Every Super Bowl 51 Commercial, Ranked
The Super Bowl is an event that's all about size: Two big teams face off in a big stadium in a big city as a big pop act performs at a big halftime show. To cut through all the spectacle surrounding the football game and leave an impression, advertisers have to think big, too -- which often results in Super Bowl ads stuffed with celebrities, gimmicks, special effects, expensive stunts, and, if we're lucky, Jeff Goldblum.
Just like last year, we assessed every Super Bowl commercial and ranked them all, from the inspirational duds to the actually funny ones you might even remember next year. (Note: We left out movie trailers and the local advertisements that pop up during the broadcast.) So grab your favorite Helen Mirren-approved beverage and read on.
It's weird to go negative on the Super Bowl, right? For its first-ever spot at the game, the friendly faced fast-food giant takes an odd pot-shot at its rivals, emphasizing the un-frozen magic of its beef. I guess if that's what you want to brag about in your commercial, go for it? But at least make it a little funnier next time.
Scientology returned to the Super Bowl for another commercial that made you go, "Wait... this isn't... really?"
OK, the Nintendo Switch looks cool and the new Zelda game is probably great. But this doesn't really feel like a Super Bowl commercial, right? This is the first time Nintendo has ever had an ad at the game. You'd think it'd go for something more ambitious. Where's Mario? Pikachu? Even Waluigi would be appreciated.
47. H&R Block
Jon Hamm provides the Don Draper-ey voice-over for this ad that touts H&R Block's collaboration with IBM's Watson, but the spot is a bland mix of inspirational clichés. Not worthy of Sterling Cooper.
This is a nice song, but the vaguely uplifting message struggled to stand out on a night when many other commercials took on the same tone.
45. Mobile Strike
The people who made this ad should "get to the chopper" and say "hasta la vista" to this long-running campaign with The Apprentice host Arnold Schwarzenegger. We get it already.
44. Fiji Water
It's tough for water to really make a name for itself during the Super Bowl. It's competing on such a big stage -- no one goes to work the day after the game and says, "Did you catch that sick water commercial last night?" So, I guess Fiji Water did a good job just sticking with a pretty basic ad here.
There were a lot of commercials during the game that attempted to strike an inspiring tone of inclusiveness, unity, and togetherness. This one wasn't the most convincing.
This commercial went for an action movie feel, but when you're competing with Vin Diesel and the Rock in a Fast and Furious trailer, you've gotta step your game up a bit. At least get Ludacris to do a cameo or something. This is the Super Bowl.
The candy company tried something new this year with a "live" commercial featuring everyone's favorite Star Wars bad guy Adam Driver, but ingenuity only gets you so far. The joke here doesn't really land.
40. King's Hawaiian
There's not a lot going on in this light-hearted ad for the bread company in their Super Bowl debut. The kids are cute and the little beat at the end -- a hand jumps out and scares them -- is clever, but this doesn't really feel like a "Super Bowl" ad. It could probably air whenever.
39. Alfa Romeo
Expensive cars go vroom in this well made ad that doesn't really leave much of an impression.
38. World of Tanks
This parody of reality shows is pretty quick, but it gets the point across. This is a game about tanks. Big tanks. Really big tanks. If you like really big tanks, you'll probably like this game -- and this ad.
So many old memes.
I like Little Giants as much as most intelligent people, so I was excited to see a bunch of pee-wee football-playing kids take on Cam Newton in this silly spot for Buick. But there's not enough tykes getting slammed by an NFL star to recommend this one -- and the supermodel cameo at the end feels like a lame commercial trope from 10 years ago. Get Rick Moranis and Ed O'Neill next time.
35. Top Games U.S.A. Inc.
There's a whole micro-genre of video game commercials that try to make you think they're selling you a movie. Just in case you're confused: Battle of Envoy is not a movie. Though, it does look pretty intense.
John Legend lends his soulful vocals to this ad for a bottled water, which is owned by halftime show sponsor Pepsi, but it's a tough hang. In the short clip, we watch rain fall from the sky and transform a gray, steel city into a colorful dream world. It's obviously supposed to evoke a sense of wonder but the "Art makes life #moreinspired" tagline is about as vague they come.
