The 15 Most Infamous Product Placement Scenes in Movies

It takes skill to do product placement well, especially when it's for a mainstream movie. Here are some of the most iconic examples.
The 15 Most Infamous Product Placement Scenes in Movies

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Although you may never see any Burger King advertisements in artsy, avant-garde French movies, that doesn't product placements can't be done creatively—even humorously!

Sure, most product placements are extremely lazy and slotted into the background, hoping to embed themselves in your subconscious without too much fuss. But when it's done well, you almost don't mind the fact you're being sold to.

Here are some of the most creative and iconic examples of product placement in cinema that integrated themselves in clever ways.

15. Audi in Iron Man (2008)

Watch: Audi R8 in Iron Man (2008)

Marvel is synonymous with product placement, and not always in a good way. But how else could they afford to cast all those Hollywood stars and work in all those special effects?

Audi is about the only Marvel product partnership that actually helps the story along, with each new car signaling a development in character—and it all began with Iron Man.

Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) is a millionaire playboy who's often seen flaunting his Audi R8. In his studio of iron suits, there's also a row of Audi models that evolve in accordance with the script, sparking a domino effect of Audi/Marvel collaborations.

14. Twinkies in Zombieland (2009)

Watch: Hostess Van in Zombieland (2009)

Good product placement is either quietly slotted into the natural surroundings... or made into a big joke. Director Ruben Fleischer employs both methods in Zombieland, a post-apocalyptic comedy that parodies the zombie genre.

While walking through a deserted urban wasteland after the fall of humanity, our gang of survivors are obviously going to come across some old advertisements and products!

The grocery store is lined with Pepsi, Tide, and Red Vines. Jesse Eisenberg's Columbus wears New Balance sneakers and Emma Stone drives a BMW. But the biggest product placement of all? The one that's repeatedly promoted by Woody Harrelson.

Woody Harrelson's rugged zombie-killer Tallahassee is obsessed with Twinkies. An entire scene involves Tallahassee and Columbus spotting a Hostess van and opening it up to find only Sno Balls, which Columbus describes as "refreshing."

Tallahassee finally gets a Twinkie at the end of Zombieland, while Columbus poetically (and satirically) narrates how finding that Twinkie is a metaphor for hope.

13. Nokia Phone in The Matrix (1999)

Watch: Nokia Phone in The Matrix (1999)

Ah, the 1990s. It was the age of the flip phone. Also, The Matrix.

In 1999, Nokia released one of the first-ever internet-capable mobile phones, which Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) uses to enter the digital world in The Matrix. This was back when Nokia—not Apple!—was champion of cell phones.

The close-up of Neo's hand with the Nokia 8110 model, and the shot of it falling slow-motion from a high-rise, made it rocket in sales.

Even today, in the era of touchscreen iPhones, Pixels, and Galaxies, the original Nokia remains pretty expensive because of The Matrix.

12. McDonald's in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Watch: McDonald's in Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

McDonald's has appeared in tons of movies, including Big Daddy (1999), All the President's Men (1976), Sleeper (1973), Richie Rich (1994), and The Pink Panther (2006), but never as obviously as in Kingsman: The Secret Service.

In this scene, Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Firth are sitting at a table as a silver platter is wheeled in. Tense music builds, the platter cover is lifted... and there's an assortment of McDonald's underneath.

Some viewers thought this scene cheapened the movie, while others admired its satire. "I'll have the Big Mac, please." Make that two!

11. Pepsi in World War Z (2013)

Watch: Pepsi in World War Z (2013)

Based on the 2006 novel, World War Z may fall short of its source material, but it's still non-stop entertainment. Brad Pitt stars as the action hero investigator trying to cure the world-ending zombie apocalypse before it's too late.

Viewers have argued about whether or not the Pepsi scene is funny and satirical or just flat-out bad. The obviousness of it doesn't quite match the dramatic tone of the dystopian movie, but it does add a familiar element that offers some comic relief.

Essentially, Brad Pitt closes his eyes and lavishes in a can of Pepsi, next to a brightly lit vending machine (perhaps a reference to the video game Resident Evil 2) lined with more Pepsi. Then, he faces a mob of zombies with an air of invincibility.

Apparently, Pepsi is the disaster beverage of choice with Paul Giamatti also taking a long swig of it in San Andreas (2015)!

10. Reese's Pieces in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Watch: Reese's Pieces in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Reese's Pieces probably wouldn't exist today if it weren't for Steven Spielberg. The candy doesn't play a huge role in the movie—young Elliot (played by Henry Thomas) uses it to lure his alien buddy into his house—but it helped boost sales enough to keep it alive.

Originally, M&M's were supposed to be used, but Mars, Inc. refused on the basis that E.T. might scare children. So, Hershey's gladly took up the offer (mainly because one of Universal's vice presidents asked their own son what he would use as bait).

Sales of Reese's Pieces tripled within two weeks of the premiere of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (helped along by a series of TV ads for the film).

9. Nike in Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Watch: Marty's Power Laces in Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Back to the Future was so influential that it made us want to buy a pair of sneakers that didn't even exist yet!

Back in the 1980s, Universal's idea of what 2015 would look like ended up being simultaneously more advanced and super old-fashioned compared to what would actually transpire.

One of their many predictions involved futuristic Nike sneakers that tied themselves once you inserted your feet.

Technically, Nike's power laces actually do exist today... but they cost $20,000, so don't expect to snag a pair for yourself.

You can instead get the actual sneakers worn by Marty (played by Michael J. Fox) in the film: white leather Nike Bruins with a red tick, which were re-released for Back to the Future's 35th anniversary.

