26. Black Eyed Peas (2011)
Before this show, young ‘uns were celebrating the end of the halftime show being owned by the “retirement home.” Afterwards, the old folks were smugly smirking. The Peas were absolutely abominable, with stiff choreography and mailed-in vocals that made The Who seem 40 years younger. The absolute worst moment came when Slash arrived to save the day, only for Fergie to commit a cardinal sin against rock by mangling “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Later in 2011, the Peas’ new album got panned, their motion-sensor video game bombed, and by year’s end, they announced they were going on hiatus.
25. Indiana Jones (1995)
If you thought Katy Perry’s shark was weird, get a load of this. Disney used this halftime show to promote its new Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, and it featured Indy (not played by Harrison Ford) trying to steal a plastic Vince Lombardi trophy from a temple. Throw in a lip-synching Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett, and you have a real stinker.
24. The Who (2010)
Let’s make something clear: The Who are absolute legends. They are essential not just to rock, but to all of music. But unlike previous classic rock acts, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend really felt past their prime in this performance, and that’s the worst thing you can do at a show like this. Some have speculated that since Roger and Pete had never seen an American football game before, they may not have realized just how big this gig was in American culture.
23. James Brown, ZZ Top, and the Blues Brothers (1997)
Another lineup that seemed great on paper and disappointed in reality. The Godfather of Soul was forced to blatantly lip-sync his greatest hits, and Jim Belushi cavorted around the stage doing a weak imitation of his brother John in his iconic role.
22. Phil Collins, Enrique Iglesias, and Christina Aguilera (2000)
Wow! Look at that lineup! By all rights, that should be a smash show. But it ended up being a Disney-produced bore about the “Tapestry of Nations.” Instead of thumping out Genesis songs, Collins got stuck doing one of the songs he wrote for “Tarzan.” Iglesias and Aguilera did a duet called “Celebrate the Future Hand in Hand.” Amazingly, Xtina would go on to hit a bigger low at the Super Bowl when she flubbed the National Anthem a decade later.
21. Shania Twain, No Doubt, and Sting (2003)
This one is just forgettable, particularly since after the game, Bon Jovi stole the spotlight by singing “It’s My Life” just before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were awarded the trophy. Gwen Stefani teaming up with Sting to do “Message in a Bottle” almost saved this show. Almost.
20. Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and The Judds (1994)
Super Bowl XXVIII tapped country music stars for an ultimately unmemorable “Rockin’ Country Sunday” halftime show. Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and Wynonna Judd all performed a few of their hits, with Naomi Judd joining her daughter on stage for the finale, “Love Can Build a Bridge.”
19. Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Savion Glover (1999)
The seemingly random lineup of Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder and swing revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy combined to make 1999’s halftime show a high-energy affair. There was even a cameo by E.T. (the extra-terrestrial) to help stump for Progressive auto insurance, who sponsored the show.
18. Justin Timberlake (2018)
Justin went through a serviceable run of his main hits, taking his show from a room inside the U.S. Bank Stadium up into the Super Bowl LII crowd. But the audio was garbled to start off the show, and some didn’t appreciate the Prince tribute and the use of “Rock Your Body,” the song that triggered the Wardrobe Malfunction.
17. Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, The Temptations (1998)
In celebration of Motown’s 40th anniversary, Boyz II Men led the Super Bowl XXXII halftime show, with assists from legends like Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and the Temptations. The 40 years of age come through in this one, though. While it’s a fun set, it ultimately doesn’t strike too lasting a chord.
16. The Rolling Stones (2006)
Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones took a break from the world tour supporting their 24th studio album “A Bigger Bang” in 2006 to perform at the halftime show for Super Bowl XL. The Stones turned in a lot of energy, but the NFL snipped a few of Mick’s racier lyrics in the pre-recorded tape, leaving Mick a bit miffed.
15. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2008)
More concerned with performance than spectacle, Tom Petty opened the Super Bowl XLII halftime show with crowd favorites “American Girl” and “I Won’t Back Down.” Petty’s performance didn’t blow any doors off, but it nailed all the hits and gave everyone a solid show.
14. Lady Gaga (2017)
Gaga kicked it off by jumping off the roof of Reliant Stadium, which was incredibly awesome. Everything that came after, by comparison, seemed rather mundane, with no guests artists or anything particularly surprising happening. It was a solid Lady Gaga show, to be sure — but for the the Super Bowl we need something more.
13. Bruno Mars, Red Hot Chili Peppers (2014)
Following Beyonce at the Super Bowl must have been a daunting prospect, but Bruno Mars still managed to put on a good show with a little help from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Unfortunately, it came out later the band wasn’t actually playing its own instruments, which marred the whole show a bit.
