The 50 Best Super Bowl Commercials Ever

Gordon BlockContributor IIIJanuary 19, 2012

The 50 Best Super Bowl Commercials Ever

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    The Super Bowl may be the biggest game of the NFL year, but it's also one of the biggest times of the year for advertisers and marketers. 

    One of the most watched events on TV all year, commercial spots during the game are both tough to get and very expensive. However, companies willing to fork up the big dough find themselves with an unmatched platform to get the word out about their products.

    When done right, the memory of these ads can live for a lot longer than their 30-second run time. The ads collected in this slideshow have done their job, creating enough publicity to offset any cost to get it on air.

    Here are the 50 best Super Bowl commercials in NFL history. 

50. Miller High Life, "1 Second Ad" (2009)

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    It may not have been the first one-second Super Bowl ad (that would go to this ad for Master Lock), but this was definitely the best of the micro-sized commercials.

49. Hyundai, "Breaking News" (2010)

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    While this vision of the NFL universe appears to be more terrifying than it is accurate, it was an interesting direction for Hyundai to take for its commercial.

    For his part, Brett Favre was a good sport in reiterating his retirement decision flip-flopping to really make this work.

48. Budweiser, "Roommate" (2003)

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    There's a lot to like about this funny Budweiser ad from 2003. Sometimes, you can have your pie and eat it too. 

47. Careerbuilder.com, "Parking Lot" (2011)

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    I think it's pretty safe to say that most of us would go bananas if presented with this parking situation at the office (and that's not including the meeting this guy had to go to).

46. Doritos, "Pug Attack" (2011)

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    In this battle between a glass door and enthusiastic dog, the dog came out the clear winner. The Doritos are just that enticing.

45. Nike, "Hare Jordan" (1992)

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    This zany ad was one of the first pairings of superstar basketball player Michael Jordan and Looney Tunes lead Bugs Bunny.

    Stopping the on-court bullies with a mix of good fundamentals and cartoon shenanigans, this would set the stage for a few more ads leading into the making of the film Space Jam.

44. FedEx, "Alien" (2004)

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    It's one thing to deal with a coworker who isn't personable. It's a completely different thing when that person isn't a person at all.

    This FedEx commercial in 2004 is a handy blueprint for all visiting alien species: Just say FedEx, and you'll be fine.

43. Mastercard, "Errands" (2004)

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    A part of the "Priceless" ad campaign for Mastercard, this ad perfectly sums up the everyman humor that has made The Simpsons the success it has been for over 20 years.

    And seriously...a $75 haircut? Come on!

42. Snickers, "Betty White" (2010)

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    Veteran actress Betty White showed she could be a good sport (as well as run a nice route before being switched out for a body double) when she participated in this 2010 Snickers ad.

    Even better in this ad is the back-and-forth between White and the other guys in the huddle. She may not have any reason to be out on the field, but in terms of trash talk she handled herself just fine.

41. Mountain Dew, "Bohemian Rhapsody" (2000)

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    There's no way to fully give glory to the greatness that is Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," especially given the limited time and need for extreme Mountain Dew themed lyrics.

    However, they gave it a good shot, and the result came out pretty well.

    Now I just need to learn what the heck Slamdango means... 

40. Tide, "Your Talking Stain" (2008)

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    A great demonstration of how a stain can take away from one's overall appearance and perception by others, this ad literally gives the shirt stain a voice of its own.

    This is one of the more effective ads in this list for showing when the advertised product may be necessary, along with the consequences for not using the product. 

39. Denny's, "Nanerpus" (2009)

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    Try watching this ad and not smiling. If a moustached octopus-banana hybrid doesn't get you immediately, then the song and eye-removing dance motions should do the trick.

    Forget the Denny's breakfast...the real grand slam of this commercial was Nanerpus!

38. Sprint, "Crime Deterrent" (2006)

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    While I'm not sure about the efficacy in crime prevention through cell phone chucking, this Sprint ad did provide a new outlet for using the larger phones in the dark ages of cell phones, also known as 2006.

