The 10 Best Super Bowl Commercials of All Time

What makes a good Super Bowl commercial? Whether it’s a funny E*Trade ad with a cute baby, a heart-warming Budweiser story about a dog and a horse becoming friends, or something more off-the-wall that breaks from a conventional advertisement, the essential quality of a good Super Bowl commercial is that an ad is memorable in a favorable way.

Sometimes, that leads to parodies or homages in later commercials. Other times, a quote works its way into pop culture (remember when people used to answer the phone with “Wazzaaaaaaaaaappppppp??”). For Super Bowl LV, companies paid $5.5 million for a 30-second ad slot. With that much money on the line, there’s immense pressure to deliver a quality, memorable ad.

Today, I’m taking a look at 10 of the funniest, most iconic, and all-around best Super Bowl commercials of all time.

10. “Born a Donkey” – Budweiser

 

Kicking off the list is the inspiring story of a donkey pursuing his dream of becoming a Budweiser Clydesdale. The classic ad is an excellent reminder that with hard work, a clear vision, and taking advantage of the right opportunities, we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to do.

9. “Alexa Loses Her Voice” – Amazon

I would absolutely love Gordon Ramsay giving me cooking instructions, but I wouldn’t ask how to make a grilled cheese. The idea of Alexa having replacement voice actors and actresses is a brilliant concept, and Amazon pulled off an all-timer with this one.

8. “Where’s the Beef?” – Wendy’s

“Where’s the Beef?” became a cultural phenomenon in the mid-to-late 1980s, becoming a popular slogan on t-shirts, frisbees, bumper stickers, and more; it even became a board game! Nashville songwriter Coyote McCloud wrote and performed a song, “Where’s the Beef?” which was used in future Wendy’s ad campaigns, but this is the one that started it all.

7. “The Force” – Volkswagen

Star Wars, a cute kid, humor, and a nice car. Volkswagen hit a home run with this commercial, reminding us all of the magic of childhood and the belief that there is something great within all of us.

6. “Frogs” – Budweiser

Budweiser’s could have had several entries on this list, regularly producing great commercials, but the iconic frogs earned their place in my Top 10. Surprisingly controversial, the Budweiser frogs became one of the most instantly recognizable advertising figures in short order. However, after concerns that Budweiser was targeting a younger audience with the frogs, the beer giant switched the frogs to lizards, who supposedly resonated more with adult audiences. It’s a shame, but we can still remember and enjoy the frogs fondly.

5. “The Showdown” – McDonald’s

Airing in 1993, “The Showdown” featured Michael Jordan and Larry Bird in a trick shot contest playing for Jordan’s Big Mac. The memorable part of this commercial wasn’t the product or the brand, but about seeing two of the best basketball players of the era competing for fast food.

At the time “The Showdown” aired, it scored a then-record 9.0 rating in the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter and helped bring “Nothin’ but Net” into the public vernacular.

McDonald’s followed up the spot with a “One Year Later” version, which also featured Charles Barkley desperately trying to join the competition for want of a Big Mac.

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4. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” – Old Spice

“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” was so fast-paced of a commercial the brilliance of it could almost be missed. The campaign featured a humorous plot twist at the end of each spot, though none hit quite as hard or in as funny of a way as the original. The ad won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial in 2010.

3. “Betty White: You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” – Snickers

“Mike, you’re playing like Betty White out there!” This commercial is my personal favorite on this list. Betty White is a gem of a human. Snickers is my favorite candy bar. The two together in one ad is just perfect. Abe Vigoda made an appearance as well, in what holds up as one of the funniest and most memorable commercials of all time.

2. “1984” – Apple

Not only one of the best Super Bowls ads but one of the best overall commercials to ever hit the small screen, Apple’s “1984” commercial was an industry-changing advertisement that helped vault Apple ahead as a competitor to IBM, who dominated the computer landscape at the time.

Apple only aired the commercial once nationally, during the Super Bowl, which helped add to the spot’s legacy. The jarring imagery and music broke through the advertising clutter to leave a lasting impression on those who watched. Ridley Scott directed the iconic piece.

Although Apple’s board of directors initially hated it and was concerned about putting it on television, their decision to air the ad anyway paid off. The commercial changed the way people think about computers and their role in our lives. It has won several awards considering it the best commercial of all-time, and it has been inducted into the Clio Awards Hall of Fame.

1. “Hey Kid, Catch!” – Coca-Cola

Quite possibly the most iconic Super Bowl commercial to hit our screens takes the top spot on the list. Beyond being the centerpiece of the “Have a Coke and a smile” ad campaign, the commercial featured fearsome Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene limping off the field before a young football fan gives Greene a Coke to brighten his day. Greene responds in kind by giving the boy his jersey.

Coca-Cola later ran a similar version of the ad with hard-hitting Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. The commercial was also referenced on tv shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, and House. It was also spoofed by Downy, with Greene reprising his role but getting his jersey thrown back because of the stinky smell.

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Dan Bradley is a hockey broadcaster and sportswriter originally from New Brighton, MN and currently living in Cincinnati. Dan graduated from Bradley University in Peoria, IL, with a B.S. in Sports Communication in 2014. He previously worked in television in Duluth, MN, as well as in youth and adult sports administration in St. Paul. When not watching or writing about sports, Dan enjoys making music, fishing, and watching Jeopardy, where he hopes to someday be a contestant.

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