Sometimes, daddy’s gotta pay the bills. And sometimes, daddy is a movie studio that wants more money for their latest blockbuster movie. So here come the product placements! While businesses have spent decades paying for their products to be featured in films, these forms of product placement have ranged from being small bottles on shelves in the background to humongous billboards shoved in the faces of viewers around the world.
While it’s understandable that some films simply cannot be made without making deals with outside sources, product placement in film has resulted in some of the most insulting and money hungry developments ever seen in mass media. While smart advertisement like the Reese’s Pieces scene in E.T. shows the perfect balance that can be struck in these developments, the truth is that most product placement noticed by audiences is most often due to its insulting nature.
The following 10 instances of movie product placement are the film equivalent of a corporation hiring someone to step in front of you while you’re at a museum and slap you in the face. Of course, an enormous list could be filled with only Michael Bay movies. So I’ll keep try to keep this balanced.
I Love the Power Glove – The Wizard
Centering around two friends, one of whom is a traumatized video game savant, The Wizard follows kids on their way to a video game tournament. If that isn’t an invitation for copious product placement, I don’t know what is. Being that this film was released in 1989, Nintendo is the true star of the story, with many Nintendo products being shoved in the faces of viewers. Most notably, The Wizard introduced North American audiences to Super Mario Bros. 3, which had not been released stateside yet. It’s also remembered for containing the line, “I love the Power Glove, it’s so bad.” Indeed it is.
Your Favorite Heroes Love Domino’s Pizza – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
It’s well known that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles love pizza. But it’s also quite convenient that they most love pizza from massive chains. So when the turtles got their own movie in 1990, it featured a lengthy scene where the heroes order Domino’s Pizza from their manhole. Hey, Turtles, you live in New York! Why are you ordering Domino’s? Interestingly, Pizza Hut would be the object of the heroes on a half shell’s obsession 24 years later in the reboot film. It’s just as bad and has its own scene as well, but the Domino’s placement set the precedent.
The Entire Movie – The Internship
In a comedy that came at least a decade too late, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play two dummies who try and restart their careers through a competitive internship with Google. Why Google? Because money. Why a film? So Google could market themselves. The Internshiplargely takes place on Google’s idyllic campus, with rolling green hills, free food, self-driving cars, and only the smartest of the smart allowed to work there. This isn’t a film, it’s a commercial you pay for. Does Google really need an entire movie to sell itself? They practically own the Internet already. Leave movies out of it!
Marky Mark Cracks Open a Bud Light – Transformers: Age of Extinction
Of all of Michael Bay’s films, the Transformers movies are definitely the most stuffed with product placement. After all, the robots themselves are walking ads for vehicles. But it’s Transformers: Age of Extinction that takes the cake. In it’s most mind-blowing piece of product placement, a chase ends with a Bud Light truck being blown open, resulting in countless bottles being strewn across the street and shown in lengthy close up. But best of all, Mark Wahlberg’s protagonist takes a moment to grab on, pop it open, and take a massive swig. This moment may be tied with the random Beats Pill that is literally shoved toward the screen during the movie and the many billboards blown up in every Transformers film, but the Bud Light scene cannot be ignored!
One Computer to Save Them All – Independence Day
Products have saved characters from death, been the goal of a film’s plot, and made countless people more stylish on the big screen, but only one has saved the entire planet. Yes, it’s the Apple Power 5300 from Independence Day, which is used by our heroes to take down the invading alien mothership and save the Earth! Not amount of weaponry can take down the Earth’s foes, but a computer virus delivered by one of Apple’s worst products ever will do the trick. Don’t bother thinking about the fact that aliens wouldn’t use compatible programs with Earth or that the technology used during the film is laughable by today’s standards, just believe in the power of Apple! But when it’s Jeff Goldblum at the helm, it’s slightly more believable.
Even Aliens Love McDonald’s – Mac and Me
The big screen abomination that is Mac and Me is most often remembered for its existentially horrifying alien puppets and a wheelchair-bound boy plummeting uncontrollably off a cliff and into a lake. But it also has the most spectacularly terrible piece of product placement this side of a Michael Bay flick. Not only was Mac and Me created to try and replicate the success of E.T., but it shared profits with Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities. So when Ronald himself shows up in the film, it should be little surprise. More surprising is the five-minute choreographed dance sequence inside a McDonald’s that plays out like Xanadu made by corporate sponsors. You’ll either think this is the greatest thing ever committed to film or want to kill yourself immediately after watching it.
Vintage 2004 Shoes – I, Robot
It’s a tricky balance creating product placement in future set science fiction. If your product is unaltered 30 years in the future, it sticks out too much. If it’s altered, it may be unrecognizable. So the Converse product placement in Will Smith’s I, Robotis equal parts genius and vomitus. Unboxed on screen like so many unnecessary YouTube videos, Smith’s character is the proud owner of some perfect looking Converse All Stars. Which are great for hunting robots in the future? Of course, he makes sure to point out that his shoes are mint condition vintage 2004 Converse. The year the movie came out? 2004. What a coincidence! Now go buy some Chucks. It’s a good thing author Isaac Asimov was long dead by the time this adaptation of his work came out. He would have died of shame otherwise.
Pepsi One is Life – The Thomas Crown Affair
Seriously, what is happening here? In the midst of a heist caper, some apparently needed downtime is taken for the lead detective played by Rene Russo to shill for sponsor Pepsi. Sure, she’s in the middle of a high-pressure investigation, but refreshment is needed. Cue Russo furiously guzzling a Pepsi One for a solid minute. Carbonation flooding her brain as she gasps for air between humongous swigs, Russo can barely deliver her lines as she attempts to down an entire can as quickly as possible. Costars look on in either astonishment or horror and clearly look at the film crew in concern over her health as the actress struggles mightily to share the most screen time possible with an inanimate can. Bravo, Rene. This is one for the record books.
Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Coca Cola Machines – Double Team
It seems as though the more dubious the product placement, the worse the movie. Speaking of which, here’s the Jean-Claude Van Damme-Dennis Rodman action vehicle Double Team! Who cares about the plot, what’s most important is that the film’s climax involved a tiger, a massive explosion, and an inexplicable row of Coca Cola vending machines inside the Collosseum in Rome. With a wall of fire coming toward the heroes, Rodman’s character using his quick thinking to grab a vending machine and block the massive explosion, saving their lives thanks to the fortitude of Coke. Clearly, Coca Cola machines should be everywhere. You never know when they’ll come in handy.
James Bond’s New Ride – GoldenEye
The James Bond franchise has long been associated with product placement. Watches, clothes, alcohol, Agent 007 has sold them all. But it’s especially the cars that get the biggest push in Bond’s adventures. While Bond’s vehicles are frequently given the same amount of focus as its actors, none were pushed in the faces of viewers moreso than the BMW Z3, which debuted in GoldenEyeonly a short while before its debut on the market. As the first non-British Bond vehicle, it was given an extra push, including major schilling from Q back at headquarters and never being destroyed in the field.