Nice to kick off the Super Bowl with an ad for our future robot overlords. The Google Home appears to be the search engine's response to the Amazon Echo and this spot does its best to humanize the product and convince skeptical consumers that having a little device in your house that responds to your every command isn't creepy.
32. Tiffany & Co.
Half-time show star Lady Gaga is coming for you in this portrait-like commercial that feels more like a pitch for Gaga than the product she's hyping. It could've used more of the Mad Max style theatrics of her Super Bowl appearance, but it works as a stripped-down mini-bio.
31. Mr. Clean
I get why turning Mr. Clean into Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL is funny on paper, but the execution here is... unsettling.
Is it the Kangaroo from the Young Pope? Anyway, this wine commercial, which featured DJ Roo spinning the hits, was pretty funny.
29. Coke Zero
I don't know if I totally get this colorful, trippy ad. A snail drinks some Coke Zero and… dances? Oh well, if (Cherry) Coke Zero is good enough for the Young Pope, it's good enough for that snail and good enough for a spot in the middle of this list.
If you've been reading Thrillist, then you might already know there's a restaurant bubble. But did you know some of our most famous action stars have been destroying our finest culinary establishments? That's the premise of this star-heavy spot from web development platform Wix.com. As a young chef designs his website, Transporter staple Jason Statham and Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot kick some serious ass and leave his nice, cozy farm-to-table place totally wrecked. As an ad, it's silly fun. As a warning about where the food business is going, it's a massacre.
27. Turkish Airlines
You know what's cooler than flying in an airplane with Morgan Freeman? Flying in an airplane with a billion Morgan Freeman's. And the best part: if you're on the plane, you're probably Morgan Freeman. Congrats. You made it. You have that Bruce Almighty money. Go wild.
Kristen Schaal likes to get punished via her phone bill in this playful 50 Shades of Grey parody. Hopefully, she'll be back next year to skewer the sequel too.
25. It's A 10 Hair Care
In an attempt to fight the upcoming four years of "bad hair," this ad celebrates hair of all kinds.
The idea behind this ad is that Tom Brady -- New England Patriots quarterback and erstwhile Ted 2 star -- makes everything "epic." We see him waking up in the morning, flipping pancakes, and brushing his teeth. Unfortunately, the ad doesn't really follow through on the concept it introduces: Tom Brady mostly looks bored. Kinda like you probably were when watching this ad.
Always nice to see Bill Nye.
We've all had stains, so this is already more relatable than most Super Bowl commercials. And who wouldn't want to watch nature shows with Jeffrey Tambor?
2017: the year Billy Zane and Rob Riggle star in a KFC commercial together. Unless you keep tabs on the chicken company's odd celebrity casting, this quick spot will probably feel like a bit of Tim and Eric-style weirdness. Why are there two Colonel Sanders? Why is one gold? A better question: Why not?
20. Michelob Ultra
Place Beyond the Pines director Derek Cianfrance brings a touch of grit to this beer commercial, which tries to sell you on the idea that nothing goes better with a sweaty work-out than a Michelob Ultra. Sure, OK. But the use of the Cheers theme is solid and always welcome.
Melissa McCarthy gets flung by a whale, dropped from a tree, and gored by a rhino in this expensive-looking, globe-trotting ad that wants you to drive like an eco-warrior. If you're not burned out on the Ghostbusters star's pratfalls by now, you'll get a kick out of this one.
18. Avocados From Mexico
Avocados From Mexico has enjoyed a strong run of Super Bowl ads the last couple years -- the "First Draft Ever" spot still holds up -- but this one feels a little overstuffed. The apocalyptic cult banter goes on and on, with few of the punch lines really landing. Luckily, Jon Lovitz shows up at the end.
Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart team up for... what else? Weed jokes. But they're pretty funny weed jokes.
This is a good message -- hats off to Audi for supporting equal pay -- but as a commercial it feels like a holdover from a few years back when every ad looked like a Terrence Malick knockoff. Just because you're supporting a worthy cause doesn't mean you have to go somber. Justice can be fun too.
