We're not naive, we know all movies are trying to sell us something. Hollywood is America and America is capitalism, whatever. There's no problem with a nice subliminal messaging campaign every once and a while or an envy-worthy scene making us wonder if we should have bought that Forever 21 skirt after all, but some movies took their product placement a little too far. If we can't watch a movie without wondering why Superman goes to IHOP so often or what Krispy Kreme doughnuts have to do with the Power Rangers, their marketing could probably have been a tiny bit more subtle.
These twenty-one films really overdid it with product placement to the extent that they were basically just one long advertisement.
Does anyone else want a doughnut? The plot of the 2017 live-action Power Rangers movie literally included a Krispy Kreme as a filming location and had its main antagonist, Rita Repulsa played by Elizabeth Banks, stop to eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut in the middle of her battle for world domination. The movie has Krispy Kreme boxes literally all over it, and most of the film's reviews mostly focus on wondering why there were so. many. doughnuts. The Zeo Crystal needed to take-over and/or save the world is even buried under a Krispy Kreme in the film. It was a bit much.
General Motors probably isn't the first car manufacturer that comes to mind when you think of high-tech, ultra-cool robots, but Transformers wants to change that. Bumblebee, the most iconic transformer after Optimus Prime, is a 1976 and 2006 Chevrolet Camaro Concept, and most of the other transforming robots in the movie are other General Motors cars like Crosshairs the Corvette Stingray, Ratchet the Hummer H2, Jolt the 2010 Chevy Volt, and Autobot Jazz the 2007 Pontiac Solstice. Where are all of the Ferrari transformers? Where's the Aston Martin transformer that immediately kicks the butts of all of these GM cars and then goes home without a scratch? We want answers.
Man of Steel had a lot going on. Smallville has an IHOP because of course it does, it's supposed to be in Middle America, which Lois Lane decides must be her first stop on her quest to find the man that saved her from certain doom. There's also a scene in the movie where General Zod and Superman fight inside of the IHOP where Peter Ross works. The titular man of steel ran into a couple other branded buildings during the film as well including a Sears, and Warby Parker gives the caped crusader his super stealthy disguised: thick-framed eyeglasses.
Can you remember the last time you ate a Twinkie? What about the last time you saw someone else eat a Twinkie? Or the last time you even saw one sold in stores? Probably a long, long time ago, unless you happen to live near a gas station in the Midwest. Zombieland made the search for Twinkies integral to its plot and character development while Woody Harrelson's Tallahassee literally will not shut up about Twinkies in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Woody is a vegan who couldn't even eat real Twinkies in the film, so this was an interesting sartorial choice by everyone involved.
Did Top Gun invent Aviator sunglasses? Because it really feels like Top Gun invented Aviator sunglasses. Tom Cruise, back when he was still kind of hot (don't @ me), wore Ray-Ban Aviators in practically every scene of the movie, and Ray-Ban sales increased by forty percent after the movie's release. The exact model is the 3025 Aviator Classics with a gold frame and green lenses, and you can still buy them on the Ray-Ban website even decades after the film's release. They're called "one of the most iconic sunglass models in the world" by the company, who might be a little biased, but it's all thanks to Tom.
Nike said they were going to make the self-lacing Air Mags featured in the film real, and they did it in 2015, thirty years after the filmmakers of Back To The Future invented them as part of their futuristic vision. Only 89 pairs were released and they cost $350 which honestly seems kind of worth it. Pepsi, which was also featured heavily in the highest-grossing film of 1985, also recreated the film's fake future in 2015 with their Pepsi Perfect Bottle, a glass bottle the company sold for $20.15 because wasting your money can be fun when the price is a pun.
20th Century Fox
I, Robot just wants you to appreciate the classics, like the old-fashioned Converse All-Stars Will Smith's character Detective Del Spooner plugs throughout the movie. The impending robot apocalypse seems a little more important than remembering to appreciate your high-tops or dramatically unboxing a new pair of shoes to help you forget that you're also half-robot. Nothing like fresh kicks to ward off that burgeoning self-hatred, am I right? The blatant product placement didn't prevent I, Robot from being well-received by critics and audiences (neither did the blatant product placement for Audi, FedEx, or JVC). Go get that bread!
It would have been legitimately stupid for the producers of the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies to not seek out every pizza partnership they could get their hands on. Is it funny to see a Pizza Hut box clearly in the center of the action during a scene? Absolutely. But these anthropomorphic turtles really, really love their pizza. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were sponsored by Domino's Pizza in the '90s and Pizza Hut in the 2014 reboot, but their passion for pizza is the one thing that never changed, much like real-life, non-turtle teenage boys.
Ring, ring, ring, Banana Phone! That children's song (and meme) by Raffi should have been the theme song for the Matrix movies considering how often the Nokia banana phone was seen on-screen. Another product placement deal with real-life results, Nokia brought back the banana phone after twenty years in 2018 in part (or, well, mostly) due to the nostalgia and notoriety of Neo using that phone during the Matrix. It also has the game Snake on it for added fun and #TBT memories. Every phone used in the futuristic dystopia was a Nokia phone. I guess no one saw iPhones coming.
A kind of depressing, creepy product placement but a product placement nonetheless, the inanimate companion (aka the volleyball with a bloody smiley face on it) that kept Tom Hanks company on that deserted island in Cast Away was even named after the company that supplied the volleyball — Wilson. Wilson Sporting Goods will now always be remembered as a company that can make volleyballs that survive plane crashes. FedEx is also prominently featured as their packages are resilient enough to literally get Tom Hanks off of a deserted island. Tom Hanks has even stated that FedEx was part of his inspiration for doing the film. Sure, Jan.
