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Movie Character Commercial Appearances You Forgot About

With all the movie sequels, spin-offs, and reboots we've been receiving, most audiences now accept that when the final credits roll, we haven't really seen the last of our favorite movie heroes and villains. Thanks to streaming services like Disney+ that give new life to the "Star Wars" and "MCU" franchises, the number of places screen icons can reappear just keeps expanding.

But there's another place our favorite movie heroes have already been showing up for years: commercials. From Nike shoes ads to Japanese noodle promotions, everyone from Godzilla to Robocop has hopped on the TV commercial bandwagon at one time or another.

Sometimes we're disappointed we're not seeing a trailer for a new movie. Other times, we're thrilled to see some of our favorite superheroes get some extra facetime. And in rare instances, we learn these advertisements actually affected a real-life movie sequel.

Here are the best commercials that you forgot brought back your favorite screen icons — only to have them sell you a new car, internet service, or insurance plan.

John McClane Dies Hard Again ... in a Car Battery Commercial

Ever since criminal mastermind Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) took over the Nakatomi Plaza in "Die Hard" (1988), Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) has had to stop one disaster after another. Sometimes, he gets help from a random shopkeeper or beat cop. Other times, though, McClane can only rely on a car battery — like when he pops up in a 2020 Advance Auto Parts commercial.

Forced to walk to an Advance Auto Parts store after his car battery dies on him, McClane unexpectedly bumps into computer hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard Jr.) from the original "Die Hard" film before a gang of thugs attack and throw him through the store window. Quickly buying a (what else?) DieHard car battery, McClane crawls through an air vent and hitches a ride with his old limo driver Argyle (De'voreaux White). When the bad guys continue pursuing them, McClane beats them silly with his battery before tossing a grenade at Theo and driving off as everything explodes behind him.

Shot like a two-minute short action film, "DieHard is Back" earned praise from Willis who enjoyed reprising the role of John McClane in a commercial that he feels "is what 'Die Hard' fans expect."

OnStar Vehicle Service Gives the Batmobile an Upgrade

The 1990s were a troubling time for Batman. After Tim Burton helped revive the Dark Knight with his dark vision of the grim crimefighter in the "Batman" (1989) and "Batman Returns" (1992) films, the movies slid back into camp with Joel Schumacher's "Batman Forever" (1995) and "Batman and Robin" (1997), making audiences question the Caped Crusader's future.

But there was one bright spot from 2000 to 2002 when ad agency Campbell-Ewald came out with six "Batman" OnStar commercials promoting OnStar's automobile onboard guiding system. The commercials saw Alfred (Michael Gough, reprising his role as Bruce Wayne's butler) install the OnStar system in the Batmobile, allowing a no-nonsense Batman (Bruce Thomas) to take down the Joker (Curtis Armstrong) and the Riddler (Brian Stepanek) with the assistance of multiple OnStar Representatives.

The production team shot the commercials on the Warner Bros. lot and used the actual Batmobile from Burton's movies as well as Danny Elfman's classic "Batman" score. All of this resulted in some very high-quality commercials that some fans felt were better than the official Batman movies being released at the time.

Ferris Bueller Takes Another Day Off in His 2012 Honda CR-V

When 50-year-old Matthew Broderick popped up in a 2012 Super Bowl ad apparently reprising his famous role as teenage slacker Ferris Bueller from the 1986 comedy "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," more than a few audiences wondered if they were getting a sequel.

However, Broderick quickly disabused them of that notion when he revealed he was still himself, playing hooky from the movie set. Thankfully, the older "Ferris" now has access to a sweet ride — a 2012 Honda CR-V that he takes to an amusement park, museum, beach, and racetrack while ducking his agent. He even ends up singing in a Chinese parade before repeating his iconic line, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it."

It might not have been the sequel fans were expecting, but many enjoyed all the Easter eggs packed into the production, which even includes a shout out to the Bueller family dog and an "after credits scene" where Broderick admonishes the viewer for still looking at the commercial and tells them to "get going."

Agent Smith Infiltrates General Electric

Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) met a grisly demise at the end of "Matrix: Revolutions" (2003) when he and his clones were deleted by the Matrix's central computing core. Still, a sentient computer virus like Smith is hard to get rid of — which may be how he turned up in a 2013 "GE General Electric" commercial highlighting the benefits of connected hospitals.

