For better and worse, product placement isn’t going away from the movies any time soon. This isn’t an inherently bad thing, as some movies fulfilled their contractual tie-ins covertly or cleverly, like in Fight Club, The Lego Movie, or Wayne’s World.
In these movies, however, the product placement was more than painfully obvious – it was shameless. From products that saved the world to really strange advertising choices, these feature-length commercials are sure to make people laugh for the wrong reasons.
10 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial — Reese’s Pieces Brought Elliot & ET Together
When Elliot discovers an alien in his family home’s backyard, he lured it into his room by leaving a trail of candy. Originally, Elliot used M&Ms, but its owners at Mars Incorporated rejected the filmmakers’ request for a tie-in since they thought E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial would flop. Instead, Reese’s Pieces were used, and the rest is history.
While Elliot’s use of Reese’s Pieces wasn’t as egregious as in other movies, it stands out as the first true example of modern product placement. Thanks to the movie’s success, demand for Reese’s Pieces didn’t just skyrocket by 300%, but countless brands and companies financed movies in the hopes of replicating The Hershey Company’s lucky break.
9 The Resident Evil Series — Sony Gadgets Are Zombie-Apocalypse-Proof
Sony Pictures is the studio behind the Resident Evil game adaptations so, naturally, Alice and her fellow zombie slayers exclusively used Sony gadgets, such as cameras or phones. What pushed this to the point of absurdity, however, was that Sony’s electricity-powered gadgets were apparently so amazing that they outlasted the collapse of global civilization.
For example, from Extinction onwards, characters were prominently shown using pristine and functioning Sony laptops, radios, tablets, and more, despite the post-apocalyptic world’s harsh environment and a lack of electricity. This was more egregious in Afterlife, which featured Alice recording her travels with a Sony Handycam as a framing device.
8 Demolition Man — Taco Bell (Or Pizza Hut) Was The Fine Dining Of The Future
The satirically dystopian Demolition Man has many memorable jokes, but none as well-remembered as Taco Bell’s dominance. As per Lt. Lenina Huxley’s history lesson, something known as “The Franchise Wars” transpired. Taco Bell won the conflict and now, every food chain in America was a Taco Bell. Additionally, it was also remade into a gourmet restaurant.
It’s worth noting that the Taco Bell joke was exclusive to Demolition Man‘s American cut. The movie’s European release switched Taco Bell for Pizza Hut, since the latter was the region’s more common and preferred fast food joint. This became the subject of confusion for years, since the movie’s European cut sometimes aired on American cable.
7 Evolution — Head & Shoulders Stopped The Alien Menace
When a meteor crashed into Arizona, the microscopic organisms on it evolved at a rapid pace. What first looked like cute aliens quickly became monsters from another world, and their evolution culminated in giant blobs that would overrun the entire world if they achieved mitosis. The only way to stop this was through Head and Shoulders shampoo.
The reason for this was that doctors Kane, Reed, and friends discovered that selenium was fatal to the nitrogen-based aliens. Selenium sulfide is, of course, a key ingredient in Head and Shoulders shampoo. After killing the alien via shampoo overdose, Evolution ended with the scientists promoting Head and Shoulders as a shampoo and alien toxin.
6 Chappie — The PlayStation 4 Was Transhumanism’s Missing Link
A core conflict in Chappie was the gradual rise of transhumanism, as Deon Wilson’s advancements and innovations in artificial intelligence blurred the line between machine and man. Deon’s greatest creation, the childlike Chappie, later figured out how to digitally preserve and transfer human consciousness. To do this, he needed a bunch of then-popular PS4s.
Simply put, Chappie needed a supercomputer. Their solution was to cluster some PS4s to a laptop, which let then them convert and download people’s minds as data. As contrived a product tie-in as this sounds, it actually happened in real life, as programmers did in fact use PlayStation clusters to give their computers extra power.
5 Man Of Steel — Smallville’s Landmarks Included 7-11, IHOP, & Sears
To no one’s surprise, a modern-day Superman movie needed a massive budget. Man Of Steel received an estimated $260 million to bring Superman to life and start the DC Extended Universe, with roughly 65% of that (around $170 million) coming from nearly 100 tie-in deals. This, naturally, led to Superman blowing up half of his sponsors.
Man Of Steel featured many egregious close-ups of brands like Budweiser and Nikon, but the most unintentionally laughable name drops occurred during the Smallville fight. When Superman and General Zodd’s loyalists clashed, the collateral damage included 7-11, IHOP, Sears, and more, and the Kryptonians used the surrounding debris (like a U-Haul van) as weapons.
4 Power Rangers — Krispy Kreme Housed The Source Of All Life On Earth
In Power Rangers, the Zeo Crystal sustained all life on Earth and it was buried deep within the planet’s core for safekeeping. After failing to steal it millennia ago, a revived Rita Repulsa searches for the crystal once more in the modern-day town of Angel Grove. Her search led her to the local Krispy Kreme, which she then ordered Goldar to demolish.
This wouldn’t be so bad if a third of the last act’s dialogue didn’t consist of “Krispy Kreme” name drops. In fact, Rita dramatically yelled the donut chain’s name many times and even took a break from the fight to try a donut. Power Rangers‘ blatant promotion has since overshadowed everything about the otherwise decent (albeit forgettable) movie.
3 Jack & Jill — Dunkin’ Donuts Bankrolled The Dunkaccino Musical Number
To be fair, almost every Adam Sandler comedy overflows with shameless product placement, but Jack And Jill is easily his most excessive commercial. Besides the fact that the comedy about Sandler playing twins hawked a whopping 30 brands, it also used Dunkin’ Donuts for a closing musical number that has since been immortalized in infamy.
Starring Oscar-winning actor and acting legend Al Pacino as himself, the Dunkaccino sequence was a commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts that Sandler’s advertising agent protagonist conceived. The two agreed to never speak of Dunkaccino again, but the hilariously bad musical remains the only thing people remember about Jack And Jill.
2 Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man — Anthropomorphized Brands Tried To Become Action Heroes
Though they were past their prime as the definitive macho brands in the late 80s to early 90s, the names Harley-Davidson and Marlboro still commanded respect. In a bid to reignite brand interest and despite some legal troubles with MGM, the two joined forces for the all-American action movie Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man.
Harley Davidson (a tough biker) and The Marlboro Man (an old-school cowboy) weren’t the only personified brands, as their gang of aging outlaws included Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, and Virginia Slim. Upon release, the movie bombed and was ridiculed for having the audacity to name its characters after brands, but it gained a cult following in later decades.
1 Space Jam: A New Legacy — Warner Brothers’ Library Was The Next Big Multiverse
Like its guilty pleasure predecessor, Space Jam: A New Legacy prioritized product placement over everything else. That being said, A New Legacy took this to the extreme. While Dell, Nike, and more where given the prominence of a celebrity cameo, the real star was WB itself, specifically all of the cool shows and movies it has to offer on HBO Max.
This was done through the Serververse: a multiverse of WB’s intellectual properties that Lebron James and the Looney Tunes explored. The Serververse’s failure wasn’t its conceptual idea, but that A New Legacy didn’t do anything clever with it. At most, it clumsily shoved characters in random scenes from DCAU cartoons or The Matrix.
NEXT: Space Jam: 5 Other Classic Films That Need A Reboot (& 5 That Should Be Left Alone)
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