This is a clever conceit: John Malkovich wants to buy JohnMalkovich.com but someone already has the domain name. If you've seen Burn After Reading, you know how funny it is to watch the icy thespian lose his cool. But I hope Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman got royalty checks for this one. Next year, they should just play this "Malkovich? Malkovich" clip during the game and really melt some brains.
Justin Bieber can be a calming presence. The bad boy singer narrates this clip from T-Mobile while dressed in a tuxedo, bringing a touch of dry wit to a commercial that chronicles the evolution of the touchdown celebration. It might not make you want to bust a move -- or change your cell phone provider -- but it's pretty entertaining.
This star-powered clip uses celebrity yearbook photos to deliver an inspiring message about following your dreams -- Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Missy Elliot, Steve Carell, and Viola Davis all make appearances -- but the best part might be seeing Jimmy Kimmel's stylish jazz band uniform from his clarinet-playing days. Hopefully he pulls that one out of the closet when he hosts the Oscars in a few weeks.
Hats off to Febreze for recruiting the Bad Moms breakout star Kathryn Hahn to provide the voice-over for this perfectly OK ad about taking a giant shit during halftime of the Super Bowl and needing to cover your tracks with some sort of odor repellent. She makes a gross concept -- everyone in America pooping in the same 10-minute span -- feel a little less odious.
11. Bud Light
Do you remember Spuds Mackenzie? The beer loving dog first appeared during the 1987 Super Bowl, making an impression with his cool shades, catchy song, and love for Bud Light. Well, he's back -- as a ghost -- in this goofy It's A Wonderful Life spoof that finds the dog now voiced by Rocky star Carl Weathers. RIP, Spuds.
"Machines don't have motions," says Minnie Driver in the voice-over for this relatively cerebral spot. "But the rare few can inspire them." The same could be said for car commercials. Luckily, this ad makes effective use of a Sia song, fancy editing, and some spectacular dance moves that might not "inspire" you but will definitely get you tapping your foot.
The NFL's baby ad from last year is back and this time it has a baby Mike Ditka. I'm not sure how long they can keep making these, but for now it's still pretty hilarious.
This ad is bizarre! For one thing, the face on the "egg" that plays Humpty Dumpty, who in the context of this spot fell off his wall because he was doing his taxes, looks creepy. Why make the face so photo-realistic? And the yolk that comes out of his mouth is such a disturbing detail. However, the droll vibe works for the most part. It's just very strange.
7. 84 Lumber
On a night when many companies attempted to send a message of hope and inclusivity, this humanistic portrayal of an immigration story was thoughtful, stylish, and effective. Plus, there's a cute pig in it.
A dad fakes his own death by pushing his car off a cliff to get out of his phone plan in this explosive clip. But, really, this thing works because of the performance of the guy who plays the father, particularly the way he says, "Shoot," at the end. It's the small things that count.
The Coen brothers step behind the camera for this 60-second spot and deliver their signature blend of the comic and the grotesque. There's something queasy about watching two great filmmakers use Peter Fonda, a genuine '60s rebel icon, to sell an expensive car, but maybe that's just the cynical punch line to to this biker gang joke? Either way, it's pretty funny.
The only thing that could've made this Bai commercial a little better: the rest of the N*SYNC dudes. They couldn't have been too busy. I'm sure Joey Fatone wants to hang with Christophe Walken.
This idea driving this immigrant story might feel timely, but the aesthetic here is classic blockbuster storytelling. We get the quick edits, the quiet moments of reflection, the explosions, and, of course, a clever twist at the end. Is it manipulative? Sure. Is it just a cheesy beer commercial? Yes. But it's still a nice bit of pop craftsmanship.
I really like this one! It's a simple, elegant gag. The animals are funny. The little hand-over-the-can move is clever. The spokesman doesn't oversell it. Pretty much perfect.
Many ad companies go super-high concept for their Super Bowl spots, so it was refreshing to see a commercial that's not trying to wow you with star power, special effects, or rapid-fire gags. Instead, this funny candy spot just takes a simple comic premise -- guy throws Skittles at a girl's window to get her attention -- and heightens it in a clever, absurd way.
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