Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Best Super Bowl Commercials Of All Time

Between the twilight of traditional television and the boom of streaming with its ever-increasing platform options, it's rare that we're all watching or talking about the same program anymore. But some things never go out of fashion, and the Super Bowl is one of them. Even as cable and broadcast TV viewership continues to shrink, the United States' premier sporting event still pulls in huge numbers. "Approximately 200 million viewers — 60% of all people in the United States — watched Super Bowl LVII," the NFL confirmed in 2023. It's for this reason that Super Bowl commercial breaks continue to be the nation's most coveted advertising spots.

Memorable Super Bowl commercials go back nearly as far as the Super Bowl itself. Brands, companies, and ad agencies go to great lengths to come up with savvy and attention-grabbing ads, hoping to make the most of the big game's gigantic audience. In fact, things have gotten to the point that some viewers actually watch the Super Bowl primarily for the ads, keen to find out which brand or product will garner the most buzz that year. It's a daunting topic to tackle, but here's our take: In chronological order, this is a list of the most iconic, most hilarious, and most intelligent Super Bowl commercials of all time.

Coca-Cola - Hilltop (1972)

Nowadays, the idea of a soda manufacturing company bringing people from "all over the world" together to share a message of unity — all holding bottles of its product, of course — would probably be a lot harder to sell to the public. But, in 1972, not only did Coca-Cola succeed in getting audiences to take such an ad in stride, it outright sparked a cultural phenomenon in the United States.

That year's Super Bowl Coke ad famously consisted of a simple, to-the-point song performance. What made it impressive and led to it striking a chord with viewers all over the country was the scale of the production. Standing atop a hill in Italy kissed by golden-hour sun, dozens of young people of varying ethnicities and fashion styles formed up into a powerful yet serene choir. The camera alternates between capturing them in close-ups, panning along the line, and, finally, taking in the whole crowd in a breathtaking overhead shot.

In an America that was dealing with Vietnam War disillusionment, something about the simple message of the ad (which "actually first aired on national TV on July 8, 1971, but is widely remembered for its presence in Super Bowl VI," reports Ad Age) was very comforting. The soothing song was later reworked into a chart hit, and, years later, "Mad Men" closed out its run by positioning protagonist Don Draper as the creator of the ad. The original singers reunited to perform an updated version of the song for an ad that aired during 1990's Super Bowl XXIV.

Xerox - Monk (1976)

Postmodernist, genre-deconstructionist humor is such a staple of 21st-century advertising that it might surprise some contemporary Super Bowl ad enthusiasts to know that, as far back as the 1970s, that brand of comedy was already en vogue. This 1976 ad for Xerox is one of the foundational examples of that sensibility in TV commercials. In the ad, American actor Jack Eagle stars as bowl-haired monk Brother Dominic in what seems like a pretty cut-and-dry period film scenario. As a solemn narrator explains that "Ever since people started recording information, there's been a need to duplicate it," we see the monk toil away at writing down some sort of document by hand with a quill.

Once the task is finally complete, his superior requests an additional 500 copies. No matter: The monk sneaks away from view, crosses through a large metal door, and somehow turns up in a copy center, where he simply asks an employee in a crisp shirt and striped tie to take care of the copies for him using Xerox's brand new 9200 duplicating system. The monk then makes his triumphant return to the temple, where his superior greets him with astonishment: "It's a miracle!" Cue Xerox logo. The hilariously nonsensical yet shockingly persuasive ad — aren't Xerox machines a miracle when you think about it? — became so iconic that it even got a sequel 40 years later.

Coca-Cola - Hey Kid, Catch! (1980)

Not all Super Bowl ads make a point of incorporating the mythos and culture of the event to which they're attached. But, among the ones that do, few have made a more successful appeal to football fans' sense of humor than Coca-Cola's spot featuring legendary defensive tackle Joe Greene, one of the most efficient and focused defensive players in NFL history. He was known by the nickname "Mean" Joe Greene, but Greene wasn't actually a mean guy off the field.

This ad, which aired during Super Bowl XIV in 1980, gave Greene a chance to both play on his public image and turn it around by way of cinema's most time-tested device for humanizing tough guys: Pairing them with kids. The commercial sees a young boy approach Greene post-game, meekly offering compliments and support: "I just want you to know I think you're the best ever," he says. The kid then offers Greene his Coca-Cola, which the player begrudgingly accepts.

