15 Times Product Placement Led To A Classic Movie Moment
Product placement in movies has been a relatively recent arrival on the scene, at least outside of some historic car movie moments. Though they can sometimes overstep their bounds, occasionally a synergistic relationship can be cultivated, and memorable movie moments are born as a result. (Let's just not talk about how folks are trying to insert products retroactively into older movies, though.)
Sometimes movies, for one reason or another, are able to use a real-life product (or, in one case, approximate a real-life product with a faux product that ultimately became a real-life product because of the movie) for an emotionally motivated character-building moment or narrative arc. Who is the MVP of this product placement list? America's Dad, Tom Hanks. And that's not even including Big, which details the adventures of a toy company VP. Vote up your favorite movie moments that are basically kinda-sorta advertisements, too.
- Photo: Universal Pictures
"Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me that you built a time machine out of a DeLorean?" a stunned Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) inquires of disgraced nuclear physicist-turned-neighborhood kook Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd).
"The way I see it, if you're going to build a time machine out of a car, why not do it with some style?" Doc retorts.
Getting such a shout-out from one of the biggest hits of the 1980s surely can't hurt your bottom line. The signature vehicle of a massive blockbuster trilogy, Doc Brown's time-traveling DeLorean got Doc, Marty, his girlfriend Jennifer (Claudia Wells and Elizabeth Shue), and Doc's pooch Einstein out of several scrapes over the course of three centuries. Rarely in movie history has a set of wheels been more iconically associated with any one franchise.
DeLoreans had actually ceased being manufactured in 1983, but their presence in Back to the Future helped stoke interest in the car. "Everyone who owns a DeLorean either got it because of the movie or kept it because of the movie," producer and co-screenwriter Bob Gale noted in later years.
- 2107 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
When intrepid jet-setting FedEx exec Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) finds himself stranded on a remote desert island for four years, he realizes he needs a friend. Unfortunately, the best he can do is the scattered contents of several undelivered packages. He takes one, a Wilson volleyball, for himself, smearing it with his own bloodied hand. This eventually becomes his best friend and constant companion, "Wilson," really the second lead of Cast Away (with apologies to Helen Hunt, playing Chuck's abandoned fiancee Kelly Frears). When Chuck ultimately elects to set off into the choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean in the hopes of being rescued, Wilson is right by his side - for a while, anyway.
This blockbuster hit would make anyone want to spike their own bloodied palm on a Wilson volleyball at the soonest opportunity.
- 371 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros./Seven Arts
SFPD Lieutenant Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) careens through the hilly streets of San Francisco as he evades a pair of homicidal mobsters in a Dodge Charger during one of the most famous car chases in the history of movies. Of course, Frank Bullitt does this in style, employing his iconic Highland Green 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback for the purpose of evading the bad guys.
Does he survive? Well, is the movie called Two Random Killer Mobsters?
As with any Fast & Furious movie franchise installment worth its salt, this car chase is so cool that afterwards you won't be able to help but fantasize about being Steve McQueen peeling out on the pavement. This car chase ranks among The French Connection (although technically that involves a car chasing a train) and The Bourne Identity as one of the all-time best automotive pursuits in film. And its two stars - Steve McQueen and his trusty steed - shine equally.
- 493 VOTES
Reese's Pieces In 'E.T.'Photo: Universal Pictures
The candy of choice for cute creatures from outer space, Reese's Pieces were actually a backup selection by director Steven Spielberg and Universal Pictures. M&Ms were the chocolate candies initially intended as Elliott's lure for his eventual alien bestie, but Mars, Inc. turned down a synergistic marketing relationship on what ended up becoming one of the biggest movies in history. Reese's Pieces, owned by Hershey's, became E.T.'s favorite unhealthy snack. Consequently, sales of the product jumped by 65% just two weeks after the release of the film.
Reese's Pieces are used by Elliott (Henry Thomas), a lonely child of divorce, to break the ice with the eponymous extraterrestrial visitor. Elliott sprinkles the tasty treat in a trail designed to bring the critter into his home. The adorable alien's love for the iconic candy essentially made E.T. the Extraterrestrial some of the most effective advertising ever.
- 563 VOTESPhoto: Columbia Pictures
After Air Force General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) goes insane and launches planes loaded with hydrogen bombs set to drop over the USSR in two hours, a panicked Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) strives to call the president of the United States (also Sellers) to alert him. Short a quarter, Mandrake demands that Colonel Bat Guano (Keenan Wynn) shoot the lock off a Coca-Cola vending machine so that they can fund the call with loose change. "That's private property," the colonel, ever a capitalist, protests. "If you don't get the president of the United States on the phone, do you know what's going to happen to you?"
"What?" Mandrake barks back.
"You're going to have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company," perhaps a more intimidating force than the guy in the War Room. As with all savvy product placement, the quality of the product on display is never questioned. All that is noted is that its producer is powerful and flush with cash. If that doesn't make you thirsty, it's hard to say what will.
- 660 VOTESPhoto: 20th Century Fox
NYPD officer John McClane (Bruce Willis), stranded at his wife's ill-fated office Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in LA, finds a key LAPD buddy on the outside in Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson). Al ultimately helps John save the day, coordinating plans as John works to defeat the thieves masquerading as terrorists who have held John's wife Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) and her colleagues hostage.
What do we know about Al Powell, really? When you break it down, we know he's married, his wife is pregnant, he has serious (and very understandable) hesitations about intense fieldwork, he's got good instincts... and he loves Twinkies. A lot. So much so that he buys them in bulk, and then throws his wife under the bus to a gas station cashier to justify the excessive purchase.
When an exhausted John McClane at one point munches on a Twinkie of his own while still evading capture from the malicious Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and his thieving associates, he asks Al for a rundown of Twinkie ingredients over walkie-talkie. Ever the reliable pal, Al supplies John with a detailed list of every single ingredient, from memory. Reginald VelJohnson thus doubles as both a reliable compatriot and a fantastic pitchman for the delectable, restorative powers of the Twinkie. That fuel from both the Twinkie digestion and the Twinkie conversation ultimately galvanizes John in his mission to die... well, certainly not easy. So really, you could say that Twinkies saved Nakatomi Plaza that fateful night.