The ultimate ranking of Matthew McConaughey’s legendary Lincoln commericals
The existential prophet of the automotive world is back. Lincoln Motor Company has blessed us with a new Matthew McConaughey-led TV spot to add to its growing pantheon. In past outings, we’ve seen McConaughey encounter a rouge bull, ride the city streets and dine alone. The spots, which are directed by visual auteur Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive,” “Only God Forgives”), are incredibly minimalist in style, featuring little more than McConaughey, the car and a concept. In all truth, they’re just ridiculous and entertaining pieces of Internet pop culture. It is only fitting, then, to take a look back at the series as a whole and see which is the best.
“Intro” is the first and best McConaughey-Lincoln commercial. Our hero is a city-slicker version of “True Detective’s” Rust Cohle. He’s an urban mystic, riding the streets in search of his own origin story. McConaughey reminds us that “going back to move forward” isn’t about “going back to reminisce or chase ghosts.” “Intro” is the most visually striking spot, with director Refn merging the alien-world street views he mastered in “Drive” with the commercial world. McConaughey accomplishes effective advertising without even mentioning the product; yet leaving us with the distinct impression that to drive a Lincoln is a unique, soul-searching experience. It’s ridiculous and glorious, profane and spiritual, just like McConaughey.
2. “Looky There”
The most recent commercial, “Looky There” manages to take the number-two spot due to its striking simplicity. A moment is hard to define and hard to experience, McConaughey tells us, but finding it is rewarding. We watch the sun rise in the rearview mirror before driving off into a new world. Once again, McConaughey doesn’t even mention the car. He’s an actor. Actors don’t sell products. They sell emotion.
3. “I Just Liked It”
This is faux-product placement at its finest. It’s also the most ridiculous of the series. McConaughey claims he drives a Lincoln because he “just likes it,” not to be cool or because he was paid to. But of course McConaughey is driving a Lincoln because he was paid to! That’s how commercials work. As genuine as McConaughey is, we still get a glimpse behind the mask. It’s this mix of facade and honesty that makes the commercial delightful to watch, if not the best of the canon.
What this spot lacks in ideology it more than makes up for with concept and artistry. Refn captures a beautiful diner scene, with McConaughey as the sole patron. What really makes this spot work is when McConaughey clinks the glass just before leaving. It’s so intensely idiosyncratic. Nobody else could pull off such a ridiculous gesture. Maybe Nicolas Cage, but he would yell something about the Constitution after doing it. McConaughey is all swagger and southern charm as he puts down the sunroof and drives off into the waiting night.
McConaughey channels some type of post-conservationist John Muir in this environmentally focused spot. It’s still compelling and ridiculous like the other spots, but the writing just isn’t up to par. Maybe Lincoln wants to convince rich tree-haters to keep driving their luxury sedans because of some feng shui balance? Its demographic aim here is confusing at best.
I don’t have anything against “Bull” per se, but it just never really worked for me. It’s almost aggressively esoteric. The spot is about respect and power, but why is the bull in the middle of the road? Why is the bull named Cyrus? Does McConaughey know the bull? “Bull” just leaves too many questions unanswered. It is memorable, however, for the “booger rolling” finger motions that Jim Carrey so accurately parodied on “Saturday Night Live.” “Bull” is the one spot in the series that just doesn’t seem to fit.