Naturally, it only takes a few sips for his aura to change completely: Suddenly, as an upbeat jingle plays, Greene is mean no more. As the kid shyly walks away, Greene calls him, utters the catchphrase that gives the ad its name, and then throws him his towel. This commercial remains one of the most beloved and iconic in American TV history, and it figures: It's hard to imagine a more efficient way to convey the simple, restorative power of a good Coke.

Apple Macintosh - 1984 (1984)

Not every good advertising strategy needs to be based around selling the product's basic functionality. Sometimes, it's all about selling an idea, and few companies in the information age have understood that as well as Apple. The American tech giant built a sterling brand reputation over the decades by positioning itself as not just a computer and phone manufacturer, but an innovator. Apple products, so goes the gospel of its fandom, are windows (no pun intended) into new worlds. They represent new horizons enabled by creativity and technology. The company's marketing ethos is epitomized by its legendary 1984 Super Bowl ad introducing the Apple Macintosh, once dubbed "the best commercial ever made" by Ad Age.

Directed by Ridley Scott, the ad says nothing about the Macintosh itself or what it will bring to the personal computer market. Instead, it simply promises that it will be a full-blown revolution. In a dystopian setting inspired by George Orwell's "1984," complete with apathetic crowds clad in identical gray uniforms and a large screen with a Big Brother figure bellowing wartime slogans, English athlete Anya Major rushes in, bypasses security guards, and hurls a hammer at the magnified face. When it hits the screen, it causes a blinding white blast. Cue on-screen text: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" The message couldn't be clearer: The world of personal tech is falling into conformity, and the Macintosh is here to save us all.

Wendy's - Where's the beef? (1984)

You know a commercial has done its job with flying colors if it manages to get a new catchphrase into the national lexicon — all the more if the catchphrase in question is a scathing mockery of the competition. The Wendy's ad that aired during the 1984 Super Bowl managed just that, getting millions of Americans to blurt out "Where's the beef?" not just when met with insufficiently meaty burgers, but at any situation marked by too much flash and too little substance.

A minimalist wonder of comedic timing and editing, the ad depicts three elderly women approaching a restaurant counter upon which rests a cheeseburger with a big fluffy bun. When they lift the bun, however, they find only a tiny burger, a tiny slice of cheese, and one individual pickle, prompting the most impatient of the women to grumble, "Where's the beef?" — to no one in particular, alas, as no employees are there to assuage her carnivorous concern.

A narrator then explains the point of it all: When it comes to the beef/bun ratio, the Wendy's Single beats both the Whopper and the Big Mac. The ad became such a hit that several sequels centered around the same idea followed. The catchphrase, in turn, joined the ranks of the most iconic corporate slogans in American advertising history, becoming a summary of the company's brand mission for decades.

Nike - Hare Jordan (1992)

1996's "Space Jam," a mash-up of the mythos of Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes, remains a totem of the era's anything-goes cultural syncretism, but what not everybody knows is that its origin can be traced back to an even more '90s artifact: An Air Jordan Super Bowl ad. The year was 1992, and the Chicago Bulls were the defending NBA champions. The 1991-92 season was one of "individual adversity," as Jordan put it (via the Los Angeles Times), but he was still named MVP. The Looney Tunes, meanwhile, were at a strange crossroads following the death of Mel Blanc (who voiced many of the most iconic Looney Tunes characters) in 1989.

In an inspired flash of synergy, Nike brought Jordan and Bugs Bunny together for its Super Bowl ad that year, which saw the two icons join forces against a team of basketball-playing bullies who had been ruining Bugs' sleep. With the combined power of Air Jordans and vintage cartoon mischief, the unlikely pair enacts revenge upon the bullies. Jordan's commitment to the idea proved convincing and funny, inspiring the oddity that is "Space Jam." It's almost as though the creators of the ad were testing the waters, with Bugs saying, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

McDonald's - Showdown (1993)

Michael Jordan featured in another iconic Super Bowl ad in 1993: McDonald's brought him in to shoot hoops with fellow basketball star Larry Bird, and the spot became one of the most memorable in Super Bowl history. In the ad, Jordan walks onto a court that's fully empty save for Bird and sits down to eat his lunch, a freshly-bought Big Mac and fries. Bird immediately sets his sights on snatching Jordan's Big Mac and challenges him to a shooting contest in which the "first one to miss watches the winner eat." At first, the contest proceeds normally, with neither giving the other a break. Then, things start getting surreal.

