The 10 Most Shameless Product Placements in Movie History

If they have to show a Pepsi label now and then so Will Smith can keep the heat on in his home, we're fine with that. But don't rewrite the damned movie to work the product into the plot.
The 10 Most Shameless Product Placements in Movie History

We understand why movies have product placement. How are studios supposed to make money? You know, other than from ticket sales and DVDs. And merchandising.

The point is, if they have to show a Pepsi label now and then so Will Smith can keep the heat on in his home, we're fine with that. But don't rewrite the damned movie to work the product into the plot. Movies that disastrously stepped over that line include:

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Loves Reese's Pieces!

Visionary filmmaker Steven Spielberg has always been a step ahead, and his 1982 alien romp ET blazed the trail for modern day product placement. The film was to have a scene where a boy coaxes an abandoned alien into his clutches by use of a classic sex offender technique: leaving a trail of candy on the filthy ground.

But not just any candy. The choice was made months prior to production when Spielberg looked for a partnership with a candy company that would promise promotion for his film. The very droppable M&M's were selected, but the suits at Mars, Inc. refused to have their treats associated with a creature whose appearance falls somewhere between stray dog with mange and syphilitic genitals.

However, the waddling little monster didn't bother the people at Hershey, who were hoping to bolster their Reese's Pieces line. An agreement was made to produce a million dollars' worth of advertisements for the film, and they plastered E.T.'s face right on the candy's packaging.

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The product is never mentioned by name here, though customers still had no problem identifying it by the package (as proven by 65% spike in Reeses Pieces sales after the movie hit theaters).

The same can't be said for Coors Beer, which E.T. drinks in one scene, hilariously transferring his drunkenness to an underage Elliott via a psychic connection.

You know, between the innocent getting lured into a home with candy and a young boy getting drunk against his will, we can't help but think Spielberg was working out some terrible repressed memories with this one.

Little Nicky: Sell'n Chizicken, Fo Realz!

Product placement tends to get a pass in comedies. The movie takes itself less seriously and they're free to joke about the product. But when the sloppy Adam Sandler project Little Nicky featured not one but two separate scenes devoted to Popeye's Chicken, we had to draw the line.

The first was this exchange where a dog teaches Nicky (the son of Satan) how to eat from the prominently placed bucket:

BEEFY: Move your teeth up and down.

Nicky does. He chews for a long time.

BEEFY: Now you gotta swallow it. Tilt your head back and let the meat slide down your throat-hole.

Nicky does, and gets look of complete joy.

NICKY: Hey...Popeye's chicken is fuckin' awesome!

BEEFY: It sure is. Now eat it up. You're gonna need your energy.

The scene sort of makes sense in context, since only demon spawn would enjoy food from the third-rate chicken joint. But it only gets worse from there.

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Here a bucket of Popeye's is used to convert the forces of darkness to good, and an actual working actor is forced to say, "Popeye's chicken is the shiznit!" forcing us to assume that Popeye's representatives were present throughout the shoot, and that they were armed.

It's a testament to Popeye's customer loyalty that the chain is still even doing business after that. It would have been a better strategy for Popeye's to pay the same amount of money to put KFC chicken in the scene.

The Thomas Crown Affair: I Fucking Love Pepsi One!

Catherine Banning is hot on the trail of debonair art thief Thomas Crown. Pierce Brosnan, who you may know from the several dozen products he sold in his role as 007, allows Renee Russo to upstage him this time in the product whoring department.

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Just as Russo's character puts the pieces together, she must quench the thirst that her genius has worked up:

The out-of-place factor of this Pepsi One ad is so ridiculous that the other actors in the scene seem a bit confused, as Russo gasps her lines between furious gulps. Veteran character actor Frankie Faison shoots a worried look at Dennis Leary, who can only stare on, baffled.

On one hand, this scene is an ad executive's dream. The product shares screen time with the star, where it is then used and enjoyed. But on a second viewing, it's actually sort of disturbing the way Rene Russo shotguns the can of cola, as if she's got a frat house full of dudes chanting at her.

She looks like you'd have to pry the can out of her fingers to get her into rehab. Holy shit guys, if we're going to like your syrup-water that much, we're almost scared to try it.

Transformers: Robots in Disguise...

...As cars for sale at your local GM dealer.

