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Film and TV

The 5 best Super Bowl commercials - and the 5 worst

  • Author: Maura Judkis, Sonia Rao, The Washington Post
  • Updated: February 3
  • Published February 3

If you only watched the Super Bowl for the commercials, you might have found your attention wandering more to the game this year. Overall, it felt like a weak roster.

There were dozens of celebrity cameos - Ellen for Amazon, Charlie Day for Tide, Bryan Cranston and Tracee Ellis Ross for Mountain Dew, and Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” spot, to name a few. But those commercials got a mild chuckle, and it seemed like others relied too heavily on famous faces or ’80s/'90s nostalgia to substitute for original, clever jokes.

If you wanted to see puppies, you had to flip to the Puppy Bowl. The only cute baby was a reincarnated peanut.

Still, some commercials rose to the top, and not just the funny ones. Here are the ads that impressed us the most.

THE BEST

Cheetos

"Hey, I'm gonna need you to - never mind," says a young man's boss, noticing his orange cheese-dusted fingertips. Our hero realizes that if he eats the new Cheetos popcorn, he can avoid a number of unpleasant tasks. Moving heavy furniture? Holding babies? Office team-building trust falls? All dodged thanks to his grubby orange fingertips. It's odd that the positive message in a commercial would be "It'll make your fingertips gross," but it's charming from Cheetos. The whole commercial is set to the sound of MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This," and he pops up throughout - he's especially good as the aforementioned baby. At the end, he emerges from a picnic basket, wearing his signature pants, and hammer dances away with the Cheetos popcorn.

Doritos

The astounding success of country trap hit "Old Town Road" made Lil Nas X the most famous cowboy of his generation - so how delightful that Doritos cast him in their Super Bowl commercial opposite Sam Elliott, one of his generation's most famous cowboys. The two men stare each other down in an actual Cool Ranch, with the song blasting in the background. Lil Nas X wiggles his arms, and Elliott's trademark mustache wiggles right back. Despite Elliott break dancing and slapping his own bottom, Lil Nas X wins the battle. "Who got next?" he asks. We'd like to know, too. But first: Given that Bradley Cooper based his voice in "A Star Is Born" off Elliott's gravelly tone, and that Elliott and Lil Nas X are now friendly, when are we getting Jackson Maine's "Old Town Road" remix?

Google

When this commercial began, no one knew who Loretta was, or why they should care. By the end, many Super Bowl viewers were in tears. It's a simple spot: After searching "How to not forget," an elderly man issues a number of commands to his Google assistant. He asks the device to show him photos of his late wife Loretta, and to remember details like "she loved going to Alaska" and "she always snorted when she laughed."

Google's chief marketing officer wrote that the commercial was inspired by a true story, and voiced by a Google employee's 85-year-old grandfather. At the end, the device scrolls a list of details the man has asked it to remember, such as "Loretta's favorite flowers were tulips," and "Loretta always said, don't miss me too much," interspersed with old photos and videos of Loretta's life. It ends with the man saying, "Remember, I'm the luckiest man in the world," and no, those tears weren't from the onions you were chopping for your halftime guacamole. Sure, there were a few people who couldn't help but make jokes about how Google sold the late Loretta's personal data to advertisers. But for many, the commercial reminded them of their parents' and grandparents' love stories, and the toll that Alzheimer's and dementia take.

Pringles

Leave it to "Rick and Morty," the Adult Swim cartoon known for its cynicism and for causing a Szechuan sauce fiasco, to poke fun at Super Bowl commercials' most common crutch: celebrity cameos. As Rick and Summer watch a Pringles commercial on television, Summer asks her grandpa, "How much do you think Pringles paid these people?" Morty wanders in, spewing nonsense about stacking different chip varieties, and Rick realizes they're stuck in a spot of their own. The already meta commercial, starring cartoon celebrities critiquing real ones, tacks on yet another layer - much like the stacked chips Morty won't shut up about. Endless new flavors!

Snickers

Snickers begins by outlining our current dystopia: Grown men riding scooters, babies named after produce (“Hi, Kale!”), the surveillance state (“I am not spying,” says an Alexa-like device). So in an obvious reference to the famous 1971 “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” commercial, the people of the world come together with a plan to bring humankind together and solve our societal ills: They’re going to dump a giant Snickers into a huge hole in the ground. Even though they acknowledge that it’s a dumb plan, they may be on to something: As two YouTubers film a video at the edge, they fall in, screaming. “The Snickers hole!” calls out one man. “It’s working!”