In an effort to get the other to miss, Jordan and Bird start shooting from greater and greater distances with more and more convoluted shot requirements. They shoot from behind the court, then from the bleachers, then from the ceiling beams, then from outside the building, then from atop a skyscraper, always hitting "nothing but net." Neither of them will budge. They want that burger, after all. A tasty-looking Big Mac then snaps into view in a grandiose close-up, reminding viewers that they can always go ahead and get a Big Mac of their own with significantly less effort. Talk about efficient ad psychology.

Budweiser - Frogs (1995)

Another ad that became successful enough to spark a whole series and redefine its brand's iconography was Budweiser's 1995 Super Bowl spot, featuring the three frogs that would become the company's de-facto mascots for the remainder of the decade: Bud, Weis, and Er. True to the 1990s spirit of context-free strangeness in advertising, the commercial depicts three frogs croaking at night in a dark, misty pond. Instead of "ribbit," however, each of them utters a single, distinct syllable. The first keeps uttering a low "Bud." The second goes "Weis." Finally, we cut to a third, as-yet-unseen frog, who complements the choir with an "Er."

At first, the three frogs croak randomly, but, at a certain point, the order of the syllables syncs up perfectly, which the third frog seems to notice: "Er?," it asks, as though taking notice of a momentous discovery. From there on out, the frogs begin a synchronized refrain of "Bud" – "Weis" – "Er," and the camera finally tilts up to reveal that they're sitting right in front of a lakeside bar with — wouldn't you know it — a big "Budweiser" neon sign on it.

Subsequent TV and print ads featuring the three frogs continued to play on their stone-faced reverence for Budweiser beer. The original ad's director, Gore Verbinski, would go on to employ his knack for nocturnal atmosphere in "The Ring," his mastery of aquatic settings in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, and his familiarity with bug-eyed creatures in "Rango."

Budweiser - Whassup Girlfriend (2000)

Are you American? Are you too young to remember turn-of-the-century TV commercials? Have you ever witnessed a friend, acquaintance, social media figure, or fictional character say "What's up?" in a slurred, dragged-out manner, possibly with their tongue out? Then you have felt the reverberations of a Budweiser ad that positioned it as the drink of choice for guys being dudes all across the States.

In the original 2000 ad, which aired during Monday Night Football in 1999, a guy is watching the game and having a Bud when he gets a call from his friend, who's doing the exact same thing. After exchanging small talk, the two dudes are surprised by the arrival of Dude #1's roommate, who yells "Whassuuuup?" from the kitchen. He then picks up a second phone — this is the era of landlines — and properly greets Dude #2, who responds with an equally enthusiastic "Whassuuuup?" Dude #2 then calls out to his own roomate, and the four dudes join together in a ultra-lengthy choir of "Whassuuuup?" as the camera cuts back and forth between them.

The ad became a huge hit, and a follow-up aired at the Super Bowl in 2000. The four friends are back, though this time three of them are in a bar enjoying a Bud. The fourth friend is at home watching TV with his girlfriend when he gets a call from the others. He still responds with their usual "Whassuuuup," though it's hilariously toned down. He lies about watching the game and having a Bud, which the others see right through.

EDS - Cat Herders (2000)

It's enough of a challenge to create a good ad for a company when the whole public is more-or-less aware of what it does. With a business like Electronic Data Systems (EDS), the advertisers' task is even more daunting: What does an information technology services company even do? EDS attempted to answer that with a Super Bowl commercial that went down in history as one of the funniest to ever air during the event.

From the acting to the music, the cinematography to the sense of humor, everything about "Cat Herders" is a success. What really puts it in the Mount Olympus of advertising, though, is the strength of the concept. What better metaphor could there be for the complexities of processing other companies' data, and for the promised efficiency and reliability of EDS' work in the field, than a team of old-school cowboys herding a massive amount of cats?

The ad, an affectionate parody-slash-homage to classic Westerns and their epic iconography, was shot in two stages — first the cowboys did their thing, then the cats were brought in, and the footage was spliced together. As the herders guide the cats through drylands, hills, and rivers, they wax poetic about the long-honed skills that allow them to carry out such a seemingly impossible task. In the end, the whole "herd" is brought into town without a single kitty left behind. How's that for reliable information processing?

