Top 20 Celebrity Commercials From Before They Were Stars



Top 20 Celebrity Commercials From Before They Were Stars

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
You gotta start somewhere! For this list, we'll be looking at commercials starring celebrities that were made before they ascended to widespread fame. Our countdown includes Keanu Reeves, Tina Fey Jack Black, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, and more!

Top 20 Celebrity Commercials Before They Were Famous

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 celebrity commercials before they were famous.

For this list, we’ll be looking at commercials starring celebrities that were made before they ascended to widespread fame.

Can you think of any others? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

#20: Atari Lynx

Tobey Maguire

This commercial absolutely reeks of the early ‘90s, and it is glorious. A young Tobey Maguire, clad in a sleeveless jean jacket, goes to the school bathroom to sneak a session on his Atari Lynx. This was a handheld game console, and the first to feature a color LCD, released in September of 1989. As the commercial was released in 1990, Maguire would have been just 15 years old. Funnily enough, he appeared in “The Wizard” in the previous year - the same year the Atari Lynx was released - but he wasn’t given any lines. Maguire didn’t start working steadily until the early ‘90s, and he didn’t land a major leading role until 1998’s “Pleasantville.”

#19: Mutual Savings Bank

Tina Fey

Everyone has to start somewhere - including commercials for interest rates at Mutual Savings Bank. As boring as the subject is, Fey does what she can with the material by playfully showcasing the numerous different ways to say “hi.” The commercial was released in 1995, when Fey was 25 years old. She was already working in the comedy scene at the time, performing with the legendary Chicago troupe The Second City. Former Second City performer and “SNL” head writer Adam McKay encouraged Fey to submit scripts to NBC, and she was eventually hired as a writer. The rest is history.

#18: Pitfall!

Jack Black

Long before JablinskiGames (and long before YouTube existed, for that matter), Jack Black was advertising video games on TV. In the early ‘80s, when Black was just entering his teenage years, he appeared in a commercial for the Activision video game “Pitfall!” He was one of four people to describe their personal adventure with “Pitfall Harry,” the game’s playable character. The game was released on April 20, 1982, and five years later, Black began performing with a UCLA theater troupe called the Actors’ Gang. His breakout didn’t come until 2000, when he starred in “High Fidelity” opposite John Cusack.

#17: Levi’s 501 Jeans

Wesley Snipes

In 1985, Snipes appeared in a truly bizarre commercial for Levi’s 501 jeans. People stand around singing doo-wop like it’s 1955, and Snipes comes charging in with the biggest grin on his face, before losing his hat in the wind. After some more weird visuals, Snipes again charges the camera with a snarl and a smile while twirling his hat. The following year, Snipes made his film debut in “Wildcats.” He later appeared in the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and starred in “Major League,” beginning his ascension to the A-list.

#16: Bubble Yum

Leonardo DiCaprio

It’s hard to imagine Leonardo DiCaprio not being famous. He has been acting since 1989, and in 1993 he starred as Arnie Grape in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” earning himself his first Academy Award nomination at 19. In the late ‘80s, just before his massive breakout, DiCaprio starred in a commercial for Bubble Yum. He can be seen blowing bubbles, introducing a boombox, rocking out to loud music, and being blown out by enormous speakers. This wasn’t the only commercial that DiCaprio appeared in - he also popped up in ones for Matchbox cars, Kraft, and Apple Jacks. Little did everyone know they were working with a future movie legend.

#15: Tampax

Courteney Cox

After graduating high school, Cox decided to study architecture at Mount Vernon College. However, she never completed her degree, as she had developed a love for modeling and acting. It wasn’t long before she was blazing trails. In 1985, a very ‘80s-looking and spandex-clad Cox made television history by being the first person to say “period” on a nationally televised commercial. It makes sense, considering the commercial was for Tampax. Before, the word was usually clouded in playful euphemisms like “that time of the month.” Nearly ten years later, Cox’s life changed forever when she landed the role of Monica Geller (despite auditioning for Rachel).

