Back when the Super Bowl started 50 years ago – still in the early days of its becoming a televised ratings juggernaut– beer commercials and car commercials were pretty much all you’d find jammed between the actual football; because guys who watch football drink beer and drive cars. The logic was simple.
Eventually, as the decades passed and Coke and Pepsi duked it out while Apple made Super Bowl commercials a new art form, a new type of Super Bowl commercial emerged; movie trailers. As studios eventually discovered that even the biggest movie nerds watched the Super Bowl (sometimes exclusively for the commercials), the Super Bowl spots began to garner more hype than the actual films they were promoting. Getting your film’s trailer on during the Super Bowl became the best promotion there was, and as a result we’ve seen tons of blockbusters over the years debut their first look during the Super Bowl.
The best Super Bowl trailers are like the movies themselves, using big name stars, a fantastically inventive sequence from the film, and all the hype in the world to shamelessly sell you on a product that oftentimes won’t be released for several months. And since we can’t wait to spend months re-watching the trailers released during this year’s Super Bowl 50, we’ve decided to look back to the past and focus on the 10 Best Super Bowl Commercials of All Time.
10. Year One
In 2009 the only thing bigger than Judd Apatow was Michael Cera, and here they were teaming up on a movie that looked cool and unique and slapstick-y and very much like a throwback to some great 80s comedies. The Year One trailer launched making the film look like the massive Apatowian hit of the summer, and it wasn’t yet clear that the film would go on to be a middling flop and a strange career detour for all those involved. Except Michael Cera, who rode that detour straight into oblivion and has rarely looked back, causing all of us to wonder with sadness and a mustachioed flash of hope; where has Michael Cera gone and when will he come back?
Despite the film’s underwhelming legacy, like most of the trailers on this list we enjoyed the ride leading up to it, and we enjoyed the anticipation that came from waiting for a movie we were excited about. And despite end results, sometimes the best parts of movies is the anticipation that comes with waiting for them to be released.
Awake, for those of you that weren’t one of the basically no viewers that watched it, was one of the last great shows on NBC. At a time when the network was faltering – badly – they counted on their Super Bowl commercials to sell people on their new programming, and they actually aired a spot for the critically acclaimed show about a man who lived in two realities; one where his son died and his wife was alive, and one that was the exact opposite.
The trailer showcased the crazy exciting concept and promoted a crazy good show in front of literally a hundred million people watching, and still only six million tuned into the pilot. By the time the show wrapped up its thirteen episode run, less than three million were watching, which is a travesty not only for quality TV, but for NBC, who couldn’t turn an audience that was a third of the entire United States population into enough viewers to keep a show on the air for more than one season.
8. Batman Begins
The trailer for Batman Begins aired before anyone knew what Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise would become. While we now know that it would eventually pave the way for DC’s entire vision of their cinematic universe, back in 2005 a Christopher Nolan Batman movie starring Christian Bale was something that only the geekiest of movie geeks knew about; until this trailer.
Doing away with the goofy camp of previous Batman incarnations, Batman Begins showcased its new direction by flashing the word “evil” in a decidedly mid-2000s computerized text to prove that it meant business. Dark, gritty, grounded, and as unfunny as the stomach problems you’re sure to get from eating all that seven layer dip, DC launched a touchdown of a series during the 2005 Super Bowl, and its shock waves are still being felt around the movie world a decade later.
7. Cowboys & Aliens
Talk about excitement! Jon Favreau had just directed two Iron Man films, and he was following them up with a genre mash-up starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. It had a great cast, it looked cool as hell, and it was something (mostly) original in the age of sequels and big IP properties.
The Super Bowl trailer for Cowboys & Aliens showcased some of the unique effects and stoked excitement for the film, all while not really bothering to explain how said cowboys meet said aliens. Maybe that should’ve been our first hint that this movie wasn’t fully baked. Even though the trailer made the film look like the beginning of a wildly fun and original franchise, it obviously all went up in smoke from there, but that doesn’t stop this trailer from being a heck of a promotional punch to kick-start a (doomed) movie campaign.