Pepsi - Now and Then (2002)

A lot of great Super Bowl ads have played to the "blockbuster" expectation associated with the big game by enlisting A-list celebrities and putting their larger-than-life personas to shrewd use. However, just as many have relied a bit too heavily on stunt casting, expecting the presence of celebrities in and of itself to make for good advertising. Thankfully, that wasn't the case with Pepsi's two ads starring Britney Spears in the early '00s. One, a 2001 music video for a Britney-fied version of the classic "The Joy of Pepsi" jingle, was a spectacular feat of pop showmanship. The other was even better.

In the 90-second "Now and Then" spot that Pepsi aired during the Super Bowl in 2002, the Princess of Pop donned costumes, makeup, and swagger from different eras of American youth culture to pay homage to the many generations of Pepsi consumers. In 1958, she croons traditional pop in a classic diner; in 1963, she delights the crowd in an auditorium with lively bubblegum pop; in 1966, she takes to the beach for some surf rock in full color; in 1970, she joins a choir of flower-crowned hippies in a psychedelic rock choir; in 1989, she dons a suit and tie for a hard-bodied New Wave number; and, finally, she's in her element in a 2002 dance break. A triumph of design, production, cinematography, and music, the ad doubles as a showcase of Spears' versatility and a reminder that Pepsi is an American institution.

Reebok - Terry Tate, Office Linebacker (2003)

One thing that makes Super Bowl ads such interesting cultural artifacts is the way they bring together football and the corporate world: You're watching the big game, yes, but you're also watching advertising agency workers put on their best efforts to get you to buy stuff. Those two seemingly disparate worlds are not that far apart, all things considered, and few ad campaigns have tapped into that better than Reebok's "Terry Tate" spot.

Starring Lester Speight as Terry Tate, an "office linebacker" hired to keep lazy, selfish, and otherwise problematic office workers in check by tackling them when they screw up, the Super Bowl ad doubled as a teaser for a whole series of "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker" shorts that dropped over the next few years. It's surprisingly violent for a Super Bowl ad — Tate doesn't hold back, mercilessly pinning workers to the ground and yelling reprimands at them for even the tiniest infractions.

That being said, Tate's style of productivity encouragement is no more brutal than what takes place on the field between commercial breaks, and that's precisely the point of the joke. It's the escapism of football intruding on the routine of work, a hilarious play on average viewers' simultaneous passion for (and fundamental sense of distance from) the epic highs and lows of football.

Miller High Life - One Second Ad (2009)

What happens when every brand in a given field is pining for that Super Bowl commercial bump, yet the idea of spending lavishly on the year's most expensive TV ad space goes against the very public image a brand has cultivated? In 2009, Miller Lite got around this problem wonderfully with its one-second ad for Miller High Life. As a beer brand that prides itself on bringing artisanal quality and sophistication to the average consumer, Miller couldn't really pay $3 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad (the going rate at the time) without becoming what it set out to counter. So, instead, it took the Super Bowl as an opportunity to indirectly make fun of its competitors' over-the-top spending. 

While Anheuser-Busch had exclusive rights to official beer advertising that year, Miller bought exactly one second of airtime on various local networks across the country. In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, it then drummed up interest in its strategy with a series of pregame ads teasing the big one — or, rather, the small one. When the ad (a clip of pitchman Windell Middlebrooks simply making jazz hands and yelling "High Life!" in a warehouse) finally aired during the Super Bowl, it was only in a handful of markets, as NBC had banned it from its affiliated networks. But it got people talking, and gave Miller High Life a massive boost in sales.

Snickers - Betty White (2010)

Toward the end of the 2000s, America rediscovered what a gift to the world the late Betty White was. It was the time of "The Proposal," of the viral social media campaign to get her to host "Saturday Night Live," of her feature on a remix of Luciana's club hit "I'm Still Hot." And it was also the time of her hilarious 2010 Super Bowl Snickers ad, which — as far as cultural impact goes — was arguably the centerpiece of that career resurgence.

The 30-second ad belongs to the storied tradition of commercial spots that begin with an out-there, seemingly absurd comedic scenario, only to reveal at the very end what's really going on and how the whole thing ties into a certain product. A group of young men are playing football on a field, and Betty White is among them, barely keeping pace with her opponents. After she's tackled, her teammates bemoan her subpar performance, calling her "Mike" and accusing her of "playing like Betty White." White fires back with "That's not what your girlfriend said!"

