We get it: You don’t have time to sit through hours of some sports thing you don’t care about just to get to the good stuff. You want the commercials. You want to cheer for the good ones, boo at the terrible ones, and cringe when one goes for the Hail Mary but bobbles it just before the end zone. We’re here for you with a roundup of the standouts from Super Bowl LI (that’s 51, not an homage to martial arts great Jet Li), from the cutting edge to the classics — like Coca-Cola bringing back the “It’s Beautiful” ad from 2014. This article will be updated throughout the game, so let us know if you saw something that belongs on the list.
Kia Niro, “Run”
Melissa McCarthy is one of the best comedic actresses in the game today. Coming off a universally lauded Saturday Night Live guest appearance, her natural charm and gift for slapstick make getting almost gored by a rhino seem like fun. Tree-huggers and whale-catapultees unite!
Lexus, “Man and Machine”
The juxtaposition of organic versus mechanic is used to great effect here. A little bit of Lionel Richie “Dancing on the Ceiling” action, courtesy of Lil Buck, plus Sia’s “Move Your Body” make this one stand out.
Mr. Clean, “Cleaner of Your Dreams”
Mr. Clean’s butt jiggles. There are uncountable instances of female boobs and butts jiggling in the history of animation, but you can count the number of animated dudes as sex objects on one hand. Women deserve to have awkward feelings about attractive cartoons the same way men have for years! Kudos, Mr. Clean.
Wix.com, “Big Game”
A Super Bowl commercial should feel like an event, and this one does. It feels like a tiny Jason Statham movie, which is perfect because Jason Statham movies often feel like oversized Super Bowl ads. There’s a little story that continues in part two, and the product (a website-building service) is integrated into the action. It’s not a game-changer; it just does everything right.
Katie eating the Skittles is both cute and funny. Then the mom makes it weird. Dad makes it weirder. Grandma makes it funny and weird. The robber makes it funny again. Cop makes it weird by enjoying the Skittle a little too much, and the beaver is just there because the NFL charges a fee if you don’t have at least one adorable animal per commercial. This spot is a roller coaster of emotion.
Febreze, “Halftime #Bathroombreak”
Classy talk about poop. It’s simple, it works, and it’s perfectly on brand for what the product does: Febreze cleans up the stink. The extended cut online of this is a thing of beauty — one segment features the sounds of eating and slurping that are both disgusting and hilarious.
Bud Light, “Between Friends”
This is as close as Bud Light gets (and as close as it should get) to sappiness, and it’s a solid effort. A wedding toast made up of out-of-context moments from the lives of two bros. It’s nailed down by the schlockiest (in the worst/best way) piano cover of Guns N’ Roses imaginable.
Budweiser, “Born the Hard Way”
A great reminder that almost every American is descended from immigrant stock.
And this is how you elevate a dumb idea into something great. The moderately embarrassed look on the spokesman’s face; the judging stares of the wildlife; the “buschhhhh” sound, which is kind of like a fart and kind of like peeing, but isn’t either, so it’s not crass. Sometimes, it’s about the little things.
Say what you want about the culture wars, but if you’re rooting against a scrappy girl winning a soapbox race, something’s wrong with you. That emergency brake move makes this commercial feel like it was directed by John Frankenheimer.
Once again, the show is stolen by a little girl. She outdances Gronk (to be expected), TO (a tough, but not unwinnable match-up), and Justin Bieber himself (who even busted out the fabled “shimmity sham sham shimmity shake”). Also, did Bieber just learn the word “hello”? When the word tumbles out of his mouth, he sounds like a disoriented baby squirrel.
Squarespace, “Calling John Malkovich”
It is a uniquely modern problem and one that virtually everyone has experienced in one form or another – from having to go with “JohnSmith99461@gmail.com” to realizing that the URL for your dream snack company for dogs, “Snack My Bichon Up,” has been taken. Of course, there’s also the possibility that this commercial exists in the Being John Malkovich world, where everybody is named John Malkovich, in which case, this spot got real sad real quick.
Ford, “Go Further”
Monday morning water cooler talk will undoubtedly center around which “stuck” scenario everybody identified with most. For us, it’s the kid with the Big Wheel.
Avocados From Mexico, “Secret Society”
Sure, evil conspiracies have been done to death, but “Kyle, are you streaming this?” and a half-hilarious/half-terrifying “subliminal” appearance by John Lovitz kinda has us thinking that maybe there is a shade of Grey missing. Give us back our missing shade, you Illuminati jerks!