In 2009 Heroes had a very cool hook, a likable and talented cast, and it was becoming a global phenomenon just as quickly as it eventually faded from existence. So this commercial put the Heroes in front of a ton of eyeballs, tied into football, showed off the great effects of the show, and ultimately skipped over all the contrived, boring, and poorly written nonsense that the show would later rely on exclusively.
While Heroes went from being one of the top rated network shows to a low-rated embarrassment in only three years, this Super Bowl trailer cashed in while the hype train was full steam ahead and proved that TV trailers could compete with film during the big game.
The Super Bowl trailer for Hulk would never fly these days, as it looks more like something made by a fan who has been in a coma since 2003. But that’s pretty understandable considering that Hulk trailer came out in 2003, and it follows that early-2000s trend of blaring a rock song over meaningless action scenes. But back then, when superhero movies were still trying to figure out what they wanted to be, Hulk helped out the genre by failing spectacularly and exemplifying what superhero movies definitely didn’t want to be.
Still, this trailer mixed the right amount of excitement and teasing with exciting looks at a well-known character that had been a part of pop culture for decades. To promote what could’ve been – but ultimately wasn’t – during the biggest televised event of the year was a great early attempt to capture the attention of the geek market and slowly build anticipation for a movie that wasn’t being released for another five months.
This trailer is crazy. Airing in 2006, just as ABC’s Lost was becoming a global phenomenon, this trailer – for no apparent reason – spliced clips from the show together with Robert Palmer’s song Addicted to Love. Yeah. I don’t know either. But it definitely existed, it definitely aired during the Super Bowl, and it definitely misled all the millions of people who saw it and decided to give this goofy comedy Lost a try.
Although, those people couldn’t have been more misled than the people who got hooked during the show’s first season and quickly went down a rabbit hole (or hatch) of five meandering and ultimately disappointing seasons of television. But, on the bright side, this trailer now remains as a reminder of… Something. Probably. Who really knows? Maybe Desmond?
3. Star Trek
In a world where reboots weren’t yet all the rage… One man set out to change the space epic forever… Because he thought he would never get to direct Star Wars… But then he did direct Star Wars... But first he directed this thing… Star Trek.
While that’s sadly not the voice-over on 2009’s Super Bowl spot for Star Trek, the trailer did give us a face-paced look at the exciting new direction that the Star Trek series would take under J.J. Abrams. It was exciting, it was fresh, it was glossy, and it was filled with a certain movie-term for when light hits the camera lens and creates an effect of some sort; but due to more overuse of saying that J.J. Abrams uses this effect than the effect is actually overused by J.J. Abrams, we won’t say it here. We’ll just say that the Star Trek trailer got us excited for a big-budget reboot that we weren’t too sure we’d enjoy, and then we enjoyed the hell out of it when it finally came.
2. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen
All we had seen at this point in world history – when the Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen Super Bowl trailer was released – was Transformers, and it was pretty great! There were robots, Shia LaBeouf was actually charming and fun, and Megan Fox was there. So when we saw the explosive footage for Revenge of The Fallen, we were understandably excited.
But then it turned out that the explosive trailer footage was literally all there was to the movie; just a hell of a lot more of it. No story or character development or dialogue or meaningful content, though. Just explosions and robots. So. Yeah. The trailer pretty much summed it all up, and here we are in 2016 with three bad sequels under our belt and a fourth on its way.
1. The Avengers
Ah 2012. What a simple time. People were convinced the world was ending, and no one knew just how big “shared cinematic universes” would become. When The Avengers Super Bowl trailer debuted, people were understandably excited to see any amount of new footage that they could feast their eyes on, as fans had spent the last few years watching superhero solo film after superhero solo film, waiting for the promised team-up to end all team ups.
Of course, The Avengers only started all the team ups that are now following it, but still, expectations were through the roof when this trailer bowed and those expectations were somehow met when Marvel’s biggest movie launched that summer.
So before you waste 4 months waiting for Captain America: Civil War only to be let down by your own sky-high expectations, enjoy these 4 months! They’re the last months of your life you’ll have ever been waiting to see Civil War!
Which of these trailers do you remember getting excited about? Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments!