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Top 5 Super Bowl halftime shows of all time

Profile Picture: Ashley Anderson

February 12th, 2022

The Super Bowl halftime show has long bridged the gap between the hardcore football junkie and casual observer of the big game.

While many tune in for the action-packed battle on the gridiron, some find the performance between halves the most alluring part of Super Bowl Sunday.

With some of the world’s most famous musical acts in charge of entertaining the masses, the halftime show has become synonymous with pageantry, extravagance and buzzworthy surprises.

Let’s rank the top five Super Bowl halftime shows, before Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige take the stage inside SoFi Stadium in Super Bowl LVI.

5. Katy Perry, Super Bowl XLIX, 2015

To get started, let’s be clear on one thing: If this were simply judged on music, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty would rank much higher. But the Super Bowl halftime show is far more about the parade of lights, special effects, pyrotechnics, stage design, and choreography. 

In 2015, pop singer Katy Perry handed us one memorable halftime production, when she invited Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott, and the infamous “Left Shark” to perform with her. Perry began the show by riding in on a giant mechanical lion, then flew out of the stadium on a shooting star reminiscent of “The More You Know” logo.

In between, Elliott rapped three of her songs, Kravitz dazzled with his guitar, and “Left Shark” couldn’t quite get in sync with his dancing counterpart, “Right Shark.”

This show had everyone talking the day after the Super Bowl and still spikes up conversation before each new halftime performance.

4. Coldplay ft. Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Super Bowl 50, 2016

Super Bowl 50 presented the challenge of commemorating half a century of halftime performances on the NFL’s grandest stage. Headliner Coldplay started off a little rough, but Bruno Mars and Beyoncé quickly shot a jolt of energy into the atmosphere and stole the show.

Queen Bey paid tribute to Michael Jackson’s famous halftime spectacular by wearing a similar outfit to the ensemble the Gloved One sported during Super Bowl XXVII. It only got better from there, as she and Bruno battled in an epic dance-off that culminated with Coldplay returning to belt a mashup of songs made famous by past performers.

The ultimate touch was a projector on the stage that showcased many of the Super Bowl halftime shows of the last 50 years, and Whitney Houston’s rendition of the national anthem.

3. Lady Gaga, Super Bowl LI, 2017

If there’s one woman who can rock the most watched live concert in the country all by herself, it’s Lady Gaga. In 2017, the “Poker Face” songstress began her set on the roof of NRG Stadium, singing “God Bless America” and “This Land is Your Land,” before she catapulted down to the field—with the help of a sturdy cable and crafty TV editing. Gaga performed high-flying acrobatics, elaborate dance numbers and donned a sequined leotard and bedazzled eye makeup as she nailed each note—without resorting to lip syncing.

To end her dramatic show, she dropped the mic (literally), then leaped from the stage while catching a football thrown her way.

2. Prince, Super Bowl XLI, 2007

Many have heard the story of Prince’s halftime show by now. On the day the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears were set to square off in Super Bowl XLI, Miami experienced a continuous downpour that had some panicking ahead of Prince’s performance.

As for the “Purple Rain” star, the weather didn't faze him. His Royal Badness stood atop the stage, shaped as his “Artist Formerly Known As Prince” symbol, and not only stirred audiences with his own music, but covered the likes of Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary,” and the Foo Fighters.

Finally, as Prince sang out his most iconic song to close out the night, the skies opened up and rain poured down for one unforgettable moment in Super Bowl history.  

1. Michael Jackson, Super Bowl XXVII, 1993

The only person who could top a Prince is the King of Pop. In 1993, Michael Jackson entertained the Rose Bowl crowd and the world watching as he put on one of his trademark performances, featuring eye-popping dance moves—including the moonwalk—a “magic” disappearing act to kick off the show, an enormous children’s choir, huge inflatables, and a crowd-generated photo display around the stadium.

Jackson had been brought in to help revive Super Bowl ratings, and he did just that. It’s been claimed that because of MJ’s involvement in Super Bowl XXVII, that particular program went down as one of the most watched events in U.S. television history.

Jackson’s halftime show prompted the NFL to continuously push for the largest musical acts going forward, and also became the inspiration for so many other performances to come.

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