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The Best Super Bowl Commercials of All Time

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Yay, football. 

Listen, whether you’re a pigskin-loving, team-colors-face-painting, $10,000-ticket-buying super-fan of America’s, uh, other favorite pastime, or simply a casual observer who’s just here for the suds and wings, or maybe even – gasp – one of those filthy nerds who once referred to the uniforms as “costumes” by accident in front of all your friends, it’s safe to say that there’s one thing we’re all looking forward to when Super Bowl Sunday arrives: the ads.

The insanely expensive commercials are the advertisers’ chance to reach one of the most embiggened TV audiences of the year, and as such the ads are often memorable, celebrity-filled, and these days, of course, meme-ready. But in the pantheon of Big Game ads, what are the best of the best? Which commercials in the history of the Super Bowl have proven truly worship-worthy on the holiest day on the American calendar?

These are our picks for the best Super Bowl ads of all time.


10. Betty White (Snickers)

Riding the Betty White pop-culture love of the time, 2010’s Snickers ad features the Golden Girls star playing a game of football with some dudes. Sure, she was 88 at the time and came out of retirement to film the segment, but this is Betty White! So when the former Hollywood Squares and $25,000 Pyramid mainstay takes a hard tackle and lands in the mud, her response – “Oh come on, man. You’ve been riding me all day!” – is totally believable.

The commercial started the Snickers “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign that would soon make it the number one candy bar on the market (up from number seven). At least, that’s what the Mars Wrigley brand’s ad agency claims. And while it’s a bit disappointing that the revered comedienne turns out to actually be some guy named Mike who’s only playing like Betty White, we then see that Abe Vigoda is also on the field taking hits. Such highs and lows in this ad! 

Watch the ad here.

9. Frogs (Budweiser)

Quick, someone cue Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra.” First Budweiser wanted to ingratiate itself to hard-working Americans with some workhorses, then they went after the frat bros with a dog in a Hawaiian shirt, but for Super Bowl XXIX in 1995, the beermaker searched high and low for its next spokes-animals – and found them in the swamps. Of course, we’re talking about the Budweiser frogs.

Those rhythmically croaking frogs proved so successful that it caused a genuine moral panic. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving took out ads in newspapers calling on Anheuser-Busch to can Bud, Weis, and Er because they were too popular with children. Comparisons were drawn to Joe Camel – that Austin Butler-esque, cig-ripping, sax-playing, sexy camel whose ads were also retired because kids (rightfully) thought he was cool. And like Joe Camel, the frogs would eventually be retired. But for a moment, that Gore Verbinski- directed ad was so successful that a 1996 study showed that children recognized the frogs more than other mascots like Ronald McDonald and Tony the Tiger.

Watch the ad here.

8. Puppy Love (Budweiser)

Look, there are two mainstays of Super Bowl ads. One is Budweiser, and the other is the tearjerker. You know – the first is the “I can drink 15 of these like they’re water” type and the second is the “Shit, I’m crying in front of my friends because this commercial is so sad and I also drank 15 beers” type.

The Budweiser Clydesdales are mascots that the bottler has served up for many a game day ad, but we’re including this particular one on our list because the 2014 segment has got a lovable horse, a lovable puppy, and a happy ending. Actually, that describes some other Bud Super Bowl ads as well, come to think of it. But only this one features a dog and horses that revolt against a human, so it still comes out on top.

Watch the ad here.

7. Like a Girl (Procter & Gamble’s Always)

On the more serious side, there are ads that actually have something to say, even if they’re trying to sell you something while they do it. 2015’s “Like a Girl” questions gender stereotypes in a simple way, posing questions to its subjects like “Show me what it looks like to run like a girl” or “to fight like a girl.” The responses are stereotypical at first, but when little girls are brought in and asked the same questions, their heads aren’t filled with any of that junk yet. And so they run, and they throw, and they fight, and being a girl has nothing to do with it.

Watch the ad here.

6. When I Grow Up (Monster.com)

Way to kill our buzz, Monster.com! This ad, which is shot almost entirely in black and white, features several children speaking straight to the camera about what they want to be when they grow up. A fireman? A doctor? An astronaut?! Nope…

“I want to climb my way up to middle management,” says one kid, for example.

