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Billing Displacement in live-action movies.


In General:

  • Many Australian networks try to capitalize on the success of Australian actors in Hollywood. Showtime is a repeat offender, while networks like Ten, Seven and Nine would likely end up saying something like "Starring Jai Courtney and Bruce Willis" for A Good Day to Die Hard.
    • The Avengers gets this treatment in one of the adverts. On the Showtime network in Australia, they've recently started to list prominent films that month, and the stars, but for the The Avengers, it simply says "Chris Hemsworth - The Avengers''. Chris Hemsworth, as The Mighty Thor, has a relatively minor role in comparison to the ACTUAL stars, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans. This is likely to capitalize on the fact that an Australian's done well in Hollywood.
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    • During an airing of X-Men: First Class on Australian TV, it was advertised as starring Hugh Jackman, who has 1 line and about 10 seconds of screentime.
  • In addition to being about humans fighting alien invaders in the Pacific Ocean, both Battleship and Pacific Rim gave second billing to the actor (Alexander Skarsgård in the former and Diego Klattenhoff in the latter) portraying the older brother of the main protagonist. They end up getting killed in the first battle sequence of their respective movies.
  • In general, most ensemble casts in horror movies are billed in alphabetical order to hide the surprise. (an exception fitting the trope is Alien - the Final Girl Sigourney Weaver comes second, after the most familiar name at the time, Tom Skerritt)
  • Hardly any of the adaptations of The Three Musketeers give top billing to the actor who plays D'Artagnan, the true lead character. Exceptions are the version from 1921 and the 1939 musical version starring Don Ameche.
    • The 1948 version gave top billing to Lana Turner, who played Milady de Winter, with Gene Kelly as D'Artagnan coming in second.
    • BRIAN BLESSED, who played Porthos, was billed first in the 1966 TV version.
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    • The 1973 version gave Richard Chamberlain the top spot (he played Aramis).
    • The 1993 version billed Charlie Sheen first (he also played Aramis).
    • The Musketeer, which is re-titled because it's all about D'Artagnan, minimizing the Three Musketeers' roles to cameos, still bills Catherine Deneuve, who plays Ann of Austria, first, while Justin Chambers, who plays the title character, is billed last.
    • The 2011 film gives top billing to Matthew Macfayden, who plays Athos.
    • Even the BBC TV adaptation The Musketeers bills Tom Burke (Athos) first and Luke Pasquelino (D'Artagnan) ninth. Out of ten. (Though that may have more to do with the series credits being done alphabetically; see also, Peter Capaldi as Richelieu being credited before Howard Charles as Porthos).

Creators:

  • The Retroactive Recognition version of this has occurred with some older movies where Jackie Chan appeared in minor roles. For example, 女警察 (The Policewoman), a crime / action film from 1973 starring Yuen Qiu and Charlie Chin, was later reissued on VHS / DVD under several different titles (one of which was Rumble in Hong Kong, an obvious case of Translation Matchmaking), with Chan's name on the front cover. Similarly, in The 36 Crazy Fists (1977), he was credited as "stunt coordinator" and appeared on-screen only as an extra, but the front cover of some DVD reissues are misleadingly designed to present him as the leading actor and/or the director.
  • Rebecca Hall is a frequent victim.
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    • Despite being one of the title characters in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she's not on the poster at all and her name is billed with the minor supporting roles - while Penélope Cruz gets joint top billing with Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson above a photograph of the three of them. Her character is important and the performance won an Oscar, but Cruz herself actually only appears in less than a third of the film. (This is averted with the posters for most Woody Allen films - and on the opening credits of the film itself; as with many of his films, the stars are listed in alphabetical order and have all their names on one card.)
    • In The Prestige, she had about the same number of scenes as Scarlett Johansson but only Johansson was on all of the advertising.
    • In some ads for the The Town, despite being the lead female, Hall was billed below Blake Lively (who is only in fifteen minutes of the film).
  • Marilyn Monroe is often featured as the main attraction on the home video releases of the 1950 public domain film Hometown Story, which would likely remain a very obscure movie were it not for her brief appearance as a secretary and one of her very first on-screen appearances. Jeffery Lynn, Donald Crisp, and Marjorie Reynolds are technically the actual "stars".
    • There was even a boxset of 100 public domain "Hollywood" movies with a closeup of her on the front of the big package as the big "star". When actually, Home Town Story is the only film of hers in the set, and even that only has her brief cameo role mentioned above. People buying the giant set are maybe getting 120 seconds of on-screen Marilyn at best.
    • 20th Century Fox's "Marilyn Monroe: The Premiere Collection" DVD set included Monkey Business (1952) and There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), on which Monroe was originally fourth-billed and third-billed respectively in accordance with the secondary importance of her roles.
  • Hayden Panettiere is prominently displayed on the DVD packaging of two of her pre-Heroes movies, Shanghai Kiss and as shown in the page image The Good Student (formerly called Mr. Gibb); though not the lead in either she plays one of the main characters in the former and even sings at the end, whereas she only appears for about 10 minutes in the latter (though her kidnapping is what kicks the plot into gear, Tim Daly is the movie's real star). On the other hand, the Disney Channel Original Movie Tiger Cruise - in which Hayden plays the main character and has top billing, and which also has Bill Pullman and a pre-iCarly Jennette McCurdy - has to this day never been issued on any format.
  • Eric Roberts is often highly billed and/or put on the poster of many smaller films for promotional value even though he often appears in only a few minutes of the movie. As a consequence, it's hard to know which films truly feature him as a main player.
  • Quentin Tarantino loves this trope:
    • Reservoir Dogs has a very twisted example (having an ensemble cast), particularly considering the billing of Michael Madsen and Tim Roth:
      • The poster features Roth getting the second billing, while Madsen gets the sixth billing (which is essentially an "and" credit).
      • The opening credits reverses this, giving Madsen the second billing, while Roth is given the eighth billing (also an "and" credit).
      • The closing credits gives Roth and Madsen the second and third billings respectively.
      • In the opening and closing credits Eddie Bunker gets a higher billing than Tarantino, though he has very few lines in the opening scene, and a speechless blink-and-miss appearance in the "Mr. Orange" chapter, while Tarantino has an opening monologue, few lines in the "Mr. Orange" chapter, and a death scene, complete with Famous Last Words.
    • The aforementioned Bruce Willis example in Pulp Fiction.
      • The character of Harvey Keitel (who received an unquestionable top-billing in Reservoir Dogs) is introduced nearly at the climax of Pulp Fiction, has less screen-time than Tarantino, and outranks most of the main characters in poster and opening credits.
    • Robert de Niro clearly had more screen-time than Bridget Fonda and Michael Keaton in Jackie Brown, but gets an "and" credit.
    • David Carradine has very small and faceless scenes as the titular Bill in Kill Bill Vol 1., but outranks most of the cast during closing credits. Madsen, on the other hand, has a speechless appearance and a single flash-forward scene, but get only one credit lower than Carradine.
    • Inglourious Basterds is an ensemble piece, but if any of the cast could claim to be the most important character it would be either Mélanie Laurent's Shosanna and/or Christoph Waltz's Hans Landa. Naturally, Brad Pitt is billed first (also having an important role) and is the star of the trailers.
    • The eponymous eight characters of The Hateful 8 are billed in the order of appearance. As a result, Kurt Russell is billed second, even though his character dies halfway, and appears as a corpse for the rest of the movie. Also, Roth and Madsen are billed sixth and seventh, even though they last longer than Russell and Demian Bichir (fifth billing, his character dies only minutes after Russell's).
  • Robin Williams used pseudonyms for his appearances in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Shakes the Clown, and The Secret Agent to avoid this trope.
  • This happens to Bruce Willis a lot:
    • Planet Terror has a small appearance by Bruce "Osama slayer" Willis. The plan was to make it one of those "Wait, Bruce Willis is in this movie?" moments, but it was kinda ruined when he got billed in the poster.
    • In Hart's War, the central character (Hart) is actually played by Colin Farrell. However, at that time Farrell was not enough big name to deserve the first place on the poster. Many (all?) posters in fact were showing only Willis' face.
    • The Siege prominently features Bruce's face on the cover art, despite the fact that he plays a fairly minor (albeit very important) character who only appears in about 15 minutes of the film.
    • Willis' face receives undue attention in some video releases of National Lampoons Loaded Weapon 1 where he makes an uncredited cameo appearance.
    • Willis received top billing in Sunset, but James Garner actually has much more screen time during the movie.
    • Surprisingly inverted with Pulp Fiction; his billing on the poster is "and Bruce Willis" at the bottom, and is in smaller font than other names. He gets even worse treatment in the film's actual credits. Yet, he probably gets the most screen time in the film (aside from Vincent Vega).
