The Best Super Bowl Commercials Ever: A Brief and Biased Retrospective

While most of us won’t remember which football team scored the most football points and won the big football game, many of us will revisit the best Super Bowl commercials throughout the years.

If you watch the Los Angeles Rams take on the New England Patriots on Sunday, February 3, for the commercials (or halftime) rather than Super Bowl LIII, as it has become so chic to claim, it would behoove you to recall some the greatest ads of all time. Let’s start off with a magical time called The Seventies!

Many people still consider this Coca-Cola commercial starring Mean Joe Greene and a charming youngster to be the best Super Bowl commercial of all time. Today’s audience doesn’t know Mean Joe’s reputation quite so well, but believe it when you hear it — this one struck a chord in 1979:

Flash-forward a scant five years. This commercial, released at a time when personal computers were still almost the stuff of fantasy, helped put Apple on the map in a way that lives up to the company’s current dominance of the tech world. The ad played off the year it was released and was inspired by the eponymous book and film, 1984 by George Orwell:

Now, those commercials are both classics, sure. But they also both feel a bit dated, don’t they? There was something missing from a lot of the early Super Bowl commercials that was hit upon by Pepsi in the early 1990s. It was, in a word, sex. Or rather, sex appeal:

And then look, the clever scamps did it again less than a decade later, turning to another young lady this time, the then-wildly-popular Brittany Spears:

Is either of those ads truly great? No, not really.

But they stuck in the larger American consciousness nonetheless, despite there being nothing clever, original, or all that interesting about them other than sex appeal.

Now for the cute stuff. Let’s start with the absolute classic ad titled “The Force,” or “Star Wars kid” commercial, as it is usually called.

While this ad might seem blasé today, when it was released, it was a true sensation. And it still ranks near the top among critics. Yep, it’s the Budweiser Frogs:

But you know what’s even more popular than frogs these days? Dogs. And puppies, to be specific. If there is one thing that has driven recent ratings, it’s dogs. And it doesn’t really matter what these pooches are “selling,” but usually they’re selling beer:

And we can just all forget about this Budweiser ad and the cultural phenomena it created:

Beyond the charm and the sex appeal, there’s one other trend we have seen more and more advertisers turn to for their recent Super Bowl commercials: absurdist humor. All too often, it’s done terribly and comes off as a craven attempt at wit or comedy. Occasionally, though, it works perfectly. Case in point: every Doritos Super Bowl ad ever. We’re particularly fond of this one:

However, this hilarious Doritos vs. Mountain Dew ad from 2018 featuring Peter freakin’ Dinklage and OMG-is-that Morgan Freeman might be the greatest one yet:

This year is already shaping up as one for the books. We haven’t even witnessed Super Bowl LIII — we hope you have all of your party food, beer, and prop bets ready — but we’re ready to watch the best ads of 2019.

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