This was 1999, so it wasn’t just the age of the dot-com boom, where sites like Monster.com were promising to change our lives for the better, but it was also apparently an era where folks wanted to feel bad about their lives while watching the Super Bowl? At least, that’s what the success of the ad seems to indicate – according to Ad Age, Monster’s traffic increased by about a million visitors per month for the rest of the year after this one aired.

Watch the ad here.

5. Halftime in America (Chrysler)

This 2012 Chrysler ad isn’t celebratory in the usual Super Bowl Sunday way, but it is meant to be optimistic in its hardened approach. A steely-faced, gravelly-voiced Clint Eastwood – is that redundant? – narrates the piece, which is centered on U.S. carmakers’ attempts at recovery in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The previous year, Chrysler had success with an ad called “Born of Fire,” which featured Eminem and imagery of an ascendant Detroit. But in “Halftime in America” (directed by David Gordon Green), the focus may be on the auto industry, but the real message is directed at the entire country. And it worked, as the ad became somewhat controversial in political circles – and highly viewed.

Watch the ad here.

4. Hare Jordan (Nike)

You want the ad that led to the creation of Space Jam? Fine, but then you also have to admit that it also led to the creation of Space Jam: A New Legacy…

Michael Jordan may not have been a professional football player, but he was – and is – one of the most famous athletes in the world. So teaming him up with Bugs Bunny, who is certainly one of the most famous cartoon rabbits in the world, must’ve made some kind of sense in 1992. That the ad ends with Bugs promising that this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship only proved that the rascally rabbit could add prophetic to his list of many talents.

Watch the ad here.

3. The Force (Volkswagen)

They got some Star Wars in our Super Bowl ad with this one from 2011, but man, did it work. Time would go on to call it “the ad that changed Super Bowl commercials forever,” mainly because of the decision to run it online before the Big Game. That wasn’t really a first in the industry, but it was a huge success, and as a result to this day we now get a ton of ads in advance of Super Bowl Sunday. Go ahead, share that mega-corporation’s ad on your socials. It don’t cost nothin’ (especially for them).

As for the actual piece, it’s just a charming-as-all-get-out depiction of a little kid dressing up as Darth Vader and trying to pull some Force moves. (We’ve all done it at one time or another, though the dressing up part is always optional.) But when the kid’s dad decides to do a little remote-start action with his car, giving the impression that the Force is, like, real, he rocks the child’s world. And maybe… turns him into a real-life dark lord from the resulting trauma? Who can say?

Watch the ad here.

2: Hey Kid, Catch! (Coca-Cola)

When you make an ad that goes on to inspire a TV special, you know you did something right. And that’s exactly what happened with Coca-Cola’s “Hey Kid, Catch!,” which aired during Super Bowl XIV in 1980. Featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Mean Joe” Greene, the spot sees a young fan offer a beleaguered and beaten-up Greene his Coke.

It’s a sort of awkwardly constructed and performed ad by today’s slicker standards, but as Green tosses his jersey to the kid and utters the titular catchphrase, which you can kindaaa hear over the cheery jingle that’s also playing, Coca-Cola was instantly assured their biggest advertising slam dunk – if you’ll forgive our mixing of sports metaphors – since Don Draper hit it big for the soft drink conglomerate. (Which, by the way, that ad also played during the Super Bowl a few years earlier.)

Watch the ad here.

1: 1984 (Apple)

Of course, Apple’s now-legendary commercial for what in 1984 was its new line of Macintosh home computers remains one of the most influential and memorable ads ever. Directed by Ridley Scott himself, the acclaimed filmmaker brings his Alien and Blade Runner panache to this spin on George Orwell’s famed novel about a bleak and grubby dystopian future.

As the monochrome, zombified denizens of this version of 1984 stare, mouths agape, at a Big Brother figure on a giant telescreen, a very colorful, very ’80s, uh, marathon runner, I guess, speeds through the crowd, hurling a sledgehammer at the screen and smashing it in defiance of the world around her. Onscreen text then promises that with the arrival of the Macintosh, we’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.” And yet, here we are in 2024 and the screens may have gotten smaller thanks to Apple, but the mouths agape as we stare at those same screens seem pretty, pretty familiar…

Watch the ad here.


But hey, what are your favorite Super Bowl ads? Let us know in the comments – with your mouths agape if you want – and be sure to like and subscribe to IGN!



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