Adverts don’t have to be boring. They also don’t have to feature film stars, but as so many of them do, here’s a filleted selection of the finest ever aired, from the embarrassing errors of youth – hello Bruce Willis singing about wine coolers – to sod-it-this-seems-fun paycheques from the likes of George Clooney and company. Notable by his absence is Winston Wolfe for Direct Line, because we still can’t forgive Harvey Keitel for using his Pulp Fiction persona to sell home insurance. Perhaps we never will.
Sylvester Stallone for Warburtons
This genius Warburtons commercial shows bread devilery as you’ve never seen it before. The ad campaign, in which Sly Stallone plays a badass 'n' bereted baked goods distributor, is part of a £18 million campaign which is, at its very core, a gag about The Expendables and toast.
Kevin Bacon for EE
In a throwback to Footloose, Bacon joins a cheesy conga line of EE employees celebrating the company’s achievement of becoming “the biggest network with the fastest overall speed”. For some unknown reason this conga line extends through the set of Deal Or No Deal, baffling Noel Edmonds, his contestants and anyone else watching.
Keira Knightley for Coco Mademoiselle
Keira Knightley sparked controversy with this kinky Chanel ad when it was played during the trailers of Ice Age 2. Bizarrely, parents thought it wasn’t appropriate for children to witness Knightley seductively crawling towards a photographer dressed only in bed-sheets before rapidly escaping on a speeding Vespa.
Jennifer Lawrence for My Super Sweet 16
Ominously foreshadowing a notorious fall later in her career, J-Law plays a spoilt brat who takes a tumble in this short and sweet advert for MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.
Arnold Schwarzenegger for Compare The Meerkat
In a perfectly ordinary turn of events, Russian meerkats Sergei and Orlov take a self-guided set tour around ‘the Hollywoods’, accidentally running down an angry (and orange) Arnold.
Al Pacino for Sky Fibre
Computer says no to a deliciously eccentric, dressing-gown-draped Tony Montana in this Sky Fibre commercial. London To Brighton actress Chloe Bale plays the glamorous broadband technician – a concept that may not have existed prior to this ad.
Bruce Willis for Sky Broadband
Bruce Willis is the star of this ever-so-slightly sexist Sky ad. He sassily strolls into some sort of ‘broadband HQ’ in a dressing gown - he loves dressing gowns, does Bruce - before whisking off a star-struck employee for some downloading of his own.
George Clooney for Nespresso
This ad would be cheesy if it starred anyone other than the physical embodiment of class, George Clooney. After a classic What’s Up, Doc? mix-up at the baggage carousel, Clooney arranges to meet the gorgeous Nazanin Boniadi (Tom Cruise’s ex) for a suitcase swap. Coffee-based puns ensue.
George Clooney and John Malkovich for Nespresso
George Clooney goes to heaven, John Malkovich is Saint Peter, coffee is involved. Glamorous women in white dresses are treated in a semi-sexist fashion, there’s some riffing... it’s heaven, you know? Ripe for comedy.
George Clooney and Jean Dujardin for Nespresso
Dujardin and Clooney indulge in some shoe-based jiggery-pokery as they attempt to outsmarm each other in honour of yet more glamorous women and yet more coffee. It turns out Dujardin isn’t above flip-flops (in French: “claquette”).
Benicio del Toro for Magnum Gold
This ice-cream-themed Mr. & Mrs. Smith, complete with Angelina Jolie “lookalike”, stars Puerto Rican megastar Benicio del Toro. Del Toro’s fans claimed that he had sold out and newsagents agreed – Magnum sales rose by 25 per cent after this spoof film trailer hit.
Robert De Niro for American Express
Directed by Martin Scorsese, this beautifully shot ad plays like a montage of De Niro’s life. However, as one YouTube commenter poetically observes: “They had to shell out some CHEEZ to get him to do that commercial (since he would never put up with AmEx not being accepted in half the places you'd want to buy something).”
Al Pacino for Vittoria Coffee
"Without coffee I’m going to feel awkward," says Al Pacino, in this awkward black and white commercial. Despite his paean to the warm drink, he never actually takes a sip of it during any of the ad’s four versions.
Audrey Hepburn for Galaxy
Gobs were smacked in 2012 when Volkswagen revamped Gene Kelly’s iconic rendition of Singin’ In The Rain, making him breakdance and cartwheel down the street. Then Galaxy came along and blew Gene out of the water with this chillingly lifelike Audrey Hepburn ad – shot a casual 20 years after her death with a copyright boilerplate at the bottom.
