Top 10 Most Memorable Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ever

by Chris Haney
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The Los Angeles Rams secured the Lombardi Trophy last night when they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. It was arguably the most exciting finish to a Super Bowl since 2017 when the New England Patriots famously came back from a 28-3 deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons.

However, the Super Bowl provides far more than just a game to watch. Football fans across the world tune in, but not everyone cares about the on-field matchups. Some people just enjoy Super Bowl parties and hanging out with friends and family. Others enjoy watching all the new commercials that release during the game. Plenty more only pay attention to the halftime show to see some of music’s most legendary acts hit the stage.

The Super Bowl has a little something for everyone. Following last night’s all-time great halftime performance, we wanted to revisit some of the best halftime shows to ever grace the gridiron during Super Bowl Sunday. So here’s 10 halftime shows that are still talked about today in order of the year they performed. That said, we can all agree Prince’s legendary 2007 halftime show was the best ever, right?

Michael Jackson (1993)

From the late ’70s on through most of the ’90s, there was no one bigger when it came to combining music and entertainment than “The King of Pop” Michael Jackson. From groundbreaking music videos to mesmerizing dance moves to countless hit records, Michael was everything the NFL could’ve hoped for as a Super Bowl halftime performer in 1993. For decades, the Super Bowl featured marching bands during the break. In the early ’90s, the league started to bring in famous performers. Jackson’s 1993 performance set the stage for what halftime shows would become as we know them now. You can watch Michael Jackson’s full performance HERE.

Aerosmith, Britney Spears, NSYNC, Nelly, and Mary J. Blige (2001)

By 2001, a new Super Bowl halftime format came about with headlining stars welcoming numerous special guests to the stage. Legendary rockers Aerosmith helped pioneer the mashups alongside wildly popular boy band NSYNC. It would be Justin Timberlake’s first of multiple halftime performances over the next two decades. Aerosmith brought the classics as NYSNC brought pop music center stage. Then everyone joined in on “Walk This Way,” including guests Britney Spears, Nelly, and Mary J. Blige. It doesn’t get much more 2000s than this iconic Super Bowl performance.

U2 (2002)

The United States was still only a few months removed from the September 11 attacks that devastated our nation. U2 dedicated their Super Bowl performance to those that lost their lives only a few months prior. A huge screen scrolled through all the names of the dead and Bono would go on to reveal an American flag sewn inside his jacket as he sang. The Irish band played energetic hits while also capturing the emotion of the moment perfectly. It’s one of the greatest live-TV rock moments to ever air. You can watch U2’s full performance HERE.

Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson, and Nelly (2004)

You knew it would be on the list – “Nipplegate.” Following the lead from a few years prior, this was another huge mashup concert filled with various star performers like in 2001. This time around, iconic singer and dancer Janet Jackson would hit the stage alongside Justin Timberlake (again). The show also featured Jessica Simpson, P. Diddy, Nelly (again), and Kid Rock. Of course, everyone’s actual performance became secondary to to the controversy that ensued after Timberlake ripped off a part of Jackson’s costume. Was it a wardrobe malfunction? Was it planned? It’s been confirmed that it was a publicity stunt, but people are still talking about it to this day. In fact, a documentary about the whole ordeal just released in November, so it’s still as prevalent as ever when it comes to Super Bowl halftime shows.

Paul McCartney (2005)

A living legend, one of the greatest musical artists ever, one of the Fab Four. The Beatles’ very own Paul McCartney took the stage at Super Bowl XXXIX and that’s all that was needed. No special guests, no over the top theatrics or backup dancers. Just McCartney himself as he blazed through iconic song after iconic song. You can watch Paul McCartney’s full performance HERE.

Prince (2007)

Super Bowl halftime shows had gotten into a groove in the 2000s as they steered back towards quality over quantity. Instead of combining multiple acts, the performances got back to celebrating a singular artist and their beloved music. Everyone knew Prince’s show would be epic, but no one could’ve seen this performance coming. His historic halftime show even included mashups of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” and Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” incorporated into his own songs. Of course, all of that culminated in a perfect rendition of “Purple Rain” while it actually rained in Miami. Arguably the best halftime performance of all-time.

Tom Petty (2008)

Once again, Super Bowl viewers got a straightforward rock show packed full of hits. Tom Petty and his band played a series of classics that everyone could sing along with, and they did. “American Girl,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Free Fallin,” and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” brought the nostalgia and good times in droves. Four songs that made for a perfect mini-concert, which any Tom Petty fan surely loved.

Lady Gaga (2017)

Many wondered if this would be another controversial Super Bowl halftime show. Will Lady Gaga get overly provocative? Would she wear a meat dress or something else insane like she often does? Would she take a political stand? As she jumped into the stadium (literally) after saying the Pledge of Allegiance, there was no controversy to be had. She broke out many of her hits and didn’t feature a single special guest. Lady Gaga let her artistic talent take center stage, and it spoke for itself.

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (2020)

Latin stars Shakira and Jennifer Lopez brought out all the stops in 2020. The two ladies slayed separately and in unison throughout their iconic performance that included hits from each of their catalogs. While Gloria Estefan was the first Latin performer to take the Super Bowl halftime stage, Shakira and J. Lo put their culture front and center in an age-defying, electric performance.

Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar (2022)

Last but not least, Super Bowl LVI in L.A. last night brought out some of hip-hop’s biggest names to share one stage. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Kendrick Lamar all rocked the stage separately but as one in a love note to 1990s and 2000s rap and R&B. It was a fitting salute to the Super Bowl returning to L.A. for the first time in almost three decades.

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