    • In some countries, The Last Boy Scout left Bruce Willis's co-star Damon Wayans off the posters.
    • In Four Rooms, Willis was actually prevented from being credited at all by the Screen Actors Guild because he wasn't paid: he did his scene as a favor to Quentin Tarantino.

Movies:

  • In Italy, two separate posters for 12 Years a Slave (that were unauthorized by the distributor) were released that gave more emphasis on either Brad Pitt's or Michael Fassbender's face (said actors have merely small roles in the film), while downplaying leading man Chiwetel Ejiofor's presence in these ads. The film is about slavery in America, and the backlash that ensued prompted the distributor to pull these posters.
    • Even in America, it's easy to forget that Ejiofor is the star of the movie because he got overshadowed by the likes of such superstars as Fassbender, Pitt, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Not helping matters was the fact that his also then-unknown co-star Lupita Nyong'o would go on to become far more popular than him in the wake of the movie's success.
  • Absolute Beginners (1986) properly billed Eddie O'Connell and Patsy Kensit as the leads, but third billing went to David Bowie, whose character is just one of several antagonists in on an evil scheme. He gets two short scenes and a longer segment focused on a Disney Acid Sequence. But he was by far the biggest name in the cast (even more so outside of the U.K.), and he also wrote and performed the movie's Title Theme Tune, so he was key to its promotional campaign. The theatrical trailer was really a Video Full of Film Clips with Bowie as the focus of its wraparound story.
  • Eli Roth got top billing in Aftershock, but gets killed off shortly after the film reaches the hour mark. The fifth billed Nicolás Martínez and the sixth billed Lorenza Izzo survive longer than most of the actors billed above them, with Izzo even outlasting Martínez.
  • Richard Boone is listed as a main actor on the DVD cover of The Alamo, although he is listed as a "guest star" in the opening credits of the actual movie. Boone, starring as Sam Houston, has less than ten minutes of screentime: a monologue at the beginning where he entrusts Colonel William Travis to lead the defenders of the Alamo, and a brief bit near the end where he is informed by Smitty, one of the Alamo's messengers, that no help is coming.
  • Mia Wasikowska is the title character of Alice in Wonderland (2010), yet Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter is billed before her. She gets it even worse in sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass, third in the credits (behind Depp and Anne Hathaway) and fifth in the poster (both plus Helena Bonham Carter and the recently deceased Alan Rickman).
  • Ashley Tisdale is billed as one of the main characters in Aliens in the Attic but she plays a supporting character who only becomes relevant to the main plot during the climax.
  • Ethan Hawke is given star-billing in Alive, even though he spends the entire first act of the film unconscious and doesn't step up as a prominent character until about halfway into the film. Josh Hamilton, who is given third billing, has the largest role, while Bruce Ramsay, who is given fourth billing, has a role at least as big as Hawke's, if not larger.
  • Billy Crudup was credited as the lead of Almost Famous but was hit by this trope from two different directions: first, that the actual lead character was William Miller played by Patrick Fugit; and secondly, that Kate Hudson is now the actor most closely associated with the film (not to mention the one that graced the poster).
  • The DVD cover for the crappy 90's thriller The Alternate has Ice-T as one of the top billed actors and the only one featured on the DVD menu. This is despite his character disappearing from the plot fairly early on after getting knocked unconscious by Eric Roberts. Like many of the cases on this page, it was likely due to Ice-T becoming a big star in the years after the movie was made.
  • In Animal Kingdom, Joel Edgerton gets second billing despite his character being killed off about 20 minutes in.
  • Marlon Brando received top billing for Apocalypse Now, despite appearing in the film for less than ten minutes. Likewise, in the "Redux" re-release, at least (didn't see any trailers for the original), Harrison Ford got top billing despite appearing only briefly, in a minor role. The second-billed actor (who was also the only person to be nominated for an Oscar for their role in the film) was Robert Duvall as Lt. Colonel Kilgore, who is on screen for about 15 minutes out of a three-hour movie. The real star, Martin Sheen (the narrator and the guy who's in nearly every scene), is billed third.
  • Alex Borstein gets a starring credit in Bad Santa her role is little more than a cameo as a mother waiting in line for Santa at the beginning.
  • Balls of Fury is sometimes mistakenly quoted as "Masi Oka's movie" (as can be seen here), despite the fact that he only plays a men's room attendant.
  • Arnold also earned top billing for Batman & Robin despite playing the antagonist. (Not that this was the first time: Jack Nicholson is the first name in both the poster and the opening credits of Batman (1989)... though not the closing credits, as Michael Keaton is listed first.)
  • The Independent Film Channel advertised Before Night Falls as "starring Johnny Depp", when in fact he only appears in three scenes.
  • Drew Barrymore is top-billed in the animal film Big Miracle but second-billed John Krasinski is the actual main character, a news reporter who breaks the news story that drives the plot.
  • Something of an example occurs with The Big Short, which lists, in alphabetical order, Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt as its four principle actors. It is an ensemble cast, though Bale, Carell and Gosling are the leads of their respective storylines, while Pitt is just the mentor figure to the characters played by John Magaro and Finn Whitrock. However, if you've got Brad Pitt in your movie, you give him above-the-title billing (and it helps that he was one of the film's producers).
  • Averted in The Big Year. Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson get equal billing above the title so to avoid the trope.
  • Despite playing the title character in Billy Bathgate, Loren Dean is billed fourth behind Dustin Hoffman and Nicole Kidman.
  • Blunt: The Third Man, a British TV movie from the '80s. The video had a big photo of Anthony Hopkins on the cover, so the viewer might presume Hopkins was playing Blunt. Turns out Ian Richardson played Blunt (a real-life Soviet spy), and Hopkins was a supporting character, but Richardson never played Hannibal Lecter, and Hopkins did, so they put Hopkins on the cover.
  • The Italian comedy Bodyguards - Guardie del corpo gives Cindy Crawford third-billing, but she doesn't appear until the last 30 minutes.
  • Joan Allen and Albert Finney in The Bourne Legacy. Albert Finney isn't even in the movie, save one piece of archive footage.
  • Perhaps understandably the posters for Bridesmaids really ran with the bridesmaids theme, depicting all five of them (plus the bride) which was why male lead Chris O'Dowd (Officer Rhodes) doesn't appear, despite playing a more important character than Wendi McLendon-Covey (Rita) or Ellie Kemper (Becca).
  • In many of Bunraku's advertisements, Gackt gets billed behind Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore and Ron Perlman. The latter three do play significant roles, but Gackt is one of the main protagonists. In some ads, he doesn't even get any mention. Presumably, this is because Gackt is a fairly unknown celebrity in the West, but the lack of recognition for one of the film's two main heroes is definitely noticeable.
  • The DVD box of Bradley Cooper's Burnt includes Alicia Vikander and Uma Thurman, both of whom only have two scenes in the movie.
  • Home video releases of Carrie (1976) have John Travolta given top billing alongside Sissy Spacek, even though his character was a fairly minor one.
  • Casino Royale (1967) features as an added extra that a rather large number of characters are all renamed "James Bond". Everyone remembers Woody Allen and Peter Sellers between them stealing the show. The intended star of the film was David Niven. So memorable was his performance, that most people's reaction to hearing this is "Oh, was he in it?" Jean-Paul Belmondo also is credited as one of the main actors. His character, however, is a foreign legionnaire who only appears in a short mass scene near the end of the movie.
  • The DVD for Chaplin with Robert Downey Jr. mentions it starring "the stunning Marisa Tomei" despite her having roughly seven minutes of screentime.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Missi Pyle and James Fox get co-star billing whereas Adam Godley and Franziska Troegner are given double-card instead. And while Freddie Highmore is billed second, the other kids are all on the double-card.
  • The Charge of the Light Brigade's protagonist is David Hemmings as Captain Nolan. He's listed sixth on the credits, behind Trevor Howard, Vanessa Redgrave, John Gielgud, Harry Andrews and Jill Bennett. While this can be justified under the seniority principle, Hemmings has far more screen time than all but Howard.
  • The 2006 film version of Charlotte's Web bills the film's entire large and prestigious voice cast- except for Dominic Scott Kay, who voiced Wilbur. To be fair, he is just a kid who hasn't done any other movies, but it seems a little harsh to completely ignore the person who is, by all definition, the star of the movie.
  • Children of Men bills Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine as its main stars. In actuality Julianne Moore's character gets shot through the throat and dies about 20 minutes into the film, while Michael Caine only has two scenes, and dies at the end of the second. To be fair, they did at least have the decency to bill Clive Owen above the two of them, seeing as he is actually the main character and unlike the others who die early on, Theo actually makes it through most of the film and only dies from a gunshot wound in the last few minutes.
