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The 10 Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows of All Time, Ranked

The 10 Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows of All Time, Ranked
The 10 Best Super Bowl Halftime Shows of All Time, Ranked

If you prefer to think of the Super Bowl as a 12-minute concert sandwiched between way too much football, this one’s for you.

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While everyone else stresses out over who “wins” or “loses” the big game, we know that what really matters — besides the commercials, of course — is the halftime show. For decades, the biggest names in music have taken the Super Bowl stage to deliver performances we’ll never forget, usually for the right reasons, and we’re taking a minute to salute them.

Super Bowl halftime performances can be memorable for all kinds of reasons. (Diana Ross exiting her 1999 gig via helicopter while belting “I Will Survive”? Camp!) But “best” is something else. It’s the kind of performance that still calls your name when you’re mindlessly scrolling YouTube in the middle of the night. “Watch me,” it whispers.

In advance of Usher’s performance at Sunday’s Super Bowl, Team TVLine has enlisted the voices in our own heads to assemble a list of the 10 best halftime shows ever. Read on for our complete ranking, then drop a comment with your own list.

10. Prince (2007)

Dearly beloved, we gather here today to see how a Super Bowl halftime performance is done. “We Will Rock You” truly rocked us. “Let’s Go Crazy” had us all going just that. And did we imagine this, or was it actually purple-raining during “Purple Rain”? That’s an irrefutable seal of cosmic approval, because you know God wasn’t watching this game for the football.

9. Aerosmith and *NSYNC (2001)

The sweet sound of Britney Spears singing Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” remains so firmly rooted in our memories, it’s easy to forget that she was merely a special guest during this MTV-orchestrated halftime show on which Aerosmith shared top billing with *NSYNC. Dubbed “The Kings of Rock and Pop,” this glorious time capsule of 2001 pop culture began with a pre-taped segment starring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller and Chris Rock, and later welcomed Mary J. Blige and Nelly to the stage as additional guests.

It was like the very best of TRL. And if that means anything to you, we’re sorry about whichever part of your back hurts the most today.

8. Michael Jackson (1993)

Given the time constraints that come with the Super Bowl, halftime performers don’t have a moment to waste — yet that didn’t stop Michael Jackson from standing in silence for nearly two full minutes, watching from the stage as his screaming fans whipped themselves into a frantic frenzy. By the time he finally rocketed into a medley of “Jam,” “Billie Jean” and “Black or White,” they were already puddles.

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

First of all, has the Super Bowl stage ever hosted this many huge names at once? This celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary began with a house party at Snoop Dogg’s (“California Love”), then hit the club with special-guest 50 Cent (“In da Club”) and Mary J. Blige (“Family Affair” with a little “No More Drama” for good measure).

Then came Kendrick Lamar with the one-two punch of “M.A.A.D. City” and “Alright,” followed by Eminem, who had everyone craving a serving of mom’s spaghetti.

6. Coldplay (2016)

This otherwise-fine halftime show became a full on Cold-slay thanks to special guests Bruno Mars and Beyoncé, who pelted the audience with infectiously energetic performances of their monster hits “Uptown Funk” and “Formation” before meeting on stage for a dramatic dance-off.

5. Katy Perry (2015)

From Perry’s triumphant entrance on the back of a 14-foot lion to her dramatic exit atop a shooting star, this Super Bowl performance was a thoroughly psychedelic journey into the singer’s candy coated world. But don’t take our word for it — ask any of the anthropomorphic beach balls and palm trees who provided back-up vocals on “California Gurls.”

And if that’s somehow not enough to sell you on Perry’s halftime show, we have two more words for you: Left. Shark.

4. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (2020)

A pure party from the jump, this epic collaboration gave us everything: guitar shredding, rope dancing, and stomach-based choreography that had us questioning the very limits of the human body — and that was just during Shakira’s half!

Following a surprisingly seamless segue between “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Jenny From the Block,” Jennifer Lopez then took the stage for a leather-clad, laser-fueled reminder of who she was… then.

3. Madonna (2012)

The Queen of Pop gave us plenty to L-U-V in this authentic (albeit far too brief) journey through the phases of her career, from “Vogue” to “Music” to “Give Me All Your Lovin.” Inviting LMFAO to join her on stage for a performance of “I’m Sexy and I Know It” was definitely a capital-C choice, but Madge was feeling herself, and who are we to yuck her yum?

Besides, 2012 was a different time in general. No one would just let something like LMFAO happen today. We’ve grown as a society.

2. Lady Gaga (2017)

Following a rendition of “God Bless America” so genuinely patriotic that Sam Eagle reportedly wept on sight, Lady Gaga descended upon Houston’s NRG Stadium to deliver her message of love and acceptance and over-the-top costumes — and we were ready to receive.

An electric display of energy and talent, Gaga served up a perfect pop cocktail, a spicy blend of hits like “The Edge of Glory,” “Poker Face,” “Born This Way” and “Just Dance.” She was Mother (Monster) for this one.

1. Beyoncé (2013)

There’s only one correct way to watch Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime show: mouth agape. The power she brought to that stage remains unparalleled, firmly gripping the world by its throat before taking even a single step of her signature “Crazy in Love” strut. The rest was pure honey straight from the BeyHive, a medley of bangers like “Love on Top,” “Baby Boy” and “Halo.”

Most importantly, Beyoncé shared her time in the spotlight with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, giving us all the Destiny’s Child reunion of our dreams. No performance of “Single Ladies” has any right to get us that emotional!

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