This weekend, the Carolina Panthers will take on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. And since this NFL championship game has been televised, we’ve seen a steady stream of notable, even iconic, commercials make their debut during the broadcasts.
It’s not surprising. The Super Bowl is always one of the most watched sports events in the world: last year’s Super Bowl XLIX raked in a record 114.4 million viewers. Given this, companies are willing to spend millions for a 30-second ad spot within the game. And that has resulted in some of the best, most hilarious, crazy, even heart-wrenching commercials to have ever graced our TV screens.
Remember Budweiser’s Wassup, and its Clydesdale horses? Or the E-Trade baby? What about Michael Jordan and Larry Bird competing in epic free throws for a McDonald’s Big Mac? Or Ali Landry skillfully catching Doritos in her mouth in a laundromat? From Pepsi and Coca Cola, to Budweiser, Volkwagen, Xerox, Doritos, Noxema, and Snickers, companies of all kinds have become a part of Super Bowl history.
On Tuesday, February 2, CBS aired a two-hour special highlighting the 50 best Super Bowl commercials of all time. According to Variety, the special, hosted by retired quarterback Boomer Esiason and actress/singer Katharine McPhee (Scorpion), raked in a total of 11.4 million viewers, and was the top program for the important 18-49 demographic.
So what are some of the best Super Bowl commercials of all time? There are a ton of pretty great ones. But we’ve narrowed it down to 10 of the most notable from the past few decades.
Up for Whatever, Budweiser (2014)
As one of several Budweiser spots on this list (Bud accounted for about a dozen entries on CBS’ list), the beer company took a unique approach and decided to appeal to our penchant for “reality” TV. A hot gal walks up to an unsuspecting patron in a bar (no, really), and offers him a Bud on one condition: he has to be “up for whatever.” Accepting the challenge, he sets out on a nightly journey that includes playing ping pong with Arnold Schwarzenegger, getting fitted for a sports jacket by model Minka Kelly, and running into Don Cheadle and a llama in an elevator. No doubt this was the best day of this guy’s life, and the commercial paid off in spades for Budweiser when it went viral, and led to a follow-up spot in 2015.
1984, Apple (1984)
Faced with stiff competition from IBM, Apple contracted movie director Ridley Scott for this controversial, but iconic, ad that suggested viewers break the mold and opt for the upcoming Macintosh computer instead of those bland boxes. The powerful message: avoid creating a me-too society that can be likened to George Orwell’s terrifying one from the novel 1984. While Apple almost pulled the ad for fear of its reception, we’re glad they didn’t. It demonstrated what Steve Jobs was capable of, and his unwavering confidence to take the company on its own path toward success.
Hey Kid, Catch (Mean Joe Greene), Coca Cola (1979)
Way back in 1979, this Coca Cola commercial tugged hard at our heartstrings. A nine-year-old boy approaches the limping, stone-faced, strapping 6’4’’ football player after a game, offering up some help, then his Coca Cola, only to dejectedly walk away after handing it over. That is, until Green calls him back, smiles, and throws a jersey at him. In the aforementioned CBS special, Green and Tommy Okon, who played the boy, reunite almost 40 years later to talk about the touching ad, and reveal that they have remained friends ever since. They were both in tears recalling the memories. And you will be too once you watch the sweet ad.
Talking Stain, Tide To Go (2008)
It’s hard not to crack up watching this one. There’s just something about it that’s completely relatable. To promote its new pen-like Tide To Go stain removers, the company got the message across perfectly by illustrating just how distracting a stain can be during one of the most stressful situations we encounter in life: The job interview. Hilarious.
Wassup, Budweiser (1999)
Chances are, you cringe today if someone shouts “Wassup!” with his tongue outstretched. That’s sooo ‘90s, right? But back then, Budweiser managed to create a pop culture phrase through this single ad, which led to a series of others over the next few years. The funniest follow-up came two years later, and involved a group of Caucasian males with their much more, er, refined version, called “What are you doing?” Together, both make this list.