  • Christiane F.: Some film posters and DVD covers of the movie adaptation play up the fact that David Bowie appears in the film, in some cases even showing him more prominently than the main character about whom the story revolves. And that while Bowie was only a minor reference in the original book, when Christiane mentioned that she visited a concert of his. In the film, however, a long scene shows her attending a concert of his where he performs two of his hits. The entire story is interrupted a while for this moment Pandering to the Base. That said it's about all of the famous singer seen in the entire film.
  • Christopher Lee is always billed as the star of Circus of Fear (usually followed by Klaus Kinski), but his role is comparatively minor and the central character is actually Inspector Elliot, played by Leo Genn.
  • In what might have been a Canadian Pride moment, a Canadian television reporter made a reference to the then-new-release Clear and Present Danger, starring Willem Dafoe. Harrison Ford is the star of this movie, and its predecessor, Patriot Games. Dafoe's character was prominent, but not the lead by any stretch.
  • Collateral. Jamie Foxx is on the screen for almost the entire movie, but Tom Cruise was billed as the lead. Foxx, like Hawke, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, though this was arguably to avoid vote interference with his performance in the biopic Ray, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar that year.
    • Ironically, a lot of people thought Cruise would have been a lock for Best Supporting Actor if he had been billed correctly (as his role as a cold-blooded killer was so different from his usual performances).
  • For a Disney Channel (in the UK) premiere screening of Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen in 2012, Megan Fox and Adam Garcia were billed first, with the film's actual star Lindsay Lohan given And Starring treatment (despite Lohan having the most footage in the trailer).
  • Death Race 2000 featured David Carradine in his first post-Kung Fu role, naturally giving him top-billing, and appearing on the poster. A young Stallone appears in a strong-supporting role as the antagonist "Machine-Gun Joe" Viterbo (which doesn't even crack the Top 10 of stupidest names for a Stallone character). His only other major film to date had been The Lords of Flatbush. When the movie was re-released for DVD, Stallone was added to the cover, sharing the top-billing with Carradine.
  • One of the big reasons the 1983 film D.C. Cab bombed was that it was marketed as a Mr. T vehicle, despite the fact that Mr. T's character was peripheral at best. It got so bad that in some other countries, it was called "Mr. T and Company". The Turkish poster doesn't even bother describing the plot, consisting solely of a drawing of Mr. T.
  • The Debt. Jessica Chastain is billed third (behind Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington) despite having the most scenes. Mirren does play the older version of her character so that would likely explain her higher billing.
  • The star of the Spaghetti Western The Deserter is Yugoslav actor Bekim Fehmiu, and he was billed this on the original posters. However, all recent releases in the English speaking world give top billing to Chuck Connors and Richard Crenna, with poor Bekhim appearing at the end of the cast list (if he appears at all).
  • Doctor Zhivago is another case of alphabetical billing, with leading actor Omar Sharif listed seventh on the opening credits despite being a) clearly the central character, b) a bigger name than most of his costars.
  • Jennifer Hudson was nominated (and the winner) in the supporting category for Dreamgirls despite being the main character, since she did not get top billing, although she did get a huge "And Introducing" credit at the end. In a case of Life Imitates Art, Beyoncé Knowles, whose character steals top billing from Hudson's character, was the movie's top-billed actress (alongside Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy).
  • Commercials for A Dry White Season played up Marlon Brando's short appearance as a lawyer in court, despite it starring Donald Sutherland and Zakes Mokae.
  • A bizarre case in Easy A. Though Emma Stone is billed first in all advertising and plays the lead, she is billed last in the actual film (getting an And Starring credit).
  • At least one VHS release for the Brendan Fraser film Encino Man makes it seem as though the film is about Pauly Shore's relationship with an unfrozen caveman he finds in his backyard, and the wacky hijinks that ensue. Pauly Shore is actually a supporting character, with Sean Astin's character having more of a central focus with the relationship to Fraser's Link. Astin is barely mentioned on this cover. Naturally, this release preceded Astin's more recent recognition due to Rudy and The Lord of the Rings.
  • The English Patient bills Juliette Binoche and Willem Dafoe before Kristin Scott Thomas. The film's main plot concerns the forbidden romance between her character and first-billed Ralph Fiennes. Binoche and Dafoe, despite a good deal of screen time, only appear in the movie's Framing Device. The Academy did not make the same mistake; Scott Thomas was nominated for Best Actress and Binoche was nominated for Best Supporting Actress (which she won).
  • Averted effectively in the opening credits to The Evil Dead (1981), in which Bruce Campbell's name is in the middle of the list: this makes it more difficult to know from early on that he'll turn out to be the final guy.
  • Advertising for Executive Decision gave equal billing to Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal, despite Seagal having a relatively minor role and not even being cited in the opening credits. This may have been a deliberate decision to throw the audience off when Seagal is killed off very quickly.
  • Max von Sydow is billed second in The Exorcist despite only appearing in the prologue and the last twenty minutes of the movie. Linda Blair and Jason Miller are the main focus of the movie and billed under von Sydow, the reason for this being that neither actor was well-known at the time (Blair had only appeared in two movies before this and Miller was a stage actor).
  • The All-Star Cast nature of The Expendables and its sequels leads to some.
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger was confirmed to only have one scene, yet he was featured in the trailers as if he's a leading man. However he is not shown or mentioned on the DVD cover, unlike Bruce Willis who is on the cover but only has a second "scene" in the form of showing up as a picture on a computer screen.
    • The British posters (but not the American ones) prominently feature both Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though they both only appear in one scene and neither is fully seen in the same shot as the other and aren't credited.
    • Jet Li was billed third in the first sequel, despite only appearing in the opening scene. Meanwhile, the little-known Nan Yu, who has a significant amount of screentime, is billed no less than thirteenth.
    • The original plays up a minor Mickey Rourke character and an uncredited Bruce Willis cameo in the poster, and only the first four names are in the same order of the credits (the fifth is antagonist Eric Roberts). The Expendables 2 still has Jet Li billed third even if his character leaves early in the movie. The Expendables 3 has as third and fourth the minor appearances of Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger, followed by the film's antagonist Mel Gibson (though Gibson's smeared reputation probably helped him get lower).
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock billed above the title, in that order. Their combined screentime is easily less than half the movie, and Hanks's character spends a majority of the film dead, as he died on 9/11, and the film is about his family dealing with his death. Most of the film focuses on their son, played by Thomas Horn, looking for a lock that fits the mysterious key his father left behind. A look at the billing makes you think it focuses on Hanks and Bullock.
  • Surprisingly averted or even subverted in Jason Bateman flick Extract. Ben Affleck has a reasonably big role and is probably the most famous actor in the film but does not appear on the theatrical posters while less famous actors J. K. Simmons and David Koechner do despite playing characters with less screen time.
  • Advertising for Eyes Wide Shut give Stanley Kubrick third billing after Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, despite the fact that he's not even in the film at all. This was most likely done to stress the importance of the film being the legendary director's last, being released after he passed away.
    • For actual actors, Marie Richardson is billed fourth despite only appearing in one scene.
  • R&B star Usher is featured prominently on the poster for The Faculty despite his role being a glorified cameo.
  • The Fast and the Furious:
  • The trailer (and more than one poster) of Abel Fererra's Fear City misrepresents Billy Dee Williams as a hard-edge cop trying to solve a bunch of Jack the Ripper-type murders taking place in New York City, and Tom Berenger as the apparent psychopath killer. Berenger is actually the main character, Williams is a Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist, and the killer is an unmentioned third party, none of which is ever unclear in the movie.
  • A Few Good Men: Noah Wyle of ER had a small part. When the movie was aired on NBC, at the height of ER's popularity, he was included in the promos along with Tom Cruise and Demi Moore.
  • Fight Club is about Brad Pitt starting up a club where men beat each other up, and also sharing a few scenes of disfunctional romance with Helena Bonham-Carter. At least, that's what the ads and DVD cover make it look like, both of them billing Pitt first. Actually, the film is Edward Norton's (unnamed) character. Pitt doesn't even show up until about 45 minutes in, and near the end, we learn he's really just a visual manifestation of Norton's fractured psyche, not even a real person.
  • Fighting with My Family has Jack Lowden billed fourth below his on-screen parents Lena Headey and Nick Frost despite being the film's Deuteragonist. Producer Dwayne Johnson is also front and center in posters and trailers along with lead Florence Pugh.
  • The video packaging for some editions of The First Nudie Musical claim that the film stars Ron Howard. He only appears briefly in one scene.
  • The urban film First Sunday has Tracy Morgan billed below Katt Williams despite Morgan having far more scenes and being more well known than Williams.
  • The Aussie coming-of-age comedy Flirting stars Noah Taylor and Thandie Newton, but on the DVD cover Nicole Kidman (who has a supporting role) is pictured front and center, with Taylor and Newton off in the background.
