nearly every studio tentpole’s first teaser (and sometimes the full trailer that follows) is scored by some kind of gloomy cover of a tune everyone knows. To prove just how played out this gimmick is, ScreenCrush assembled a list of fifteen examples from the last five years. Watch ’em and weep (because these trailers are so very sad):
The Social Network
Performed by Scala & Kolacny Brothers
Originally by Radiohead
The influential trailer that started it all. Rather than immediately diving into the plot of David Fincher’s Facebook film, this spot by editor Mark Woollen opens with a minute-long montage of mundane social media footage while a women’s choir sings a haunting version of the classic Radiohead song about weirdos. It made a story about the creation of a website feel like an epic myth of modern life. Fincher’s film rode that sheen of importance to big box office and multiple Academy Awards. The precedent was set.
Wrath of the Titans
Featuring “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”
Performed by Marilyn Manson
Originally by Eurythmics
Marilyn Manson’s version of the Eurythmics’ big hit has been used repeatedly by Hollywood in various horror and action movies. For the trailer of this lame-duck sequel to 2010’s remake of Clash of the Titans, it was chosen to show the film had a darker, bleaker tone than the original. In that regard it’s pretty successful; in fact, this gritty trailer might be the best thing to come out of the entire (and mostly terrible) Wrath of the Titans project.
The Great Gatsby
Featuring “Love Is Blindness”
Performed by Jack White
Originally by U2
U2’s “Love Is Blindness” wasn’t exactly a chipper song to begin with, but Jack White’s take on the song is even more pained; he wails the lyrics like a man who’s actually been blinded and will never see the world again. It nicely matches the overheated emotions of Baz Luhrmann’s F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation.
The Great Gatsby
Featuring “Happy Together”
Performed by Filter
Originally by The Turtles
Luhrmann dug the whole sad-cover song thing so much, he actually used it twice for The Great Gatsby. The film’s other trailer has an ironic cover of the Turtles’ “Happy Together.” Filter frontman Richard Patrick does not sound particularly happy with whoever he’s singing about, and given the pain and misery inflicted on Gatsby, Daisy, and the rest, that certainly fits.
Featuring “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Performed by Lorde
Originally by Tears For Fears
If a sad cover trailer isn’t ironic, it’s usually incredibly, laughably literal. In this Dracula origin story, the words from Tears For Fears’ ’80s classic comment on the scene where Luke Evans’ Prince of Darkness receives his incredible power. “Welcome to your life,” Lorde sings while he makes a deal for immortality. “There’s no turning back.” Oh I get it, because there’s no turning back when he drinks the vampire blood. Right.
Performed by Richard Butler
Originally by Charles Aznavour
More on-the-nose sad cover lyrics: “She may be the song the summer sings / May be the chill the autumn brings / May be a hundred different things.” At least they didn’t use the verse where Richard Butler sings about how “She may not be what she may seem inside her shell.” That’s so direct it could qualify as a spoiler. This was probably an attempt by David Fincher to recapture The Social Network trailer’s magic, but it wasn’t nearly as successful.
Performed by Gnarls Barkley
Originally by Gnarls Barkley
Technically not a cover, since this slower, moodier version of the Gnarls Barkley track is also by CeeLo Green, but it’s still different enough (and slower and melancholic enough) to merit inclusion here. And yes, Michael Keaton’s character in the film is, like, crazy and stuff.
Featuring “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”
Performed by Brent Smith
Originally by Nina Simone
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Featuring “Black Hole Sun”
Performed by Nouela
Originally by Soundgarden
The appeal of a new version of an old song, I think, is that it’s something simultaneously familiar yet novel. Which is exactly the vibe Liam Neeson goes for with his action thrillers: new riffs on the same themes and ideas that have worked for him and for audiences over and over. Having an ethereal cover of a grunge standard says A Walk Among the Tombstones is just like the stuff you know and like, only slightly different.
Fifty Shades of Grey
Featuring “Crazy In Love”
Performed by Beyoncé
Originally by Beyoncé
Perhaps the finest use of this trope to date after The Social Network. Beyoncé’s vocals are incredibly powerful but somewhat sinister, hinting at the edgy undercurrents in E.L. James’ tale of overwhelming lust. This is a very effective trailer.
Featuring “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
Performed by Antony and the Johnsons
Originally by Bob Dylan
Technically no one takes a badge off of Chris Hemsworth in Blackhat; he’s a criminal who gets deputized by the feds to help them track down a mysterious hacker. But something about the mood of Antony and the Johnsons’ cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” fits Michael Mann’s techno-thriller anyway. “It’s getting dark / Too dark to see” might as well be the unofficial motto of Mann’s entire filmography.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Featuring “I’ve Got No Strings”
Originally From Pinocchio
The titular villain of Age of Ultron makes repeated references to his lack of strings, so this updated version of the song from Pinocchio is certainly appropriate. But it’s awfully grim for an Avengers movie. This trailer doesn’t make the sequel look very fun. But what do I know? Anything that’s been viewed 67 million times must be doing something right.
Featuring “California Dreamin’”
Performed by Robot Koch & Delhia de France
Originally by The Mamas & the Papas
Get it, guys? Because Dwayne Johnson is California dreaming. But then that dream ... turns into a nightmare. Aaaaaaaand cue creepy kids choir!
Featuring “Theme From Jurassic Park”
Composed by John Williams
John Williams’ main Jurassic Park theme was used in Steven Spielberg’s film primarily in moments of awe and grandeur, like the first on-camera introduction of the movie’s incredibly lifelike dinosaurs. Rearranging the tune as a sorrowful piano ballad definitely sets the table for a movie where that wonderful dream of a Dino-Disneyland goes to crap.
Featuring “Red Right Hand”
Performed by PJ Harvey
Originally by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The sad cover trailer trend was still going strong as recently as last week, when the first teaser for Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak debuted featuring PJ Harvey’s rendition of Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand.” The unsettling track complements del Toro’s spooky visuals, but I suspect the song was chosen less for its melodic qualities than for the fact that Mia Wasikowska’s hand is bloody in the very last shot — her red right hand dudes, OMG.