    With that said, please don't throw cell phones at others. Because if they're anything like the phone in the ad, it'll probably hurt real bad. There's a good chance they'll also break.  

37. Heineken, "Brad Pitt" (2005)

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    Brad Pitt has the persona of being one of the coolest guys around, and that plays to this ad perfectly. So an uncountable horde of photographers and paparazzi are on his tail? No problem.

    He just grabs his Heineken from the store, goes out the back exit and rolls out like a champ. Not even a drop of sweat.

    (Tough break for the photographer Bob there. Not only did he miss the shot of Pitt, but that camera he dropped was probably pretty expensive.) 

36. NFL, "Best Fans Ever" (2011)

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    In a clever bit of video editing, scenes and characters from popular TV shows of both today and yesterday have bits of NFL team merchandise added.

    See if you can name all of the shows and characters used in the minute-long ad.

35. Doritos, "House Rules" (2010)

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    It's Jalen's house, and he's got two rules:

    1. Keep your hands off his momma.

    2. Keep your hands off his Doritos.

    Needless to say, Jalen is not playing around.

34. Coca Cola, "It's Mine" (2008)

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    The balloons at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade have gone loose, and the main prize is up for grabs: a full bottle of Coca-Cola.

    While Underdog and Stewie (of Family Guy) may have the early lead, they find themselves watching as their prized item falls to a third balloon.

    Without giving too much away, the two might be saying, "Good grief!"

33. CareerBuilder.com, (2009)

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    This commercial makes a very convincing point. When you have serious thoughts about punching small animals (especially while they still have their glasses on), you may have some serious thinking to do about your job.

32. Bridgestone, "Karma" (2011)

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    This commercial for Bridgestone, first run this past Super Bowl, makes a pretty convincing case for everybody to take the time to think about Mother Earth and the welfare of small animals.

    In addition to having a good feeling about yourself, you might find they owe you a favor—a favor which might come in handy in the crisis the leads of this commercial finds themselves in.

31. Pets.com, "Deliveries" (2000)

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    I'm probably not the first to bring this up, but this puppet dog showed a little too much clairvoyance as it reminded us what goes up must come down.

    That was certainly the case for Pets.com, which went from one of the leaders in the dot-com era boom to one of its tragic stories. It went under after operating for about 20 months, a period in which it went from an IPO to a member of the NASDAQ to becoming bankrupt. 

30. Budweiser, "Clydesdale Team" (2008)

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    You can't always get what you want on the first try, and this Clydesdale learned this the hard way as he wasn't picked for the team.

    Despite the setback, the horse was able to turn things around. Pairing some determination with some moral support and some cranking tunes from the Rocky soundtrack, this Clydesdale got into peak shape for the following year's tryout.

    It's definitely one of the cutest ads on this list.

29. Bud Light, "Paper or Plastic" (1999)

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    In the face of tough decisions, it takes bold leadership to fight through the pain.

    For these two, that pain could be very substantial. A real pain in the butt.

    However, they were able to hold on to their Bud Light. I'm sure they'd look back on their purchase and say they made the right call.

28. Xerox, "Monks" (1977)

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    It's easy to forget with today's current printer technology how easy it is to transfer and duplicate documents. 

    Taking it back to the hypothetical dark ages, the monk in this ad decides to take the faster route when tasked to create 500 copies of the recently-finished document.

    The job was quick and easy, and the results of the duplication were so good that it was considered a miracle.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

27. Budweiser, "Separated at Birth" (1999)

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    In another quality ad from the folks at Budweiser, this reunites a pair of Dalmatians who were supposedly adopted by people in different backgrounds.

    While one dog is at the nearby fire station, the other has found its way with the Budweiser Clydesdales.

    Since their owners weren't going to stop when they passed each other, they adorably made the most of a head nod and a wagging tongue. A very cute ad.

26. FedEx, "Cast Away" (2003)

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    This FedEx castaway really may have wanted to look in that FedEx package box in this commercial.

