A Ranking of the 10 Best Super Bowl Halftime Show Performances, Ever

at 9:30 am | By
best super bowl halftime show performances ranking beyonce michael jackson madonna prince
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It’s Super Bowl 50! Which means something to a lot of people.

But we’re going to be completely transparent and say that we’re super excited for the Super Bowl for one reason only: Beyoncé.

At this year’s Super Bowl, bae Cam Newton and his team the Carolina Panthers are going up against the Denver Broncos and their QB Peyton Manning, aka that guy who makes more money from endorsements ($12 million, to be exact) than any other football player in the league. Coldplay is set to headline the halftime show, while Bey and now reportedly Bruno Mars are set to make guest appearances. Having both headlined the event themselves in the past, too, Bey and Mars are totally used to the pomp and circumstance (and high expectations) that come along with performing the halftime show.

Because Beyoncé’s halftime show performance is one for the books, and because there have been so many other superb halftime show performances in the past (let us not forget Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson‘s #NippleGate, or that time Michael Jackson proved he was the King of Pop with his 1993 show), here’s a list of the best Super Bowl halftime shows, ever. 

1. Michael Jackson – Super Bowl XXVII (1993)

Hands down, Jackson’s halftime show is perhaps one of the best moments of TV history, ever. Unlike in other years, which entail several artists joining together, Jackson performed solo throughout. He performed a medley of “Jam,” “Billie Jean,” and “Black and White,” culminating in the final: a choir made up of 3,500 local Los Angeles–area children singing “We Are The World”, who later joined Jackson to sing “Heal the World.”

2. Beyoncé – Super Bowl XLVII (2013)

Beyoncé can appear on the screen doing anything and we would invariably sit in rapture by her presence and beauty (and I mean literally anything; she could just be hula-hooping, and it would be the best thing since sliced bread, because she is an unstoppable machine). In 2013, the Queen headlined the Super Bowl halftime show and brought Destiny’s Child back together. Although it unintentionally still felt like “Beyoncé and her backup singers/dancers Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams,” it was still freaking amazing to see the trio back (and trying) as one. Bey performed “Run the World (Girls)” as her intro, followed by songs like “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy.” Destiny’s Child appeared halfway through, and they sang “Bootylicious” and “Single Ladies,” amongst others.

3. Prince – Super Bowl XLI (2007)

Sex god Prince took the stage by storm in 2007, and we’ve never quite recovered (nor have any future halftime show performances been quite so perfect). Spewing with eroticism and sexually charged energy, Prince’s 12-minute long halftime show contained renditions of Queen‘s “We Will Rock You,” his hits “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Baby, I’m a Star,” and cover versions of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit “Proud Mary”, Bob Dylan‘s “All Along the Watchtower”, and the Foo Fighters‘ “Best of You.” And, because it was raining, he appropriately rounded off his performance with “Purple Rain” in the downpour.

Too bad Prince doesn’t allow his performances on Youtube :/. Take out word for it, it is one for the books.

4. Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake – Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)

Before there was #DeflateGate (and Twitter for that matter), there was #NippleGate. Known as probably the most controversial halftime show in Super Bowl history, Timberlake and Jackson performed a duet of the former’s song “Rock Your Body.” Then for some reason (ratings?!?!), Timberlake exposed Jackson’s entire breast on live TV for about a second by removing the part of her wardrobe over her boob. Her nipple was covered by some sort of metal accessory or piercing though. The incident was later on referred to as a “wardrobe malfunction.” Sure.

Jackson also performed solo, and P. Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock were the other performers during 2004’s halftime show.

5. U2 – Super Bowl XXXVI (2002)

U2‘s halftime show in 2002 was a poignant tribute to those who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The started off with “Beautiful Day,” followed by “MLK” and “Where the Streets Have No Name.” As they sang, the names of the victims from 9/11 were projected behind them. Lead singer Bono changed several of the lyrics in “Where the Streets Have No Name”, for example “take shelter from the poison rain” with “dance in the Louisiana rain”, and the final line “it’s all I can do” with “it’s all we can do.” At the end, he opened his jacket to reveal the American flag.

6. Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Cee Lo Green – Super Bowl XLVI (2012)

In typical Madonna fashion, her halftime show performance was a feat of magic, combining theatrics with amazing showmanship on behalf of the Material Girl herself, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green, stuntman Andy Lewis and Cirque du Soleil performers.

Her set list was excellent, including all her hit songs like “Vogue,” a “Music”/”Party Rock Anthem”/”Sexy and I Know It” medley with LMFAO, “Give Me All Your Luvin'” with Minaj and M.I.A., “Open Your Heart”/”Express Yourself” with Green, finishing it off with “Like a Prayer” also with Green.

7. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers– Super Bowl XLVIII (2014)

Bruno Mars is a killer hitmaker and stellar live performer, so it comes as no surprise that Mars’ halftime performance, joined by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was exciting and full of happy energy. He performed “Locked Out of Heaven,” “Treasure,” “Runaway Baby,” “Give It Away” (with Red Hot Chili Peppers) and “Just the Way You Are” as a tribute to the United States Armed Forces.

8. Aerosmith, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly – Super Bowl XXXV (2001)

‘N Sync‘s “Bye, Bye, Bye” will forever be a classic, and seeing Timberlake with his original boy band back in the day will never cease to make us happy. Steven Tyler and Aerosmith also performed their fantastic songs “Jaded” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” ending with “Walk This Way” joined by Britney Spears, Nelly, Mary J. Blige and the Boys. All on one stage, and completely perfect.

9. Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott – Super Bowl XLIX (2015)

As for last year, Katy Perry‘s headlined show (in which appeared atop a huge mechanical lion and flew in the sky atop a star) was, unfortunately for her, upstaged not only by Missy Elliot‘s (sort of) surprise appearance and Lenny Kravitz‘s overall fire and hotness, but more so by the moving performance by Left (and Right) Shark. Yep, she got upstaged by her backup dancers wearing shark costumes. It was all anyone was buzzing about after the show, creating a momentary Internet (and IRL) phenomenon.

10. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – Super Bowl XLIII (2009)

Bruce Springsteen can still get it. The “Born in the U.S.A.” singer had turned down the invitation to perform the Super Bowl many times before, but finally accepted the honor in 2009. He and the E Street Band performed “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” “Born to Run,” “Working on a Dream,” and “Glory Days.”

Other halftime show performances not included on this list are old-time rockers such as Paul McCartney (Super Bowl XXXIX, 2005); The Rolling Stones (Super Bowl XL, 2006); and The Black Eyed Peas (Super Bowl XLV, 2011).