Jean-Claude Van Damme for Coors Light
Jean-Claude Van Damme laughs at himself via the medium of talking nipples in this marvellously masculine Coors Lights commercial. With three crotch-shots in 41 seconds, this is Frozen for an older audience.
Jean-Claude Van Damme for Volvo
It couldn’t be real, it shouldn’t be real… it is real? With several supporting videos swearing blind that it definitely did happen, JCVD doing “the most epic of splits” between two moving trucks set the internet on fire – figuratively speaking – in late 2013, spawning a rash of imitators, notably a CGI Chuck Norris.
Danny Trejo for Old El Paso
It’s unclear how the hyper-masculine Danny Trejo still manages to be badass in this family-friendly fajita advert, but somehow he’s just as gangster as you’d expect from any Machete movie. Remember kids, “TOGETHER IS BUENO”.
Jennifer Aniston for drinksmartwater
Mineral water just went meta. Despite having to flog an expensive version of something readily available for free, Aniston – with the help of digital dancing babies, the double rainbow guy and half a dozen cute puppies – does an admirable job. Minus points for the nerd stereotypes, mind.
Tina Fey and Martin Scorsese for American Express
Tina Fey flies coach? But has a platinum American Express card? Say it ain’t so!
Chuck Norris for Czech T-Mobile
Chuck Norris doesn’t kick Christmas trees – especially not when he’s staying at a Czech family’s suburban home over the festive season, he’s far too polite for that – but if he did, the tree he kicked would be through the wall and on fire somewhere in the next town over.
George Clooney for DnB NOR
George Clooney pretended to be a lucky hungover lady’s husband for this Scandinavian banking advert, but the bigger story is this: he wore a fake horse head to do it. At least, we hope he did.
Leonardo DiCaprio for Jim Beam
There is truly no better way to sell whisky than to chip yourself a big ball of ice, then make it explode with a finger click. Or, perhaps, there is.
Tommy Lee Jones for Boss Coffee
Presumably kinda-sorta channelling his association with Men In Black, Tommy Lee Jones pretends to be an alien investigating humans in Japan for this series of adverts for coffee. It is truly incomprehensible.
Hugh Jackman for Lipton Ice Tea
The world feels like a better place if you imagine Hugh Jackman was planning on dancing around a Japanese hotel before Lipton Ice Tea asked if he might be willing to do a commercial for them. On a side note, that’s a highly unsafe activity to be carrying out in a busy kitchen, Hugh.
Steve Buscemi and Danny Trejo for Snickers
Taking those all-too-parochial Joan Collins Snickers adverts and poking them in the belly with a machete, this Brady Bunch / Danny Trejo “You’re not you when you’re hungry” advert is so infinitely superior it’s a wonder why it hasn’t been seen on more UK screens. Perhaps Steve Buscemi pretending to be a little girl is just too scary pre-watershed.
Pierce Brosnan for Kia
Kia cars aren’t very Bond, but then again, Pierce Brosnan isn’t Bond any more, so he can do what he likes. What he likes to do, it turns out, is drive Kia cars up to snow lodges and do things that you would expect in a Bond movie, only in an oblique way.
Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy for Volvo
The late great Leonard Nimoy did many commercials over his thoroughly awesome lifetime, but this one is perhaps the best – better, even, than that one on the plane with the Baked Alaska and the… you’d better watch that one as well, now.
Paul Newman for Maxwell House
Spot the gargantuan continuity error when the dropped cake in this cheery coffee ad flips the right/wrong way up. Also, look out for the cute dog posing with the rest of the gang as they sip their jo. Why is it there? The answer: Japan.
Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon for Nationwide
Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon, finally together! Plugging… insurance? Is that what they're plugging?
Bryan Cranston (as Walter White) for Esurance
Best known for his TV roles, Bryan Cranston has appeared in enough films to warrant inclusion on this list. That said, this ad heavily leans on his Breaking Bad character, so… there’s that.
Bruce Willis for Seagrams drinks
Back when Bruce had (nearly) a full head of hair, he was just a little camp. Singing to a dog about "Seagram's Golden Wine Coolers" is just one example.
John Travolta for Safeguard bath soup
By the way John Travolta sings about Safeguard bath soap, you can just tell it's the one that he wants. And rhyming 'clean' with 'hexachloroethane'? Genius.
Paul Rudd for Nintendo
A young Paul Rudd plays the world's biggest, super-est Super Nintendo at what appears to be some kind of drive-in gaming centre, slamming in a cartridge exactly the way your bigger brother told you not to.
Liv Tyler for Nintendo
Wearing what could be the nattiest pyjamas of all time, Steve's darling daughter mumbles letters to herself as she pokes a tiny screen with a stick.
