Super Bowl commercials have almost become as big as the game itself. Now, the water-cooler talk on the morning after is just as likely to be about the big commercial as the big play. That's not surprising: When advertisers have the biggest TV audience of the year and are paying top dollar for air time -- $3.75 million for 30 seconds this year -- they're going to swing for the fences.
Here are nine Super Bowl spots from the past 25 years that stand above the rest:
"The Showdown" starring Larry Bird and Michael Jordan for McDonald's, 1993
Two of the greatest basketball players of all time facing off in a game of HORSE, with the loser watching the winner eat a Big Mac -- what's not to like?
Mean Joe Green for Coke, 1980
Everyone talks about how Apple was the first Super Bowl advertiser to get people starting about a commercial, instead of the game, but this spot featuring one of football's fiercest players showing a softer side came out four years earlier, and remains a touchstone.
"When I Grow Up" for Monster.com, 1999
Shot in a stark black-and-white, and featuring kids dreaming about the horrors so many adults already face: "When I grow up, I wanna be a Yes Man!" Funny and depressing.
"1984" for Apple, 1984
Hailed as one of the greatest ads of all time, director Ridely Scott's spot inspired by George Orwell's novel totally caught the world off guard.
"Terry Tate, Office Linebacker" for Reebok, 2003
An instant classic, this series had a little something for everyone, from inappropriate inside jokes to "Office Space" references.
"The Force" for Volkswagen, 2011
One of the few commercials where the set-up is nearly as entertaining as the reveal. Simply awesome.
"The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" for Old Spice, 2010
Technically not a Super Bowl ad, as it was an online campaign that started just before the game and the first spot aired right after, but they caught the big game's wave and road it home. A rare ad that made fun of both men and women without insulting either, and managed to be sexy without being cheap. Throw in the fact that it's genuinely funny, and you've got a hit on your hands.
"You're Not You When You're Hungry" starring Betty White for Snickers, 2010. The spot that launched the Cult of Betty White. In the commercial, the octogenarian talks trash to a teammate, and the national ate it up: An online petition begged for her to "Saturday Night Live" (and she did), and she landed a role in a new sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland." Bonus points for an Abe Vigoda cameo.
"Matthew's Day Off" for Honda, 2012
Matthew Broderick starred in this recreation of his most iconic film, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," staying true to the source material right to the very end.
Photo Credit: Apple