Back to the Future also promotes a lot of Pepsi, such as when Marty orders a Pepsi from the future.

8. FedEx in Cast Away (2000)

Watch: Fedex in Cast Away (2000)

FedEx left nothing to chance when they were featured in Robert Zemeckis's survival drama Cast Away. An entire team of FedEx marketers were present during production, with planes, trucks, boxes, and uniforms seen throughout the film.

The big finale of Cast Away was even filmed at one of FedEx's home facilities in Tennessee—and the CEO even appears for a cameo.

It's surprising to learn that FedEx paid absolutely zilch to appear in Cast Away. But, then again, the whole movie is based around a plane crash, which could've been terrible for their reputation. (It wasn't.)

7. Subway in Happy Gilmore (1996)

Watch: Subway in Happy Gilmore (1996)

The Subway product placement in Happy Gilmore is, like, the Inception of product placements. The advert-within-an-advert has golfer Happy Gilmore (played by Adam Sandler) promoting the sandwich chain both inside and outside the movie diegesis.

This overt, double-edged use of a Subway endorsement perfectly fits the slapstick vibe of Happy Gilmore, which follows a hot-headed ex-hockey player who joins the PGA to save his grandma's house.

After a fistfight lands Happy with a hefty fine, he's sponsored by Subway to eat their sandwich on television. Director Dennis Dugan segues to this by having Happy begin the advert in real time, then switching to a TV screen.

6. Nike in Forrest Gump (1994)

Watch: Nike Cortez Sneakers in Forrest Gump (1994)

Before Tom Hanks played the stranded FedEx systems analyst in Cast Away, he ran a three-year-long marathon as Forrest Gump.

Whatever Forrest lacked in IQ, he made up for in speed (and good luck). So, in Forrest Gump, he's overjoyed to receive a pair of fresh Nike Cortez trainers from the love of his life.

"Mama always said there's an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes: where they're going, where they've been."

Originally released in 1972, these sneakers have gone in and out of production, but they can be found today via online retailers.

5. Aston Martin in Goldfinger (1964)

Watch: Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger (1964)

The James Bond movie franchise has had one of the longest-standing product collaborations in cinema, with the Aston Martin DB5 first appearing in 1964's Goldfinger.

Since the DB5's initial introduction, it has always been the model most associated with the world-famous spy. But in the most recent installment No Time to Die (2021), other models—such as the Aston Martin DBS V12—have made appearances.

Overall, Bond just seems to like fancy rides in general, with BMW, Jaguar, Bentley, and Ford all getting slices of the action here and there.

4. White Castle in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

Watch: White Castle in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004)

You don't have to look very hard to find the product placement in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle. In fact, you don't even need to watch the movie! It's right there in the title.

And the title of Danny Leiner's stoner comedy also gives us the synopsis: two guys head out to grab a bite at the White Castle fast food chain. Well, at least they try to.

After smoking weed, Harold (played by John Cho) and Kumar (played by Kal Penn) decide that only White Castle burgers will satisfy their munchies. Their journey is interrupted by a raccoon, a car crash, a prison break, an escaped cheetah, a foursome, and a hospital visit.

3. Barbie in Barbie (2023)

Watch: Barbie Doll Clothes in Barbie (2023)

Barbie was the ultimate blockbuster of 2023. This was partly due to the doll's popularity (which was first manufactured in 1959), the A-list cast, and the film's surprising depth despite being a tie-in.

The animated Barbie films of the 2000s were made to entertain children rather than advertise. This live-action film is very much the same, except it's made to entertain, educate, and tug on the heartstrings of adults as well as kids.

Still, being a movie about a Barbie doll (played by Margot Robbie) in Barbieland, with a bunch of different doll styles—like Beach Ken (played by Ryan Gosling) and Mermaid Barbie (played by Dua Lipa)—was undoubtedly good for Mattel's business.

Barbie merch began flying off the shelves, from Halloween outfits to Barbieland playsets. Meanwhile, the film successfully taught lessons about the patriarchy, self-image, boundaries, existentialism, relationships, and freeing your inner child.

2. LEGO in The LEGO Movie (2014)

Watch: Morning Routine in The LEGO Movie (2014)

The LEGO Movie is literally one feature-length product placement, but it's so funny and so well-made that we don't care.

Chris Pratt voices a LEGO man in a LEGO universe, who turns out to be "the chosen one" that must save the entire brick-based city. LEGO Batman, LEGO Gandalf, LEGO "1980s-something-space-guy," and even a LEGO Milhouse all appear to help save the world.

Will Ferrell plays "The Man Upstairs," meaning the guy who's building this LEGO kingdom in his basement. The 3D animation is impressive enough that we'll forgive the film for getting the song "Everything Is Awesome" stuck in our heads for months on end.

1. Pizza Hut, Reebok, Nuprin, Pepsi in Wayne's World (1992)

Watch: Product Placement Parody in Wayne's World (1992)

If you thought Kingsman: The Secret Service was too on-the-nose, just know that it has nothing on this scene from Wayne's World.

The most infamous product placement scene is one big satire of movie sponsors, in which Wayne (played by Mike Myers) and Garth (played by Dana Carvey) refuse to "sell out" and advertise any product on their TV show, all while doing just that.

"I will not bow to any sponsor," Wayne argues... while opening up a Pizza Hut box and smiling to the camera. "It's like people only do things because they get paid," Garth agrees... while covered head-to-toe in Reebok logos.

The segment plays out like this, with Wayne holding up multiple products to the camera, including Pepsi cans and Nuprin pills.