Some movies are as refreshing as a crisp Sprite on a summer’s day. Some movies are as satisfying as TGI Friday’s $10 Endless App special. And some are as in your face as Google Glass when it comes to product placement. Here are 16 movies that really wanted you to buy something.
1. McDonalds in Mac and Me
Let’s start with what is perhaps the most shameless product placement in history: The dance-off in the cheesy 1988 flick Mac and Me. It’s not enough for Eric to just take his new alien friend down to the local McDonald’s. No, they also have to throw in a Ronald McDonald cameo and a giant choreographed dance sequence, too.
2. Apple iPods in Blade: Trinity
Everyone remembers how awesome first-generation iPods were when they came onto the market. But the third chapter of the Blade series — which features the devices as well as an iTunes reference, plus a quote about “making playlists” — filmed this one a little too lovingly, with terrible adjacent joke writing to boot.
3. Bing in Amazing Spider-Man
Peter Parker is a supernerd, and there’s absolutely no way a supernerd would be using Bing to do his web searches. I still remember the laughs this elicited when I saw Spider-Man in the theater. Meanwhile, Sony — whose studio owns the Spider-Man movie franchise — might as well have installed a giant “SPONSORED BY” neon sign on top of Parker’s computer.
4. Apple, HP, Chevy … really anything in Transformers
In addition to being the King of Explosions and King of Creepy Female Butt Shots, Michael Bay is also the King of Product Placement. If you saw the first Transformers, you might remember how littered it was with corporate endorsements. From Apple to HP to Panasonic to Burger King — and of course, all those General Motors vehicles — Bay made sure every inch of screen space featured maximum brand awareness. There was even a Transformer made out of a Mountain Dew vending machine. If Bay could sell ad space on his chest, one senses that he would do it in a heartbeat.
5. Pepsi in World War Z
In this scene from World War Z, Brad Pitt is trying to avoid being killed by a group of zombies in a remote medical facility. The situation is tense: If they die, then life as they know it will be gone. But wait! Before saving the world, he must quench his thirst with a can of refreshing, ice-cold Pepsi!
6. Taco Bell in Demolition Man
The first time Sandra Bullock mentions Taco Bell, it comes across as a cute joke. But the more Sylvester Stallone says the name of the fast-food eatery, the further it buries the punch line.
7. Marlboro in Superman II
According to TCM, Marlboro paid the producers of Superman II thousands of dollars to include 20 direct mentions of the brand throughout the film — because the thing the Man of Steel loves to do after kicking the crap out of Lex Luthor is to go home and enjoy a nice, strong Marlboro Red.
8. Google in The Internship
This film is literally about working at Google. The two leads, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, apply for an internship at the tech giant after being laid off from their previous jobs. The Internship presents Google as a glossy utopia — almost like a Pleasantville in the middle of Silicon Valley, where employees enjoy high-class perks. On top of that, the film includes numerous mentions of Gmail, YouTube, and other Google products. This should have just been called Google: The Movie.
9. Converse in I, Robot
I love Converse. In fact, I am currently wearing a pair right now. But all the company’s mentions in Will Smith’s I, Robot turn this terrible sci-fi adaptation into a terrible corporate-sponsored sci-fi adaptation. Watch as Big Willie Style slowly takes a fresh pair of All-Stars out of the box and puts them on his feet, while a camera zooms right into the legendary Converse logo. Even someone as smooth as Will Smith can’t make this product placement any less shameless.
10. Apple iPad in Modern Family
There’s a fine line between parody and overindulgence, and Modern Family crossed it in this episode from 2010. The plot revolves around Phil getting a new iPad for his birthday. Since the episode came out a few days before Apple stores started selling their new toy, the writers made sure they squeezed in every little iPad reference they could.
11. Bing in Hawaii-Five-0
This is way worse than Peter Parker’s Bing dependency in Spider-Man; at least Parker had the decency not to mention Microsoft’s search tool out loud. The folks at Hawaii-Five-0, however, have no excuse. Daniel Dae Kim’s character actually had the nerve to tell someone to “Bing it.” Even worse: He did it in a public setting, making him the only person in the world ever do such a thing.
12. Acuvue in Smallville
More Superman-related product placements, this time on the small screen, with the Man of Steel origin program Smallville. You see, Andrea Rojas, a.k.a. the Angel of Vengeance, is “blind as a bat.” However, she can’t wear her glasses because her mask wouldn’t fit over them. That’s why she uses Acuvue Advance with Hydraclear contacts, a fact Chloe hammers home by saying “Acuvue to the rescue!” (Make sure to get a close-up on that box, Jimmy! Someone’s gotta pay the bills around here!)
13. Amazon.com in Sex and the City
If we went through each of the product endorsements on the popular HBO series, we would be here all night. Instead, let’s focus on one: this bit for Amazon.com. It’s not nearly as pronounced as Manolo Blahniks or Absolut Vodka spots are on SATC, but it is still pretty shameless, with Charlotte touting the online shopping service like it’s a 15-second ad during a soap opera.
14. Playstation Vita in House of Cards
Apparently, Frank Underwood — a stubborn, cold-hearted man who lies, cheats, and uses others to gain power — isn’t above being used himself. In the first season of Netflix’s House of Cards, Kevin Spacey’s character notes the Playstation Vita sitting on gubernatorial candidate Peter Russo’s coffee table and proceeds to ask him what games he owns. True, Underwood is a gamer, but the mention feels forced and odd.
15. Subway in Nashville, Community, and others.
As noted in this Variety article, the sandwich-shop company has demonstrated “just how quickly the TV networks have abandoned long-standing rules about weaving ad messages into their programs.” Community had an entire Shirley subplot devoted to her opening up a Subway franchise in Greendale’s food court.
16. Verizon in 30 Rock
If 30 Rock was forced to incorporate a sponsor into the script, it was going to do it with some flare. Here, that sponsor is Verizon. Jack Donaghy first points out how popular the Verizon phones are, to which Liz Lemon replies: “That Verizon Wireless service is just unbeatable!” Liz even throws in a little shade at end of the scene by turning to the camera and saying “Can we have our money now?” You win, 30 Rock.