It's shocking that Google would let a movie that's basically all about how awesome Google is be such a stinker. Did anyone like this movie? A British film critic named Mark Kermode called it "the longest advert I've seen in the cinema" and Stephen Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer called it a downright-creepy 199-minute commercial for Googliness and a Google-recruitment film. If you want to see Dylan O'Brien at peak cuteness dressed like a nerd and acting like he doesn't know that he's probably the cutest male actor between the ages of twenty and thirty, this film still comes highly recommended provided you fast forward through literally every scene he isn't in.
E.T. originally went to M&Ms with an offer for product placement in their iconic, adorable alien film. The Mars candy bar company said no, so Universal went to Hershey's instead. The film became a blockbuster success, and Reese's Pieces sales increased by possibly as much as 300% in only two weeks. This was the first time Hershey partnered with a Hollywood film. and it saved Reese's Pieces from possible extinction in one of the best marketing moves of all time. Mars is probably still kicking itself for missing out on the publicity (or letting Hershey's popularize a competing product that could have easily been killed).
Nothing screams mythical party quite like life-sized bottles of Moet & Chandon. This is something Baz Luhrmann and the modern Great Gatsby film got right. The $125 million film made a good chunk of money off of partnerships with luxury brands organized by the production designer Catherine Marin, including forty cocktail costumes by Miu Miu and Prada based on the 1920s, fine jewelry created specifically for the film by Tiffany & Co., and five hundred suits by Brooks Brothers (in addition to 1,700 accessories). These brands also had tie-in collections for sale, and with the exception of the hilarious Moet bottle being lugged around, they were incorporated with the only subtlety shown in the film in a symbiotic relationship.
Mr. Potato Head was one of the only toys not invented specifically for Toy Story, and he was a prominent member of the main characters' crew in the film series. Sales of the toy increased 800%, the Slinky Dog went back into business because of demand from the movie, and Etch-A-Sketch sales increased by 4,000%. These iconic toys from our childhoods were iconic because of Toy Story, and the marketing and merchandising opportunities of toys like Buzz Lightyear and Woody, who were created for the film, was almost like its own cyclical product placement in which the movie advertised for toys that only existed because of the movie.
Most commonly described as an E.T. rip-off that Paul Rudd uses to prank people, Mac and Me has some of the creepiest product placement in movie history. Why? Because they included McDonald's titular terrifying clown, Ronald McDonald. With a name like Mac and Me, of course they would end up going to McDonald's, who was probably hoping the success E.T. found with its product placement could be replicated with a heavier hand (as was Coca-Cola, also featured heavily in the film). Mac and Me has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and is known as one of the worst films ever made.
Even the title of this iconic Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks romantic comedy is product placement. 'You've got mail' is the login noise that AOL email used to make every time you logged in to see if you did, indeed, have mail. If you never had the bejeezus scared out of you by that robotic voice informing you that you had mail because you didn't realize your desktop volume was on, you were born after 1999 and I feel sorry for you. The entire plot is centered around people falling in love on AIM (RIP), which today is known as 'probably catfishing.'
The 2001 film Evolution is really only known for its product placement when the comedy makes Head and Shoulders shampoo the protagonists' only weapon against alien invaders. The film even ends with a commercial for Head and Shoulders, spoofing what the filmmakers saw as the heavy usage of product placement in media. The filmmakers apparently didn't receive any money from Head and Shoulders for the 101 minute-long commercial which seems like a massive missed opportunity on their part. Do they not like money? If they were going to do one massive spoof of product placement, they might as well have actually done some product placement to make sure they broke even.
James Bond and product placement are synonymous in Hollywood. The Aston Martin he drives, the Rolex (then Seiko, now Omega) watch he wears, the Bollinger champagne he drinks are all paid advertising. From the very first Bond film in the 1960s, he was partnering with Pan Am and Ever Ready, leading to its peak amount of partnerships (thirty-three) in 2012's Skyfall. The Hollywood Branded blog even made a partnership timeline infographic to keep track of them all. 007 has partnered with well-over one-hundred brands during his twenty-five films, which is probably why they just keep making them.
New Line Cinema
The product placement is once again in the name of the film. White Castle didn't pay to be the center of this 2004 buddy comedy, but since its release, the regional chain has been able to franchise into frozen burgers nationwide in grocery stores (which are actually pretty dope). White Castle almost didn't let the film use its franchise as the mecca in the film because they didn't want to be associated with stoners (an issue that supposedly caused Krispy Kreme to deny the film usage of its name — Harold and Kumar Go To Krispy Kreme doesn't have the same ring to it).
Wayne's World is comedy both by definition and practice. When the Mike Myers film parodies product placement, they do it right, obviously plugging Pepsi and Pizza Hut while proclaiming on Wayne's 'public access TV show' that they "will not bow to any sponsor." It also came at the right time, following a product placement craze throughout the 1980s and 1990s where every other movie was big on product placement and everyone had noticed. Doritos, Reebok, and Mountain Dew are among other brands blatantly plugged during a minute long joke segment at Wayne's World's fictional craft services table, and the concept itself is basically just one long ad for an SNL sketch.
Beats by Dr. Dre, Mercedez-Benz, and Coca-Cola were amongst the truly insane amount of brands featured in Jurassic World, the funniest of which was probably Samsung. Why would a brand sign-on to be featured in a movie where it is their technology that basically dooms all of the characters? Being set in a theme park, Tostito's, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and even Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville were slid in pretty naturally, and Baked By Melissa was an interesting niche choice during the film, but I don't think park goers needed $150 headphones to escape the dinosaurs, nor would I want to be Verizon and be known as the cell phone provider that didn't work well enough for people to get the hell out of an amusement park full of angry velociraptors.