  • Though Flying Down to Rio is now remembered as the first of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies (and is advertised as such to modern audiences), they were only the Beta Couple of the movie; Dolores del Río was the star.
    • This was also the only film where Ginger Rogers was billed above Fred Astaire even though he had far more scenes and one more dance number.
  • The Forbidden Kingdom was advertised as starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li (who both play supporting characters), not even mentioning Michael Angarano, who played the main protagonist. The trailers barely even featured him, marketing the film as a "Chan vs Li" showdown rather than the old kid-transported-to-ancient-time standby.
  • On the poster for Clarence Brown's A Free Soul, Norma Shearer is correctly billed above the title, while Leslie Howard is billed immediately under it, followed by Lionel Barrymore, James Gleason and, finally, Clark Gable. While Shearer is the title character, the main plot concerns her forbidden romance with Gable, who is essentially the third lead, or most prominent supporting role. Barrymore is the male lead as Shearer's drunk father, a lawyer who defended Gable in court but knows about Gable's mob connections, and spends the movie trying to split them up while wasting away from his condition. Howard plays the man Shearer was once, essentially, promised to, but never loved, and Gleason has a pretty minor supporting role as Barrymore's assistant. By prominence, billing should have gone Shearer, Barrymore, Gable, Howard, Gleason.
  • The big-screen version of The Fugitive was originally supposed to feature Julianne Moore as Harrison Ford's love interest. It was eventually decided to reduce her role to a bit part, but Moore still got fourth billing despite only having a couple minutes of screen time.
  • Adam Baldwin's role in Full Metal Jacket has been played up on DVD covers a lot more since Firefly.
  • The Ghost and the Darkness gave Michael Douglas top billing despite Val Kilmer being in the lead role. Douglas taking over as producer had a lot to do with that.
  • PP Go}} is mostly seen as either a Katie Holmes or Sarah Polley flick, when it is actually a Two Lines, No Waiting ensemble. Polley is actually the lead character of one segment but Holmes is a fairly minor character.
  • It is easy to forget that The Godfather actually features Al Pacino as the main character, because the poster features Marlon Brando, who receives top billing even though his screen time is less than that of Pacino (who gets the second billing).
    • Ironically overlaps with Award Category Fraud, as Pacino is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Brando wins the Academy Award for Best Actor. For this reason, Pacino refused to attend the ceremony.
    • It also gives Sterling Hayden (who has a secondary role and less than 10 minutes of screen time as Captain McCluskey) and John Marley (who played Jack Woltz, with only about 10 minutes of screen time in a scene, that, while memorable, has little connection to the overall story) higher billing than Diane Keaton, who plays the significant role of Kay. Other actors in more significant roles such as Abe Vigoda, Talia Shire, and John Cazale are relegated to the supporting cast.
  • When God's Little Acre was first released in 1958, Michael Landon, who played a minor character and who appeared in just a few scenes, was billed tenth. For the film's re-release in 1967, after Landon had achieved widespread fame through his role in Bonanza, he was bumped up to second billing.
  • Juliette Binoche is billed fourth in the opening credits of Godzilla (2014), despite having less than ten minutes of screentime. Not to mention having her character killed off early in the movie.
  • In The Golden Compass, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green and Sam Elliot are billed before Dakota Blue Richards who plays the main character. Quite confusing when you realize Eva Green has about two scenes and Sam Elliot has around 20 minutes while Nicole Kidman plays the villain who all but disappears during the second act. Daniel Craig is also billed before Ian McKellen despite Craig having around 10 minutes screen time and McKellen playing the voice of one of the film's heroes.
  • Robert de Niro gets first billing in Goodfellas even though Ray Liotta is very clearly the main character. Scorsese's later mafia film, The Departed, also gave Leonardo Dicaprio first billing over Matt Damon, who has the larger role of the two.
  • Fourth-billed Sam Jaffe played the title character in Gunga Din.
  • Mark Hamill gets top billing in the first of the live-action Guyver movies, despite the fact that he plays a supporting character who gets killed off near the end.
  • While a main character, Angelina Jolie's name didn't appear on the cover of Hackers until after she'd become famous from other roles. She is, however, a prominent character.
  • The Hairspray remake counts, as it was advertised starring John Travolta (in drag!). Nikki Blonsky gets an "And Introducing" after the long list of all the other celebrities "starring" in the movie. The visual extension of this trope is on the soundtrack cover, which uses pictures of the characters. An odd side effect of this is that the only teenage character above the title is Amanda Bynes, with Brittany Snow, Elijah Kelly, Zac Efron, and Nikki Blonksy underneath it (and Bynes and Snow were 20 when they shot the movie).
  • Jamie Lee Curtis has top billing in Halloween: Resurrection, but it doesn't stop her character from being a Decoy Protagonist.
  • The 1996 version of Hamlet features a number of big name stars in glorified cameos. Robin Williams got his name on the poster, but only played Osric, an extremely minor character whose few minutes of screentime are spent mostly delivering messages.
    • Billy Crystal plays the first grave-digger; one scene, lasting about five minutes. Gérard Depardieu is even worse. He plays Reynaldo, a character usually left out since he only has one very short scene, and it has little if anything to do with the main plot. Both men get their names on the poster. Richard Briers, BRIAN BLESSED, Nicholas Farrell and Michael Maloney, who play the large and/or pivotal roles of Polonius, the Ghost of Hamlet's father, Horatio and Laertes, do not.
  • In The Hangover Part II Jeffrey Tambor is billed below the leads but still above the likes of Jamie Chung despite having less than three minutes of screentime.
  • The billing in the Harry Potter movies always goes: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, major adult actors in alphabetical order, then the supporting actors on double-cards, also in alphabetical order. Whether they get in the first alphabetical list or the second is determined by the value of the actor, not the character; given the series' many huge celebrities in supporting roles, it's typical for those getting top billing to have only a minute or so of screentime.
    • The alphabetical order also leads to a few oddities, such as Julie Christie and John Cleese being billed near the front despite being essentially cameos, while major players such as Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and David Thewlis end up nearer to the end. Extreme key players like Julie Walters, Mark Williams, and Bonnie Wright always end up near the very end, as they're on the double-cards despite their prominence. Tom Felton is buried amidst the supporting actors regardless of how big or small his role is.
    • Bonnie Wright started being billed in the sixth film, and James and Oliver Phelps received the same promotion in the eighth. Many other Hogwarts students had increased roles as the series went on, but only these three got such a treatment. Matthew Lewis and Evanna Lynch, for example, never made it onto the bill.
    • David Tennant wasn't billed at all for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - he was credited, but not billed, despite being both a major actor and having a pretty prominent character. In addition, the alphabetical order rule was broken - Frances de la Tour went at the very end of the first segment of the credits, while the three Triwizard champions Stanislav Ianevski, Robert Pattinson, and Clemence Poesy got a triple-card at the very end of the bill... though the three of them were in alphabetical order with each other, which resulted in the extremely-prominent Pattinson being squeezed between the other two, who were barely in the movie at all.
    • George Harris was billed in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but none of the subsequent films in which he appeared.
    • On the movie posters and DVD covers (as well as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), Warwick Davis and Julie Walters get credited in the main portion despite being among the supporting-actor credits in the films proper. The posters and covers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows only listed actors who had been in previous films - therefore, Richard Griffiths and Fiona Shaw made it onto the poster despite their mere seconds of screentime, while newcomers Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, and Kelly Macdonald didn't.
  • A subversion: While Ben Stiller had a major role in Heavyweights, his image wasn't initially on the film poster. However, with the 2012 Blu-ray re-release, a photo of his character has been superimposed on the cover (and larger than the pre-teen characters), obviously because of his fame ever since the movie came out in 1995.
  • Almost any recent copy of the thriller He Knows You're Alone is guaranteed to feature, prominently displayed somewhere on the cover, a credit along the lines of "Starring Tom Hanks" in spite of the fact he's a rather minor character with less than five minutes screen time. Better versions bill it as "Tom Hanks in his first movie role," which is technically the truth.
  • Martin Freeman, who played Arthur Dent (the main character) in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was listed fourth in the opening credits.
    • It happened to him once again on The Hobbit, where he is the title character but only got second billing after Ian McKellen.
  • The Hole stars Thora Birch, and has Keira Knightley (in one of her first roles) as a minor character who is billed 4th or 5th. Birch is the protagonist, and is in almost every scene. But the DVD cover makes it look like Knightley is the star. When the film was shown on British TV channel E4 the trailer's narrator said it starred "Keira Knightley and whatsherface from American Beauty".
  • In Holes, Sigourney Weaver and Jon Voight get top billing above Shia LaBeouf, who is the lead. Might be understandable since it was his first film role and that Weaver has an equally important role as the Big Bad.
