Top Five: Product Placement in Movies

Amanda Kirkham

The 85th Oscars were this past Sunday and as anyone who watched will know, Ellen DeGeneres did a great job hosting. During the show she kept taking pictures, including the selfie that did indeed crash Twitter. The phone she was using was a strategic product placement from Samsung. In honor of its success, I have here my Top Five Film Product Placements.

5. LEGO, The LEGO Movie (2014)

While this year’s biggest film is a joyful ride of awesome packed into an hour and a half, let’s not forget that it is also one big commercial. Making films and television shows based on toys isn’t exactly a new concept. Transformers, Battleship, My Little Pony, anyone? Suspiciously all of those just mentioned are owned by Hasbro. The LEGO Movie does seem to be one of the more popular product-inspired adaptations. This is probably because it’s a funny, family-friendly film with an endearing message at its core. It isn’t simply about the product. In fact, it could probably have just as easily been done without the association to Lego but it’s easier to base a new film on an existing franchise.

4. FedEx, Cast Away (2000)

Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is the ultimate FedEx employee. He is dedicated, hard working, and believes in the company’s mission. The beginning of the film is about how he is trying to improve delivery time at their location in Moscow. He then is en route to Malaysia on a work-related errand when the plane he is on crashes, after which he is stranded on a deserted island. FedEx continues to make appearances throughout the film, including in the form of packages from the plane Chuck finds on the island. He uses the items in some of them to survive and there is one package with a pair of wings on it that he obsesses over but never opens. Staying true to the image of a loyal FedEx employee, when he finally returns home, Chuck delivers the package to its owner.

3. Mini Cooper, The Italian Job (2003)

This is one of the better heist films of the last fifteen years, and the fact that it’s a remake, and a successful one at that, should say a lot about just how good it is. A year after Steve (Edward Norton) betrayed his team of thieves during a job in Italy, they find him hiding out in Los Angeles, California. They immediately go about righting the wrong in a plan to steal back the gold he took from them. The cast is excellent. We get Mark Wahlberg and Edward Norton sparring with each other as the leads, along with Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland, Jason Statham, Mos Def, and Seth Green. Mini Cooper also plays a significant part in the film, starring in the role of the getaway vehicles. The car chase featuring the three cars is not only an excellent scene, it’s also a nod to the 1969 original film, which included a Minis chase as well.

2. Twinkies/Hostess, Zombieland (2009)

A year ago we were facing the very real, and scary, scenario of a world without Hostess products. Thankfully the gods intervened and we got the “The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever” but for a split second it seemed Zombieland had predicted a terrible future. Tallahassee’s (Woody Harrelson) quest to find Twinkies in the middle of a plague of zombies is the real romantic storyline of this horror comedy (no offense to Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone). Seeking out the simpler things in life while the rest of the world falls apart around him is rather poetic. It makes the terrifying journey through zombie infested cities worthwhile when he finally gets a taste of that deliciously spongy treat. Though I do enjoy an occasional Twinkie, personally, that truck of Sno Balls would be my dream in a Zombie Apocalypse.

1. Reese’s Pieces, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The use of Reese’s Pieces in this film is something of a cautionary tale in Hollywood. The story goes that Spielberg approached Mars, Inc. in an attempt to use M&M’s but they thought the appearance of E.T. would scare children so they denied the request. Hershey’s then jumped at the chance to have their product featured in the film so Spielberg went with Reese’s Pieces. Their sales jumped after the movie’s release and they will forever be associated with the charming story about a boy and the little lost alien he befriends. In fact, Elliot (Henry Thomas) and E.T. first bond over some shared Reese’s Pieces. Other brands highlighted in the film include Coke and Coors, which makes a rather memorable appearance in the scene where E.T. and Elliot become intoxicated, and as a result, reveals a deeper connection between the two friends.

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