Ranking the 15 best Super Bowl halftime shows in history originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
One of the biggest sporting events of the year is the Super Bowl. While football fans around the world watch to see how the NFL season will conclude, millions of people tune in to watch the Super Bowl halftime show. For 15 minutes, the world's biggest entertainers solidify their legacy during the halftime performance.
For many years, the halftime show was quite basic. It would simply feature a college marching band or two. In 1967, the first Super Bowl Halftime show consisted of the Liberty Bell that was performed by the University of Arizona Symphonic Marching Band. But that all changed in 1993 -- the year THE Michael Jackson turned the Super Bowl halftime show into must-watch television. Today's performances require as much preparation as the Oscars or Grammys.
The Super Bowl LVlI halftime show featured the musical comeback of Rihanna. The “Diamonds” superstar, who has been focused on her Fenty line and her new role as a parent, was back to business after a six-year hiatus. The 34-year-old artist made her return and completed a riveting concert that was "interrupted by a football game."
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So, with Super Bowl 57 behind us, here’s a look back at some other memorable Super Bowl halftime performances.
15. The Rolling Stones (2006)
There are two memorable things about Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones’ Super Bowl performance: The legendary group performed on a stage shaped after their logo, and they only performed three songs -- Yes! THREE. They kicked it off with “Start Me Up,” went to “Satisfaction” and rounded it out with “Rough Justice.”
14. Lady Gaga (2017)
Lady Gaga is one of the most eclectic artists in history, and everyone tuned in to see what her halftime performance would unveil. From her stage costume to her song selections, many wondered what Gaga would do at the Super Bowl. Gaga decided to go “safe” and performed some of her uncontroversial hits, starting with an arrangement of the “Star Bangled Banner,” but she also included her queer-positive anthem, “Born This Way.”
13. Maroon 5 (2019)
No one wanted anything to do with the halftime show stage in 2019 after the outrage over the NFL’s blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick. Stars such as Cardi B and Rihanna flat out turned the performance opportunity down, but Maroon 5 decided to accept the role. The controversial performance included cameos from Travis Scott and Big Boi.
12. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira (2020)
While Jennifer Lopez and Shakira weren’t the first Latinas to rock the halftime stage, they certainly did get loud in 2020. With Kaepernick’s blacklisting, it was hard finding a performer for the show, but the Colombian goddess and the New York Puerto Rican hustler took the stage. Shakira played the guitar and J.Lo rode in on a stripper pole. The performance also included a cameo from Lopez’s daughter, Emme, who sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”
11. U2 (2002)
U2 had one of the greatest live-TV rock & roll moments when they performed at Super Bowl XXXVI. The performance took place just a few months after 9/11, and the Irish rock band found a way to make this performance strong, yet emotional. They kicked off the show with “Beautiful Day,” then played “MLK” while the names of those who passed away scrolled on a giant screen. It was an unforgettable moment that ended with “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
10. Bruno Mars (2014)
The highlight of Bruno Mars’ career at the time was his performance at Super Bowl XLVIII in New York City’s first-ever Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium. Many doubted that the Hawaiian native would have enough of a catalog for such an honor, but he outdid himself. It started with small children holding hands in front of American flags and ended with soldiers dedicating “Just the Way You Are” to their families. The lighthearted and fun performance even featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers and a drum solo from Mars himself.
9. The Weeknd (2021)
The 2021 Super Bowl halftime performance was reminiscent of a music video stuck inside a haunted house of mirrors. The halftime show mainly took place in the upper pavilion of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The Weeknd did not appear on the field until he performed "Blinding Lights."
8. Madonna (2012)
Madonna graced the stage at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis and arrived as a Greek goddess carried by Spartan soldiers. She brought some of the most talented and expressive stars to perform alongside her. M.I.A gave the middle finger during her performance of "Gimme Your Luvin," sung with Nicki Mina. There was a colorful LMFAO mashup of “Music” with “Party Rock Anthem.” The performance was effortless.
7. Katy Perry (2015)
Katy Perry made sure to roar as she performed at Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, arriving on the back of a giant lion puppet, then was dragged through the sky as she sang “Firework.” The pop spectacle included cameos from Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott, who performed three of her own hits. There was even an appearance from Left Shark, which is the name given to a shark that was standing to the left of Perry during the performance. The shark quickly went viral for his interesting dance moves.
6. Janet Jackson (2004)
Super Bowl Super Bowl XXXVIII remains one of the most memorable throughout the years. Unfortunately, it’s not because Tom Brady won his second championship, but it’s simply because of a mishap that birthed a whole new phrase in the English language: “wardrobe malfunction.”
While the 2004 performance included Diddy, who performed in a sea of smoke, Nelly, who came out in a giant red car to sing “Hot in Here,” and Kid Rock and Jackson, who ripped through 10 tracks on top of the matching band interludes, the moment was overshadowed by Timberlake "accidentally" ripping off Janet’s chest covering.
5. Rihanna (2023)
Rihanna took the stage for the first time in over six years at Super Bowl LVII and performed a riveting and inspiring performance. The 34-year-old singer and entrepreneur took to the stage for the halftime show and performed 12 of her greatest hits and did it sporting a brand-new baby bump. Rihanna's concert that was “interrupted by a football game,” was a masterpiece.
4. Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar & 50 Cent (2022)
When the Super Bowl LVI made its way to Inglewood, Calif., to host the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals at SoFi Stadium, it only made sense that the world’s biggest and most talented hip-hop and R&B legends deliver the most entertaining Super Bowl halftime show in years.
The halftime performance from Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent was so legendary that it went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special (Live), marking a historic first win for the halftime show in the category.
3. Beyoncé & Destiny’s Child (2013)
Beyoncé put together one of the greatest halftime performances in history, placing her rightfully behind the next two epic acts. But she didn’t do it alone. Kelly Rowland, Beyoncé and Michelle Williams came together for a long-awaited reunion of Destiny's Child during Super Bowl XLVII.
The trio performed some of their greatest hits: "Bootylicious," "Single Ladies" and "Independent Women.” Beyoncé was also sure to sing the Beyhive’s favorites, from “Crazy in Love” to “Baby Boy.” The 2013 production was so extravagant that half the lights at the Superdome went out, creating a 33-minute, 55-second blackout shortly after.
2. Michael Jackson (1993)
For a 1993 halftime performance to be rated so highly in 2023 shows how before-his-time Michael Jackson was. While he didn’t go too deep into his enormous catalog, he did perform “We Are the World” with a children’s choir, then did “Heal the World” while an enormous globe inflated in the middle of the stage. He also performed “Billie Jean” and was sure to moonwalk across the stage.
While the King of Pop was the first star to perform at the Super Bowl -- ending the marching band era as we know it -- he is without a doubt the most memorable.
1. Prince (2007)
We’ve made it to No. 1, and who else would be in this spot than The Artist (Formerly Known as Prince)?
No one knew how badly we needed to hear Prince backed by a brass marching band until he brought the house down at Super Bowl XLI, placing it as the greatest halftime show of all time. The performance also became more famous after his death in 2016.
He did mashups of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower," Queen's "We Will Rock You" and Foo Fighters' "Best of You" with his own songs. He closed the performance with the most perfect rendition of Purple Rain that included an epic guitar solo in the rain.