We’re talking about Super Bowl commercials, so according to the rules of the internet, we’re legally obligated to mention this foundational Big Brother riff made by the “Alien” director himself. But Scott isn’t the only filmmaker who’s made a memorable Super Bowl commercial in the midst of (or before) a career making features.
Budweiser — 1995
A decade before he would send the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise into the stratosphere, Verbinski launched another iconic cultural landmark as the person behind the camera for the Budweiser Frogs ad. Verbinski enlisted help from Stan Winston’s creature shop to help make the legendary amphibians lifelike, just two years before making his feature debut with “Mouse Hunt.”
Budweiser — 1999
“Whassup??” became an inescapable cultural catchphrase as the 20th century came to a close, but it was Stone’s own short film “True” that helped inspire the commercial he would later direct. After the ad became iconic, Stone went on to make “Drumline” in 2002. With the recently released Netflix film “Step Sisters” and the upcoming summer comedy “Uncle Drew,” Stone has had a busy 2018.
E*Trade — 2000
Buckley’s had a hand in countless Super Bowl ads, but his lasting contribution to the collection might just be the 2000 commercial with a dancing chimp that asked audiences, “Well, we just wasted 2 million bucks. What are you doing with your money?” Buckley would later pick up an Oscar nomination for his 2012 short “Asad” and open up the 2015 Sundance Film Festival with the Melissa Rauch-starring dark Olympics comedy “The Bronze.”
Budweiser — 2002
A decade and a half later, it might not seem like the most natural fit. But when one of the biggest names in Super Bowl ads wanted to remember the victims of 9/11, they entrusted this simple Clydesdale-centered tribute to Snyder, at the time a go-to commercial director. Now with a couple franchises under his belt, Snyder was most recently one of the semi-regular driving forces behind Doritos’ crowd-sourced commercial efforts.
Reebok — 2003
Before directing “Dodgeball” and creating the highly underrated “Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television*,” Thurber launched a series of shorts that would eventually become “Terry Tate: Office Linebacker,” starring Lester Speight as the out-of-nowhere cubicle enforcer. Thurber will be back with another notable former college football player/pro wrestler when “Skyscraper” — starring Dwayne Johnson — comes out later this summer.
Heineken — 2005
Fincher’s certainly no stranger to commercials (his fantastic 2008 Nike ad would be a shoo-in for this list if it premiered during the game itself). But after a career in promos, including IBM’s futurist “You Will” campaign, his highest-profile slot on marketing’s biggest stage was this Brad Pitt-starring spot about paparazzi, which did zombies better than “World War Z” ended up doing.
Hummer — 2006
This unlikely romance between a city-smashing monster and its robot mate was the latest ad from Murro, who would later wrangle a Taco Bell spot featuring octogenarian partiers. Murro would go on to captain the sequel “300: Rise of an Empire,” but his latest project — a star-studded adaptation of “Watership Down” — might end up being his most notable work to date.
Snickers — 2010
Betty White Fever swept America at the beginning of the decade, thanks in part to this commercial that saw her game for getting tackled into a murky mud pit. The person who helped bring this hit to life? Craig Gillespie, who recently directed Allison Janney and Margot Robbie to Oscar nods in “I, Tonya.” (In the meantime, he’s also been on board “The Finest Hour,” “Million Dollar Arm,” the 2011 “Fright Night” remake, and a 2016 Audi ad that also bowed during the Super Bowl.)
Chrysler — 2012
Clint Eastwood may have grabbed headlines as the narrator of this tribute to the future of working class America, but it was David Gordon Green at the helm. It’s closer to the director’s “George Washington” roots than some of the other projects he’s been a part of over the past decade and a half, but Green’s definitely been a busy filmmaker over that time, including last year’s very solid “Stronger.”
Samsung — 2013
Considering Favreau’s biggest break as an actor came in a film where he was one of two wisecrackers in pursuit of a financial windfall, it makes sense that Favreau’s highest profile small-screen work prominently features some good-natured ribbing between Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen. (Still, it’s weird to see Bob Odenkirk play a fictional exec in an ad where two comic actors are playing themselves. How much has changed in five years!) On the film side, Favreau’s doing just fine, as his next movie features a Billy Eichner/Childish Gambino duet.
Always — 2015
The “Like a Girl” campaign is one of the rare Super Bowl ads in recent memory that actually had the means for greater social impact beyond simple viral brand awareness. “The Queen of Versailles” director Greenfield drew on her documentary bona fides to steer this inspirational ad about young girls crushing the harmful stereotypes against them. The 2018 Sundance Film Festival saw the premiere of Greenfield’s latest film, “Generation Wealth.”
Mercedes — 2017
Joel and Ethan revved up their commercial engines for this “Easy Rider” homage, complete with enough bikers to crew a shoot all their own. Paying tribute to the 1969 Dennis Hopper classic, the ad closes with an appearance from Peter Fonda himself. Fingers crossed that Fonda pops up for more than just a cameo in the Coens’ upcoming Netflix TV series, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”
Hyundai — 2017
In a year when live Super Bowl ads didn’t exactly go as planned, Peter Berg’s commercial that featured footage filmed during the game itself definitely separated itself from the pack. The ad features military families connected via a widescreen projection system, even when the enlisted men and women and their loved ones are on separate continents. (We should probably mention that Berg also directed the pilots of two of the greatest TV dramas of the century.)
Wix — 2017
Sure, he directed a Hulk movie, two Transporters and a “Now You See Me,” but Leterrier’s biggest coup was probably getting rising megastar Gal Gadot and Jason Statham together for an action thriller (that apparently only exists in the mind of a guy trying to build a website for his new restaurant?) in the heart of Super Bowl LI. It’s the kind of fantasy/reality tightrope walk you’d need to walk for, say, an upcoming “Dark Crystal” prequel series for Netflix.