The Best and Worst Super Bowl Trailers of 2020

We rank the trailers and the movie-related ads from the big game.

Wandavision Scarlet Witch
Marvel Studios

No commercials could entertain better than the Kansas City Chiefs’ comeback in Super Bowl LIV, and generally, the ads were weak this year anyway. Movie trailers were also in short supply, possibly due to the rising cost of a spot during the big game but also probably because there are fewer event titles that could grab viewers’ attention. Plus, most of the trailers tend to arrive online ahead of time.

Still, thanks to nostalgia, a lot of this year’s Super Bowl commercials were movie-related, and I’m ranking them along with the ads for movies coming soon (but I’m not including ads that just happen to feature movie stars of old or new — sorry Molly Ringwald, Sam Elliott, Jason Momoa, and Chris Evans fans). This year, I’m intermixing them with the trailers for proper ranking.

Top Gun: Maverick

While the Top Gun sequel isn’t unknown to the Super Bowl audience, this is the sort of movie that gets a proper boost by reminding this crowd of its existence. Top Gun: Maverick isn’t even acknowledged as one of the most anticipated movies of 2020 according to a recent Fandango poll, maybe because moviegoers are skeptical of such nostalgia-bait sequels right now. I’m sure after a ton of dudes and dads saw the footage of Tom Cruise actually in the cockpit of a fighter, jet rather than just reminders of the 1986 original, the movie would place on many most-anticipated lists.


Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki

Normally I don’t pay attention to the TV show commercials — although, man, that 9-1-1: Lone Star series with its CG tornados looks almost so bad it might be enjoyable. The ad for Marvel’s upcoming Disney+ shows, however, are movie-related since they’re spin-offs from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Also, we hadn’t seen any footage from these limited series yet. I did have to explain what they are to someone, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, a conversation about a product after the ad is a good thing. Often with regular Super Bowl ads, the ad itself not the product is what’s on the mind and in discussion during and after. Of the three, WandaVision is definitely the most memorable with its very unique mix of various sitcom styles. That show is going to be a hoot. And it teased a look at Wanda in her comic book Scarlet Witch costume! Frankly, this spot is the true winner if it was just the one show (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn’t grab me and Loki has barely begun filming) but it’s for the best that Marvel didn’t take the top spot again.


Jeep: “Groundhog Day”

The commercials were mostly terrible this year, but leave it to Bill Murray to make one for the winners’ circle. Every Super Bowl has this sort of revisited movie property ad, and they’re hit or miss. Sometimes the advance marketing even tricks people into thinking they’re actual sequels in the works. Last year, they brought back Jeff Bridges as The Dude and it was cringeworthy. This time, Murray re-entered the loop of Groundhog Day — well-timed since the game occurred on Groundhog Day this year — with perfection, from the revisited locations and set designs to the additional returns of Stephen Tobolowsky and Brian Doyle-Murray plus some funny moments with the groundhog. And the tagline for Jeep at the end, that no day is ever the same when you drive one, was clever and fitting for the theme of the ad.


No Time to Die

This commercial got a “whoah” from some people in the crowd that I was watching with, and I’m not sure why save for it just looks like a good James Bond movie with a lot of different kinds of visuals on display, and the spot shows some familiar faces and hints at some high stakes. With titles promising that events in the movie will “change everything” and dialogue hinting at “the death of” 007, you can bet Super Bowl viewers were taking notice. The only thing better would have been a tease of the new theme song and a prompt to watch the Oscars next Sunday for an introductory performance of the tune by Billie Eilish (which isn’t in fact happening — she’s supposedly performing a Beatles song for the In Memoriam montage). The Academy Awards could use the hype.


Walmart: “Famous Visitors”

I’m not a fan of the laziness reasons behind Walmart doing your shopping for you, but I do like their commercials for the service, which again brought back more of our favorite movie vehicles and characters in their latest Super Bowl spot. I learned that Alex Winter actually performed both versions of Bill from the Bill & Ted bit and the younger one is a de-aged version. I like that (woulda liked a Bill & Ted Face the Music trailer, but that was a fine substitute) and the Arrival joke and the R2-D2 and C-3PO finish. I’m fine with them making more of these.


Sonic the Hedgehog

Do I want to see this movie? No (but I will have to, as a parent). Do I think they had a strong Super Bowl ad campaign? Yes. For two reasons. First, most of the spot is event-focused. I do like it when movie ads are tailor-made for the Super Bowl, especially if it’s not immediately clear what’s being advertised. Sonic being the “athlete” all these professionals are talking about winds up being kind of funny and well-executed with its reveal. Second, the footage shown of the actual movie isn’t any of the bad stuff we’ve seen in the trailers. It looks kind of goofy but also action-packed if this is your first look at the video game adaptation.


A Quiet Place Part II

Every year there’s room for some movies coming out very soon, not just during the summer, and A Quiet Place Part II is one of the more fitting titles to make the cut. The sequel, which opens in March, could catch a lot of views from crowds you saw the original and either didn’t know about the follow-up or hadn’t seen the first trailer. Having John Krasinski (who was also in a Hyundai ad) appear at the start might have been a little confusing for some, but holding back on plot and new characters while concentrating on the creatures and scary situations involving them is smart.


