Is This an Ad or a Movie?

Hollywood blockbusters costs tens of millions (or more) to produce. Studios can offset that by taking cash from companies who want their product to be featured in the movie. That’s called “product placement” and sometimes it makes the movie stop dead in its tracks.

Ad or a Movie

Mac & Me (1988)

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial featured some of the most famous in-movie advertising of all time: the adorable alien just loves Reese’s Pieces candy. Mac & Me has a lot in common with E.T.—both are movies about a little boy who is befriended by a cute alien trying to get home, not to mention product placement. Mac & Me doesn’t have quite so gentle a touch—it includes a four-minute spontaneous dance sequence inside of a McDonald’s.

Little Nicky (2000)

The product placement in this Adam Sandler comedy actually leads to character development. Sandler plays the adult son of Satan, visiting Earth for the first time. After a talking dog tells him to eat Popeye’s fried chicken, Nicky does and finds it to be “awesome.” Suddenly, Nicky is a lot more comfortable with life on Earth.

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

This remake of the 1968 Faye Dunaway/Steve McQueen film had something the original definitely didn’t: a long, awkward scene in which the lead actress (Rene Russo) chugs a Pepsi One.

I, Robot (2004)

The Will Smith-starring adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s story is set in the future. Smith’s character is depicted as being into artifacts from the past, in other words, the audience’s present-day. That means he gets really excited when he buys a “vintage” pair of Converse All-Stars…which audience members could go buy brand new after the movie was over.

Superman II (1980)

The Man of Steel is generally squeaky-clean. Superman II was pretty kid-friendly, except for the giant cigarette and whisky ads in the middle of a fight sequence. General Zod and Superman battle in front of a Cutty Sark whisky sign, up until Zod throws Superman into a Marlboro delivery truck. Product placement was still new in the early ‘80s, and its use in Superman II was so controversial that Congress held hearings to determine if it was legal. (It was.)