THE WORST

Given the overall energy of the night, the worst Super Bowl commercials are often just the most boring ones. In addition to the usual flops, this year's batch contained a few with images so unsettling that they may never leave our brains. Did you ever think you'd witness Aquaman dismantle his own ripped bod? Maybe not, but we're a little more concerned with the fact that the Kool-Aid Man's tears can apparently bring Mr. Peanut, the anthropomorphic legume, back from the dead.

Here's a closer look at the weirdest and/or worst commercials of the night.

Audi

Audi's commercial feels a bit like the result of someone pulling a bunch of names out of a hat. The premise: "Game of Thrones" star Maisie Williams hums the "Frozen" earworm "Let It Go" as she hops into her Audi. Frustrated by the loud traffic jam around her, she begins to belt the song - along with all the random people she drives past. The resulting questions: Why is Maisie Williams the one singing this song, instead of, say, Idina Menzel? Why is she singing "Let It Go," a song that came out in 2013, when "Frozen II" produced another earworm just a few months ago? And, most importantly, what is she even letting go of?

Genesis

Celebrity cameos are generally a safe bet, but Chrissy Teigen and John Legend's commercial for the luxury car brand Genesis reminded us of how uninventive the tactic can be. Though Teigen is quite clever on social media, the tired jokes she makes in the commercial land poorly. She insults a bunch of wealthy party attendees over their poor fashion choices and plastic surgery, telling them the era of "old luxury" is over. (What are old and "young luxury," anyway?) She then flees in a getaway car that Legend only allows her to enter after she admits he was named People's Sexist Man Alive. The spot's humor hinges entirely upon how invested you are in the couple's relationship, and if you aren't, well, tough luck.

Planters

America wasn't sure it would get the chance to see the much heralded funeral of Mr. Peanut. After a teaser commercial killed the character off in a fiery crash, the company decided to suspend its #RIPeanut social media campaign, because the conditions and setting of his death were somewhat similar to Kobe Bryant's. Besides, a lot of people were happy to see him go. "Mr. Peanut is in Hell," wrote podcaster Patrick Monahan on Twitter. "He spent decades as the smiling face of a company that sold the boiled and roasted corpses of his people as a snack."

But in the first half of the game, beloved spokesmascots including the Kool-Aid Man and Mr. Clean - you can see the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile parked in the distance - put the monocled legume to rest. As he's eulogized, the Kool-Aid man cries a single tear into the soil, and something miraculous happens: A plant sprouts a baby peanut (#babynut), which emerges from the ground, squeals some porpoise noises, and then is revealed to be the reincarnated Mr. Peanut, who immediately asks for his monocle.

Mostly, we're mad about Planters' blatant, manipulative bait-and-switch, replacing their mascot with a younger, cuter version of the old one, who we didn't even like that much to begin with. But we have several questions. Why did they waste our time killing the old peanut off? Why does the hashtag #babynut make us so deeply uncomfortable? What does it mean within the spokesmascot multiverse that a Kool-Aid tear can bring a peanut back from the dead? Is Mr. Peanut Jesus? Is everyone actually in hell?

Rocket Mortgage

It starts off okay. After a long day, actor Jason Momoa returns to his beautiful mansion to kick back and relax. He walks through the door. He takes off his shoes. "It's where I can just kick back and be totally comfortable in my own skin," he says, before he removes his muscular, tattooed arms, revealing noodle-thin arms underneath.

"Rocket Mortgage understands that home is where I can be myself," he says, ripping the flesh from his own torso, to reveal a skinny, concave chest. Finally, he takes off his mane of thick hair, exposing his male pattern baldness and a strip of toupee tape. It wasn't just that Momoa was no longer muscular and hot - it was that the CGI was poorly executed - his arms didn't seem to align with his shirtsleeves for a second. Many viewers found it deeply unsettling.

Sabra

An all-star cast - and by all-star we mean medium-famous celebrities joined by YouTubers/TikTokers only pre-teens will recognize - come together to shill Sabra hummus on a technicolor set. In the former group, there’s Real Housewives of New Jersey Teresa Giudice and Caroline Manzo, T-Pain, professional wrestler Ric Flair, and Megan Thee Stallion. In the latter, there’s Tway Nguyen, Zachary King and Charli D’Amelio, among others. Yes, it’s the first time that drag queens - RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Miz Cracker and Kim Chi - appear in a Super Bowl commercial. But the premise is just a bunch of people dipping snacks into hummus, but calling it “mus,” which is something that absolutely no one does. Stop trying to make “mus” happen! It’s not going to happen!

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