Top 10 Most Unforgettable Super Bowl Halftime Shows of All Time
Refresh your memory of the best Super Bowl halftime shows of all time below, with our breakdown of each performance, and remind yourselves why these were the performances that stayed with you. Let’s dive in.
10. Bruce Springsteen (2009)
Sometimes, you don’t need glitz and glamour to be remembered – all you need is your voice and energy. That’s exactly what Bruce Springsteen delivered at the 2009 Super Bowl halftime show, placing him tenth on our list.
With over 98.7 million viewers, the performance featured Springsteen’s just-released song “Working on a Dream” and his huge hits “Born to Run,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” and “Glory Days.” Together with the E Street band, Springsteen’s powerful vocals rocked Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, creating an electric and memorable atmosphere that people still remember over a decade later.
One of the most memorable moments is Springsteen’s legendary knee slide across the stage, which turned into a crotch shot. That moment was full of energy and stayed with many viewers, bridging the gap between them and the artist.
9. Diana Ross (1996)
The dazzling display of powerful vocals and glamour, together with one of the most epic exits to date are what places Diana Ross’ 1996 Super Bowl show in the ninth spot.
The Super Bowl XXX halftime show performer delivered special effects, pyrotechnics, card stunts, and beautiful ballads from the Supremes repertoire. Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe was shaken by the legendary diva’s extravagant wardrobe changes, powerful voice, and uplifting melodies that have defined her career.
Unlike most Super Bowl halftime shows that last 12 minutes, Diana Ross’ show lasted for 13 and a half minutes, featuring a medley of these popular hits:
- Stop! In the Name of Love
- You Keep Me Hangin’ On
- Baby Love
- You Can’t Hurry Love
- Why Do Fools Fall In Love
- Chain Reaction
- Reach Out and Touch
- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
- I Will Survive
- Take Me Higher
What made the XXX halftime show most unforgettable, however, was its conclusion. A helicopter descended onto the field at the end of Ross’ last song and carried her off the field, serving as the perfectly iconic conclusion for this larger-than-life performance.
8. U2 (2002)
This heartbreaking performance followed the tragic events of 9/11 and left an incredible mark on many viewers around the world. The 2002 performance of U2 at the Louisiana Superdome was not a flashy affair – but it delivered a poignant message of hope that immortalized the show in the audience’s mind forever.
Kicking off the show with the hopeful Beautiful Day, the Irish superstar Bono then sang his heart out with the hits MLK and Where the Streets Have No Names, against the backdrop of the names of the 9/11 victims.
The power of the act was in the emotional delivery and powerful imagery, which turned the concert into a tribute to those who lost their lives and a cathartic expression of grief for all 82.9 million viewers across the US.
This display of how music can heal and inspire, further highlighted by Bono displaying his stars-and-stripes-lined jacket in a show of unity and solidarity, is what has made this halftime show one of the most memorable ones ever.
7. Janet Jackson, P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock & Justin Timberlake (2004)
The 2004 halftime show that coined the term “wardrobe malfunction” is certainly one to remember. First of all, the electrifying performance by Janet Jackson at Reliant Stadium in Houston of her hits Rhythm Nation and All For You dazzled the audience and had everyone singing along.
Second of all, the follow-up electric performances by P. Diddy, Nelly, Kid Rock, and Justin Timberlake, featuring smoke, red cars, and numerous outfit changes, were a testament to excess, charisma, and the diverse musical repertoire of the halftime show performers.
It was, however, the final set that overshadowed these incredible performances and made the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show memorable – for controversial reasons. At the end of the performance of Rock Your Body, Justin Timberlake tore Janet Jackson’s costume, exposing her breast.
The incident became somewhat of a watershed moment in music, prompting many discussions and an investigation which led to changes in broadcasting standards.
6. Rihanna (2023)
The most epic pregnancy announcement in history is sure to cement one’s place in the Super Bowl halftime show history books. Rihanna’s first live performance in five years at the Super Bowl LVII halftime show comes sixth on our list.