Seth Green for Nerf
Seth Green selling Nerf guns? With that haircut? What a totally rad idea.... NOT!
Angelina Jolie for Shiseido cosmetics
Accompanied by the sound of a very excited Spaniard, Angelina sells Japanese cosmetics by simply staring at the camera until you give up and run to the shops.
Dan Aykroyd for Fuji
There's simply no explaining this. It's Dan Aykroyd, with odd, spiky eyebrows and thick black glasses, blubbing into his chest. You know, for TVs.
Ben Stiller for Kirin
In something that could easily be an outtake from Zoolander, Ben Stiller tries to sell a Japanese drink that appears to make lemons float in mid air and covers you in ice. Which is something you want, presumably.
Nicolas Cage for Sankyo
Advertising a Japanese gambling company, Nick Cage starts hallucinating (presumably?) that there are three of everyone he sees. Either that, or he's drunk. Needless to say, it ends with him standing on top of a car and screaming "FEVER!" before driving off. As you do.
Hulk Hogan for Hitachi air conditioners
Though his acting credentials are yet to be fully tested on the silver screen (Rocky III and Muppets in Space notwithstanding) Hulk Hogan still deserves mention for his "dressed as a baby singing the days of the week" cabaret act exhibited here in this Japanese air-conditioning advert.
Sean Connery for Suntory
The winner of the most depressing advert of all time, Sean Connery seems to lose the will to live, and eventually decides to have a bit of whisky. Very odd.
Michael J. Fox for Shimano
Who knew Michael J. Fox could fish? Somehow, Shimano found out and handed him a rod and a large cheque. And then, after he failed to catch one, a fish too, presumably.
Michael J. Fox for Kirin
When he's not fishing, it turns out that Michael J. Fox also likes a spot of topiary, as this example shows. It's embarrassing, yes, but he's obviously loving it.
Bruce Willis for Eneos Service Stations
Dressed as a cross between a convict and a Ghostbuster, Bruce Willis runs amok with some sort of magic petrol pump, making a magic floating box glow. Of course.
Keanu Reeves for Coca-Cola
Keanu Reeves substitutes a father's loving pride for a carbonated soft drink with vegetable extracts, which though a little unusual, somehow seems to work.
Evangeline Lilly for Live Links singles line
It's Evangeline Lilly! Advertising a singles hotline! N.B. Evangeline Lilly is not able to answer every phone call made.
Morgan Freeman for Listerine
Yes, another entry for this magical combo of star and gaming company. Here, Nic Cage dresses up as a cowboy and decides to drive his pick-up through the desert. There he encounters some aliens with silver goldfish bowls for heads, who he briefly dances with before gently headbutting them. Now that's advertising.
Sylvester Stallone for Ito Ham
That's right, Rocky is trying to sell you ham in Japan. It's his Japanese accent that makes it.
Sean Connery for Biogurt yoghurt
This is James Bond - the original James Bond, no less - talking to a rabbit before driving up to a massive yoghurt pot and saying: "Very good. Biogurt." Mr. Connery must have had a shamendectomy somewhere down the road, shurely?
Orson Welles for Paul Masson champagne
"Everything is Orson with Paul Masson champagne!" - just one of many discarded slogans for this uncomfortable bit of shilling.
Jackie Chan for Woolworths
Who better to sell cut price clothing from Woolworths' than... Jackie Chan? Maybe if they hadn't spend so much money on Mr. Chan, they might still be in business. Or not. Almost definitely not, in fact.
Pierce Brosnan for Elsereine cosmetics
In a somewhat leftfield advertising decision, Japanese female cosmetics line Elsereine hired Pierce Brosnan to stand in a room while cameras circled around him. Bizarre.
Uma Thurman for Virgin Media
Bathed in an almost holy white light, Uma explains the advantages of Virgin Media's interactive services, 'pausing' in the most unconvincing manner possible - by gently wobbling.
Ewan McGregor for Davidoff
Tying in neatly with his around the world motorcycle adventures, Ewan takes one last little trip into nowhere with only his aftershave for company.
Natalie Portman for Lux cosmetics
Natalie Portman shows the Japanese public that not only can Lux shampoo make your hair all shiny, it also helps you with fencing too. Neato!
Bruce Willis for Subaru
Yes, him again. Hollywood's favourite shiny-topped hardman (bar the Stath, of course) sells the Subaru Outback by.... eating sorbet?
Kate Beckinsale and Orlando Bloom for Gap
Though they're being chased by an ever increasing number of stalkers, Kate Beckinsale and Orlando Bloom seem surprisingly happy about it.
