Rocket Raccoon, Jack Sparrow, and Optimus Prime: Super Bowl LI’s blockbuster movie ads

Beer companies, snack food and auto manufacturers typically make up the bulk of Super Bowl advertising. But movies have also used the showcase to push upcoming blockbusters in recent years. Many of the spots were released online before the Super Bowl LI broadcast, but there was still room for a few surprises.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get an ad for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (which was unlikely) or superhero blockbusters like Justice League and Thor: Ragnarok. Only two commercials were for movies that hadn’t previously released trailers, which was also disappointing. But there was some fun for movie fans on Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are the big blockbusters that advertised in between the Patriots and Falcons clashing. (And if you missed them, here are our lists of the best and worst Super Bowl LI ads.)


Release date: March 24, 2017
The first of Super Bowl LI’s movie ads was creepy and unsettling, maybe not ideal for when everyone is buzzing about the game and digging into their eats. Boring title aside, Life is going for the horror feel that Ridley Scott’s original Alien (1978) invoked so well. A cast with Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Ferguson promises to be appealing. But the playful tone of the new trailer and the twist into horror (along with a slightly better glimpse of the alien) would have been better for a Super Bowl spot.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Release date: May 5
This is one that had been rumored, but wasn’t released before the Super Bowl broadcast. With a bunch of comic book superhero movies coming out in 2017, very few were represented on Super Bowl Sunday. But Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 might be the most fun of them, which made it perfect for America’s national football holiday. We got our first look at Elizabeth Debicki’s golden Ayesha and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” has never seemed more rocking. Everybody yell at the camera!

Ghost in the Shell

Release date: March 31
Hello, America! How many people watching this ad for the first time thought Scarlett Johansson disrobed on television? OK, her character, The Major, favors skintight suits when she jumps into action. That’s true to the source manga and anime that Ghost in the Shell is based on. But an action-packed 30-second spot which shows enough dystopian sci-fi future to intrigue the audience, while also showing that there’s more to The Major than initially meets the eye, made for a good commercial.

Transformers: The Last Knight

Release date: June 23
The story details of the fifth Transformers movie still aren’t clear, and that probably won’t change until the film’s release. (Hell, Michael Bay has never cared about story in these movies, so it’s possible we won’t know what’s going on even while watching the finished product.) But at least we know that someone is after the remaining Autobots on Earth and Mark Wahlberg is helping to hide them. (Maybe that’s why he left Super Bowl LI early, before his Patriots completed their comeback.) And Optimus Prime appears to have turned heel.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Release date: May 26
Movie theater managers and workers should be thrilled with having to put an unwieldy title like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales on their marquee. It’s been six years since the last Pirates film, and the franchise looked like it could use a break after On Stranger Tides. However, the fourth film in the series made a billion dollars worldwide. U.S. audiences may have been tired of these movies, but international audiences shelled out $800 million for it. So here we are. Johnny Depp could likely use the big payday.


Release date: March 3
Fox broadcasting the Super Bowl gave the company a big opportunity to promote two of its upcoming blockbusters. First up was Logan, the latest movie in the X-Men series and the third spinoff featuring Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. This spot packed everything it could into 30 seconds, conveying that this is an older Logan and likely the last Wolverine movie starring Jackman. But we also get glimpses of Dafne Keen’s Laura, a little junior Wolverine, Boyd Holbrook’s Pierce with his robotic hand and best of all, a few previously unseen clips. Very effective.

The Fate of the Furious

Release date: April 24
The Super Bowl and a Fast and Furious movie ad go together so well. Both are ridiculous in their hype and ambition, and more often than not, both follow through with an entertaining product. The hook for the eighth (!) film in the series is Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto apparently betraying his family and friends by teaming up with the story’s villain Charlize Theron. There’s Kurt Russell and Jason Statham too! The Fate of the Furious is packed! It also has wrecking balls, submarines, and cars falling out of buildings. Sure, why not?


Release date: May 26, 2017
This may have been the most disappointing of the Super Bowl movie ads, with very little footage that wasn’t already shown in the first Baywatch trailer. But how many people really saw that preview online or even in theaters? But Paramount is reaching a far larger audience with a Super Bowl spot, and there are surely plenty of viewers who didn’t even know a Baywatch movie was coming out. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron (with his American flag Speedo) surely drew a lot of eyeballs during the game Sunday night.

A Cure For Wellness

Release date: Feb. 17
Here was Fox’s other big movie to promote with its Super Bowl stage, less than two weeks before its theatrical release. A Cure For Wellness wins for best movie spot of the night, starting out like a lame pharmaceutical commercial and quickly spiraling into clips of the upcoming rehab center horror flick. More movie ads should try this sleight of hand, though the risk is viewers walking away, thinking it looks like something boringly familiar. Plus, if more than one movie campaign tried this, it just wouldn’t be special anymore. Still, this gets points for creativity.

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.