The 25 Most Epic Ads That Aren’t Apple’s ‘1984’

Leo Burnett once said great advertising could be boiled down into three simple messages: "Here's what we've got. Here's what it will do for you. Here's how to get it." Maybe, but where's the fun in that? Sometimes it's best to just go big. Today, AdFreak celebrates the advertising pros who sacrificed simplicity and frugality on the altar of awesomeness to make something downright epic. We didn't set any requirements for size, scope, length or budget. These are just our 25 favorite ads that test the boundaries of cinematic storytelling. Also, we've left Ridley Scott's "1984" Apple spot off the list. You've seen it enough, and we can all agree it's in a class by itself. Now, let's kiss the workday goodbye and get things started.

  1. Best Buy

    "Silence Is Golden"

    Best Buy Advertising, 2005

    Click to view. When evil threatens the land, only one thing can stop the bloodshed. One really, really annoying thing.

  2. Clear Shampoo

    "Ice Arrows"

    Lowe, 2009

    Click to view. This Thai commercial gets high marks for its enigmatic narration, which includes lines like, "Rage, rage against her breath of fear" and "Into the dark the icy blackness follows." Not surprisingly, the director has also done work for Marilyn Manson, Bjork and Christina Aguilera.

  3. AIDES

    "Baby, Baby"

    TBWA, 2005

    Click to view. This upbeat, animated (and probably NSFW) French video for AIDS prevention tells the story of a woman's entire love life. If characters on The Sims had been this interesting, I wouldn't have spent so much time making them pee on the floor at parties.

  4. Heineken

    "One World"

    Bates, 2007

    Click to view. So, you can move mountains? Big deal. Try moving the whole damn planet. This spot was created as a lead-up to the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

  5. Jeff and Erin

    "Save the Date"

    No agency, 2009

    Click to view. If Ridley Scott arranged marriages for a living, they would probably all go down like this. If James Cameron arranged marriages for a living, they would probably all go down in flames. Zing!

  6. Lynx

    "Billions"

    BBH, 2006

    Click to view. If you're going to do an ad about large-breasted women, you might as well do it with every large-breasted woman on Earth.

  7. Smirnoff

    "Smarienberg"

    Lowe, 1997

    Click to view. Two years before The Matrix made millions off its use of "bullet time," director Michel Gondry pioneered the technique (with little credit) in this frenetic joyride.

  8. U.S. Marine Corps

    "Chess"

    JWT, 1991

    Click to view. These days, Marine Corps ads are all about grit, discipline and endurance of will. In the '80s and early '90s, they were all swords and sorcery—though it's hard to picture the chess-playing Dungeons & Dragons crowd rushing out to enlist.

  9. PlayStation

    "Mountain"

    TBWA, 2003

    Click to view. More than 1,500 extras were recruited to play king of the mountain in this British PlayStation 2 spot. The ad was meant to promote the "global competition" offered on the PS2, though it would be another few years (and another generation of hardware) before multiplayer got quite this massive.

  10. Wego Motel

    "Soap"

    Ogilvy & Mather, 2009

    Click to view. Taiwan's Wego Motel commissioned a series of short films to promote itself as the ultimate place for a romantic rendezvous. Apparently the promise of a good time doesn't necessarily come with a promise of a happy ending, though.