Will Ferrell for Bud Light
Wearing the tightest white shorts of all time, Semi-Pro era Will Ferrell explains just why Bud Light is the drink of champions, and advising us to "suck one." See also: his unhinged commercials for Old Milwaukee.
John Travolta for Tokyo Drink
In an advert so unbelievably '80s you involuntarily start growing a mullet, John Travolta burns away almost every shred of his dignity advertising "Tokyo Drink".
Samuel L. Jackson for Barclays
Regarding as something of a classic in the advertising world, this, the "he said / I said" Samuel L. Jackson number is somehow so good you might actually enjoy watching an advert for a bank.
Anthony Hopkins for Barclays
Anthony Hopkins spends almost a minute and a half trying to crowbar the word 'big' into everything he says, in the name of Barclay's bigness, presumably for a very 'big' cheque.
Gary Oldman and Donald Sutherland for Barclays
Ol' father Sutherland teaches the young whippersnapper Oldman a thing or two about 'money trees' as they go for a road trip.
Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart for Nintendo DS
Another celebrity-filled Nintendo DS advert, this time featuring two of Blighty's favourite luvvies, Patrick Stewart and Julie Walters, giggling in a theatre's front row.
Nicole Kidman for Nintendo DS
It's Ms. Kidman's turn to train her brain on the Nintendo DS, as Nicole talks to herself in a white room, with white curtains, wearing white, on a white sofa. It's all very white, really.
Jennifer Aniston for Heineken
Poor Jennifer Aniston. Not only do the tabloids dog her every move, but here she loses out on the last pack of Heineken to a complete stranger. If she wasn't rich, gorgeous and probably very happy really, we'd feel very sorry for her.
Robert Downey Jr. for Volvo
Revealing the true inspiration for Duncan Jones' Moon, Robert Downey Jr. starts talking to himself whilst driving a Volvo.
Daniel Day-Lewis for a Japanese mineral water company
Proving that no-one can resist the lure of selling products in Japan, Daniel Day-Lewis delivers his two lines with such eye-watering intensity you almost forgive him for flogging mineral water.
Christian Bale for Pac-Man cereal
From Pac-Man to Batman, the Dark Knight once danced in awe of a cereal inspired by a hungry yellow circle. But he was only little, so we'll forgive him. After we're done laughing, of course.
Joe Pesci (voice) for Pepsi
In the strangest case of schizophrenia we can think of, a little girl with a taste for Pepsi suddenly becomes Joe Pesci, and is about to smash a bar stool into a table before someone comes along with a can of the good stuff. See also, Marlon Brando.
Jason Statham for Nestle's Kit Kat
He's harder than a box of bricks, but that doesn't mean the Stath doesn't know anything about migrating fish. Remember... you are not a salmon.
Cuba Gooding Jr. for Hanes clothing
Proving his Oscar-winning talent once and for all, Cuba wears Michael Jordan's underwear and shouts about it.
Michael Mann and Benicio del Toro for Mercedes-Benz
Shot as a spoof trailer for a spy film starring Benicio Del Toro, Michael Mann created this two and a half minute Mercedes-Benz advert for release in cinemas in 2002. The fact remains that not enough adverts contain Benicio del Toro. Take note, advertising world.
William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy for Priceline.com
Kirk and Spock finally reunite... to help sell hotel rooms and travel deals. It's not exactly the Wrath Of Khan 2, but it'll have to do.
Jodie Foster for Honda
Arguably better known in Japan for her advertising roles than her films, Foster's commercial fame even managed to make her otherwise not-that-successful thriller The Brave One a hit in the East.
Robert De Niro for Subaru
Complemented by the dulcet tones of Travis and with a supporting cast of exceptionally woolly sheep, Robert De Niro goes for a ride in a Subaru. Advertising at its simplest.
Brad Pitt for Softbank
Brad Pitt has had a long and beautiful relationship with the Japanese advertising community, and it's tough to pick just one, but here's Brad wearing a natty shade of yellow, stumbling around the beach. It's worth it just for the ending.
Leonardo DiCaprio for Telecom Italia
Nothing says 'buy mobile phones' like Leonardo DiCaprio lying in a field, playing with insects. Telecom Italia, for being so damned chilled out, we salute you.
Arnold Schwarzenegger for a Japanese energy drink
There are no words.
William Shatner for Commodore
Who better to sell Commodore Vic-20s than Captain James T. Kirk himself, boldly explaining its wonderful features like its 3k memory, real keyboard and very beepy gaming? It truly was the wondercomputer of the 1980s.