Minions: The Rise of Gru

I’m giving the Minions a positive ranking due to the fact that nobody was expecting this trailer and it wasn’t a bad one — if you’re one of us old guys who actually enjoy the breakouts of the Despicable Me franchise, that is. The nuns with nunchakus is a particularly good bit. Who cares what the plot is? Just show us Minions with braces and a plethora of new villains. Minions: The Rise of Gru is one of the few movies we hadn’t already seen a trailer for before Super Bowl Sunday, and I’m happy that we could get anything new during the game. It’s not as good as the football-themed spot for the first Minions, though, and sadly, the timing was off and my kids and likely many others were already in bed by halftime.


The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run

Similar to the Minions sequel ad, the upcoming computer-generated SpongeBob movie’s commercial attempts to quickly list all the things this animated feature has that we’ll want to see. I’m sure if fans of the show care about this movie or not, but it was the only ad to capture the kids’ attention at my Super Bowl viewing. It helps that the spot aired during the pregame, which is even acknowledged by the characters in the commercial as being a financial choice. Creating event-specific ads that amusingly recognize said event gets favorable marks from me even if the movie’s footage did nothing to pique my interest.


Mountain Dew Zero Sugar: “As Good as the Original”

This is a weird commercial. I’m not sure why it’s doing what it’s doing, and I think we’ve had enough re-creations of The Shining lately. But Bryan Cranston sells it (with help from the very funny Tracee Ellis Ross). He’s goofy enough, and the whole concept is weird enough and disturbing enough (more than Cranston as the twins, the green gush of Mountain Dew out of the elevator makes it look nowhere near appetizing) to have everyone watching and paying attention, for better or worse.


The Invisible Man

I didn’t see this play during the game or pre-game but this is another one coming out very soon that just needs an extra little reminder push. The spot is fine, almost looking like a common stalker thriller, though, more than an invisible man movie. That’s what happens when you cut down trailers for commercials sometimes, the visuals that should resonate are too quickly cut away from.


Facebook Groups: “Ready to Rock?”

I hate to call Facebook a winner, but I have to admit they had a good ad, and yes, it finished up with a movie-related moment as Chris Rock and others appeared at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of a Rocky-inspired Facebook Group, and then came the surprise Sylvester Stallone appearance at the very end. Fun theme, fun commercial.


 

F9

Yes, I’m putting the latest Fast & Furious movie on the loser side for once. Following all the hype about F9‘s trailer launch last week, culminating in a premiere partnered with a concert in Miami, plus the batshit content of said trailer, from the ridiculous stunts to the return of Han, the Super Bowl version was both tame and lacking in surprises. Never mind the fan-service stuff like Han. That’s not needed here. But what about focusing on the unbelievable Tarzan-swinging moment from the full trailer? That’s the sort of thing that gets viewers to notice. Remember when the franchise won the Super Bowl (trailers game) a few years back with the “they’ve got a tank” reveal? This time, there’s no showstopper, and that’s a major disappointment.


Black Widow

Similarly, Black Widow did nothing to spark interest that wasn’t already there. It’s the next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a familiar character, and understandably it’s, therefore, one of the most-anticipated movies of 2020. It’ll be one of the biggest movies of 2020. They didn’t even need this, but it’d also be weird if Marvel didn’t have a trailer during the game. Unfortunately, all this spot gives the crowd is a lot of generic action and posing, no indication that Black Widow’s solo effort, which seems on paper like it could be watched without knowing much of the rest of the Avengers series, offers anything special for fans or newcomers. Hopefully, the movie itself is more exciting.


Tide: Wonder Woman 1984

The Charlie Day commercials for Tide were already annoying, especially if like me you missed where it all started. But he was fine interrupting Bud Light ads and the other dumb commercials. But I was excited to see a Wonder Woman 1984 Super Bowl trailer only for it to turn into another Tide spot. That made me less excited for the DC sequel for a minute.


Audi: “Let It Go”

Maisie Williams driving a car is hard enough to get past for me, but I didn’t get this commercial at all. She does an okay cover of “Let It Go” from Frozen, but what is the reason she’s singing it? Is she telling people to let go of their wrong climate change beliefs, buy an electric Audi, and keep the planet cool? I guess that’s it, but it’s poorly executed with the mix of the traffic jam and other random visuals and the issue at hand.


Mulan

Honestly, the movie looks pretty good by this spot, which showcases the fantastical element with Gong Li‘s appearance as a shapeshifting witch. There are visuals in the trailer that make it earn its place as one of the most-anticipated releases of 2020. But as a piece of marketing, I don’t know that it hit too well with the Super Bowl audience. And I’m still not sure what the target audience is for this latest Disney live-action reimagining. It looks like a common Chinese historical epic without a lot of ties to the animated feature version. I called my daughter over to see it, and she looked up then looked back down. And she loves the original.


Discover

Why are all these movies and TV shows cut together (either saying “yes” or “no”) for these Discover card ads? I don’t really get the point, and I bet a lot of the people in the commercials didn’t even know they were going to be in a Super Bowl commercial.

Christopher began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called 'Read,' back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials.