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Recycled Trailer Music
"Listening to it now, I'm a bit surprised I got away with such nutty music for a coming attraction. Of course, those days are long gone...as all trailers now seem to be mandated by law to be beefed-up variations of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana..."
Danny Elfman, on the music written for the trailer of Mars Attacks!

When releasing a film to the public, the film's score is usually the very last thing to be completed. This means that there will be enough finished scenes to make a trailer, but no soundtrack yet. What's a studio to do?

Slap in some music from another film, stock music, or even a pop song, that evokes the general mood they're going for, that's what.

The first film of a franchise is most likely to use this trope, whereas trailers for future films tend to reuse music from the previous ones. For example, most Star Wars trailers after A New Hope used portions of John Williams' score for that film, whereas the original trailer for A New Hope used stock music! Once the score is completed, the studio might release a new batch of trailers using the film's own music.

Licensed music made entirely for trailers by groups like Two Steps From Hell and used to advertise several unrelated products is not an example of this trope as that's just stock library music. Also not part of this trope are classical compositions or songs initially released as just.. well, music, take those examples to Standard Snippet and/or Stock Trailer Music.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Commercials 

  • An advertisement for the Nickelodeon Cruise had the KaBlam!! theme playing...though the show itself is not featured on the cruise, and has been forgotten by Nick.

    Film 
  • Randy Edelman may feel either aggrieved or blessed by this trope, depending; Edelman himself is a relatively unknown and minor film composer, but two of his movie themes, for ''Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story'' (around 1:35 in) and Dragonheart ("To The Stars"), have been peddled endlessly in trailers for other movies.
    • The Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story theme was used in the trailer of Forrest Gump and even in an early Harry Potter commercial. The latter is particularly jarring due to the piece sounding nothing like the now iconic Harry Potter leitmotifs.
  • True to this trope's name, the first trailer for Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland contains "Up and Out" from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as "Brainwash 'n Go" from Wallace & Gromit.
  • The score for the film The Rocketeer has probably been heard in trailers for other films by more moviegoers than ever saw The Rocketeer itself.
  • The trailer for the 2006 film Déjà Vu used the theme from Saw. So do some trailers for Valkyrie, and The Box.
    • This in itself might not be so bad, if not for the fact that the trailer ended up being played before Saw III.
  • An overused score is the main theme from Requiem for a Dream, "Lux Aeterna" which is used for "serious" movies... and certain NASCAR commercials. Most ads don't use the original recording; instead they tend to use the big orchestral arrangement which was recorded for the trailer of The Two Towers.
    • The Requiem for a Dream version was used in a chrurch for a video montage of World Youth Day preparation.
    • Neatly mocked in this Telus commercial, featuring some fairly epic meerkats.
    • A LOT of Youtube videos use this piece.
  • You HAVE heard this piece. And when you listen to it you will say "oh, the movie trailer song" at 1:38.
  • It's frequently used on Britain's Got Talent. It seems like a typical usage until you realize that one of the storylines in Requiem For A Dream involves someone compromising their values and ultimately sacrificing their sanity for a chance to be on television.
  • It is also used in the trailer for Cupcakes: The Movie.
  • "Nara" is the track used most often, it seems—that's the Cold Case one and it was in the trailers of Unfaithful and Vanity Fair.
  • A lot of trailers use music from the Stargate movie.
  • In the previews for the movie No Reservations, part of the music used consisted of the ending credits music from A Series of Unfortunate Events. Its own trailers were using music from Paramount's The Addams Family films. And some trailers for A Series of Unfortunate Events used the Edward Scissorhands theme! The first trailer for Burton's Alice in Wonderland used music from A Series of Unfortunate Events — the cycle is complete. Naturally Corpse Bride also used music from A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  • The "Flying" theme from the '03Peter Pan is used in children's fantasy-adventure trailers almost as much as "What's This". That movie's trailer used "The Crystal Chamber from Atlantis: The Lost Empire'', which was also from James Newton Howard. It's especially odd to hear on the commercials for the Disney Theme Parks, considering Disney has its own version of Peter Pan.
  • "Bishop's Countdown" from Aliens pops up a lot in trailers involving action sequences building up to a crescendo.
  • "Aquarela do Brazil" is slowly becoming one of these songs, especially in its incarnation as the Central Services theme song from Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
    • It was used in a WALL•E ad.
      • Which oddly brought the song full-circle, as "Aquarela do Brazil" (Portuguese for "Watercolor of Brazil") debuted in an early Disney feature, "Saludos Amigos", where Donald Duck meets Brazilian parrot Jose Carioca.
      • The reason for its use in the WALL-E teaser trailer: Michael Kamen, who did the music for Gilliam's "Brazil," was originally going to score WALL-E. But then he died. And people were sad. And then Thomas Newman came to the rescue. And everyone was happy again. The end. The theatrical trailer used "With Great Power" by Immediate Music and "Super Strength" by Two Steps From Hell, two epic trailer music pieces.
  • The choral bit called "O Verona" from Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet sounds a bit like Carmina Burana and gets used a lot. I remember it being used in the trailer for The X-Files: Fight the Future, certainly.
  • Edward Scissorhands - Danny Elfman said, as part of a commentary track for the DVD, that every now and again his friends will call up and say "Edward's back!" when some trailer uses that music. It's also frequently imitated in ads for other companies - indeed, if any ad's BGM involves an slightly spooky choir, it's probably an imitation of this score.
    • Elfman's title music for Beetlejuice is also heard frequently in trailers for kid's movies.
  • Nicely averted by The Proposition which used its own soundtrack, probably because the soundtrack was one of the film's main selling points. This is also true of MirrorMask.
  • The ecstatic, sweeping "Prime Minister's Love Theme" from Love Actually crops up in any number of trailers, particularly romantic comedies.
  • The score to Donnie Darko, and a swathe of knockoffs thereof, seemed to be all over the place three months after it hit DVD. The spooky-but-lighthearted Middlesex Times (or is it Manipulated Living?) made it around the most.
  • The "Word of Warning" teaser for Alien swiped some of the score from Logan's Run.
  • Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor Or Humanity" began cropping up all over the place after Kill Bill made it famous.
  • Elfman's main theme to Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School has been trailer music for plenty of boisterous comedies.
  • Hans Zimmer's piece You're So Cool from the movie True Romance, gets used in trailers quit often.
    • Which itself is almost a direct rip-off of Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer".
  • Trailers for the film adaptation of Constantine use "Pain and Retribution" from the score to The Crow.
  • The teaser to Bedtime Stories had music playing from 102 Dalmatians.
  • The "Flying" theme from Hook is another exceedingly popular children's fantasy piece. Give a listen, and you'll probably recognize it.
  • Aversion: the first trailer for the 2004 version of The Phantom of the Opera used a churning, string-section-heavy part of the actual score (though that may have been a different recording than the one used in the film), followed by a small snippet of Gerard Butler singing "The Music of the Night". The trailers for the DVD version, oddly, still contained the score, but little to no singing (similar to the Sweeney Todd example above), except the narration still called it "Andrew Lloyd Webber's triumphant musical"!
  • One of the first teasers of Ridley Scott's Gladiator used "Anvil of Crom" from Conan the Barbarian by Basil Poledouris. What better way to set the epic tone for the then upcoming movie? The film had music by Hans Zimmer, Klaus Badelt and Lisa Gerrard.
  • Early trailers for the movie Seabiscuit used Michael Giacchino's main theme for Medal of Honor on the PlayStation.
  • The trailer to the movie Miracle uses the end title from the 2000 film Dungeons & Dragons for its climax.
  • Michael Kamen's main theme from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is used in promos for Disney DVD and Blu-ray releases. Ironic, since that film was not released by Disney or its affiliates, and in fact, Disney has its own version of Robin Hood.
  • The main theme from Sunshine is getting really popular. It's especially worth noting that the version linked to is the official soundtrack version: "Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor)". However, in the film itself the piece is in a different key, note  and that version seems to get used as often as the official one.