25. Gatorade, "Jordan vs. Jordan" (2003)

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    This ad, made during what would be the last run of Michael Jordan, gives him the ultimate challenge on the basketball court. Playing against a very convincing model of himself from early in his NBA career, the two go toe-to-toe throughout the ad.

    While this is a a great display of technology, it is really more an example of the story-telling that can be accomplished with more sophisticated filming technologies.

24. Diet Pepsi (1987)

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    And the award for neighbor of the year goes to Michael J. Fox....

23. Pepsi (1995)

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    This 1995 ad from Pepsi shows that even the most hostile of rivals, like itself and rival Coca-Cola, can come together for some good times and good laughs. 

    At least for a little bit.

    Either way, the rivalry continues.

22. E-Trade, "Baby" (2008)

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    It was a simple idea: a baby who liked to make stock trades and liked doing them on E-Trade. While even the creator of the ads was unsure of their future success, it was clear very early that these were going to be a huge hit.

    Picking up on that success, the company has done several new iterations of the ad, giving the baby co-stars, coworkers and even a love interest. 

    Don't expect this baby to leave anytime soon.

21. Rainier Beer, "A Brew Apart" (1981)

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    Nothing says natural quite like a giant beer can running through a forest meadow.

    The folks at Rainier Beer understood the value of implying their connection with nature and made sure to go out of their way to create the right visual to make this happen.

    While it does border on ridiculous, this ad also puts the burden on its challengers to show they were more in tune with their surroundings. 

    Rainier shot its ad in a forest. What could its competitors do to surpass that? 

20. Old Spice, "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" (2010)

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    One of the most inspired ads of the past few years, this commercial from Old Spice launched a character with no name...the Old Spice Guy. 

    Rising beyond the role as simple spokesman, the pitchman (whose full name is Isaiah Mustafa) built a lot of publicity for the company through social media site Twitter and was able to raise money for several charities during the ad's heydey.

    Look down...look up. You're looking at a winning ad campaign. 

19. VW, "Big Day" (2001)

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    A modern-day equivalent to the ending of The Graduate, this advertisement leaves the drive and its purpose up until the very end.

    Making full use of its one-minute run time, it is one of the most cinematic of the ads compiled for this all-time listing.

18. Master Lock, "Tough Under Fire" (1973)

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    It may not be easy to get people fired up for the sales of household and personal locks, but the folks at Master Lock gave it a good shot, literally. Aiming a high-powered rifle at one of their locks, they showed the lock could handle a solid round right through the middle, while still protecting its latch.

    An impressive display, and one that clearly stuck with consumers for years.

17. Pepsi, "Innertube" (1995)

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    Some might say this 1995 commercial for Pepsi literally sucks. I don't think you can count me as one of those people. 

    Definitely one of the cuter ads in this list, it brings back a feeling of summer and the coolness of drinking out of a glass bottle.

    With that said, can somebody get the kid out of that bottle? That tight space looks incredibly painful.

16. Miller Lite (1980)

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    It may never be determined if the taste of Miller Lite or its reduced calories was a bigger selling point for former head coach and commentator John Madden and others, but it looks like without a stop to this commercial he would have talked for days.

    Either way, I just want to know if this would pair well with his favorite holiday dish, Turducken.

15. Google, "Parisian Love" (2010)

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    I think if you were to do a Google search for an example of an impressive ad, this would have to be pretty high up on the results page.

    Without showing a single person, this 2010 ad shows a lot more human warmth and emotion than most of the rest of this list.

    A beautiful ad debut for the tech colossus. 

14. Budweiser, "Budweiser Frogs" (1995)

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    The success of this particular beer ad came in three separate sounds.

    "BUD"..."WISE"..."URRR"

    Needless to say, this ad was an immediate hit for both fans and for the company itself.

13. Monster.com, "When I Grow Up" (1999)

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    The most humbling ad of the list, this ad from Monster.com asks us all if we really like where our career paths have taken us by framing it in the eyes of children.

    How man of us considered ourselves future middle management types? An office brown-noser? 

    Needless to say, this ad did its job in having us all think about ourselves and how what we do now is different from what we liked when we were younger.