Once again played by Weaving, the creepy Smith (and his many duplicates) tour the hospital commenting on how GE allows hospitals to connect patient data to nurses and doctors and make medical care more efficient. Assuring the viewer that this software is "an agent of good," Smith takes some time out to traumatize a young boy by making him choose between a red or blue lollipop.

Considering that medical devices are "good" machines, the choice to have them endorsed by an evil computer program is questionable at best. Still, it's nice to see that at least a few Agent Smiths got to avoid their final fate.

Kia Lets Morpheus Shows Off His Hidden "Matrix" Talents

Neo (Keanu Reeves) may like to brag in "The Matrix" (1999) that "I know kung fu," but as this 2014 Kia commercial reveals, his mentor Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) has even more spectacular talents. After stopping a couple trying to get their car back from a valet station, Morpheus offers to show them the truth about the "world of luxury" by offering them a ride in a Kia K900.

As the couple learns what luxury looks and feels like, Morpheus decides to let them know what true luxury sounds like ... by serenading them with his rendition of "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot." His singing skills are so intense that his voice shatters streetlamps, bends spoons, and sends cars flying as the Kia glides serenely down the street.

Clearly set in the Matrix, Morpheus' foray into luxury automobile advertising shows the resistance leader runs a curious side hustle when he's not fighting agents. The skills human fighters can download into their brains are truly powerful, making one wonder why Morpheus didn't unleash his lethal singing voice against the agents during his climactic fight with them in "The Matrix Reloaded" (2003).

Robocop Loves Endorsing Food

"Robocop" is one franchise that just keeps growing. After appearing in three films, the cybernetic policeman showed up in several animated series, a live action TV show, and a 2014 movie reboot. But even Robocop's biggest fans were probably shocked when they saw him appear in a Japanese commercial — selling noodles.

The Nissin UFO Noodles commercial popped up on Japanese TV sets in the 1980s and showed the cyborg cooking a cup of instant noodles before popping open his leg holster to extract a set of chopsticks. As a long line of Robocop drones encourage viewers to eat UFO noodles, the original Robocop offers kids a special Robocop toothbrush set.

Oddly enough, this would not be Robocop's only venture into food services. In 2019, original Robocop actor Peter Weller actually reprised his role for a series of KFC "Colonel Robocop" advertisements that show Robocop wearing Colonel Sanders' iconic white wig, glasses, and mustache and offering people buckets of fried chicken while adding an additional Prime Directive to protect the Colonel's secret recipe. For a cyborg who only eats paste, Robocop sure likes endorsing food.

The Tarantino-verse Expands into Direct Line Advertisements

Quentin Tarantino fans have theorized that the filmmakers movies are all connected in two shared universes and Tarantino himself confirmed this in 2016, stating that "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996) and the "Kill Bill" film characters exist in a "movie universe" that characters from "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) and "Pulp Fiction" (1994), and "Inglourious Basterds" (2009) could conceivably watch in movie theaters.

However, this doesn't explain where an odd line of Direct Line advertisements featuring Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), the gangster from "Pulp Fiction," exists in this master plan. In "Pulp Fiction," Wolf "fixes problems," often disposing of dead bodies and other incriminating evidence. Starting in 2014, however, Wolf (still played by Keitel) went into a new line of work as the face of Direct Line, an English insurance company.

In the ads, Wolf "fixes problems" using Direct Line insurance policies that replace stolen items and arrange for hire cars after accidents. The campaign proved popular, but in 2020, Direct Line replaced Wolf with a new ad campaign featuring Robocop, Donatello from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," and Bumblebee from "Transformers" who all attempt to help people only to discover Direct Line has already saved the day. Apparently, even the ultimate problem solvers can't fix everything.

Doc Brown Goes Back ... to Multiple Commercials

The "Back to the Future" movie trilogy focuses on Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox)'s time travel story, but it's Marty's scientist friend Emmet "Doc" Brown (Christopher Lloyd) who gets the most facetime in commercials. From a Direct TV ad that recreates the clock tower scene from "Back to the Future" (1985) to a 2011 Argentinian promotion for electronics retailer Garbarino where Doc drives his DeLorean into the store, having a time machine lets Doc show up throughout the history of television advertising.

