Food & Drink

This Is the Best Microwave Popcorn Money Can Buy

Move theater quality without the ticket price.

microwave popcorn
Dan Gentile

There's no way to bring the movie theater experience home quite like popcorn, especially when it's caked in movie theater butter. So, to help you win the living room hunger games we decided to taste test all of the biggest brands to show which is the real blockbuster and which are kinda (milk) duds.

365 organic popcorn
Dan Gentile

365 Everyday Value Organic Microwave Popcorn Butter Flavor

The butter is barely there in this natural tasting popcorn, but authentic salty flavor and large pieces make up for what's missing in the butter department. This is the heartiest corn in the bunch and actually has the texture of stove-popped corn.

Newman's Pop's Corn
Newman's Own

Newman's Own Touch of Butter

It's sort of unfair to compare Newman's Touch of Butter to the other extreme butter blasts on this list, but grocery stores just don't carry his heavy-hitting stuff on the assumption that it's for an older, more health-conscious crowd. Everyone can rally around this bag for its fluff factor and perfect amount of butter on every piece.

Act II popcorn
Dan Gentile

Act II Butter Lovers

This packaging looks like it's from the part of the '80s that was not the good part. But when you dig into this popcorn, it lives up to the name. You can see pretty clearly which pieces you want. These are dusted very unevenly. They taste like the cheddar cheese popcorn from those tin tubs of three-colored corn that your Mom gets as Christmas presents because she's a teacher. Although the taste's far from actual butter, it's hard to be too disappointed with the sheer amount of flavor involved.

Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater Butter

This bag knocks it out of the park in the butter department. It's the only bag that had a separate pour-over butter component. At first taste, the butter is really intense, but it fades very quickly. Plus, it has serious crunch! It disintegrates in a magic way when hitting saliva, a technique pioneered by Cheetos in order to trick your brain into thinking it isn't actually consuming calories. All in all, this is a pretty solid choice. The wetness gives it an entirely different mouth/finger feel than any other popcorn, and it can't help but give the impression that the food scientist who worked on this won an employee of the month award.

Jolly Time popcorn
Dan Gentile

Jolly Time Blast O Butter Ultimate Theater Style

The term "blast" is totally accurate here. The butter is remarkably evenly distributed and the flavor is the longest lasting of any popcorn we tried. Perhaps because of the even butter distribution, there isn't as much crunch, but the texture is light and airy, meaning it gets stuck in your teeth much less than other brands. They're not lying about the whole jolly thing: pretty much everything about this product screams happiness.

pop secret
Dan Gentile

Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter

This is an entirely different butter experience. It actually tastes like butter! And we're not talking movie theater butter*: it's like the actual churned dairy product. You don't at all feel like you're eating a science experiment. The texture is soft, the kernels are perfectly obliterated, and the real butter lubrication ties the whole package together. This isn't as flashy as Jolly Time or as wet as Orville, but Pop Secret delivers a nearly flawless snacking experience that doesn't taste overly-processed or underflavored and it's the iconic bag of microwave popcorn. Bravo, Pop Secret.

*I worked at a movie theater in high school, and the butter was pretty much straight vegetable oil.

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Dan Gentile is a former staff writer on Thrillist's national food/drink team who has taste-tested everything from the Big Mac to the Big King. He also enjoys hating mustard. Follow him to pots of gold/Twitter at @Dannosphere.