Even if you don’t remember Godly and Creme’s “Cry,” this ad still has a real throwback vibe. Like Coke, it’s pushing back against anti-immigration sentiment with a simple message of togetherness. The hashtag is part of its campaign to offer housing for 100,000 refugees, disaster survivors, and relief workers. Cue the angry President Trump tweets in 3… 2… 1…
Tide, “Bradshaw Stain”
Back in the day, commercials used to be completely integrated into the television shows they were shown on. It’s the origin of the term “soap opera,” and it’s fitting that Tide brings a little of that flavor back with its ad featuring commentator Terry Bradshaw with a big ol’ meatball stain on his chest. His quest for a clean shirt is perfectly capped by Jeffrey Tambor giving the most dismissive “I dunno” in history.
NFL, “Super Bowl Babies”
Does this need any explanation? Dressing up babies as football greats will melt any heart. Seriously. Charles Manson, Vladimir Putin … any heart. Mike Ditka, Michael Irvin, Joe Namath, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Marshawn Lynch, and Von Miller should be as proud of their tiny doppelgangers as anything they’ve done in their Hall of Fame-worthy careers.
Intel, “Brady Everyday”
Famous athlete + mild self-deprecation + adorable dog = a Super Bowl commercial. Intel isn’t really selling anything, as far as we can tell. It just doesn’t want anybody to think, “Hey, whatever happened to Intel?” Mission accomplished.
Bud Light, “Ghost Spuds”
It’s a fun idea — a Dickens “Christmas Carol,” only for parties. But everybody knows that Spuds MacKenzie was played by a female dog (RIP Evie). Giving her that deep, “dude’s dude” voice is jarring and moderately unpleasant.
Mercedes, “Easy Driver”
Visually, it’s as perfect as you’d expect from the Coen Brothers. The set is beautiful, the biker gags are spot-on. But Peter Fonda looks like he’d rather be waterboarded than be in this commercial, and he turns his face away from the camera so much, you begin to suspect that a stand-in was used for half the shots.
They just put Peter Cushing and a 19-year-old Carrie Fisher into a live-action Star Wars movie, so there’s no excuse for the animation of these celebrity yearbook pictures to look this bad. Everything’s great about this spot except for the fact that all the celebs’ faces slide into the dreaded Uncanny Valley.
Was this actually done live? The fake choreographed destruction looks too good to be real. On the other hand, we’re in a world where OK Go exists; if it can turn four seconds of explosions into a three-minute slow-mo video, anything is possible. If it was live, it was a pure win; if it was fake, then it’s just another commercial. Give us proof, Snickers! Show us alternate angles! We demand film from the nougaty knoll!
GoDaddy, “The Internet Wants You”
Hey, remember GoDaddy? The company that made commercials that were basically soft-core pornography before they decided to rebrand? And now they’re trying to sell nostalgia for five-year-old cat videos because their demo went from early 20s males to the over-50 crowd in a few short years? Remember? Yeah, neither do we.
Turbo Tax, “Humpty Fall”
There’s a point in this commercial where it could still work out OK. The shattered face is disgusting, but it’s an egg, not a person; the cockney accent keeps it hovering in comedy territory. But then Humpty vomits yolk out of his mouth, and the whole thing becomes a horrifying, grotesque monstrosity.
Buick, “Not So Pee Wee Football”
Sometimes, it just comes down to execution. Properly done, this would be a fun spot with a comically oversized pro athlete playing with children, but it’s got the production values of a local used-car commercial.
Tiffany & Co., “Introducing Lady Gaga for Tiffany HardWear”
WHAT ARE YOU SELLING? WHY MUST I GOOGLE YOUR COMMERCIAL TO FIND OUT WHAT YOUR COMMERCIAL IS FOR? WHY DO THESE KINDS OF SPOTS EXIST?
Yellow Tail Wine, “Wanna Pet My Roo?”
Yellow Tail is doing its country no favors with this ad featuring pretty much every Australian stereotype imaginable. Drunken partiers? Check. Women in bikinis? Check. Animatronic kangaroos? It wasn’t a stereotype before, but it’ll probably be now. You half expect this wine to taste like the light beer whose style this commercial is trying to emulate.
Oh, come on. Justin Timberlake still has a thriving solo career. What is he doing in this ad spoofing an *NSYNC song? There are four other dudes who could use the money more. And speaking of money … you could wallpaper the Sistine Chapel with the royalty checks Christopher Walken has collected for saying ordinary things in his distinctive voice. Hell, saying ordinary things in a Christopher Walken voice has been a comedy trope since the 1980s — which is where this spot belongs.