Then, it all becomes clear — Mike's girlfriend comes up from the bleachers and offers a Snickers bar. As soon as White bites into it, she turns into a 20-something guy. "Better?" "Better," goes the dialogue between him and his girlfriend. A few yards away, another player has turned into Abe Vigoda. Finally, the slogan comes up: "You're not you when you're hungry."

Volkswagen - The Force (2011)

One of the most memorable Super Bowl ads of the modern era was launched by Volkswagen in 2011. After more than a decade of absence from the Super Sunday hotspot, the German car manufacturer needed to make a splash to announce the 2012 Passat, and, instead of going the usual car commercial route of listing off the vehicle's features, it opted to tell a mini-story that would stick in people's minds, focusing on a single unique functionality.

The premise was simple: A young boy wearing a Darth Vader costume repeatedly attempts to use the Force on various household items and appliances, to no avail. Even his dog refuses to react to his Vader-like hand motions. Finally, after his father parks the 2012 Passat in front of the house, he runs outside and tries to use the Force on the vehicle. This time, it actually works: The car starts, startling him. It turns out it was his father using the 2012 Passat's remote start feature. Time magazine dubbed this the ad "that changed Super Bowl commercials forever," largely because of the strategy used.

Volkswagen had a 30-second version of the ad ready to run during the Super Bowl, but it was also sitting on a minute-long version that execs felt was better. So, in a risky move that ultimately paid off, the company put the longer version on YouTube four days before the big game. "At the time, it was not the conventional wisdom to air or put online a commercial that was meant for the Super Bowl," Tim Ellis, head of marketing for Volkswagen North America back then, said. "But I thought if everything goes right, this thing will catch fire and go viral."

Amazon - Alexa Loses Her Voice (2018)

Not every company has the dough to purchase 90 seconds of ad space during the Super Bowl. Amazon does, however, and in 2018, it put every one of those seconds to efficient use. In a spot titled "Alexa Loses Her Voice," the tech and retail company enlisted a jaw-dropping roster of celebrities to show the world what life might look like if its virtual assistant were to suddenly go quiet.

After a news broadcast confirms that Alexa has mysteriously gone quiet that morning, Jeff Bezos himself is seen pacing around the Amazon offices, asking workers "How is that even possible?" Thankfully, a damage control strategy has already been put in place: In the absence of Alexa, several replacement voices are on hand to assist Amazon Echo owners with their daily tasks, questions, and music requests. We then watch all the special guest stars communicate remotely with regular people in Alexa's place.

Gordon Ramsay yells at a man who needs a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich. Cardi B makes fun of a teenager who wants to know how far Mars is. Rebel Wilson provides unhelpful mood-setting for a party by supplying her own erotic narration over the music. Finally, Anthony Hopkins in full Hannibal Lecter mode chillingly informs a woman that her boyfriend is "a little tied up" when she tries to call him. By the time Alexa comes back at the end, the case for her indispensability has been decisively laid out.

Tide - It's a Tide Ad (2018)

By now, the history of Super Bowl ads is storied enough that viewers can more-or-less know what to expect from each year's offerings. To capitalize on that oversaturation, in 2018, Tide purchased nearly two minutes of airtime and staged one of the most original uses of the Super Bowl ad format ever. In the process, the detergent brand managed to both make people laugh and clue them in on the cleanliness of clothes washed with Tide products.

It kicks off with David Harbour appearing in what looks like a regular car commercial. Then, he's in what appears to be a regular beer commercial, followed by a regular perfume commercial. Eventually, he explains that they're all Tide ads, because everyone in them is wearing immaculately clean clothes. Inviting viewers to pay attention to how spotless everyone's clothes are in each new scene, Harbour spends the remainder of the initial one-minute spot interrupting a series of ads for products ranging from jewelry and mattresses to smart speakers.

That would have been memorable enough, but there was more. Later on, Harbour interrupted an Old Spice ad featuring Isaiah Mustafa himself and revealed that it, too, was a Tide ad. This was followed by surprise interruptions of ads featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales, Mr. Clean, and an elderly tennis player experiencing back pain. By the end of that year's Super Bowl, Tide was living in every viewer's head rent-free — any ad could be a Tide ad. Few campaigns in Super Bowl history have been funnier, more inspired, or more effective.