The Super Bowl enjoys a unique place in American television: when the commercials come on, people actually start paying more attention to the broadcast. Each ad slot is the most expensive and most-watched 30 seconds of television in the world (and let’s face it, probably the universe). Some companies pour their heart, soul, and several million dollars into 30 little seconds of time that might make or break their sales for the year.

The past ten years have been remarkable in terms of political, social, and technological change, and the Super Bowl ads reflect that. Let’s take a walk down memory lane at the past ten years of Super Bowl commercial history.

2002

The first Super Bowl after the 9/11 attacks brought out the best side in almost every company that advertised. Budweiser aired this commercial during the February 2002 game, then didn’t air it again until the anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/11. It’s a tribute to those who died on 9/11, and other than the iconic Clydesdale horses and a tasteful logo at the end, it makes no mention of the Budweiser brand.

2003

Terry Tate shows us what it means to be a team player. Here is the long version, because you deserve it!

2004

Okay, we should warn you now that Budweiser may take away a lot of these. Say what you want about their beer (as long as you don’t say “it tastes good”), but they make damn good commercials. This one is either too cute to love or too cute to hate, but either way it’s really, really cute.

2005

Budweiser had two fantastic spots this year (including one thanking the troops), but we thought we’d better let someone else have a little love. Emerald Nuts gives us this dad that doesn’t want to share so bad that he risks scarring his child forever. That’s what we call comedy.

2006

CareerBuilder had a great run for awhile with ads about a company run by monkeys. That sounds like anti-advertising for a job search site, since who doesn’t want to work at a company full of monkeys? This commercial attempts to explain why.

2007

This is the year that Bud Light showed us an awesome new way to express manly appreciation. There’s nothing that says “Thanks bro” like a good hard slap across the face.

2008

Pepsi manages to score a decent Super Bowl commercial with this hilarious spot featuring Justin Timberlake (who has great comic timing, by the way) and a few celebrity cameos. JT is self-effacing and funny in this brilliant 60-second comedy.

2009

Audi takes super-star action hero Jason Statham and gives us an exciting, edge-of-your-seat chase sequence in only 60 seconds. 2009 featured some other great commercials, but this one takes the top spot simply for its over-the-top audacity.

2010

Dodge Charger came out of nowhere with this terrific spot, which simultaneously emasculates most of the Super Bowl audience while convincing them to buy a Charger. By the way that’s the voice of Dexter himself, Michael C. Hall, explaining in great detail why you are no longer a man.

2011

So finally here we are! The 2011 Super Bowl broadcast featured some truly amazing commercials, but there is one in particular that was the best, funniest, most interesting, and most talked about over all of the others. You already know what you’re about to watch, right? We kind of wish we could give this award to something less obvious and more unappreciated, like Miss Evelyn, but you just can’t deny how popular Volkswagen’s Passat commercial was. Enjoy!

And here’s hoping for another great round of commercials on February 5, 2012!