Ironically, given the number of times Lloyd has reprised his famous mad scientist character in commercials, music videos, and even the live action segments of the animated "Back to the Future" cartoon, Doc may now have more face time in "Back to the Future" related content than Marty himself.

Don't count Michael J. Fox out completely though. The actor has made his own appearances in promotional material over the years, including a 2015 Toyota commercial where he and Christopher Lloyd chat with scientist Mischa Pollack as he shows how Toyota's hydrogen fuel cell technology turns trash into fuel, like Doc's Mr. Fusion reactor. "Back to the Future" has inspired plenty of new innovations, so it's only appropriate that the characters see them in advertising that exists in what they would see as ... the future!

Bill Murray Experiences Another Groundhog Day with a Jeep

Weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) spent an eternity repeating the same day over and over again in "Groundhog Day" (1993), so it comes as a shock for 70-year-old Murray to wake up in a 2020 Super Bowl ad and find himself stuck in the same time loop. This time, though, Murray gets a gift — a Jeep Gladiator that he takes joyriding every day with the city's groundhog. The Jeep actually gets Murray to leap excitedly out of bed every morning, showing the right set of wheels can make even eternity bearable.

The ad was shot in Woodstock, Illinois where "Groundhog Day" was filmed and reunites Murray with co-star Stephen Tobolowsky as "Needlenose Ned" Ryerson and his brother Brian Doyle-Murray as the city's mayor. Murray, who had never filmed a commercial before, was persuaded to do the ad after Fiat Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Oliver Francois realized the 2020 Super Bowl and Groundhog Day would be on the same day for the first time in 54 years and wrote a letter to Murray asking that he appear in the ad.

Murray, who's very selective about his roles, improvised the majority of his scenes and stated in a release that this was his first and last commercial, adding, "I'm glad I did it with you (Jeep)."

E.T. Comes Home to Elliot ... to Learn About Sky and Comcast

Fans of Steven Spielberg's iconic film "E.T." (1982) have been begging the filmmaker to make a sequel for years. For the most part, Spielberg has managed to keep his story a one-shot movie, although a 1985 novel, "E.T. The Book of The Green Planet" and the Universal Studios "E.T. Adventure Ride" do continue the storyline to some degree.

In 2019, however, fans finally got to see Elliot (Henry Thomas) reunite with his loveable alien friend in a Sky/Comcast Christmas commercial. The ad sees E.T. show up at 48-year-old Elliot's house and meet his entire family. The meeting goes extremely well, especially with Elliot's kids who are excited to teach E.T. about the Internet. Later, E.T. takes the kids on a flying bike ride (after pointing outside and uttering, "Sky"), recreating the movie's famous scene before departing to reunite with his own family.

Interestingly, Robin Garton, the executive creative director of Sky Creative Agency, has stated the commercial "is a real sequel, not just a Christmas ad." While fans may debate the canonical nature of the family friendly ad, it's certainly not the first time E.T. has dabbled in promotion — as the classic film gave plenty of product placement to the "Speak & Spell" toy and Reese's Pieces.

Godzilla Faces Off Against Charles Barkley

If there's one thing Godzilla knows how to do well it's fight giant monsters. Over the years, the King of Monsters has battled everything from King Kong to a giant spider to a creature made of pollution. However, hardcore fans may favor a lesser-known battle where Godzilla faced off against NBA star Charles Barkley in a 1992 Nike television commercial.

The ad sees Godzilla in the middle of one of his usual rampages through Japan before being interrupted by basketball star Barkley (who has somehow grown over a hundred feet tall). Feeling challenged, Godzilla dons a pair of hot pink sunglasses and takes on Sir Charles in a game of one-on-one, using the "O" in a broken "TOKYO" sign as a hoop. While the King of Monsters is powerful, Barkley manages to fake him out and perform a slam dunk. In the aftermath, the two walk off and Barkley asks Godzilla if he'd ever thought of wearing shoes while promising, "The Lakers are looking for a big man."

The commercial was later adapted into "Godzilla vs. Barkley," a 1993 one-shot comic book by Dark Horse Comics that expands on the story and reveals, "Godzilla is a sucker for B-ball!" This time, the two faced off at an Air Force base using an old shuttle scaffold as a basket. Barkley even got Godzilla a pair of Nike sneakers ... size 13,000 EEE.

