The Super Bowl may be the annual culmination of the NFL season, but it has also long since swelled into being a stage for all sorts of matters of cultural importance. There’s the adorable Puppy Bowl, and a kid-friendly Nickelodeon presence complete with a SpongeBob concert inspired by “Band Geeks.” But one of the most important ancillary Super Bowl draws is all of the high-budget commercials and trailers that launch alongside the event. These ads range from actively cringe to genuinely clever, so we’ve collected this year’s highlights.
Leave Christopher Walken alone
This ad from BMW stars Christopher Walken, and the car itself plays a supporting role to the legendary actor as he goes about a day in his life. The ad depicts a kind of hell where everywhere Walken goes, he is bombarded by people doing poor impressions of his iconic cadence to his face. It’s a cute premise, bolstered by a cameo by R&B star and Super Bowl halftime headliner Usher that suggests the two have some kind of low-level, long-running animosity.
Aliens among us
Squarespace is a continual presence in my daily internet life; nearly every YouTuber I like has gone out of their way to accept a sponsorship from the website host. But what if Squarespace could sell itself through a big, cinematic story? Hello Down There is a short film directed by Martin Scorsese, showing a world where aliens have fully revealed themselves to humanity... but no one notices, because they’re on their smartphones! Luckily, the aliens can use Squarespace to get everyone to look up and pay attention.
Scrubs stars reunited (plus Jason Momoa)
Scrubs stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison show up to welcome new neighbor Jason Momoa to the neighborhood with a song and dance about how great T-Mobile is. This commercial mostly serves as a reminder of just how gosh darn charming Momoa is — although, if I were more of a Scrubs fan, maybe I’d be jazzed to see the sitcom star reunion.
Baja Blast truly makes everything tolerable
You could argue the whole “sitcom stars reunite in a wacky setting celebrating a corporate product” was done better by Mountain Dew, which showcases Aubrey Plaza sipping on the ultimate gamer elixir known as Baja Blast in a variety of settings. Parks and Recreation co-star Nick Offerman arrives, riding a dragon. It’s the sort of silly, cotton-candy premise that mostly works due to how enjoyable it is to see Plaza and Offerman on screen in any context.
Chris Pratt? More like Chris Pringles
If I had a nickel for every 2024 Super Bowl ad starring a former Parks and Recreation star enjoying some kind of snack food, well, I’d have two nickels. Chris Pratt, fresh off starring as Mario, grows a mustache. This makes everyone around him realize he looks like the Pringles mascot, and he is peer-pressured into accepting the role. My immersion was only briefly broken by the idea that there is a role Chris Pratt might actually want to decline.
A multitude of Tinas Fey
You’ve heard of the multiverse, but what about the Tina Fey-verse? Tina Fey hires a variety of body doubles so she can hit all of the amazing places she wants to go via Booking.com. Glenn Close also shows up, because why have one unexpected star for your Super Bowl spot when you can have two?
Paramount’s expedition continues
Paramount Plus isn’t the most coveted streaming service around, but this Super Bowl ad actually warmed my heart. The stars of various Paramount properties have gathered around a mountain, and they are trying to toss a grappling hook up a steep incline. Arnold (from Hey Arnold!) is roped into wacky shenanigans by Patrick Stewart, Drew Barrymore, and Knuckles — yes, the Knuckles from Sonic the Hedgehog. Creed shows up to preside over the antics, and the whole thing is so silly and surreal it actually kind of works. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for seeing Master Chief hanging out with Knuckles and the guy who hosts Survivor.
Michael Cera sells us on Cerave
Michael Cera has been acting up for weeks on TikTok. Out of nowhere, popular influencers started mentioning him in videos and people shared videos where he distributed Cerave products across New York. Now we know that these shenanigans have all been a part of a larger promotional campaign for the skin care company, Cerave. The running joke is that this celebrity endorsement has made sense because the actor’s last name, Cera, sounds just like Cerave. It’s not the funniest commercial in the world, but I have a soft spot for pretty much any project I see the actor tied to. —Ana Diaz
Pluto TV’s couch potatoes
Here’s a cute idea executed well, as Pluto TV’s ad is a parody of farmer-focused commercials, but about couch potatoes. What really sells this one is the committed performance of the gruff farmers, but the happy people potatoes don’t hurt.
Ben Affleck tries to help J-Lo at work
Ben Affleck and Dunkin’ have done some fun Super Bowl commercials over the years. This time, he teams up with good friend Matt Damon and Boston sports legend Tom Brady for The Dunkings, his attempt at a music group to “help out” his wife Jennifer Lopez as she records some new tracks. Damon’s particularly funny here as he plays the beleaguered friend who may have been asked for one favor too many. —Pete Volk