  • When ABC Family showed Home Alone 3, they advertised it like Scarlett Johansson was the star, despite the fact that Johansson was a minor character in the film and had about 5 to 10 minutes of screen time. To quote one of the trailers "Scarlett Johansson is taking on the bad guys."
  • James Caan is listed first for Honeymoon In Vegas instead of Nicolas Cage, who plays the main protagonist and has more screentime than Caan.
  • In Hope Floats Kathy Najimy gets a card to herself during the opening credits despite her only scene in the film being the very first one - which, in fact, comes before said opening credits. On the other hand, Rosanna Arquette (who also only has one scene in the film - the same scene, in fact) goes uncredited.
  • Fourth-billed Emma Thompson is one of two characters given central focus in the film Howards End, the other being Helena Bonham-Carter. Anthony Hopkins and Vanessa Redgrave are both billed ahead of them. As with The English Patient, the Academy got it right, nominating Thompson for Best Actress (which she won) and Redgrave for Best Supporting Actress.
  • Richard Lester's 1966 anti-war film How I Won the War stars a very young Michael Crawford in the lead role. The movie is best known for being John Lennon's first dramatic, non-Beatles role as Private Gripweed, a relatively minor role.
  • Neary all the trailers for Hugo made it look like Jude Law's character played a major role. In reality, he's a Disappeared Dad who only appears in a short sequence of flashbacks early on (at the end of which he dies).
  • Michelle Trachtenberg plays the main character in Ice Princess and is the only cast member to appear on the poster. She's third-billed (behind Joan Cusack and Kim Cattrall) and gets an "And..." credit to boot.
  • Michael Caine's name is listed last on the Inception poster, while Dileep Rao is never mentioned, even though he appears on the poster whereas Caine does not. Rao plays Yusuf, one of the six key characters in the mission, while Michael Caine's character has a grand total of two scenes and five minutes of screentime, and has overall less importance to the story. Even Lukas Haas, who played Nash, the architect at the beginning of the film, deserves to be on the poster more than he does.
  • The year before she won American Idol, Kelly Clarkson had a one- or two-line appearance in the zero-budget indie film Issues 101 (2002). The film poster did not mention her but the DVD release reports a "Special Guest Appearance by Kelly Clarkson!"
  • Before Rocky, Sylvester Stallone participated in a mediocre porno called A Party at Kitty and Stud's (he was Stud). After Rocky, the producers changed its name to The Italian Stallion to capitalize on Stallone's success.
  • If you pick up a copy of It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time you will be disappointed to find out that John Candy only has a handful of lines as a detective's 2nd banana. Heck, he's not even the right age/weight on the DVD menu.
  • On the theatrical poster for JFK, Kevin Costner's name is correctly billed above the title, but below the title is an alphabetical list of names that include Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Jay O. Sanders and Sissy Spacek. Not billed on the poster are Joe Pesci, Donald Sutherland or Wayne Knight, all three of whom have very prominent roles that cannot be considered cameos. Sutherland only had one scene, but it was a long scene where his character dominated from start to finish. Jack Lemmon, Ed Asner, Walter Matthau and John Candy all had unbilled cameos, but Kevin Bacon's role wasn't much larger, and in fact was much smaller in screen time than Joe Pesci's. Alphabetical billing has him second-billed.
  • Maximillian Schell is billed sixth in Judgment at Nuremberg yet he is arguably one of three lead characters. The film's focus is clearly on Spencer Tracy's conflicted main judge and the two lawyers, including Richard Widmark's stolid prosecutor and Schell's fiery, passionate defense attorney. Schell was even nominated for an Oscar for the performance as Best Actor and won. Burt Lancaster is billed second for the film but spends most of it sitting in a defendant's box and saying nothing. Marlene Dietrich, whose character has little to nothing to do with the trial at hand, also gets higher billing than Schell.
  • In Juno, the trailers and posters for that film heavily promoted Michael Cera's involvement, giving him and Ellen Page co-star billing, when in fact his role was relatively minor, and fairly passive, in the movie. At the time, Cera was famous for his role in cult TV comedy Arrested Development, while Page was arguably less well-known.
    • Not on the poster but the trailers ''really' wanted to make sure you knew Rainn Wilson was in a supporting role by using footage from all one scene he was in in the movie.
  • In Jurassic Park, B.D. Wong, who only appears in one scene, gets a single card billing, while Samuel L. Jackson and Wayne Knight, who both had larger roles, share a double card.
  • The trailer for Killing Them Softly makes no mention of Ben Mendelsohn despite being one of the main characters and having the most footage in the trailer outside of Brad Pitt. Subverted, however by the ending credits, which bill Mendelsohn third.
  • Taron Egerton plays the main character of Kingsman: The Secret Service, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the film's poster, where his name isn't even mentioned while Colin Firth, Michael Caine & Samuel L. Jackson all get Billed Above the Title, and he receives fourth billing in the ending titles.
  • The direct-to-video movie The Kiss bills Terence Stamp, Billy Zane, and Eliza Dushku before the main character, played by Francoise Surel. Zane has maybe fifteen minutes of screen time, and Dushku maybe twenty.
  • The DVD cover of Knute Rockne, All American features a prominently displayed picture of a young Ronald Reagan; the title character is played by Pat O'Brien. Reagan's line "Win one for the Gipper" is probably the only thing that anybody actually remembers about that movie, though, so perhaps it is for the best.
  • L.A. Confidential focuses on three cops played by Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey. Spacey had just won an Oscar a couple of years prior, but Pearce and Crowe were more or less unknowns at the time. Spacey's character arguably has the least screen time of the three while Pearce is as close to a lead character as the film has. Spacey was billed first, Crowe second and Pearce third.
  • James McAvoy is the lead in The Last King of Scotland, but Forest Whitaker is top billed, received many awards as a leading actor, and is generally remembered as the star of the film.
  • Most modern releases of Laughter in Paradise give top billing to Audrey Hepburn. She has a five minute role as a cigarette girl. She does get an 'And Introducing' credit at the end of the cast list in the film itself.
  • Anyone going into Layer Cake after looking at the film's DVD cover, movie posters, or American TV ads will be surprised to learn that Sienna Miller is not, in fact, a major character. She actually only appears in a few scenes and was billed third from last in the film's actual opening titles.
  • Leprechaun was Jennifer Aniston's first film, so she didn't receive any fanfare on the poster. The DVD release, after Friends made Aniston a household name, not only gave Aniston top billing, it added her to the cover shot and changed the film's tagline (from "Your luck just ran out," to "Her luck just ran out.")
  • Like Crazy: The poster prominently displays Jennifer Lawrence's name above the title, implying more-or-less equal status with the film stars Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, when in reality she has only about five (or so) minutes screentime and only about a half dozen spoken lines. When they shot the movie she was still basically an unknown actress. Between filming and release her star power had exploded somewhat.
  • The old video cover for The Little Shop of Horrors had Jack Nicholson on the back, even though he was little more than a cameo. To make matters worse, the picture used was from The Shining (you can guess which one). Another cover only featured Nicholson on the front.
  • Farrah Fawcett got top billing in ads when Logan's Run hit television, even though she had a bit part as an airheaded nurse.
  • The infamous Pia Zadora vehicle The Lonely Lady has pictures of everyone who could be considered a main character on its poster — and one character played by one Carla Romanelli, who only appears in one scene as a woman who hits on Zadora's character Jerilee before never showing up again.
  • The Lone Ranger lists Johnny Depp, who plays the sidekick Tonto, as the leading name in nearly every ad and poster. Despite expectations, he doesn't overshadow Armie Hammer's role as the titular hero. It may have something to do with Depp doubling as executive producer.
  • Looper: Bruce Willis is first on posters and the opening credits, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the movie's actual central character, though both are playing the same guy) is second. This is vice versa in the end credits. You decide which is the displacement.
  • Liv Tyler has third billing for each part of The Lord of the Rings, despite 10-15 minutes in each.
  • When ABC aired The Lords of Flatbush in the 70's, they advertised it as though Henry Winkler was the lead, due to his popularity on Happy Days.
  • Love Actually is an big ensemble film so inevitably some actors were going to get displaced but even so the film poster has a few good examples of this; Keira Knightley is pictured and billed but Andrew Lincoln (who shared all her scenes) isn't and Thomas Sangster (who had more screentime than either) doesn't appear either. Kris Marshall and Lúcia Moniz are likewise absent despite starring in their own subplots while One-Scene Wonder Rowan Atkinson gets listed.
    • In Germany the same poster and DVD cover - featuring ten faces - was used, except that the picture of Martine McCutcheon (the Prime Minister's love-interest), who is not well-known in Germany, was replaced by that of Heike Makatsch (who plays Alan Rickman's homewrecking secretary).
