20 of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime shows
20 of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime shows
It is the biggest football game of the year, but the Super Bowl doesn’t just offer two unstoppable football teams battling it out for the win. The Big Game also promises some of the greatest performances from star-studded entertainers at the Super Bowl halftime show. While the halftime show was once a stomping ground for some of colleges’ greatest marching bands, that all changed in 1991 when one of the first boy bands, New Kids on the Block, took to the stage.
In the years since, the halftime show has featured some of the most memorable and intricately planned and choreographed musical performances to ever hit the small screen. They have been themed based on both movies and seasons. They have been strange and shocking. They have featured wardrobe mishaps and both awkward and joyous pairings.
The Super Bowl has become known for these extravagant shows featuring some of the most legendary bands and singers in the world. While they aren’t paid for performing, the prestige of being on the legendary halftime stage is payment enough.
As we look forward to the 2022 halftime show featuring Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar, Stacker compiled a list of 20 of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime shows from various news and entertainment sites.
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Super Bowl XXV (1991)
Prior to the 1991 Super Bowl, marching bands were the predominant act at halftime, but that all changed when New Kids on the Block brought their act to the stage. Their show at Tampa Stadium, where the New York Giants played the Buffalo Bills, featured hits “Step by Step,” “This One’s for the Children,” and “It’s a Small World” performed along with a military children’s choir, members of whose parents were serving in the Gulf War. A Gulf War report actually aired during halftime.
Super Bowl XXVI (1992)
This strange halftime show, known as Winter Magic, was a tribute to another great sporting event that year, the Winter Olympics. Olympic figure skaters Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill skated to “One Moment in Time” and were joined by several members of the 1980 Olympic hockey team, the University of Minnesota marching band, dancing snowflakes, and massive snowmen. Gloria Estefan also performed her hits “Get On Your Feet” and “Live For Loving You.”
Super Bowl XXVII (1993)
The King of Pop performed at The Rose Bowl during a game where the Dallas Cowboys beat the Buffalo Bills. Amidst the ice-cold afternoon, Michael Jackson moonwalked his way through a medley that includes his hits “Billie Jean,” “Jam,” and “Black or White.” To wrap things up, Jackson sang “We Are the World” and “Heal the World,” while 3,500 Los Angeles area kids surrounded the stage and 133 million viewers watched.
Super Bowl XXVIII (1994)
This show at the Georgia Dome was a treat for country music fans with Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and The Judds belting out hits like “Tuckered Out,” “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” “No One Else on Earth,” “Love Can Build a Bridge,” and “It’s a Little Too Late.” The event dubbed “Rockin’ Country Sunday” featured an interesting blend of special guests for the finale, including Ashley Judd, Stevie Wonder, Lisa Hartman Black, The Georgia Satellites, football legend Joe Namath, actor Elijah Wood, and Charlie Daniels.
Super Bowl XXIX (1995)
One of the stranger Super Bowl halftime shows was this Disney production that featured a tribute to Indiana Jones. Patti LaBelle sang “Release Yourself” and “New Attitude,” while Tony Bennett sang “Caravan” and duetted with LaBelle on “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from the Disney film, “The Lion King.” Teddy Pendergrass and Arturo Sandoval also performed in between brief acting bits featuring Indiana Jones.
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Super Bowl XXX (1996)
The 30th anniversary of the Super Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium saw the Dallas Cowboys face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers, while the halftime show featured Diana Ross. Ross performed a 12-minute set including Supremes-era classics “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Baby Love” after being lowered to the stage on a crane. From multiple outfit changes to her exit via helicopter while singing “I Will Survive,” Ross brought her A-game to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXV (2001)
Boy band ’N Sync and rock band Aerosmith married the worlds of rock and pop in a musical medley that included “Bye Bye Bye” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium. The most memorable performance though came with the rock classic “Walk this Way,” which featured pop princess Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige joining Aerosmith and ’N Sync. Who can forget the moment former Mickey Mouse Club alums and dating duo, Spears and Timberlake, walked the stage side by side making magical music together?
Super Bowl XXXVI (2002)
Irish rockers U2 started their set at the Louisiana Superdome with the hit “Beautiful Day,” but it was the emotional tribute to those who died a few months prior during the 9/11 attacks that really hit home. The names of the dead scrolled across a big screen as “MLK” played and led to “Where the Streets Have No Name” Lead singer Bono made a statement as only he can when he revealed the American flag inside his jacket.
Super Bowl XXXVIII (2004)
One of the most memorable halftime show performances was overshadowed by an epic “wardrobe malfunction.” Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s careers were irrevocably altered thanks to one unfortunate moment that revealed Jackson's nipple for the whole world to see as Timberlake sang the final line—“I’ll have you naked by the end of this song”—to his hit “Rock Your Body.” The FCC went after MTV and Jackson, who suffered most of the media scrutiny following the mishap. Her performance of “Rhythm Nation” and “All for You,” as well as other performances that day from Jessica Simpson, Diddy, Nelly, and Kid Rock, sadly became secondary.
Super Bowl XXXIX (2005)
After the debauchery at 2004’s Super Bowl halftime show with Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s wardrobe/choreography malfunction, Sir Paul McCartney seemed a safe yet legendary follow-up. The former Beatle performed “Drive My Car,” “Get Back,” and “Live and Let Die.” McCartney played guitar and piano before ending the show with “Hey Jude,” as the audience sang along with candles swaying.
