An Audi snaps an aging astronaut out of his depression in this surprisingly emotional ad that gets a lift from the late David Bowie's "Starman," used to perfect effect. When the astronaut's son comes to check on him and finds his father couchbound, he hands him the keys to his Audi, which can go up to 205 miles per hour. The commercial cuts between the astronaut's first mission to the moon and his late-night drive. It's not just the recent loss of Bowie that made us misty — there's a real melancholy that comes from watching a man whose best days in life have already passed by, and a resolution in watching him be his younger, courageous self again.
Heinz: "Wiener Stampede"
The premise for this commercial is so simple: Heinz put a bunch of wiener dogs in hot dog suits and sent them on a slow-mo run into the loving arms of people dressed as ketchup and mustard. It's absurd. We can't stop watching.
Bud Light: "Bud Light Party"
It's an election year in America, which means we can't have enough political parties. Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen team up to create the Bud Light Party, uniting people over a shared love of beer. And Paul Rudd, apparently. "Wait till you see our caucus," Schumer says. "We got the biggest caucus in the country!" Rogen adds. "But it's not, like, too big," Schumer promises. "Like, you can handle it." How's that for civil discourse?
Avocados from Mexico: "#AvosInSpace"
Avocados from Mexico follows up last-year's winning commercial, about the planet's first draft, with another hit. This time, aliens are taking a tour of a museum of Earth's history, and it has a valuable collection of our greatest artifacts including: a Rubik's Cube ("This simple puzzle was actually considered unsolvable by the humans," says the guide. "Did they not have brains?" asks a child alien), "the white and gold dress that caused a civil war," the guide says, pointing to The Dress (which is black and blue in the display case — let's fight about it some more!), Chia Pets ("Just like we do," he says, in probably the best throwaway line in the whole commercial) and, of course, Scott Baio. But mankind's greatest accomplishment is guacamole, and this witty commercial presents it well.
Axe: "Find Your Magic"
Under its previous bikini-clad-babe marketing strategy, there was never a chance that Axe would end up on a "best" list. Their commercials were unimaginative and sleazy, usually revolving around an unappealing man dousing himself in body spray and objectifying women. But this year, Axe took a different path: "C'mon, a six-pack?" asks Axe, rejecting its entire previous narrative for a commercial that celebrates men's individuality. They're urging men to find the thing that makes them unique and flaunt it, whether it's an unusual sense of style, a prominent nose, or, in the case of one man, a pair of high heels at a vogueing competition. That last part is the most unexpected: The aggressively hetero company includes gay and genderqueer men in its marketing campaign for the first time. They also acknowledge other types of masculinity, like a bushy-bearded guy who loves his kittens, or a man dancing in a wheelchair. This is Axe's Dove moment.
Subaru: "Dog Approved"
One of the sweetest — and goofiest —commercials of the night. A golden retriever (awww!) is driving around in her Subaru, and she checks the rearview mirror. There we see a puppy (awwww!) strapped into a car seat in the back. Slowly the puppy drifts off to sleep. The golden retriever, who is a very good driver, pulls the car into its suburban driveway and accidentally wakes up the puppy — so she heads out in the Subaru again to lull him back to sleep. We love this for the same reasons we love the Puppy Bowl: There's nothing cuter than dogs doing people things.
Hyundai: "First Date"
Even though we're kind of over the overprotective father shtick, we can't deny that this ad featuring funny man Kevin Hart was a crowd-pleaser. Hart warmly greets his teenage daughter's date at the door and offers him the keys of his new Hyundai Genesis. The kicker? The Genesis boasts Hyundai's Car Finder feature, so Hart can follow every step of his daughter's night out — from the movies to that weird makeout spot that only seems to exist in Hollywood. When Hart's exasperated daughter gets home, her date runs for cover as "Another One Bites the Dust" plays. "Honey, what'd you guys do tonight?" Hart asks with a grin.
This ad — showcasing the wearable tech company's fitness watches — was oddly motivating. It features people in various everyday situations that resemble some of their toughest (and most rewarding) workouts: a woman boarding an airplane flashes back to a demanding kettlebell workout; a man waiting on a terminal bench imagines an overhead squat routine. Where do we sign up?
Pepsi: "Joy of Pepsi"
In what may be the most classic ad of the night, national treasure Janelle Monae dances her way through the decades a la Britney Spears's 2001 "Pepsi Generation" commercial. The Electric Lady puts her own spin on the brand's famous jingle, after dancing to the Contours' "Do You Love Me" and Madonna's "Express Yourself" (a particularly interesting song choice, given Madge's history with the brand). It's equal parts modern and nostalgic. Simply put, it works.
A previous version of this post mistakenly referenced the car used in the Hyundai commercial featuring Kevin Hart as a Hyundai Elantra. It's a Hyundai Genesis. This version has been corrected.