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The 12 Greatest Super Bowl Ads of All-Time

apple 1984 macintosh michael jordan larry bird mcdonald's darth vader volkswagon mean joe greene coke commercials ads super bowl
Apple/McDonalds/Volkswagen/Coke

The Super Bowl might bring the promise of glory to one group of lucky fans and humiliating and bitter defeat to another, but for the rest of the universe, it’s a chance to enjoy some primo, top-of-the-line adver-tainment.

Every year, the million dollar ads that run in between the long drives and plays of the big game don’t just try to outdo each other for your attention — they have to outdo themselves from the ads they produced and aired during the previous Super Bowl. Some have set the bar so high that the game’s non-sports loving audiences fear that marketing teams won’t be able to keep them as entertained in between sips of the beer and bites of the chicken wings they’re already trying to get them to buy. These are the commercials that set the bar so high that very few Super Bowl ads that followed have failed to get the ball over it.


1

Apple Computer, '1984'

 
 

There's a reason why every list of greatest Super Bowl ads features this classic commercial. Directed by Ridley Scott, it practically made the Super Bowl required spending for major corporations' marketing budgets and turned advertising into something compelling that didn't make people lunge for their remotes.

 
2

Coca-Cola, 'Mean Joe Greene'

 
 

A longtime NFL sponsor, Coke went down in history with this ad featuring the former defensive tackle befriended by a little boy. In fact, the ad is so famous, Greene is probably better remembered for tossing a sweaty rag than for all 10 of his Pro-Bowl appearances combined.

 
3

Budweiser, 'Lizards'

 
 

The Budweiser Frogs may have been the catalyst for this hilarious series of ads, but the Lizards brought it to a whole new level. They weren't just catchphrase-spewing puppets with a product to push. They had a plot, character and motivation that actually made people look forward to the next ad so they could see what happens next.That, and the fact that they were way more interesting than watching the Packers trounce the Patriots.

 
4

McDonalds, 'Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan'

 
 

The sporting world has long dreamed of a showdown between the NBA's reigning dunk king and 3-point shot deity. The closest we got was this spot featuring Jordan and Bird in the world's most extreme game of "Horse" ever played. A year later, a follow-up added Charles Barkley to the mix.

 
5

Volkswagen, 'Darth Vader'

 
 

Despite what shallow sports bloggers and marketing surveys believe, women also watch the Super Bowl for more than just the ads. This commercial was able to pull in huge approval and audiences from both sexes for being supremely cute and funny with a pint-sized Darth Vader who was so good that George Lucas should have re-cast him in 'Star Wars -- Episode 1' using digital editing technology.

 
6

Snickers, 'Betty White'

 
 

This hilarious ad starring actress Betty White did more than just reinvent the funny Super Bowl commercial -- it also reinvented the "Golden Girls'" stars' entire career, leading to a hosting appearance on 'Saturday Night Live,' a hit sitcom on TV Land and a whole new life in the spotlight. We still say Abe Vigoda deserved at least an appearance in a Lady Gaga video out of it.

 
7

Reebok, 'Terry Tate: Office Linebacker'

 
 

A funny commercial can make or break a product. If the humor goes too far over the edge, it can have people burning the product in massive bonfires by halftime and if it doesn't go far enough, they'll barely remember what they're supposed to buy when they head off to the store the next day. This genius ad campaign from Reebok offers the perfect combo of edginess and office humor and probably gave a very evil boss somewhere a very bad idea for corporate restructuring.

 
8

Nationwide, 'Kevin Federline'

 
 

Celebrity cameos are no stranger to Super Bowl commercials. In fact, their presence alone can make audiences look forward to seeing it more than the actual game. The former Mr. Britney Spears had the same anticipation for his Super Bowl ad, but for all the wrong reasons.

 
9

Budweiser, 'Clydesdale Football'

 
 

Beer ads usually fall in one of two categories: super funny or super sexy. This groundbreaking special effects bonanza didn't fall into either category, but that was just one of the reasons that made it memorable. Another was its amazing use of digital technology to re-create the appearance of horses playing football. It was so good that the Colts actually tried to pick up one of them as their new kicker in the draft.

 
10

Tabasco, 'Mosquito'

 
 

It didn't have any flashy celebrities. It didn't have talking animals that complained about their status in life. It didn't even have what some in the biz might consider to be flashy special effects. But it still managed to overcome all of these obstacles to become a funny and effective ad that stuck in our minds well past the final touchdown.

 
11

Got Milk, 'Dwayne Johnson'

 
 

So, where does action star Dwayne Johnson summon the strength he needs to kick butt? By going all out, of course, to get his hands on some milk. This ad is cheeky and playful, while Johnson does a good job sending up his image as an action icon.

 
12

Chrysler, 'Clint Eastwood'

 
 

Clocking in at a robust two minutes, this ad featured American icon Clint Eastwood using his distinctive voice to deliver an inspiration speech to remind us that "It's halftime, America" and that we will rally, even though times are tough. Understated, but determined, this patriotic commercial got people pumped up.

 

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