  • The Magnificent Seven is an odd case of this. In the film itself, Eli Wallach (who plays the villain) gets second billing below Yul Brynner and above the other six "Magnificent" main characters, including Steve McQueen who has a much larger role and much more screentime than Wallach (though it can be argued that Calvera is an Ensemble Dark Horse and deserved it more). The poster flips this though. McQueen is billed first, Yul Brynner is billed fourth (placing him exactly in the middle of the poster), and Wallach isn't mentioned at all.
  • The trailer and (especially) posters for Manchester by the Sea prominently feature Michelle Williams, who plays Lee's ex-wife Randi. Her performance is very good and her character is important in a narrative sense in establishing elements of Lee's background but her entire screentime adds up to less than ten minutes. In contrast newcomer Lucas Hedges, who plays Patrick, one of the two main characters (alongside Lee) doesn't appear at all on most of the posters.
  • Applies to both the original and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate. Janet Leigh was third-billed for the original, despite having a much smaller (and less important) role than Angela Lansbury (credited as "co-starring"); additionally, Frank Sinatra got top billing even though lesser-known Laurence Harvey played Raymond Shaw, the pivotal character. When the remake came out, once again the actor playing Raymond Shaw, Liev Schreiber, was more talented than well-known, and got third-billing after Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, and the advertisement for the film made much of Jon Voight's rather small role.
  • In an Orson Welles DVD set, one of the four films is A Man for All Seasons, in which Welles has a cameo as the dying Cardinal Wolsey.
  • The radio spots for The Man with the Iron Fists strangely de-emphasized Russell Crowe's lead role in the film and gave top billing to Lucy Liu (possibly due to her connection with Quentin Tarantino, who produced this film and directed Liu in Kill Bill).
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Mazes and Monsters gets a lot of this too. Technically Hanks was top billed and his character could be considered a lead, but the film was really more of an ensemble piece. The usual current DVD covers feature a picture of Hanks that's much more recent than the 1982 date of the film, superimposed over a sort of Standard Fantasy Setting labyrinth, thereby also misidentifying the actual nature of the film.
  • An oddity in both posters for Me and Orson Welles - on the US one Claire Danes gets top billing with Zac Efron second and Christian McKay third. On the UK one the largely unknown McKay (who, coincidentally, is British) goes first, then Danes, with Efron getting an 'and' credit. This is despite Efron playing the lead character and being the biggest name in the cast.
  • The film The Mighty was heavily advertised using Sharon Stone and Gillian Anderson in the trailers, despite them having relatively minor supporting roles in the film. The DVD cover features photos of them, along with Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton, who were also minor. Elden Henson, whose character NARRATES the film and is obviously the main focus, is billed 7th in the opening credits.
  • Though not the worst example, Amanda Seyfried was rarely mentioned during promotion for Les Misérables (2012). Anne Hathaway on the other hand was promoted heavily. Anyone who's seen the musical knows Seyfried's character borders on Deuteragonist while Hathaway's character is barely present at all.
    • Universal more than likely limited Seyfried's role in the marketing since she had been in a number of recent flops and the studio likely felt that her appearance would limit the audience (Universal did the same thing on Safe House by barely showing Ryan Reynolds in the ad campaign).
    • Similarly, Samantha Barks and Aaron Tveit were the only members of the main cast to be left off the trailer's list of actors and to not have their own mini-posters, although anyone who is familiar with the story knows that Eponine is arguably as important as Cosette (Seyfried) and that Enjolras leads the revolution.
      • And speaking of the revolution, in a more general case of Never Trust a Trailer, it is hardly glimpsed in most of the trailers but plays an enormous part in about half the movie.
  • In the credits of The Misfits, Wallach has a much larger role than Montgomery Clift, but is billed second to last.
  • The Rock in The Mummy Returns was billed next to Brendan Fraser and had about 10 minutes of screen time with no dialogue, and half of that was Conspicuous CG.
  • Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis are billed as the stars of the 1949 film My Friend Irma in the DVD release. Actually they are very much supporting characters to the real star Marie Wilson, who played Irma in a hit radio sitcon of the same name. Incidentally the title refers to neither Martin nor Lewis but Jane, the character played by Diana Lynn. The unfortunate Lynn is the film's narrator and has more screentime/plot importance than Martin and Lewis but doesn't even get her name on the DVD cover, let alone her picture.
  • Much of the promotional material for My Girl made it look like Macaulay Culkin was joint lead with ‎Anna Chlumsky, as he appeared in all the posters with her and the trailer was even told from his perspective. At the time of the films release in 1991 Culkin was extremely famous after the megahit Home Alone while Chlumsky was an unknown newcomer. In the actual film Chlumsky's character Vada is very clearly the main character and the film is told from her perspective; Culkin plays the supporting role of Thomas J who, while still significant, has far less screentime than Vada and he dies two thirds of the way through.
  • In Napoleon Dynamite, Diedrich Bader gets major billing in the opening credits despite him being in only two scenes. This ignores those who actually have larger roles than Bader such as Haylie Duff. Somewhat justified in that Bader's appearance is a One-Scene Wonder appearance and probably one of the most memorable performances in the movie.
  • National Lampoon's Vacation will nearly always be advertised as starring Chevy Chase and John Candy... despite Candy only being in the last 5 minutes of the film in a very minor role.
  • Steve Burns plays the lead in NetherBeast Incorporated, but is left off the billing. Likewise, Jason Mewes gets top billing but isn't featured much.
  • The theatrical posters and video and DVD covers of Newsies do not include Christian Bale's name on the front, instead crediting only Robert Duvall (who played the villain), and Ann-Margret (who sang two songs). Bale's name does appear on the Blu-Ray cover, since he became the biggest name in the cast by the time the movie came to Blu-Ray.
  • Bela Lugosi is fourth-billed in Ninotchka. He has one scene that's not even a One-Scene Wonder.
  • The theatrical run for No Retreat, No Surrender gave top billing to a pair of budding martial arts phenoms, Kurt McKinney and Jean-Claude Van Damme. McKinney's character is the focus of the entire movie and is onscreen all throughout. Van Damme's character appears twice, a very quick action sequence at the beginning and the big fight at the end (which lasts about 15 minutes), and he has something like 3 lines. Even better, the current video release has Van Damme alone on the cover.
  • Now You See Me: Jesse Eisenberg gets top billing, but Mark Ruffalo's character has the biggest amount of screentime. But then, that might just be intentional misdirection.
  • Once Upon a Time in Mexico pushes Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek as the "leads", which is understandable since they were the leads in the previous film. In this one, Johnny Depp has far more screen-time, and Hayek is only present in flashbacks.
  • The 1965 movie Operation: Crossbow features George Peppard as an American engineer who assumes the identity of a German engineer in order to infiltrate the Nazi V2 rocket base at Peenemunde. In one short scene, the German engineer's wife, played by Sophia Loren, tracks her 'husband' down and is later killed to prevent her from alerting the Gestapo to the identity theft. Loren's scene is no more than five minutes long, yet she received top billing in the American release (the movie was produced by her husband, Carlo Ponti).
  • Kate Upton is third-billed on The Other Woman (2014) (after Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann) and all over the publicity, but she doesn't appear until quite some time (like, nearly an hour) into the movie. But this is more justified than billing Nicki Minaj above Taylor Kinney; his character (Mann's brother and ultimately Diaz's partner in love) is more important to the story, whereas the large-assed one has hardly any screen time with her biggest function being to laugh uproariously as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's character sustains some serious injuries during his Villainous Breakdown in the climax.
  • The poster for The Piano featured Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, and Sam Neill getting billed but not Anna Paquin, who plays a more important role than the latter two. Today, though, Paquin is the person most associated with the film, mostly due to her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win, and few people remember that Hunter won an Oscar for the same movie as well.
  • The first Pirates of the Caribbean was written with it in mind that Will Turner was the male lead and Jack Sparrow was a supporting character who was only there for the purpose of teaching Will how to be a pirate. Then Johnny Depp got cast in the role and gradually the script was rewritten until he was at least the second lead, and he received top billing. This is a sort of inversion/subversion/playing straight of this trope all at the same time. The sequels were unabashedly about Jack Sparrow and the fourth film doesn't even feature Will.
  • Platoon was really an ensemble film, but if there is a central character, it's Charlie Sheen's green recruit Chris Taylor, from whose point of view most of the action takes place. Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe, who play the evil Sgt. Barnes and saintly Sgt. Elias, who show him the extreme ends of the spectrum of what war does to people, are both billed ahead of him.
  • Playing For Keeps DVD release had 'starring Marisa Tomei' with a large portrait of her on the left and a cast photo (including her) on the right. Granted the original promotional material featured her as token female among the New York friends.