#14: Clearasil

Mark Ruffalo

This actor’s career shot into the stratosphere after starring in “The Avengers” as Bruce Banner. But he had been acting long before that, earning major roles in movies like “Zodiac.” Going back even further, a pimple-faced Ruffalo appeared in a commercial for Clearasil in 1989, expressing shock at his pimples and gleefully applying the pad to his face. A clearly embarrassed Ruffalo was reminded of his early acting work in 2016 when Jimmy Fallon brought it up and aired the commercial on “The Tonight Show” for millions to enjoy and laugh at.

#13: Pop-Tarts

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

In 1991, when Gordon-Levitt was just ten years old, he appeared in a commercial for Pop Tarts. The commercial is told through the perspective of his busy businessman father, who is ordered by his young son to eat breakfast before leaving for work. That same year, Gordon-Levitt appeared in ten episodes of the Gothic horror soap opera “Dark Shadows.” It wasn’t long after that that he became genuinely famous, starring in the likes of “Angels in the Outfield” and “10 Things I Hate About You.” We still don’t know if he made his real dad eat strawberry pop tarts before work.

#12: Barbie and Lisa Frank

Mila Kunis

This Ukranian actress moved to the United States when she was seven years old, and two years later she was enrolled by her father in after school acting classes at Beverly Hills Studio. It clearly worked out for her. Her very first acting work was in a Barbie commercial, where she ogled over Barbie’s new glitter hair. She also appeared in commercials for Lisa Frank and dolls like Telephone Tammy. It wasn’t long before she earned her breakout role as Jackie on “That ‘70s Show.” To get the role, the then-14-year-old Kunis lied about her age, as everyone auditioning needed to be 18 or older. Nothing like a little hustle to get ahead!

#11: McDonald’s

Jason Alexander

Unlike many others so far mentioned on this list, Jason Alexander was already well into adulthood by the time he appeared in this McDonald’s ad. A gloriously haired Alexander dances and sings about the new McDLT, a cheeseburger that was eventually discontinued in the late ‘90s. The commercial aired in 1985, when Alexander was 26 and working on Broadway. It was around this time that Alexander also appeared on a short-lived CBS sitcom called “E/R,” playing a character named Harold Stickley for fifteen episodes. His life would change forever in 1989, only four years after the commercial. That year saw the debut of “Seinfeld” and Alexander’s Tony Award win for Best Leading Actor in a Musical.

#10: Pringles

Brad Pitt

Undoubtedly one of the most famous actors of our time, Brad Pitt began acting in 1987, appearing in episodes of various TV shows, not to mention the spectacular role “Guy at beach with drink” in the comedy “Hunk.” Before that, he was appearing in various Pringles commercials as, well, a shirtless, hunky surfer dude. Pitt would later appear in various supporting roles throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s before earning recognition as J.D., another hot, shirtless guy, in “Thelma & Louise.” And as he proved in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” he can still pull off the look.

#9: Burger King

Sarah Michelle Gellar

This actress has been in front of a camera almost ever since she learned how to talk. When Gellar was just four, she was discovered by a talent agent in a Manhattan restaurant. Soon after, she starred in a surprisingly controversial Burger King commercial, where she is heard smack-talking McDonald’s’ tiny burgers and talking up Burger King. McDonald’s wasn’t very happy about this and tried to prevent the commercial from airing, even naming Gellar in the lawsuit. It’s not customary for advertisements to directly name check their competitors. The case was eventually settled and Burger King pulled the ads from TV.

#8: Heinz Ketchup

Matt LeBlanc

Long before “Friends,” Matt LeBlanc was just another kid from Massachusetts. He left the state at 17 to pursue modelling in New York, but he was continuously told that he was too short. He decided to try acting instead and quickly landed a commercial for Heinz ketchup. If you ever wanted to see LeBlanc seductively eating a hot dog, then here you go. The commercial aired in 1987, three years after he left high school to pursue modelling. Much like Joey, he continued to land bit roles throughout the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, including “Married...with Children,” where he dated Christina Applegate’s Kelly.