12. NFL, "Crazy" (2003)

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    What other sporting experience can create the type of feverish intensity that the NFL can, asks star actor Don Cheadle. 

    The game makes us crazy, and for that we all come out as better fans.

11. Chrysler, "Imported from Detroit" (2011)

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    Things haven't been easy for the city of Detroit the past few years, and this ad from Chrysler flips the conventional thinking with a new message.

    The city may have been down, but it will work to return to its former glory. And it will get there thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of its residents.

    It may not be easy, but the residents of Detroit aren't giving up. Neither should the rest of America. 

10. McDonalds, "The Showdown" (1993)

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    Two NBA legends, one game of Horse for one Big Mac. In addition to putting on the longest game of Horse ever, they also run the risk of coming back to a cold burger.

    With that said, there's no doubt this is one of the best put-together sports commercials ever made.

9. Reebok, "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker" (2003)

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    Every office needs somebody who can keep everybody respectful and in line, and this 2003 ad from Reebok presented the perfect candidate: office linebacker Terry Tate.

    In addition to scaring the living daylights out of coworkers acting out of line, he ensured physical pain for those clearly breaking the rules.

    Despite the physical nature of his job and an injury he sustains in the ad while in the line of office duty, Tate is a consummate pro and plays through the pain to ensure the right level of pain is a constant worry to those sharing the office.

8. Budweiser, "Bud Bowl" (1989)

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    Forget the Super Bowl...the Bud Bowl was the major battle as the game went to commercials. Pitting the Budweisers against the Bud Lights, the first game ended in a dramatic tie as the Buds were preparing to line up the game-winning kick.

    Bud would get the dramatic first win the following year, scoring on the last play of the game in Bud Bowl 2.

7. Pepsi, "Gotta Have It" (1991)

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    It's tough to not like this commercial for Pepsi, first run in 1991.

    Cindy Crawford looks gorgeous, and the comedic delivery of the two kids in the neighboring field is right on the money. 

    Everything in this ad was done to perfection.

6. Budweiser, "Wassup!" (2000)

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    Not much to say for this one, but...

    Wasssssuuuuuuuuuuuppppppppppp!

5. Wendy's, "Where's the Beef?" (1984)

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    This 1984 ad from Wendy's laid down a major challenge to its rivals with one question.

    "Where's the Beef?"

    This iconic phrase is finally coming back after many years of falling out of style. Even if we're just talking about burgers and fries, it's always good to feel comfortable asking the tough questions and pressing for what is being asked for.

4. VW, "The Force" (2011)

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    The Star Wars movie series has a way of capturing imaginations like few other science fiction entities, so it's not surprising that the series was called upon in this ad for Volkswagen.

    The excited kid in the ad attempts to use the force like Darth Vader on several items around the house. He considers giving up but is given a pleasant surprise when he goes out to his dad's car.

    Well-paced and thoughtfully put together, this is a thing of beauty. The force is strong with this ad.

3. Budweiser, "Clydesdale Respect" (2002)

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    A Clydesdale bow was all the symbolism necessary for this moving commercial from Budweiser.

    Run in 2002, it was a simple, well thought-out tribute to the city of New York, just months after the devastating attacks of 9-11.

    Run on television only once, it's the gold standard for any company who considers trying this style of tribute in an advertisement.

2. Coca Cola, "Mean Joe Greene" (1980)

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    It may have debuted months before the Super Bowl, but it gained most of its popularity and legacy through its showing during the game, which makes it work for me.

    The ad was successful in making one of the toughest guys on the intimidating Pittsburgh Steelers defense, "Mean" Joe Greene, look like the most caring person you'll ever meet.

    Exchanging his jersey for a refreshing Coke, it will go down as one of the most iconic visuals in sports advertising history.

1. Apple, "1984" (1984)

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    The ultimate in Super Bowl advertising, this 1984 ad from Apple introducing its new Macintosh computers became a cultural standout despite only being shown once.

    Directed by "Blade Runner" director Ridley Scott, this set the standard for all other companies who planned on making a splash with their Super Bowl advertising.