Best Super Bowl commercials... and one dud

Commentary: The NFL won its own big game with a hilarious "Dirty Dancing" spoof, but Tide ads also cleaned up.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Expertise Breaking news, entertainment, lifestyle, travel, food, shopping and deals, product reviews, money and finance, video games, pets, history, books, technology history, and generational studies Credentials
  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
4 min read

Did you have the time of your life watching Sunday's Super Bowl? Cause you've never felt like this before?

The Philadelphia Eagles won the game, beating the favored New England Patriots 41-33. But when it came to the much hyped commercials, perhaps the biggest winner came from inside the house. The NFL itself produced a "Dirty Dancing"-inspired winner of a spot spoofing players' elaborate touchdown celebrations, showing nobody puts Odell Beckham Jr. in a corner.

Here's a rundown of some of the best Super Bowl commercials -- and one of the worst.

Want to see movie trailers that dropped during the big game? We've got "Avengers: Infinity War," "The Cloverfield Paradox," "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," "Mission: Impossible -- Fallout" and "Solo: A Star Wars Story."

And to see more car commercials from the Super Bowl, here's our roundup of those.

1. Funniest ad: The NFL, 'Dirty Dancing' spoof

It seems a bit weird to celebrate the NFL's own ad during its own big game, but it's also hard to argue with the truly funny "Dirty Dancing"-themed commercial. New York Giants Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning practiced a future touchdown celebration by mimicking Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze's famed lift scene from 1987's "Dirty Dancing." At first it seems outlandish, but when you remember that this was the year the Minnesota Vikings played Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (the Minnesota name for Duck, Duck, Goose) and the Green Bay Packers went bobsledding, it doesn't seem that weird.

2. Best running gag: Tide, 'It's a Tide Ad' series

David Harbour, known to "Stranger Things" fans as Chief Jim Hopper, pulled out a season's worth of trick plays. In one ad, he proclaimed he was starring in a car ad, then a beer ad, an insurance ad, diamond ad and any number of other products before revealing all the ads were for Tide. Even other major-product mascots showed up, from a Budweiser Clydesdale to Mr. Clean, but they were all just props in Harbour's Tide world-domination scheme.

3. Funny but creepiest: Amazon, Alexa loses her voice

In a witty but somewhat disturbing ad from Amazon, the intelligent personal assistant Alexa loses her voice and is replaced by a batch of celebrities. Famously abrasive chef Gordon Ramsay dresses a home cook down for not knowing how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Rebel Wilson gets a little bit too adult for a casual party host who just wants some music. And in the most terrifying cameo, Anthony "Hannibal Lecter" Hopkins tells a woman her pal Brandon is a "little tied up" at the moment, which ... does not sound good. Feeding peacocks has never before seemed so ominous.

4. Best duo: Doritos/Mountain Dew, Peter Dinklage/Morgan Freeman

We're not sure why Peter Dinklage of "Game of Thrones" fame ended up in an ad with dulcet-toned Morgan Freeman, but hey, it worked. Dinklage crunches Doritos while Busta Rhymes' voice comes out of his mouth, and Freeman stays cool for Mountain Dew Ice while channeling Missy Elliot. Can't really imagine how the ad agency explained this in the pitch room, but thanks mostly to Dinklage and Freeman's charm, even though they're not the ones speaking, the ad made for a fun snack.

5. Most controversial: Ram Trucks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ram Trucks used a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speech given exactly 50 years before Sunday's Super Bowl as the narration for its ad. The words are compelling, King's voice is resonant, and the images shown -- of people helping others, dressing children, saving animals -- are inspiring. But then the Ram logo keeps showing up, and it just feels like a cheapening of King's legacy. Maybe next time just run the words and images, minus the trucks.

6. Most inspiring: Toyota, 'Good Odds'

Maybe Ram can take a lesson from fellow carmaker Toyota. Toyota's inspirational ad worked, and it didn't shoehorn in a car to do so. It's hard not to feel inspired by the simply shown story of Canadian alpine skier Lauren Woolstencroft, who was born with only one arm and without any legs below her knees, and went on to win eight Paralympic gold medals. The ad ends by showing a number of Toyota creations to assist in mobility, yet never once shows a standard car or truck. Even the tagline, "when we're free to move, anything is possible," works with, not against, the spot.

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