David Lynch is responsible for some of the most visceral and disturbing films in history. But for decades, the director of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and other classics has been creating works for a wholly different realm: advertising.
It may be surprising that Lynch, who is a stickler for having total control over his movies, would agree to make commercials under the watchful eyes of corporate bean counters—but he’s not exactly a stickler for doing the expected thing, either. Here are 15 of his commercials, for everything from perfumes to pastas to pregnancy tests.
1. Obsession By Calvin Klein (1988)
Lynch’s first commercials for Calvin Klein’s fragrance line became iconic and are imitated and satirized to this day. He made a series of four, and each one is a short interpretation of a quote: from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, and Gustave Flaubert.
2-5. Georgia Coffee (1991)
These ads only appeared in Japan and directly rode the wave of Lynch’s wildly popular television series Twin Peaks by featuring established characters and visual cues. “I’m really against it in principle,” Lynch said about the commercials, “But they were so much fun to do, and they were only running in Japan and so it just felt OK.”
6. New York Department of Sanitation (1991)
“We Care About New York” is a Lynch-directed PSA that tries to bring attention to the city’s rat infestation problem.
7. Gio for Giorgio Armani (1992)
According to NY Mag, Armani picked Lynch for “his brooding tone, his surrealism and sleepy pace.” They also mentioned that “Armani’s other two candidates were busy.”
8. Opium for Yves Saint Laurent
9. Alka-Seltzer Plus (1993)
For someone as meticulous when it comes to sound design as Lynch, there was just no turning down the allure of plop plop, fizz fizz.
10. Barilla Pasta (1993)
Is this spot featuring Gérard Depardieu the most un-Lynchian thing ever made? You be the judge:
11. Adidas (1993)
The Guardian reported that Lynch earned “close to $1million” for this British advertisement.
12. Sun Moon Stars for Karl Lagerfeld (1994)
13. Clear Blue Pregnancy Test (1997)
Anyone who has seen Eraserhead knows what Lynch can do with a subject like pregnancy. According to Entertainment Weekly, Lynch made the actress actually take a pregnancy test for the commercial. If that wasn’t enough to get her into the mood, “Lynch switched her results with those of a pregnant crew member.”
14. Playstation 2 (2000)
15. Nissan (2002)
According to Lynch (via Carpages.co.uk), “I like the Micra, particularly the headlamps. They are like jewels. And I like the concept of ‘Do you speak Micra?’ I like modern and retro put together to make modtro—that’s a very good concept… I think it was Magritte who put lips in the sky. This is a bit of the feel of those big beautiful lips speaking in a supermodern and very graphic city.”