When long time corporate stooge Michael Bay was selected as director for the live action Transformers, fans knew to expect overwhelming action with some nice close-ups of product labels thrown in. But, as with everything Bay does, he decided bigger was better.

So, with studio contract in hand, Bay went to every major auto manufacturer to see who would offer the biggest payday. He landed on GM after they offered $3 million.

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When the hero's girl points out how Bumblebee is just a stinky old Camaro, he zips away and returns ... as a brand new 2009 model! Awesome!

Are you sure you guys got the message? The 2009 model will be way better than even the classic Camaros! Seriously, we totally stopped the movie just to tell you that! Pull that Chevrolet logo right up to the camera, Bumblebee!

Yes, that was a scene in the movie. And somehow, it gets worse.

Remember when we joked that Popeye's should pay to put rival KFC in that shitty scene earlier? Well, Transformers did almost exactly that.

See, they needed a car for Bumblebee to take on during his key fight scene. They didn't want any GM model to portray the bad guy, so instead the Decepticon transforms into a cop car with the body of the Camaro's market rival, the Ford Mustang. They even had to work out the deal to get around Ford's objections to being portrayed as the devil car (notice you don't see a Ford or Mustang logo on Barricade's grill).

We actually think Ford was being grossly short-sighted in the deal, as we could easily see guys walking into dealerships saying, "I want to own the car that tried to kill Shia Labeouf."

Minority Report: Horrible Ads of the Future (Today!)

In this Sci-Fi epic, Tom Cruise is trying to solve the case of a murder he's destined to commit. To change the future he'll need brains, guts and an endless amount of close-ups on an Omega watch. He can also hop in a Lexus prototype. And shop at the Gap.

Alright, so there's a lot of product placement going on. But he's just trying to survive this newfangled world of 2054, a place where the ads literally jump out at you, screaming your name.

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So first you're struck by the portrayal of this dystopian corporate future where invasive ads are everywhere. Then you realize they actually used the scene to sell real fucking ads for actual products.

Was the guy who came up with the idea for that scene the same one who decided to turn it into a product placement opportunity? Did any memos go back and forth on the subject and, if so, did anyone grasp the irony? Or is there even such a thing as irony in the world of marketing?

Lucky for us, these annoying ads are in a distant, imaginary future. Oh, wait, no. BMW has already started using them to promote their Mini line.

The driver's key chains are equipped with RFID technology, which allows the billboards to recognize when a Mini Cooper is in range and that the driver is a pompous jerk who'll like their name spelled out along the highway.

So, five years from now, when you can't open a magazine without a loud electronic voice asking you about your recent purchase of Dulcolax brand laxative, thank Spielberg.

You've Got Mail: All You Need is Love, AOL and Starbucks

It would be easy to point to Cast Away as Tom Hank's biggest corporate whoring effort, but FedEx never paid for it (they were worried about the plane crash sequence). No, for the real crime against cinema we present You've Got Mail, a remake of a crappy romantic comedy from 1940.

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Here, a dial-up AOL modem and Meg Ryan's unruined face compete to make the movie feel older than it actually is. The whines of the connecting modem are almost as grating as Tom Hanks giving a step by step tutorial on how to order at Starbucks.

The speech tries passing itself off as cynical social commentary, but Hanks refers to the products by their Starbucks-endorsed size names of "tall and short," and his main complaint seems to be that Starbucks makes ordering too easy. Those bastards! While it may not enhance the story or, y'know, offer character insight, the speech probably kept the production crew swimming in free (burnt) coffee grounds. And how else were they going to stay awake while making You've Got Mail?

I, Robot: "Vintage 2004"

Will Smith is trying to unravel a robot conspiracy but all anyone can talk about is his goddamn shoes. The product placement in this adaptation of I, Robot is just one reason it had Isaac Asimov spinning in his grave so furiously he accidentally created a wormhole in China.

First you have the Audi concept car that got 4 1/2 minutes of screen time. But he had to drive something, right?

But then, you've got the fucking shoes.

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Someone has helpfully spliced together the film's attempt to stomp us in the face with its Converse All-Stars, Vintage 2004:

It's all just too depressing, especially considering how long it took to get this complex, murder mystery/sci-fi thriller made, undergoing several rewrites along the way. Once Will Smith was attached, screenwriter Akiva Goldsman dumbed it down perfectly. Using "find and replace" he was able to swap depth of story with big ass robot fights.

