The Best Super Bowl Commercials 2023
John Travolta, Steve Martin and more win trophies as AARP critiques the ads
The game is over. The crowds are spilling out of State Farm Stadium. But the real competition is just getting started, right here, where we are about to decide tonight’s true winners. Among this year’s crop of superexpensive Super Bowl ads (airtime costs as much as $7 million for a 30-second spot), which was the most inventive? The most humorous? The most worth the money?
Below, we bestow the trophies. …
MVP: John Travolta for T-Mobile
Grease is still the word, even if Danny Zuko’s Brylcreem days are clearly behind him. Teaming with Scrubs stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison, a smooth-scalped 68-year-old John Travolta recreates the iconic “Summer Nights” number from the 1978 musical, but with lyrics adjusted to extol the virtues of T-Mobile’s home internet (“Tell me more, tell me more — one cord’s all that you need”). This isn’t the first time Travolta has nodded at Grease for a Super Bowl commercial — he shot a Miracle-Gro spot two years ago with his daughter, Ella, in which he reenacted his famous “Born to Hand Jive” dance moves. But this one, coming just six months after Grease costar Olivia Newton-John’s death, somehow feels a bit more special.
Not-So-Instant Replay: Alicia Silverstone for Rakuten
It’s been 28 years since Cher Horowitz sashayed through Amy Heckerling’s Clueless in a plaid miniskirt and knee-high socks. But online shopping site Rakuten has resurrected the outfit — as well the film’s now 46-year-old star, Alicia Silverstone, who still looks like “a total Betty” wearing it — for a nostalgic trip back to a ’90s teen classic. Cher once again delivers an inspiring classroom debate speech, only this time her subject isn’t the Haitian refugee crisis (“And in conclusion, may I please remind you that it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty…”), but the virtues of online shopping (“When I heard I could save by getting cash back with Rakuten, I was like, ‘As if!’”). Younger viewers who might be clueless about Clueless won’t get the joke but, you know, whatever.
Trippiest Blitz: Will Ferrell for GM and Netflix
The auto company and the streaming giant joined forces to put 55-year-old SNL legend Will Ferrell behind the wheels of a fleet of electric vehicles and send him on a road trip through a slew of Netflix shows — motoring around Army of the Dead zombies in an EV pickup, rolling through Bridgerton in an electric Caddy, helping a Love Is Blind contestant make a quick getaway in an electric Hummer. It’s all very meta — especially the bit where he pretends to be Dusty in an episode of Stranger Things — and just as funny as Ferrell’s last Super Bowl ad for GM (you remember, the one in 2021 in which he declared war on Norway?). But it does make one wish that Ferrell really had been cast in Squid Game.
Smoothest handoff: Steve Martin and Ben Stiller for Pepsi Zero
Two comedy giants deliver a couple of hilarious master classes in faux acting with this pair of super-self-aware ads that all but beg the viewer to question the sincerity of their sales pitches for the calorie-free beverage. After mugging their way through a series of over-the-top movie moments — Martin, 77, in surgical scrubs performing rhinoplasty on a dog; Stiller, 57, in a space suit on an alien planet saying goodbye to an adorable robot pal — they break character to explain to the audience that what they’re doing isn’t real but “just acting.” Then, for the finale, they each take a big swig of Pepsi Zero and winkingly declare its deliciousness. It may not sell a lot of soda, but it’s perhaps the most refreshingly honest soft drink ad ever made.
Best one-hit wonder by one-hit wonders: Sean Combs and friends for Uber One
An Uber rep asks Sean Combs, 53, aka hitmaker P. Diddy, to compose “One Hit for Uber One.” So he fields an all-star team of musicians mostly known for just one hit. Montell Jordan, Kelis, Donna Lewis, Ylvis and Haddaway do Uber-themed rewrites of their immortal earworm tunes (“This Is How We Do It,” “Milkshake,” “I Love You Always Forever,” “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)” and “What Is Love”). Most valuable player: Jordan, whose parody of his own tune explains what the heck Uber One is (a membership that gets you rides and food delivery): “Uber One can save you on rides and eats / Yeah, it’s kinda sweet.” But Diddy is a past champ of Super Bowl comedy ads, and this one shows he’s still in the game.
Best team reunion: J.Lo and Ben Affleck for Dunkin’
Six months after paparazzi snapped Jennifer Lopez, 53, smooching Ben Affleck, 50, while he clutched a Dunkin’ bag, his two favorite sweets showed up in his Super Bowl commercial. In a role he was born to play, shot at a Massachusetts Dunkin’, Ben brilliantly impersonates a worker taking orders at the drive-through: “Welcome to Dunkin’, a new special … medium or large coffee and you get a donut for an incremental dollar — how can it be this inexpensive and good?” J.Lo snaps, “Is this what you do when you say you’re going to work all day?” then demands “a glazed [donut].” In real life, Ben eats at Dunkin’ every day, so unsurprisingly, it’s his most convincing performance yet. And on camera, as usual, Jen and Ben are two tastes that taste great together.
Best interception: Elton John, Jack Harlow, Missy Elliott for Doritos
In a deeply satisfying 90-second morality tale and showbiz satire, the shape of the orange treat inspires Harlow to infuse his music with tink-a-tinky triangle sounds. Missy calls him out for abandoning rap for the only instrument funnier than a cowbell, but his new sound inspires a nationwide triangle craze — only for him to humiliatingly lose Best Triangle Player of the Year to Elton John, 75, abandoning his piano for a giant triangle and wearing a loud pink and orange Dorito-themed jacket. Good to see a grownup put the youngsters in their place, and spoof his own famous fashion sins.