  • When Popeye came out in 1980, the makers of the 1977 Sketch Comedy film Can I Do It 'Till I Need Glasses? decided to re-release the film with scenes featuring the now-famous Robin Williams that were cut when it first came out. Naturally, they exploited this in the advertising, even though he had only two segments. He sued them and later video releases had his scenes removed again. At least until the DVD came out.
    • Robin Williams had this happen to him a lot. Probably the greatest example is Dead Poets Society in which his character, though undeniably pivotal, is on screen for perhaps two thirds of the film. The focus is on the students, primarily the roles played by Ethan Hawke and Robert Sean Leonard. If the role of Keating had been played by a non-marquee character actor, he likely would have been billed at the end with an "And Starring" credit.
    • Conversely, none of the ads for the Kenneth Branagh film Dead Again even mentioned Williams, who was arguably the biggest star in it at the time. All the promotional material hyped Branagh's and Emma Thompson's characters, who were the leads, while Williams was unbilled and was onscreen for perhaps eight minutes. An odd case of a complete inversion of this trope for Williams.
  • Because he wasn't well known at the time, Edward Norton was billed sixth in Primal Fear, despite playing the main focus of the film. As Norton became a big star after the film's release, later home releases billed him second on the cover.
  • Primary Colors: Adrian Lester (TV's Hustle) is listed FIFTH in nearly all material for the film, despite obviously being the lead character. John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Kathy Bates are all listed above him. Even though Thornton and Bates play much smaller characters, and even Travolta and Thompson (as a fictional Bill and Hillary Clinton) are back-ups to Lester's Henry Burton.
  • Intentionally employed by Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho. Janet Leigh was billed as the star of the film, and is the de facto protagonist of the film until she's killed off fairly early on, thus shocking the audience by not just taking their protagonist away, but the most recognizable face in the movie. Arguably Hitchcock's Moment of Awesome.
  • Val Kilmer was given top billing for Real Genius, while Gabriel Jarret was the main character.
  • Red has Mary-Louise Parker billed sixth despite having the most scenes in the film outside of Bruce Willis' character.
  • Posters and video releases of the 1985 Red Sonja movie has Arnold Schwarzenegger as lead. Brigitte who?
  • Reign of Fire has Matthew McConaughey billed first, Christian Bale billed second and had most of its ad campaign focused around the former. In the actual film, Bale is the main character while McConaughey is more of a supporting character. McConaughey's character doesn't even make it to the end. Though to be fair, Bale receives top billing in the ending credits.
  • Nancy Allen gets second billing (under Robert John Burke) in RoboCop 3, despite having less screentime than Rip Torn (who appears in more scenes than her), and despite being killed off a third of the way through the film.
  • The Rocker is a fairly mild case; while the trailer does show that Rainn Wilson plays the main character, it implies that Josh Gad's part is the most important of the younger band members, and that he is after Emma Stone's character. Actually Teddy Geiger has the larger, more dramatic role and it is he who ends up with Stone.
  • Denzel Washington is top billed in Safe House and was all over the film's advertising. The actual lead is Ryan Reynolds (who took a back seat in all of the marketing due to the failures of Green Lantern and The Change-Up).
  • A DVD release of the 1940 Western Santa Fe Trail implies that the film is about a friendly rivalry between soldiers Ronald Reagan and Errol Flynn for the affections of Olivia de Havilland. The film is actually about Errol Flynn chasing infamous abolitionist John Brown (played by Raymond Massey, who isn't mentioned on the DVD cover). The Gipper is little more than Flynn's sidekick.
  • The American DVD release of The Sapphires had Chris O'Dowd (who plays the titular band's manager) front and center, while the Sapphires themselves were regulated to the background. O'Dowd actually blasted the cover, and said that the choice to highlight the Token White Male of the cast ahead of the actual stars was offensive and contrary to the film's message.
  • Satanic gives both Jeffrey Combs and Angus Scrimm prominent billing. Their combined screentime comes to less than eight minutes.
  • Saving Private Ryan made much of rising star Matt Damon in the title role, with his name in all the ads, and the poster billing him third, underneath only Tom Hanks and Edward Burns. This is understandable, as not only was Damon portraying the titular soldier, he was also fresh off his Oscar-nominated performance in Good Will Hunting and very popular. However, since the plot of this film concerns a mission to rescue his character, he actually doesn't appear until the last fifteen minutes or so. Still, the ending credits avert this; Damon is billed ninth, underneath Hanks and the actors portraying the members of his character's platoon, who all have much more screen time than Damon.
  • Tobin Bell (Jigsaw), due to being the icon of the franchise, gets top billing in Saw 3D despite having a grand total of two minutes screentime.
  • Heather Graham got top billing over Chris Klein for Say It Isn't So, but Klein has more screentime than Graham. He did however, get top billing in the closing credits.
  • Freddie Prinze Jr.. (as Fred) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (as Daphne) are billed above Matthew Lillard (as Shaggy) who has roughly more screen time in Scooby-Doo.
  • On the cover of The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior Randy Couture's image gets the most space and only his name is shown. The credits still list protagonist Michael Copon first.
    • In the Sequel / Interquel The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption, protagonist Victor Webster at least has its name on the cover.
  • There was a lot of hype about Drew Barrymore starring in Scream (1996), with equal billing to Neve Campbell. Barrymore dies in the first 10 minutes. This was intentional to establish that Anyone Can Die.
  • Doug Bradley has a single scene in Scream Park, encompassing maybe 15 minutes of screen time. He's the only actor whose name is mentioned on the DVD cover.
  • Fourth-billed Woody Strode played the title character in the Western Sergeant Rutledge. Star Trek's Jeffrey Hunter was top-billed.
  • For the DVD release of Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird Elmo is featured on the cover suggesting he is an important character, however Elmo's role is very minor; he only shows up in two scenes near the beginning he is seen dancing down the street in the opening song and at the end of the movie he opens a window to a building and sings a verse of the song.
  • Even though he portrays the main character and appears on the cover of The Criterion Collection DVD, Max von Sydow is billed fourth in The Seventh Seal.
  • The American remake of Shall We Dance seems to make a big deal about Nick Cannon and Ja Rule being in the film. Each actor appears in only one scene of the film (and in Ja Rule's case, he's an Advertised Extra with no purpose to the plot).
  • SHAZAM! has Zachary Levi billed first. It's kinda OK since he's the title character, but Asher Angel, who plays his alter-ego, is billed third behind Mark Strong, who plays the Big Bad. Asher has the most screentime of the three actors.
  • In the closing credits of The Shop Around the Corner, Margaret Sullavan gets top billing over Jimmy Stewart who had been in several hit movies prior to this one.
  • Ask anyone who the lead character is in The Silence of the Lambs and they'll tell you without hesitation that it's the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by the great Anthony Hopkins. Accordingly, Hopkins was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar and won. The poster bills him second, after Jodie Foster, at least acknowledging that she is the real star (her face is also the cover image). In actuality, Hopkins is onscreen for about 22 minutes, less time than Scott Glenn, who is billed third, and about equal with Ted Levine, billed fourth and the film's actual antagonist. The film isn't about Lecter at all, really. He's just the one who teaches Foster's FBI trainee how to think like a killer.
    • The third film in the series, Red Dragon, does it again. This time, Lecter is obviously not a central character, as a great majority of the film focuses on Edward Norton's Will Graham and Ralph Fiennes's Francis Dolarhyde. Hopkins is still billed first.
  • The DVD cover for the 2006 film Simon Says gives top billing to Crispin Glover and Blake Lively, while relegating Margo Harshman to "with" status. Glover is indeed one of the film's stars, as is Miss Harshman... unlike Miss Lively, who only appears in the last few minutes (interestingly, on the film's poster she's billed seventh - the movie was produced by her father, and several other Lively friends and relatives appear in the film).
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was advertised heavily with Angelina Jolie in the trailers and giving her third billing, even though she shows up fairly late in the film and essentially has a glorified cameo.
  • Robert Englund in 1975's Slashed Dreams, despite no dreaming, no slashing and Robert doesn’t actually show up until the last ten minutes or so - and then only as a good guy.
  • In the 1998 film Small Soldiers, Kirsten Dunst gets top billing despite playing the love interest of the protagonist.
  • In Spaceballs, director Mel Brooks, who plays two secondary characters, is given top billing, followed by John Candy (the sidekick) and Rick Moranis (the villain). All three are Billed Above the Title, and only then do we get Bill Pullman (the protagonist) and Daphne Zuniga (the female lead). The five of them are in alphabetical order, but that doesn't explain why one DVD cover only features Brooks, Candy, and Moranis.
  • In Spawn, John Leguizamo gets top billing but Michael Jai White (who gets second billing) is actually the main character, while Leguizamo is the main antagonist. Still, the end credits list Jai White first.
