It’s almost time for the biggest advertising event of the year, Super Bowl 51. The game is always a platform for companies to roll out huge, expensive new ads and campaigns and this year promises to be no exception.
One of the big stories already surrounding this year’s broadcast is that The Coen Brothers are directing their first TV commercial. If you don’t know the Coen Brothers by name, you certainly know their work: The Big Lebowski, Blood Simple, Fargo, No Country For Old Men and other classics of the last 30 years are all among their filmography and established them as among the most innovative and interesting filmmakers working today.
The Coens are far from the first A-List directors to helm a commercial. In fact they’re not the only Hollywood directors in this year’s game, as Louis Letterier (The Incredible Hulk, The Transporter, Now You See Me) is also helming a spot starring Gal Gadot and Jason Statham, the latter of whom Letterier worked with on The Transporter.
Before we setting in to see what’s in store in the breaks between the New England Patriots taking on the Atlanta Falcons let’s a take a look at what big-name directors have participated in past years.
Heineken: “Beer Run”
Director: David Fincher
Fincher had established himself as a provocative director by 2005, having shot movies like Se7en and Fight Club. So it made sense that he would reunite with the star of those two movies, Brad Pitt, for this Heineken commercial. It bears all the hallmarks of Fincher’s cinematic style, with dimly lit interiors, quick pacing and more. The spot features Pitt sneaking out from his hotel and trying to avoid the paparazzi as he tries to just go pick up a six-pack of beer.
Chrysler: “Halftime in America”
Director: Clint Eastwood
This one falls most definitely in the latter part of the career of the director in question, in this case Clint Eastwood. As he’d often done, Eastwood put himself both in front of and behind the camera for this spot that was meant to highlight Detroit’s post-bailout economy and position Chrysler as being part of that recovery. It aired during the prime halftime slot of the 2012 game and its message of renewal and fresh starts seems more pertinent than ever before.
Director: Ridley Scott
This iconic ad is heralded with kicking off the Macintosh, Apple’s major foray into the personal computer business then dominated by Microsoft’s Windows machines. This commercial, which is annually held up as among the best Super Bowl spots ever, was directed by Ridley Scott, who just a year and a half earlier ad filmed the sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner and was five years post-Alien.
Director: Doug Liman
Director Doug Liman has a good reputation that’s been built up over the last 20 years of directing movies like The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Edge of Tomorrow and more. Nationwide enlisted Liman to direct this 2015 spot starring Mindy Kaling as someone who begins to think she may actually be invisible, right up to the point she runs into Matt Damon (Liman’s Bourne star) at a restaurant.
Director: Zack Snyder
Budweiser wanted to pay tribute to 2011 being the 10th anniversary of the 9/11/01 terror attacks and so had director Zack Snyder film this moving spot showing the famous clydesdale wagon team trekking across the country to visit the site of the attacks on New York City. Some of Snyder’s signature cinematic moves are on display here, including lots and lots of slow-motion shots, something fans will immediately recognize from movies like 300, Watchmen, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and others.
SoFi: “So Great”
Director: Marc Forster
Marc Forster’s filmography is a nice mix of big-budget action movies (World War Z, Quantum of Solace) and smaller character dramas (The Kite Runner). In 2016 he was enlisted by online lender SoFi to direct a commercial that was part of its big awareness campaign. The funny spot makes the value proposition of SoFi while having a bit of fun with the potential audience for the service, identifying who may or may not be exceptional.