#7: Super Nintendo and Toyota

Paul Rudd

After high school, Paul Rudd worked a variety of odd jobs, including as a Bar Mitzvah DJ and glazing ham at Kansas’s Holiday Ham Company. Not content with that, Rudd moved out of Kansas and began starring in numerous commercials, including one for Super Nintendo and another for Toyota. In the former he plays a Super Nintendo on a drive-in theater screen, and in the latter he talks to his brother about the $7,000 Toyota Tercel. The Toyota commercial aired in 1992, three years before he appeared in “Clueless”. And look at him now. Hey, look at him. Who would've thought?

#6: Pillsbury and McDonald’s

Drew Barrymore

Making her film debut in 1980, Drew Barrymore has been incredibly famous her entire life. Part of that has to do with being born into the Barrymore family, but most of it has to do with her (or her agent’s) knack for picking stellar movies. Following a small role in 1980’s “Altered States,” she became a world famous child star by playing Gertie in “E.T.” The movie was released in 1982, when Barrymore was just seven years old. But she was appearing in commercials as early as 1979. In one McDonald’s commercial, a 4-year-old Barrymore can be seen gleefully eating a free sundae with her family. In a different commercial, she eats warm and gooey Pillsbury cookies after coming in cold and wet from outside.

#5: Burger King

Ben Affleck

Before he was a world famous actor, and even before the commercial, Ben Affleck appeared in an educational children’s program called “The Voyage of the Mimi” which was shown to sixth grade science classes. In 1989, when Affleck was 17, he starred in a Burger King commercial that saw him delivering a BK salad to a woman who accidentally called him, believing his number to be Burger King’s. In 2016, Affleck was shown the commercial on “Good Morning America” while promoting a film. Four years after the commercial aired, Affleck appeared as Fred O’Bannion in “Dazed and Confused,” and Affleck credits director Richard Linklater for opening his eyes to the filmmaking process. The very next year, he finished writing a little movie called “Good Will Hunting.”

#4: Preparation H

Bryan Cranston

Walter White will forever remain Cranston’s role, and his place in television history has been firmly established. Before that it was Hal on “Malcolm in the Middle.” And then maybe before that it was Tim Whatley on “Seinfeld,” even though he only appeared in five episodes of the show. And then before that he was the guy in the Preparation H commercial. The exact year is unknown, but Cranston appears as a suited-up corporate bigwig in an early ‘80s commercial for Preparation H, going on enthusiastically about how “oxygen action” relieves inflamed hemorrhoids. No one said commercial work was glamorous.

#3: Listerine and Polaroid

Morgan Freeman

Throughout much of the early ‘70s, Freeman starred in the classic children’s program “The Electric Company,” which ran on PBS, And while the role brought him some mainstream recognition, he wasn’t nearly the megastar that he is today. In the interim, Freeman appeared in various commercials. One cast him as an electrician talking about the wonders of Listerine, and another has him and his family taking pictures with a Polaroid. Both aired throughout the ‘70s. Despite years of work, Freeman didn’t earn his breakout until the late ‘80s thanks to Oscar-nominated roles in “Street Smart” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

#2: Coca-Cola

Keanu Reeves

In 1989, Reeves made his major starring debut as Ted Logan in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” which grossed a solid $40 million at the box office. Reeves wasn’t yet the major star he is today, but it certainly got his name out there. But Reeves was acting throughout much of the ‘80s, both in film and commercials. In 1983, he appeared as a bicyclist in a Coca Cola commercial, complete with his signature surfer dude line delivery. That certainly wasn’t the only commercial that Reeves appeared in, but it is his most famous owing to being discussed on both “David Letterman” and “James Corden.”

#1: Brown’s Chicken

Steve Carell

Some actors don’t get really, really famous until they're a little bit older. Steve Carell is one of these actors. Of course he gained recognition on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” but it wasn’t until both “The Office” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” in 2005 that he became a national celebrity. By then, Carell was 43 years old. In 1989 - over fifteen years before his big break - Carell appeared in a commercial for Brown’s Chicken. He plays a manager advertising the chains’ new cholesterol-free chicken. Despite being just 27 at the time, he looks pretty much the same as he did later at 43. Is chicken fat a preservative?
Jeremy Renner, Pizza Hut, "Five bucks, five bucks,(whatever ridiculous thing the guys asked), five bucks.