Microwave Popcorn is kind of hard to mess up. The only way to get a really bad bag is to burn the popcorn, and even then it’s usually salvageable. Fluffier, healthier, and more satisfying than potato chips, popcorn is the perfect snack for movie night — both for its historical link to silver screen days and its slightly quieter crunch. So today, we’re ranking the finest bags of microwave popcorn that your money can buy.
A few stipulations before we start: 1) We’ve narrowed down the selection to the most visible brands on the market today, 2) When possible, we stayed on-theme by copping the “movie theater butter” varieties, and 3) Low-cal brands were excluded because, obviously.
7. Jolly Time Blast O Butter Ultimate Theatre Style
Jolly Time calls its mainline popcorn Blast O Butter: the Ultimate Theatre Style Butter. The box shows already yellow popcorn being doused in golden yellow butter oil. Its pretty gross looking, tbh, and this is the new design. The old box managed to be even less appetizing.
Even if you’re a huge artificial butter fan, Jolly Time goes way overboard to the point of just being inconvenient. It would probably rank a little higher if it came with a wet nap. The second you remove the bag from the microwave your hands are already covered in oil.
The Verdict: An oily mess. Unappetizing from the box to the popcorn itself. It’s not horrible — in the sense that it’s still popcorn with butter flavoring — but it definitely makes you rethink the choices you make in life.
6. Pop Weaver Extra Butter
It’s better than Jolly Time, in that it doesn’t leave your fingers a complete oily mess, but Pop Weaver is a bit of an imposter. Using the same blue, yellow, white color scheme as Act II and Pop Secret, Pop Weaver is the lesser of the three. The butter flavor has that salty chemical taste, and the bag always has a pile of unpopped kernels at the bottom, even if you manage to burn the popcorn.
We aren’t exactly going to complain if we’re handed a bowl of Pop Weaver, but the chances of reaching the end of that bowl are slim.
The Verdict: You can very easily wonder why your microwave popcorn isn’t hitting the spot, only to find out your dumb ass picked up the wrong box. Pop Weaver, you sneaky, sneaky old corn.
5. Newman’s Own Pop’s Corn Butter
With a small list of ingredients Newman’s Own makes a great microwaveable popcorn that uses natural butter flavor, whole grain popcorn, and sea salt. To our taste buds, the butter doesn’t taste all that different than the competition, but the sea salt really gives the each perfectly popped kernel an addictive, salty aftertaste.
If you’re looking for an ultra buttery popcorn, this isn’t going to be the brand for you but at least it’ll keep your clothes stain free if a few stray puffs land on your belly. Light butter and unsalted varieties are also available and it’s certified organic (though, without those chemicals its aroma isn’t as inviting as some of the other brands on this list).
The Verdict: Kind of takes all the fun out of popcorn. Newman’s Own tastes good, and we definitely feel good about eating it rather than guilty, but we aren’t sure that’s what we want for movie night.
4. Act Two Movie Theater Butter
A cool fact about Act II is that its name actually has meaning. Aside from being an obvious reference to the theater, Act II was actually proceeded by Act I popcorn, an earlier microwave variety that, due to its use of real butter, had to be stored in the refrigerator. As far as we can tell, Act I is no longer on the market, but Act II makes the very popular ‘Butter Lovers’ variety and it is indeed a favorite amongst lovers of butter.
There is nothing natural or fresh about the butter in Act II and it stains the bright yellow popcorn in an uneven manner, making some bites way more buttered than others. But despite its flaws and its somewhat cheap-tasting flavor, it’s an addicting bag that definitely plays on our nostalgia.
The Verdict: If you’re a fan of that artificial butter flavor then Act II is your brand. This is by far the butteriest brand of microwave popcorn on the market and they know it because, in addition to Butter Lovers and Movie Theater Butter, Act II also has an Xtreme Butter variety. Yes, that’s extreme with an ‘X!’
3. Pop Secret Movie Theater Butter
Pop Secret is soft, white, and fluffy and has a taste that leans on the natural side. The butter is an appealingly light shade of yellow on the vibrant white puffs of corn. There’s also a slightly sweet aftertaste that causes you to instinctively reach for more.
What’s Pop Secret’s secret? We may never know (probably some type of harmful chemical) but it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if this was anyone’s favorite as its perfect texture makes it almost as good as popcorn from the movies. Pop Secret is the most consistent popcorn we’ve microwaved, always leaving only a few unpopped kernels behind and the butter flavoring spreads evenly throughout the bag making every bowl as good as the last.
The Verdict: Fluffy and consistent, Pop Secret is one of the best. The butter flavor isn’t overwhelming like Act II but you aren’t left longing for it like with Newman’s Own.
2. Orville Redenbacher’s Movie Theater Butter
Orville Redenbacher’s comes in a gimmicky theatre bucket-esque bag that can be a pain in the ass to open if you just made popcorn and weren’t expecting to learn a brand new process when you’re so used to the diagonal bag tear of microwave popcorn. You’ll likely still pour this popcorn in a bowl, as eating a bag of popcorn from the bag while it’s steaming hot is kind of sadistic.
Gimmicks aside, Orville Redenbacher’s is one of the best microwave popcorns on the market. Fluffy and buttery, without that chemical butter taste of some of the lesser brands. Is it as good as movie theatre popcorn? No, but its damn close.
The Verdict: We forgive the gimmicky bag because the popcorn is so good. The butter flavoring is delicious and each kernel is the perfect mix of salty and sweet. We wish this had the number 1 spot but it just misses the mark.
1. Quinn Butter and Sea Salt
Okay, we’re sorry. We really didn’t want this one to be the best. Everything about it just screams “We are taking this too seriously!” Quinn popcorn is organic and it’s popped in a compostable bag which is totally cool, and they use real butter and sea salt, as well as safflower oil that you pour on after it’s popped. It’s a ridiculous amount of work for a snack that is supposed to be prepared quickly, and I absolutely hated it until the moment I tasted a single popcorn kernel.
God damn if Quinn popcorn isn’t good. Although it’s great that the bag is compostable and not lined with chemicals or plastics, a box of Quinn is expensive and only contains two bags of popcorn, and comes with extra packets of oil and butter.
It seems awfully wasteful, and the bag is kind of small to effectively shake safflower oil and powdered butter and sea salt together, so you’re better off transferring it to a big bowl and tossing it there, but the effort is definitely worth it. This is the clear winner. Better taste, better texture, and better ingredients.
The Verdict: We aren’t proud of it, but Quinn is the best. Nevermind its compostable bag and all natural ingredients, at the end of the day flavor rules and this is simply the best tasitng. It takes a little more time and effort but it’s well worth it.