For the product placement, however, we can thank Nike, which bought Converse in 2003 and was looking to re-energize the brand. The entire film plays like a live action billboard and we don't think even Michael Bay could have topped it for sheer whoredom.

The Island: Michael Bay Tops It

We stand corrected. With The Island, Michael Bay just decided once and for all he'd find out where the line is on product placements (meaning "the line beyond which the audience rises up and burns down the theater"). This explosion-filled ad-fest featured no fewer than 35 paid-for placements.

Michael Bay staunchly defends his placements in the film on the DVD commentary, saying, "Let's face it, guys. The world is focused on products. Products surround us. And for us to think, in the year 2019, that we're not gonna still be focused, and still have products and labels flying at us from every different vantage point, is just unreal. It's just not a true world."

So you see, it makes sense that an uneducated race of clones living in an underground society would be shown logos for Puma, Speedo, Aquafina and Xbox. Those moneyless organ donors are a very hot demographic.

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Sci-fi action flicks like The Island have to pick their products carefully, lest they wind up like the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle The 6th Day, which is forever stuck portraying the XFL as the sport of the future. To avoid such embarrassment, Bay just threw in a real Calvin Klein ad that the real Scarlett Johansson was starring in at the time the movie was made. In the movie, her character escapes into the real world and finds out she's the clone of a famous model/actress, who happens to be starring in the ads.

So here's the movie:

And here's the commercial:

This is what happens when Michael Bay tries to blow your mind. We'll give you a moment to wipe your brains off your monitor.

The Wizard: "It's So Bad."

In the late 80s there was a screenwriter, who moved to Hollywood with big dreams. Then, one day he was told that Universal Studios and Nintendo had partnered to create a 90-minute theatrical commercial and that his job was to write a movie around it. Thus he sat down at his typewriter, probably surrounded by several cases of liquor, and The Wizard was born.

The finished product is a convoluted plot involving a boy (Fred Savage) who kidnaps his disabled half-brother and travels cross-country with him, Rainman-style. It turns out the boy has an uncanny talent for playing Nintendo games, and through a series of accidents they wind up competing in a $50,000 video game tournament which happens to be held at Universal Studios.

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A young man explains that all it takes to become a video game master is to spend a little more on the right Nintendo accessories:

In the course of the movie we wind up with endorsements for the Nintendo Power Glove, the Nintendo Game Hint Line, the Nintendo Power magazine and countless games, until the whole thing culminates in the unveiling of Super Mario Bros. 3.

By the way, if you want to know just how drunk that writer got in the course of churning out this corporate turd, check out the below scene. Here, the parents of the young boy Fred Savage kidnapped hire a private detective to track him down. Our heroes thwart the detective when the 13 year-old girl they're traveling with falsely accuses him of fondling her breasts:

This sequence of child molestation-related entertainment was brought to you by Universal Studios and Nintendo.

Mac and Me: All the Evidence an Atheist Needs

We come full circle now, from the godfather of product placement, E.T., to this atrocious low budget rip-off that would represent the nadir of product placement, if the movie wasn't so unintentionally awesome.

(Big) Mac and Me was completely backed by McDonald's and Coca-Cola. Using the "more-is-more" strategy, this film features an entire family of aliens badly injured and stranded on earth. Somehow, their recovery is literally dependent on drinking Coca-Cola. Fortunately, since this movie was made by them, there's plenty to go around.

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Still, that can't quite top Ronald McDonald's cameo, in this bizarre song and dance sequence:

This film is not a musical. Nor is it ever explained why everyone is dancing and flipping through the air at this McDonalds. But it does have a repulsive alien doing the jitterbug in a bear suit on a fast food counter, which is pretty funny in a nightmarish way.

In fact, you could say that about the whole film. The alien's have assholes for mouths, the crippled boy keeps throwing hissy fits, there are terrible production values and the film ends with an intentionally terrifying superimposed "We'll be Back!".

All of this combined incompetence forms something that's almost genius, in an accidental way. We could go on and on, but instead we'll just leave you with this clip of a handicapped boy getting flung off a 500-foot cliff.

For more Will Smith movies that were ruined by idiots other than Will Smith, check out 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes. Or for more reasons to fear corporations, read about Third Reich to Fortune 500: Five Popular Brands the Nazis Gave Us.

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