  • Despite playing the central antagonist and featuring heavily in the trailer, Roger Allam's name cannot be found on the poster or DVD box credits for Speed Racer. His name does appear (very far down) in the end credits, but he doesn't get credited with the other main cast in the main credits at all. Those who were included? Kick Gurry, Benno Furmann, Hiroyuki Sanada and Rain. Little-known actors (in the US, anyway), and in much more minor roles.
  • Arguably present in Spring Breakers. Selena Gomez is billed second only to James Franco (and is the first name on the poster art), above Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson. Gomez's character leaves the film halfway through, whereas the ones played by Hudgens and Benson (unlike Franco's) stay alive all the way to the end. However, prior to her exit and the introduction of Franco's character, the film is primarily focused on Gomez.
  • Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. It can be argued that this was the case in the first two as well since the children were the main characters, but, of course, no marketing department on Earth would throw away having two movie stars on-screen for most of the movie. However, in the third one, Banderas and Gugino were only given cameos at the end and were still top-billed.
  • While Stardust does seem to give top billing to Claire Danes (who played one of the main characters), Michelle Pfeiffer (as the villain) and Robert de Niro (as a fairly minor character) come before Charlie Cox. The Hero. The DVD cover also takes pains to point out that it features Sienna Miller, Ricky Gervais, and Peter O'Toole, all of whom have three scenes at the very most.
  • Trailers for Stargate Continuum all overstated Richard Dean Anderson's role as Jack O'Neill in that film, some to the extent of even making him appear to be the main character. He shows up briefly at both the start and ending, and disappears quietly somewhere in the first act, remaining absent for the remainder.
  • Star Wars:
  • The Film of the Book of Stormbreaker has Ewan McGregor billed with the main cast as Ian Rider, the protagonist's uncle, who dies before the opening credits!
  • Jared Leto is billed second in Suicide Squad for his role as the The Joker and is prominently featured in the film's marketing, but has virtually no involvement in the main plot of the film and is only seen for about seven minutes.
    • On the opposing edge, Karen Fukuhara (Katana) doesn't get her name alone in the Video Credits - unlike Adam Beach (Slipknot), who barely appears before being killed off and a glorified cameo by Common as a mobster.
  • Superman has Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman billed above the title, while Christopher Reeve, who plays Superman, is first billed below the title. Margot Kidder is also billed very late in the credits, despite having the pivotal Lois Lane role, as a result of everyone after Reeve being in alphabetical order. Of course, while Brando received notoriously outsize compensation for his small part and Hackman has a huge part as the villain, Reeve charmed the world as the Metropolis Marvel and the sequels gave him the proper top billing as a result, although in the first sequel, Hackman was still billed before Reeve. Reeve however was now billed before the title, unlike in the first movie.
    • Christopher Columbus: The Discovery has a similar order: Brando and Tom Selleck above the title, unknown actor Georges Corraface (as Columbus) in the Reeve position. It was made by the same producers as the Superman film.
  • George Clooney was the executive producer of the film Syriana, and the film was based on a non-fiction book written by the man he portrays in the film. He is billed first and the cover art is a picture of his face. Then around Oscar time, when it became clear that the Best Actor field was going to be crowded, the studio, with Clooney's permission, declared that the film was actually an ensemble piece, that Clooney's character didn't really get any more screen time than the others (not exactly a lie) and that he should properly be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He was, and won, making this a case of billing displacement displacement.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is given star billing in The Terminator, which is not surprising since he is the titular character, but his screen time amounts to less than 30 minutes, and given the nature of the role, he only has about 35 lines. The protagonists of the film are Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn.
  • The theatrical poster for The Thin Red Line bills Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, Jim Caviezel, Ben Chaplin, George Clooney, John Cusack, Woody Harrelson, Elias Koteas, Nick Nolte and John C. Reilly in that order. Penn is the only one billed out of alphabetical order despite not having any more importance in the film than Harrelson or Nolte. The original script as written focused on Brody's Cpl. Fife, but was re-edited after filming was complete to focus on Jim Caviezel's Pvt. Witt, Ben Chaplin's Pvt. Bell and Dash Mihok's Pvt. Doll. Mihok doesn't even get poster billing despite having much more screen time than Brody (and both were unknowns at the time). George Clooney's cameo is barely five minutes long.
  • The video edition of The Third Man has Orson Welles alone on the cover, even though Welles only features in the last 20 minutes or so, and his appearance is supposed to be a reveal. Joseph Cotten is the actual star, although he does get top billing.
  • This Is the End gives top billing to James Franco and Jonah Hill, when the third billed Seth Rogen and the fourth billed Jay Baruchel are the main characters.
  • When A Time to Kill was shown on network television, a promo only showed Kevin Spacey and Ashley Judd as the leads.
  • The cast billed on the poster for Titanic includes Bernard Hill, who plays the captain, and doesn't have much to do except go down with the ship, and Danny Nucci, whom most people might not even remember was in the film. Not billed on the poster? Jonathan Hyde, who plays the director of the shipping line the Titanic is a part of, and is portrayed quite prominently; Victor Garber, who portrays the ship's designer and is also prominent, and Gloria Stuart, who plays older Rose and who got an Oscar nomination for the role.
  • Britt Robertson is billed third on the Tomorrowland behind George Clooney and Hugh Laurie, despite the fact that her character is clearly the protagonist. Nevertheless, she is getting the most buzz from the film.
  • One of the most striking examples: the actual main character in Training Day is Ethan Hawke's rookie rather than Denzel Washington's crooked cop, but Hawke is hardly remembered while Washington won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Despite playing the main character, Hawke was nominated for a Supporting Role.
  • Sean Penn is billed second in The Tree of Life but is in about five minutes of the entire movie. Jessica Chastain, who has many more scenes in the film (on par with top-billed Brad Pitt), is billed third.
  • The 2010 adaptation of True Grit does this big-time. Hailee Steinfeld doesn't get her name on the poster (although at least she does appear on them) and was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress role. This despite the fact that she was the lead character, she narrates the film and has the most lines and appears in the most scenes. Admittedly she's very young and doesn't have much other acting work to show, but it's kind of ridiculous that she got bumped on the poster for Josh Brolin, who only appears for the last section of the movie, where he has about the same amount of screentime as Barry Pepper, who is barely featured. In the film she gets an "And Starring" billing, as it is her first.
  • When Gillian Anderson was doing The X-Files and it was discovered she had appeared in a film The Turning, that film was released on VHS with Anderson given prominence, although she only appears for a few minutes.
  • Although he's not really billed, Brian Molko's face shows up prominently on the DVD cover of Todd Haynes glam rock flick Velvet Goldmine. The members of Placebo only have a small cameo and a few lines, but it seems like the DVD distributors knew their audience.
  • What to Expect When You're Expecting: In the posters, Brooklyn Decker is billed below Cameron Diaz, Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Lopez, but they are also billed above Anna Kendrick. In the movie itself, however, Kendrick is one of the main characters while Decker plays a supporting role in the story of Wendy (Banks's character).
  • Willow follows the adventures of the character of the same name, played by Warwick Davis, and only leaves his perspective to show what the villains are plotting. However, Davis gets third billing to Val Kilmer and Joanne Whalley, both playing supporting characters.
  • Matthew McConaughey was billed fourth in The Wolf of Wall Street and was prominently featured in the trailer, despite appearing in a grand total of three scenes in a three hour movie.
  • Woman Haters was a short subject released in 1934 that was meant to showcase Marjorie White (who died in a car crash shortly after making this film, making it her last role), and her name's the only one on the initial title card. She does appear, and is a central player, but these days it's known as the first film from Columbia featuring The Three Stooges (albeit not in their actual stooge roles).
    • On television, it is often shown as the first Three Stooges "episode".
  • The DVD cover for the 2009 film Women in Trouble shows a smiling Joseph Gordon-Levitt among other women and Simon Baker. In reality, his appearance in the movie is actually past the very ending credits sequence showcasing his name among the cast and crew and is nothing more than a glorified cameo. His role was expanded in the sequel Electra Luxx, where he is the film's narrator.
  • Robin Wright gets third billing in Wonder Woman despite her character getting killed off 15 minutes into the film.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
    • Anna Paquin (see The Piano example below) only appears in a brief cameo with no lines, but is listed higher than Peter Dinklage and Ellen Page, whose characters have plenty of screentime and are essential to the plot. The reason is because most of her scenes were cut and only appear in a special edition Blu-Ray release (which is even titled "Rogue Cut" to acknowledge Paquin's character).
    • Storm was only a minor character, yet Halle Berry's name is listed above that of Nicholas Hoult, who plays Beast, one of the film's most important characters.
    • Similar to the Australian examples above, French advertisers made great mileage of the fact that Bishop was played by French actor Omar Sy (who appears for a few minutes and has only a few lines of dialogue), some of them going as far as dubbing it "Hugh Jackman and Omar Sy fighting enemies of mutantkind".


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