Car companies love when their cars are on the silver screen. Brands like BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz pay big bucks for their cars to get featured in big-budget blockbuster movies. BMW has been partnered with the Mission Impossible films for about a decade, Audi has been featured in Marvel films since 2008, and Mercedes-Benz was recently Batman’s choice of vehicle. Premium brands love them some movie magic. Which is why the BMW Films ads of the ’90s and ’00s were some of the best car ads of all time, because they weren’t ads… they were short films.
Back in the ’90s, BMW Films was started to promote not just certain vehicles but the entire brand. The real beauty of it, though, was the fact that all of the films revolved around two characters; the unnamed driver — played by Clive Owen — and whichever BMW he was driving in that particular film.
Each film brought a new story, a new critically acclaimed director, usually several A-list cameos, and a ton of kick-ass driving action. Some of the films were badass, high-tension action, some of them were witty and funny, while some of them were a bit more serious and somber, depending on the director.
Some of the big-name directors that put their stamp on BMW Films were Ang Lee, Tony Scott, Guy Ritchie, and, most recently Neil Blomkamp. All of which starred Clive Owen as the unnamed driver but each one had a different story, with different cameos, such as Don Cheadle, James Brown, and Madonna. Some of the cars featured in the different BMW Films were the E39 BMW M5, the BMW Z4, and the E38 7 Series.
A few years ago, BMW brought Clive Owen back for another BMW Films entry, over a decade after the last one had debuted. It featured Blomkamp as the director, with cameos from Dakota Fanning, Vera Farmiga, and Jon Bernthal.
During its run, BMW Films attracted over 75 million views, on over 2,600 different media outlets around the world, back before the days of viral YouTube videos. With all of that coverage, the quality of filmmaking, kick-ass driving action and the big-name stars, BMW Films was able to create a brand image like no other automotive campaign before it. It really was a stroke of genius from BMW at the time and we wish the Bavarians would continue the tradition.