Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988): Product placement isn’t new: Fatty Arbuckle shilled for Red Crown Gasoline in 1919’s The Garage; Wings, the first Best Picture winner, stopped dead to extol the virtues of Hershey’s Chocolate; and even Groucho Marx used Life Savers for a gag in Horse Feathers. But it didn’t explode until the ’80s, and it didn’t take too long for cut-ups to take notice. At one point, the first Killer Tomatoes sequel stops mid-scene, having exhausted its limited budget. But star George Clooney has an idea: product placement! Soon, thirsty people are suggested Pepsi and boxes of Kellogg’s are suddenly ascending into frames. Of course, considering the real film’s limited budget, this bit might have roots in reality.
Wayne’s World (1991): The most enduring scene from this SNL spinoff is actually a ripoff of the above, with Wayne and Garth proclaiming they will never sell out while holding Pepsi cans and brandishing Pizza Hut boxes.
Demolition Man (1993): By the time this Sylvester Stallone/Wesley Snipes vehicle was lampooning product placement, it was hard to wonder if ad men had simply found a way to circumvent the public’s newfound advertising awareness. Here, the society of 2032 has embraced ad jingles for places like Taco Bell and Green Giant—a running gag also, of course, sells you on Taco Bell and Green Giant simultaneously.
Fight Club (1999): A big-budget film with a major star that tells you to resist conformity and corporations, David Fincher’s Chuck Pahlaniuk adaptation wants to have its cake and eat it, too. It slyly succeeds: Starbucks and BMW “donated” their products, and Fincher violently destroyed each one.
State and Main (2000): In David Mamet’s film-about-film comedy, the producers of a drama continually try to get the filmmakers to incorporate an ad for an Internet start-up. The problem: The film’s set in the 19th century. But you’ll agree they come up with an elegant solution.
POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011): Morgan Spurlock’s latest stunt: Get corporations to fund every inch of his film. Although at feature length, he’s belabored a rather obvious point. Again.