The 5 Best Super Bowl Commercials of All Time

Written By J.R. Duren on February 8, 2022
best super bowl commercials

The Super Bowl battle between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals to cap off the 2021 NFL season was notable for TV ad history as well. It marked the first time the league allowed a sportsbook to have a Super Bowl commercial, and Caesars Sportsbook bought the time. That got me wondering what the best Super Bowl commercials of all time were.

It’s the snicker skirmishes that happen during the commercials that provide the most entertainment when the game isn’t close.

Look no further than Reebok’s classic Terry Tate bit with former USFLer Lester Speight. The commercial’s tongue-in-cheek praise of the productivity that a bone-crunching “office linebacker” induced was far more entertaining than the actual game: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blew out the Los Angeles Raiders 48-21.

Here’s my list of the top Super Bowl commercials of all time.

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Apple, “1984”; Super Bowl XVIII

The cultural significance of this commercial can’t be understated. A fierce blond barrels her way down the aisle of an auditorium filled with lifeless lackeys fixated on a screen playing a dystopian speech by a gaunt talking head. In her hands, a sledgehammer. Ominous guards are in pursuit. She stops, swings the sledgehammer a few times, and launches it at the screen, inducing a blinding explosion.

The message of the commercial was clear: Apple was ready to disrupt the lifeless personal computer industry. Now, 37 years later, Apple is a household name, its phones are tablets are sought-after devices around the world, and earlier this month it became the first company to achieve a $3 trillion market capitalization.

And it’s a good thing the commercial was captivating because the game wasn’t. The Los Angeles Raiders decimated the Washington Redskins 38-9.

McDonald’s, “Showdown”; Super Bowl XXVII

In this classic, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan play a game of one-miss horse for a Big Mac. The winner gets the burger, and the loser has to watch. Bird and Jordan trade pedestrian shots to start the game, but soon resort to Dude Perfect-level attempts from the rafters, the street outside the gym, and eventually a skyscraper on the other side of a river and a freeway. The instructions get more complicated for each shot, with Jordan ending each of his instructions with an iconic, “Nothin’ but net.”

Like the Apple commercial, this ad was a godsend amid a terrible game–the Dallas Cowboys blew out the Buffalo Bills 52-17.

Snickers, “Betty White”; Super Bowl XLIV

The late Betty White experienced one of her many cultural moments during the 2010 Super Bowl when she starred in a Snickers commercial. The setting is a tackle football game between wispy bearded twenty-and thirty-somethings. White runs across the middle and is open, only to be smashed into the ground by a white-sneakered defender wearing gym shorts.

A hobbled White returns to the huddle, at which point one of her teammates says, “Mike, c’mon! You’re playing like Betty White out there!” White snaps back, “That’s not what your girlfriend says.”

At that moment, White’s girlfriend hops off some nearby bleachers and brings white a Snickers. One bite in, and White transforms into square-jawed Mike. “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” a voiceover says at the end of the commercial. “Snickers satisfies.”

The Snickers commercial was a rarity, in that it was a legendary spot that ran during a legendary game. The New Orleans Saints downed the Indianapolis Colts 31-17, thanks to a Tracy Porter pick-six as the Colts were driving to tie the game with under four minutes left.

Old Spice, “What Your Man Could Smell Like”; Super Bowl XLIV

Bro masculinity at its finest. In this commercial, ex-NFL practice squander Isaiah Mustafa exudes peak caricatured manliness as he promises women watching the ad that, among other things, boyfriends who wear Old Spice can perform various mythical feats like making “two tickets to that thing you love” appear out of an oyster, turning those tickets into diamonds, then, seconds later, magically appearing on a white horse just a few feet away from a paradisiacal beach.

The commercial went viral and gave way to a series of similarly-themed Old Spice ads with Mustafa. The Snickers Betty White commercial aired during the same game, making 2010 the top year for Super Bowl ads.

Volkswagen, “The Force”; Super Bowl XLV

Perhaps the sentimental favorite, this commercial worked its way into that “I’m not crying, you’re crying” section of our collective hearts. A young boy clad in a Darth Vader costumer tries to use the force to control things around the house: his dog, an exercise bike, and a peanut butter sandwich.

Realizing his powers likely do not exist and that his reign over the house is coming to an end, the boy runs outside when his dad pulls into the driveway in a Volkswagen Passat. As a last-ditch effort to exert his dark arts over his small kingdom, the boy points his hands toward the sedan. The car roars to life and the boy jumps back, astonished that his black magic tomfoolery actually worked. Meanwhile, his dad is standing in the kitchen, smiling after he activated the car’s engine with his key fob.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could’ve used some of that manufactured magic, as they failed to score on their final drive of the Super Bowl and lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-25.

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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has written for a wide variety of publications, both online and print, including Snooth, the Villages Daily Sun, Bespoke Post, Our Amazing Norway, and Barcelona Metropolitan. He has thrice been recognized as a winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest.

View all posts by J.R. Duren