     Live-Action TV  

     Video Games  

     Western Animation  

  • The trailer for The Wild Thornberrys movie used the theme from Dinosaur. Quite fair, really, since the music was one of the only things about Dinosaur to be particularly good.
  • True to the name, some trailers for Corpse Bride used music from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Others used In the Hall of the Mountain King.
    • The trailer also used the music from the 2004 version of The Stepford Wives.
    • But just to show that nothing is immune, trailers for Nightmare used a version of the Christmas song "Carol of the Bells" for its trailers.
  • Disney pulls out "If I Never Knew You" and the hook from "Just Around The Riverbend" (both from Pocahontas) for some of their movies, especially the Direct-to-Video films.
  • The trailer for Doug's 1st Movie had background music from the live action 101 Dalmatians. Most notably is when Skeeter says, "There's something bad behind me, isn't there?", an instrumental "Cruella de Vil" is heard, and then later was the music used during Pongo and Perdita's departure to find the puppies. The VHS commercial for Sleeping Beauty had the same.
  • La Valse D'Amelie from Amélie. It's been in many ads and so-called reportages.
  • The main theme from The Great Mouse Detective is used in an advert for a 1996 VHS release of The Aristocats.
  • The trailer for Mulan makes use of the theme "To the Stars" from Dragonheart.
  • The 1993 reissue trailer for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs features a bit of music from the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia during the scary moments.


Real Trailer, Fake MovieComing AttractionsSay My Name Trailer
Recycled SoundtrackScore and Music TropesRegional Riff

alternative title(s): The Elfman Effect
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