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Super Bowl XL (2006)
Another British act hit the Super Bowl following Sir Paul McCartney’s performance in 2005. The Rolling Stones played three of their hits, “Start Me Up,” “Rough Justice,” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” The band wasn’t too pleased that two of their songs were censored, including one of the lines from “Start Me Up,” though no one could censor 62-year-old Mick Jagger’s epic dance moves on a stage that was literally the band’s logo.
Super Bowl XLI (2007)
In 2007, the Miami Dolphins’ stadium featured Prince rocking through his hits “Let's Go Crazy” and “Baby I'm A Star” on a stage constructed to look like the symbol the artist briefly took as a nom de guerre, before segueing into hits by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Foo Fighters, and Bob Dylan, all with marching band backup. In a moment only nature could provide, the artist performed “Purple Rain” under a rainy night sky.
Super Bowl XLIII (2009)
While he had passed up the opportunity to perform at the halftime show in the past, 2009 saw Bruce Springsteen change his tune, performing “Tenth Avenue Freezeout,” “Born to Run,” “Working on a Dream,” and “Glory Days” with some minor lyrical edits made just for the Super Bowl. No one can forget the 59-year-old’s epic knee slide into the camera or his plea to the audience: “I want you to step back from the guacamole dip, I want you to put the chicken fingers down and turn your television all the way up.” Guitarist Steven Van Zandt, Springsteen’s wife Patti Scialfa, and a gospel choir accompanied the legendary singer.
Super Bowl XLV (2011)
The Black Eyed Peas took to the stage at Cowboys Stadium to belt out a string of hits, including “I've Gotta Feeling” and “Boom Boom Pow,” before Fergie teamed up with Guns ‘n Roses’ guitarist Slash, who rose up from beneath the stage, on “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The Peas were later joined by Usher for “OMG.”
Super Bowl XLVI (2012)
When headliner Madonna made her grand entrance at Lucas Oil Stadium, it was as an Egyptian goddess being carried on a barge by a legion of “soldiers.” The Material Girl performed alongside a stellar list of guest stars, including Cee Lo Green, LMFAO, M.I.A., and Nicki Minaj. The setlist included “Vogue,” a mashup of “Music/Party Rock Anthem/Sexy and I Know It” with LMFAO, “Like a Prayer” with Green, and “Give Me All Your Luvin’” with M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj. Controversy found this halftime show when M.I.A. gave the finger directly to the camera in lieu of a curse word from “Give Me All Your Luvin’.”
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Super Bowl XLVII (2013)
By the time Beyonce took the stage at the New Orleans Superdome in 2013, she was already one of the biggest pop stars in the world—but her halftime show performance sent her into the stratosphere of R&B royalty. After ascending to the stage while an audio track of football legend Vince Lombardi played throughout the stadium, Beyonce, along with guest stars Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, ran through some of her biggest hits, including “Crazy in Love,” “Bootylicious,” and “Independent Women Part 1,” before bringing the house down with a dance-along performance of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Beyonce’s performance would go on to earn three Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Special, which it won.
Super Bowl XLIX (2015)
Pop princess Katy Perry took the stage at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, with an epic show featuring the songstress riding in on a massive robotic red-eyed lion, while she sang her hit “Roar.” She did a duet with Lenny Kravitz on guitar for “I Kissed a Girl” and shared the stage with dancing sharks (including one infamously off-beat one), beach balls, and palm trees for “Teenage Dream” and “California Gurls.” Missy Elliott joined Perry for “Get Ur Freak On” and “Work It,” just before Perry closed the show out with “Firework,” as fireworks erupted in the background, while the singer flew in the sky on a shooting star.
Super Bowl LI (2017)
Lady Gaga drew 117.5 million viewers with a set that included popular songs “Bad Romance,” “Poker Face,” “Just Dance,” and “Million Reasons.” Gaga also showed her patriotism with her performance of “God Bless America” and “This Land Is Your Land.” While Gaga didn't do anything wild, she did proudly belt out “Born This Way,” her queer-positive anthem, and headed out into the audience to give some fan love.
Super Bowl LII (2018)
Justin Timberlake returned to the Super Bowl stage, which he’d already occupied twice with former girlfriend Britney Spears, rockers Aerosmith, and band ’N Sync in 2001, and with Janet Jackson as a solo artist for the infamous “Nipplegate” incident in 2005. The singer was introduced by his good friend and nighttime talk show host Jimmy Fallon and used the show as a promotional opportunity for his album “Man of the Woods.” His set at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis included “SexyBack,” “Rock Your Body,” “Cry Me A River,” “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” and a duet with Minneapolis’ own Prince that featured a prerecorded video of the deceased artist singing “I Would Die 4 U.”
Super Bowl LV (2021)
Sporting a shimmery red Givenchy-designed blazer covered in crystals, The Weeknd ran through a string of his hits, including “Call Out My Name,” “Starboy,” “The Hills,” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” The gloved singer closed the set with “Blinding Lights” against a barrage of fireworks and audience applause. Despite COVID-19 restrictions being in full force and the assembled crowd being much less than would otherwise be the case, the show was a success, with The Independent commenting that it was a “brilliantly escapist 10 minutes that not only solidified his pop domination, but helped a deeply divided country—however briefly—dance away the pain of this past year.”
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