The 8 Debate

Greatest Super Bowl Commercials
February 04, 2013

There have been hundreds of Super Bowl ads, but only a few have staying power. While it passed for clever in 2000, greeting someone today with a Wasssssuuuppp? is grounds for justifiable homicide in many states. With that in mind, here are the spots that still stand the test of time.

1 Terry Tate, Office LinebackerReebok, 2003

Sure, it's over the top in its violence, but try not to laugh. Sent by Reebok to increase productivity at the fictitious Felcher & Sons, Tate (played by former USFL linebacker Lester Speight) lights up—and then trash-talks—office slackers. "You know you need a cover sheet on your TPS reports, Richard!" Tate bellows. "That ain't new, baby!"

2 The ForceVolkswagen, 2011

Who needs words when you've got a kid in a Darth Vader suit starting a car using the Force (with some help from Dad's remote)?

3 The ShowdownMcDonald's, 1993

In which Larry Bird and Michael Jordan trade shots for a Big Mac: First one to miss watches the winner eat. The attempts get increasingly ridiculous—through a window, off the expressway—but no one fails. (Except for whoever chose Jordan's neon-striped outfit.)

4 Mean Joe GreeneCoca-Cola, 1980

The ad got its biggest audience at Super Bowl XIV, in which Greene's Steelers beat the Rams. Greene delivers one of commercialdom's most memorable lines as he tosses his jersey to a fan who gave him a Coke: "Hey, kid, catch."

5 When I Grow UpMonster.com, 1999

More cute kids, this time reciting the types of jobs no people dream about when they're young: "I want to be a yes-man," and "I want to have a brown nose."

6 Beware the PenguinsBud Ice, 1996

Budweiser has had plenty of memorable spots (Clydesdales playing football with a zebra as the ref, those frogs, etc.) but none as funny as the one in which a penguin torments beer drinkers. Doobie, doobie, doo, indeed.

7 New NeighborDiet Pepsi, 1987

Michael J. Fox goes to great lengths to get his attractive neighbor a soda. Simple yet, like Fox, charming.

8 Please Don't GoPets.com, 2000

The highlight of what became known as the Dot.com Super Bowl—in which 19 Internet start-ups splashed millions on ads—was the wryly hilarious Michael Ian Black voicing a sock puppet that croons Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now." Sadly, business went to the dogs and the company went bust by the end of the year.

A 30-second advertisement during Super Bowl I, in 1967, cost an average of $38,750, the equivalent of $266,000 in today's dollars. For Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday, 30 seconds of airtime will go for approximately $4 million.

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PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONPHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY DWAYNE BERNARD: REEBOK (TATE); JENNIFER R. GRAD (FLAT-SCREEN TVS); DEUTSCH LA/VOLKSWAGEN (THE FORCE); GOODBY SILVERSTEIN & PARTNERS/FORGOTTENADVERTISEMENTS.WORDPRESS.COM (BUDWEISER); THE COCA-COLA COMPANY (COKE); GINO SANTA MARIA/FOTOLIA.COM (VINTAGE TV) PHOTOMOSTAFA FAWZY/FOTOLIA.COM (MONEY)

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