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Best Commercials by Famous Film Directors, from David Lynch to Sergio Leone

Commercials have become an important part of popular culture, with filmed commercials playing a key role in the marketing of products, politics and a whole range of other brands and services. Commercials are great breeding ground for aspiring filmmakers, but sometimes famous directors want to take a commercial job to flex their cinematic muscles in a place with lower stakes than filmmaking. Below is a list of some of the best commercials shot by Hollywood’s A-list directors.

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Ridley Scott-Apple Macintosh

In 1984, Apple heralded itself as a rising force in the technology world with this George Orwell-influenced commercial that preceded the release of their Macintosh computer. The dystopian advert aired only once on the national airwaves during this year’s Super Bowl, but it immediately became a cultural phenomenon, propelling public interest in Apple to levels the company had never seen before. Ridley Scottwho had just published his masterpiece Bladerunner, 18 months earlier, stages the visually striking with his accustomed sense of grandiose spectacle, creating a provocative commercial that has become a pop culture touchstone; and was endlessly parodied by everything futurama to Fourteen days to Barack Obama2008 presidential campaign.

Spike Lee—Nike

In the 90s there was probably no one more famous in the world than Michael Jordan. And to launch his latest Nike Air Jordan line, the NBA superstar needed the help of a director with a unique visual flair and a deep understanding of the culture of the time to direct his commercial. Enter Spike Leewho starred in the commercial as Mars Blackmon, who he played in his film She must have it. Lee directed the commercial and managed to bring his cinematic style to the short clip, which is filled with quick edits and lots of direct-to-camera addresses. The ad was an important part of the crescendo that led to sneakers becoming a major part of the fashion world and paved the way for Air Jordan to become one of the most coveted brands that remains immensely popular to this day. That could probably be because one of the most famous athletes in history is at the front – but really it has to be the shoes.

Steven Spielberg—BP

Hollywood icon Steven Spielberg brought his fondness for his famous childish imagination to bear in this commercial for the energy company BP. The ad features a pizza delivery boy ascending an elevator that stops at multiple floors at BP headquarters to reveal a variety of wondrous, adventurous scenes; from a James Bond-esque underwater layer, a Formula 1 racing track, to the final frontier where an astronaut takes the pizza. Spielberg flexes his muscles in the minute-long marketing post, incorporating his inimitable ability for smooth camera movements, building worlds in seconds of screen time and even using his patented “Spielberg gaze” as our pizza boy protagonist gazes in wonder at the events he is watching.

Martin Scorsese – Dolce and Gabbana

Martin Scorsese, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, and Dolce & Gabbana are a couple made in marketing heaven. In this elegantly shot commercial, which plays like a love letter to French New Wave cinema, Scorsese directs a short film that perfectly sells the D&G brand and makes its leading stars look as good as ever. With its gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, swelling music and impeccable editing, Scorsese’s Dolce & Gabbana ad sets the benchmark for celebrity-endorsed perfume commercials.

Wes Anderson – Stella Artois

Wes Anderson brings his distinctive style to this ad for Belgian beer Stella Artois, which serves as an ode to 1960s spy movies. The playful commercial sees a couple arriving at a fancy apartment, and while the man goes to the other room to change, the woman begins playing with a switchboard, causing a whole series of devices to go off, eventually leading to a Beer is poured with a mechanical arm. The staging and camerawork make it clear that this commercial could only have come from Wes Anderson.

Sofia Coppola—Christian Dior

Sofia Coppola directs this advertisement for a Christian Dior perfume with a distinctly French flair that derives from its soundtrack and setting. The Advertising Stars Natalie Portman alongside a young Pre-Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich have a steamy encounter. A beautifully photographed promo that effortlessly sells the Dior brand.

Sergio Leone-Renault

This ad from Sergio Leonethe legendary director behind the man with no name trilogy and Once upon a time in the west, takes place in the Roman Colosseum, when we see a chained Renault Diesel break free from its chains after a few revs of the engine. The director uses the same quick montage technique that made the aloof scenes in his spaghetti westerns so exciting, and once again he’s assisted by his longtime collaborator, the composer Ennio Morricone who scores this commercial with the same ferocity it brought to her cinema excursions. The ad would be Leone’s final work as a director.

Spike Jonze – Gap

Oscar winner Spike Jonze made a name for himself in music videos and commercials before embarking on a successful career as a feature film director. But in 2007, he returned to the advertising world with a spot for Gap’s revamp of their clothing stores. The ad shows a crowd of confused shoppers dismantling one of Gap’s many stores, doing everything from ripping items off the shelves, to carrying a chainsaw to the building, to finally crashing a car through the window. The messy ad was certainly a unique way to communicate that the clothing chain was changing its image.

David LynchPlaystation 2

Sony made the bold decision to bring the surrealist filmmaker David Lynch, are directing their commercial for their upcoming gaming console, the PlayStation 2. And the results are every bit as surreal and avant-garde as one would expect from the director. A borderline disturbing and bewildering sequence of events that wouldn’t be out of place in a sequence of twin peaks and includes a talking duck but no gameplay footage. It’s pure Lynch distilled to a minute.

Ang Lee – Visa

At the height of his made Crouching tiger, hidden dragon Success, Ang Lee brings the energy of that film to this commercial for Visa. After complaining about the soup at a fancy restaurant, a young woman is forced into a beautifully choreographed match with the restaurant’s staff in a sequence that feels just as committed Dumb and Dumber like kung fu cinema does.

Kathryn Bigelow – Apple

In a video that’s part commercial and part behind-the-scenes extra, Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow raves about the iPhone 13’s camera capabilities as a filmmaking device. In the advertisement we see both the shooting of a movie and the footage captured with the phone’s camera. The ad unveils a new standard for cell phone cameras and a new era for access to filming equipment.

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