The only thing America loves more than the Super Bowl, is the commercials—a non-stop psycho-emotional barrage of puppies, sports cars, potato chips, nacho dips, pretty horsies, hunky men, beautiful women, and of course beer. Lots and lots of beer. So to celebrate the reason we’re all holding it after every punt, let's party like it's 1999 with the single best Super Bowl commercial each year for the past two decades. Needless to say, don’t touch that dial (come on, you have fresh, never-frozen Avocados From Mexico™ all over your hands).
1999 - Bud Light “Paper or Plastic”
Anheuser-Busch kicks things off in fitting fashion with a time-honored sh*t joke. Come on, what did you expect? Shakespeare?
2000 - EDS “Cat Herders”
Companies like EDS—a digital strategy firm designed to help businesses navigate the unspeakable terrors of Y2K—may be relics of forgotten age, but this commercial, which likens the modernization of dinosaur corporations to herding cats, has aged like fine wine in the internet-cat-video dystopia we call 2018.
2001 - Budweiser “What Are You Doing?”
Dammit. Budweiser are just going to win all of these aren’t they? A hilariously WASPy riff on the iconic “WASSUP” campaign, this one finds a bunch of sweater-draped squash enthusiasts sitting around watching the market recap, drinking imports. Tracked really well in Southern Connecticut for some reason.
2002 - Pepsi “Who is Barry Bostwick?”
A: A Tony-award winning stage and screen actor probably best known by people between the ages of 32 and 38 as Spin City's Randall Winston.
2003 - Reebok “Terry Tate Office Linebacker”
One of the most famous TV spots of all time, Super Bowl or no, “Terry Tate Office Linebacker” was Office Space meets Road Warrior for the Ray Lewis generation...and a helpful reminder to always include A COVER SHEET ON YOUR TPS REPORTS, RICHARD.
2004 - FedEx “Jenkins the Alien”
Tfw your co-worker is definitely a Xenomorph but the whole place would come grinding to a halt without him. Leave it to FedEx to sum up the true plight of the American worker.
2005 - Tabasco “Tanlines”
The plot here is pretty simple: Gorgeous woman in Tabasco bikini basks in sun on secluded beach. Once seared to a beautiful bronze, she gets up, slo-mo saunters inside, only to find that she’s burned beneath the bikini, not around it. Why anyone would want a bathing suit that burns their skin is beyond us...but yeah, not the point here, we get that.
2006 - Bud Light “Magic Fridge”
At its core, a meditation on the folly of man...ah screw it. It’s another Bud Light commercial, you know the drill.
2007 - Garmin “Maposaurus”
Maybe our inner nerd is showing here, but Garmin’s blend of Japanese monster movie and classic heavy metal (thanks to a ripping jingle by Grim Reaper’s Steve Grimmett) helped to elevate this gleefully random GPS plug to the top of a pretty weak 2007 commercial class.
2008 - FedEx “Carrier Pigeons”
The monster theme carried over into 2008 thanks to this FedEx gem, which starts with simple logistics issues and an eager junior-level employee and ends in giant mutant pigeon apocalypse. How these things ever get greenlit is beyond us.
2009 - Audi “The Chase”
Car chases rule. Car chases with Jason Statham rule even harder. Plus we’ve somehow covered over a decade of Super Bowl ads without squeezing a single car commercial into the mix, so consider this one a push for parity.
2010 - Snickers “Betty White”
Every few years, a clear crowd-favorite emerges from the pack. In 2010, that was the launch of Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, featuring Betty White as “Mike”—hungry weekend warrior in need of a little glucose shot to ol’ blood vein. In addition to being downright funny, the ad and its string of successors helped to boost Snickers sales 15.9% between 2010 and 2016...which is, you know, the point of all these things anyway.
2011 - Volkswagen “The Force”
Like Betty White in 2010, Volkswagen had the runaway smash marketing hit of 2011 with “The Force,” which follows a young boy in full Darth Vader garb trying to force control a variety of mundane household objects to no avail...until dad saves the day with his shiny new Passat’s remote start feature. At this point, The Force Awakens was still four years off, so there are some valid questions to be asked—like why Star Wars and should I let my kids idolize Space Hitler—but if Super Bowls have proven anything, it’s that cute is a perfect stand-in for common sense.
2012 - Chrysler “Halftime in America”
Whether it gave you goosebumps or made you laugh at the absurdity of a gravel-gargling Clint Eastwood waxing poetic about the grave struggles of our great nation over footage of a dad dropping his kid off at school in a TOTALLY BITCHIN’ MUSCLE CAR YEAHHHH, there’s no debating this was the Super Bowl ad spot of 2012. Unfortunately for America, it’s now the 4th quarter, and we’re still getting our ass kicked.
2013 - Budweiser “The Clydesdales Brotherhood”
Damn you, Stevie Nicks. Why you always gotta bring all this dust?
2014 - Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee “Seinfeld Reunion”
OK, so it wasn’t vintage Seinfeld ratatat, but the opportunity to see Jerry and George in the coffee shop one last time—bolstered by an A+ Newman cameo—was more than worth the wait. Plus it introduced the world to Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, perhaps the single best Sunday morning binge watch in the history of humankind.
2015 - Fiat “Blue Pill”
Essentially an elaborate boner joke that starts off as Cialis commercial and ends up plugging a crossover SUV, “Blue Pill” was both a wink-wink, nudge-nudge crowd-pleaser and a sobering reminder of how the world—in this case, an Italian automaker—views American consumers.
2016 - Audi “Commander”
Though “Ryanville” gave it a run for its rocket fuel, Audi's use of “Starman” less than a month after David Bowie’s death plucked all the right heartstrings, especially when splattered across the canvas of your classic father-son car commercial.
2017 - Squarespace “JohnMalkovich.com”
We’ve already waxed poetic on John Malkovich’s spine-tingling AFC Championship intro more times than we can count, but John Malkovich's epic love-affair with the NFL actually began last year, with this hilarious Squarespace commercial in which John Malkovich attempts to acquire JohnMalkovich.com by any and all means necessary. Needless to say, you don’t f—k with John Malkovich. John Malkovich.
2018 - NFL "Touchdown Celebrations to Come"
The only NFL house ad to make the list, last year's charming winner featured pre-coke pizza Odell Beckham Jr. and rhythm extraordinaire Eli Manning breaking in a new Dirty Dancing-inspired touchdown celebration that, as it turns out, wouldn't get much use in 2018. Giants fans will be hoping to see Dwayne Haskins, not Eli, reprise Patrick Swayze's iconic role come September.