12. Madonna, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., Cee Lo Green (2012)
Madonna’s halftime show wound up being a bit chaotic. It featured a slew of guests, including Nicki Minaj and Cee Lo Green, and went all-in on being an over-the-top spectacle. Through it all, the most memorable moment may have been M.I.A. flipping the bird on live TV. NFL sued over the move, in fact, but wound up settling.
11. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (2004)
Ah, yes. Maybe this isn’t the best, but it was definitely among the most memorable. Janet and Justin were doing a rendition of “Rock Your Body” that was absolutely smoking … until the smoke turned into a PTC wildfire. In hindsight, the wardrobe malfunction might have saved this show. Does anyone even remember that Nelly, Diddy, and Kid Rock also performed that night?
10. Diana Ross (1996)
The halftime show went through some growing pains in the 1990s, but Diana Ross’ soulful performance at Super Bowl XXX was definitely a high point. Her dramatic exit via helicopter was a precursor for the larger-than-life moments that later performers would pick up.
9. Paul McCartney (2005)
Sir Paul’s show marked the beginning of the six-year classic rock era of halftime shows following the backlash from Janet Jackson’s notorious wardrobe malfunction in 2004, and what a breath of fresh air it was. McCartney knew exactly what songs from his catalog would fill up a football stadium. Starting with “Drive My Car,” pumping through with “Live And Let Die,” and finishing with the crowd pleaser “Hey Jude,” this show showed how sometimes the old ways are the best.
8. Katy Perry (2015)
This is a halftime show that we’ll look back at as emblematic of its time. Katy’s show was loud, weird, and specifically tailored to the Internet’s tendency to latch onto viral moments and meme the fajezzus out of them. But in terms of actual musical performances, the real star was Missy Elliott, who strutted out in a surprise appearance and blew the crowd away. She didn’t steal the spotlight. She commandeered it.
7. Prince (2007)
Super Bowl XLI took place under a torrential Florida downpour, but that played right into Prince’s hands. His performance of “Purple Rain” amid raindrops turned purple by stage lights was breathtaking, as was his take on Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.”
6. Beyonce (2013)
Of course she’s on this list. It’s BEYONCE, for crying out loud. She has a stage presence that is unrivaled by any musician of her generation. But what really made her show unique wasn’t just the surprise Destiny’s Child reunion. It was also the fact that she actually paid respect to the event by starting her show with a soundbite from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.
5. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)
Wasn’t Super Bowl XLIII amazing? Not only did it have one of the most dramatic championship games ever between the Steelers and Cardinals, but it also had a performance from The Boss that was the apex of the classic rock era. From his order to “put the chicken fingers DOOOOWN” to his knee-slide right into the camera, Springsteen was on a mission to get everyone out of their seats. Mission accomplished, sir.
4. Aerosmith and ‘N Sync (2001)
Okay, okay. Some older readers might be annoyed that a show with “Bye Bye Bye” and Britney Spears got ranked above one with “Born to Run” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” but back in 2001 this lineup was a big deal. After struggling through the ’90s, the NFL gave control of the halftime show to MTV, who responded by gathering the biggest Top 40 heavyweights that could be found. The sight of Aerosmith performing “Walk This Way” with Spears, Nelly, Mary J. Blige and the biggest boy band of all time in ‘N Sync was the kind of show the NFL had been dreaming of for years.
3. Coldplay, Beyonce and Bruno Mars (2016)
Coldplay was the official act, but they turned their show into a tribute to all the halftimes that came before. Bruno returned with “Uptown Funk” under his belt, while Beyonce began her domination of 2016 with a tribute to the Black Panthers. Coldplay, meanwhile, turned out “Viva La Vida” complete with a kid orchestra led by maestro Gustavo Dudamel and a colorful crowd card stunt that showed Up With People how its done.
2. Michael Jackson (1993)
The one that started it all. MJ’s reign as the King of Pop was coming to an end at this time … and the beginning of his creeper reputation began later that year with the first wave of sexual abuse allegations. But he still had enough star power to make the halftime show a must-watch event for the first time ever. The children’s choir performance of “We Are the World,” followed by Jackson’s dramatic finale performance of “Heal the World,” became a defining moment of his career, one that would be reenacted 16 years later at his memorial service at the Staples Center.
1. U2 (2002)
There will likely never be a halftime show bigger than this one. Mounted just four months after 9/11, U2’s show was a perfect mix of poignant remembrance and breathtaking musicianship. In a beautiful tribute, U2 performed “Where the Streets Have No Name” in front of a scrolling list of those who perished in the terror attack. To this day, the show still draws tears.