Along with beer and, for the past several years, Doritos, the Super Bowl ads feature a huge proportion of car commercials. Men, alcohol, testosterone, cars, it’s clearly a winning combination as far as Madison Avenue is concerned. While Bud Light commercials get all the glory, there have been several memorable car commercials over the years that deserve a second look.

Why aren’t the car spots remembered as fondly as chips and beer, or even GoDaddy? Maybe it’s because 90% of them are the same boring shots of a car driving along a winding coastline, or maybe it’s because after you’ve been bombarded by enough car commercials you tend to simply tune them out. To rise above the pack you have to come up with something truly memorable, and these 5 spots did just that.

Nissan – Dream

Ridley Scott, director of Alien, Gladiator, and Apple’s famous 1984 commercial, directed this strange Mad Max-inspired Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo ad for the 1990 game. It’s sparse in both message and visuals, which makes it a great short film despite its commercial intent. It was only run once because it was thought to promote street racing, a complaint that apparently didn’t stop anyone from making the Fast And The Furious movies.

Nissan – Toys

Yes, Nissan again, and it’s even for the same car! We figured we’d get this out of the way and move on to other car manufacturers. This spot from 1995 is arguably better than the 1990 Ridley Scott-directed Dream, simply because it tells a better story and features classic Van Halen. Mattel sued Nissan and had the ad pulled from the air, because apparently nobody at Nissan thought they needed permission to show G.I Joe stealing Ken’s girlfriend from the Barbie Dreamhouse.

Audi – Green Police

This spot just gets better and better the more you watch it. We only just noticed recently that the background music for the spot is a re-written Cheap Trick’s Dream Police, turning it into Green Police. Some environmental wet-blankets actually protested against this ad, saying it makes too much light of environmental issues. Funny is funny, and we would argue that serious issues are the only issues worth really laughing about in the first place. That’s why 9/11 jokes are such barn-burners.

Kia – Big Game

You know, we kind of forget about this commercial all the time, until it’s time to compile a list like this and then it’s like discovering it all over again for the first time. This commercial from 2010 is funny, exciting, dynamic, and features a string of hidden gems that you miss the first time around (check out the sock monkey’s “tattoo”). Kia always makes memorable Super Bowl commercials ever since their debut during the game, so here’s to a great set of Super Bowl XLVI spots this February.

Volkswagen – Darth Vader

Don’t tell us you seriously didn’t know this would be on the list, right? We’re kind of getting tired of talking about this commercial, but it is too good and was too successful to ignore anytime soon. It came in overall ranked number three in the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter (behind a tie for first featuring a deserving Bud Light spot and an embarrassingly bad Doritos CTSB entry. Seriously, if you liked that spot with the pug then you kind of lack discerning taste in comedy), and of course was ranked number one in automotive commercials. Here it is, again, so please to enjoy.


How does this list compare to your own? Would you rank anything above Darth Vader, or is something missing from our top five? Let us have it in the comments, and watch Super Bowl XLVI on February 5 for more automotive commercial action!