One Spider-Man Commercial Affected the Real-Life Sequel

2017's MCU Spider-Man Audi commercial is unique in that it can actually be considered part of the official MCU canon. Taking place after "Spider-Man: Homecoming," the ad sees Peter Parker (Tom Holland) taking his driver's test with an uptight Driver's Ed instructor played by comedian/actor J.B. Smoove. Since Spidey is friends with multibillionaire Tony Stark, he takes his test in a "prototype" Audi that Tony lent him complete with a no-hands driving feature and automatic parallel parking.

Pete runs into some trouble, however, when a nearby bank gets robbed, forcing him to exit the car and switch to Spider-Man. Fortunately, his instructor is so clueless that he fails to notice his student isn't there, giving Peter enough time to web up the crooks and change back to his civilian identity.

Smoove's performance was so well-received by Marvel Studios that he got cast as "Mr. Dell," a teacher at Peter's Midtown School of Science and Technology who chaperones Peter and his classmates when they go to Europe in the movie sequel "Spider-Man: Far From Home" (2019). As Peter's driving instructor was unnamed in the Audi commercial, it's possible that Mr. Dell's first appearance is in a Spider-Man car commercial.

Black Panther's Lexus Commercial Gives Us a Parting Look at the King

Some commercials gain more power when we look back at them — like this Lexus LS 500 Super Bowl commercial that aired during the 2018 Super Bowl promoting both the luxury sedan and "Black Panther" (2018) film.

The commercial sees Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) taking down thugs to retrieve some stolen Vibranium before leaping into a Lexus remote piloted by his sister Shuri (Letitia Wright). Switching to King T'Challa mid-ride, the Black Panther arrives at his destination in style along with his entourage of Dora Milaje women warriors while the announcer proclaims, "Long live the king."

Boseman would appear again as King T'Challa/Black Panther in both "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018) and "Avengers: Endgame" (2019), but his reign would be cut tragically short on August 28, 2020 when he died of colon cancer. With Marvel Studios announcing that T'Challa would not be recast for the upcoming "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" sequel, the commercial now seems more precious, as one of too few appearances by Boseman as the iconic character.

Buffalo Wild Wings Predicted Cobra Kai Years Before It Premiered

Spin-off TV shows can give new life to classic movie characters, but sometimes commercials beat them to the punch. Take the 2015 "Buffalo Wild Wings" TV commercial that shows two men eating at the sports bar and making fun of a televised karate tournament — until they're confronted by Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), in his Cobra Kai gi from the classic 1984 film "Karate Kid," with an intense look on his face. The men (one of whom is Stephen Rannazzisi from "The League") start nervously backpedaling, then profess their love for the sport and even ask if he can "recommend a dojo."

The ad, of course, precedes Zabka's groundbreaking "Cobra Kai" television series that premiered in 2018 and continues the official story of Johnny Lawrence and his rival Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). Zabka had voiced Johnny Lawrence in the animated "Robot Chicken" series back in 2013 and made multiple appearances as himself in "How I Met Your Mother" from 2013-2014, but the "Buffalo Wild Wings" ad showcased one of the few live appearances of Johnny before "Cobra Kai." It also feels a bit canon, because when we first met Johnny in "Cobra Kai" he was the type of burnout character who would have been drunkenly confronting men in a Buffalo Wild Wings.

Spock and Chekov Beam Down to Learn About ... Comcast/Xfinity?

"Star Trek" characters regularly appear in commercials, but this 2014 Comcast/Xfinity Super Bowl ad — like the Boseman commercial — feels a bit poignant since it offers in retrospect one more look at Anton Yelchin as the U.S.S. Enterprise's navigator Ensign Pavel Chekov.

Taking place in the "Kelvin" timeline set up by J.J. Abrams in the rebooted "Star Trek" (2009) film, the commercial sees Ensign Chekov and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) beam down to the Xfinity Innovation Center. As Spock asks, "What is this place?" Chekov familiarizes himself with the X1 entertainment operating system and is shocked when he learns that one of the techs can control the TV with "his woice." Believing that they must be in the future, Spock and Chekov beam away, taking multiple Comcast devices with them.

Yelchin would get to play Chekov one last time in "Star Trek: Beyond" (2016), but tragically, he died in an accident a month before the film's release. Commercials are often a fun addition to an actor's career, and other times, a tragic reminder of a career cut short.