Although not nearly as flashy as some other performances listed here, the Barbadian billionaire’s performance was a riveting and memorable one. It was in line with her cool, sexy, and relaxed vibe, well-known to her fans.
As she descended onto the stadium on a floating platform in a red ensemble, surrounded by dancers dressed in white (Squid Game vibes, anyone?), Rihanna performed a medley of her hits, including Only Girl, We Found Love, S&M, Work, Rude Boy, and Umbrella.
Her performance was seen by 118.7 million people – more than any other Super Bowl halftime show in history, second only to Michael Jackson (more on that below).
5. Madonna (2012)
The first female artist to perform at a Super Bowl halftime show after Diana Ross was Madonna in 2012. She arrived at Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium in a Greek goddess ensemble, carried by gladiators, and kicked off the performance with her hit Vogue.
Superstars LMFAO, Cee Lo Green, M.I.A, and Nicki Minaj joined the pop queen as the show progressed, performing hits like Party Rock Anthem, Open Your Heart, and Gimme Your Luvin.” The latter hit was the final number and made no less memorable by Madonna’s middle finger at the end of it.
The flashy performance of complex choreography, spectacular costumes, and special effects was a feast for the eyes. One of the most memorable moments in the show was the performance of the beloved hit Like a Prayer, when a gospel choir joined Madonna on stage.
The show had 114 million viewers – a record for its time, subsequently surpassed by Rihanna in 2023.
4. Shakira & J-Lo (2020)
Hips don’t lie! The 2020 Super Bowl halftime show with Shakira and Jennifer Lopez was a celebration of Latin culture, beauty, skill, and fiery passion.
The LIV halftime show at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, also known as “The Pepsi Show,” was kicked off by the Colombian superstar performing a medley of her hits like She Wolf, Whenever, Wherever, and the epic Hips Don’t Lie.
Shakira might have been surrounded by skilled dancers and pyrotechnics, but she was the true star of the show, with her signature hip-shaking moves. That is, until J-Lo took over.
Like her Hustlers character, the Puerto Rican star used the pole as the foundation for her stunning performance. Her flawless dance routine and magnetic presence were unparalleled and unforgettable, made more so by her daughter joining her to perform Born in the USA and Let’s Get Loud together.
As anti-immigrant tensions were rocking America at the time, the symbolism in the two stars’ performances is what truly makes it a memorable tour de force.
3. Beyonce (2013)
Number three on our list is a spectacular all-female performance at the Super Bowl XLVII featuring Beyonce and the former members of Destiny’s Child. The extravagant show was a phenomenal display of singing, dancing, special effects, and unbridled energy.
The beautiful moment of the band’s reunion was long-anticipated, and their rendition of Bootylicious and Single Ladies sizzled with chemistry and reverberated through the entire New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
While Shakira’s and J-Lo’s performance seven years later were similarly full of special effects and spectacular moves, Beyonce’s aesthetic was, despite its power, relatively toned-down. The all-black outfits and the subtle stage decorations of two Beyonces facing each other didn’t eclipse the sheer talent of the three performers.
Rather, they served as a backdrop to the sheer physicality, the dance routines’ precision, and the power of the women’s voices. With 110.8 million views, the performance was so memorable and powerful that some even argued it caused a blackout in New Orleans.
2. Michael Jackson (1993)
This is the performance that’s said to have made the Super Bowl halftime show what it is today. The 1993 Super Bowl halftime show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, led by Michael Jackson, was the first-ever halftime show to increase viewership between halves.
After an introduction by James Earl Jones, the King of Pop indeed put on a performance that was very much ahead of its time and still remembered fondly after 30 years.
After the medley of Jackson’s hits, including Jam, Billie Jean, and Black or White, the most memorable and sincere part of the show kicked into gear with the performance of We Are the World and Heal the World. Against a backdrop of children and spectacular lights that formed the planet Earth behind him, Jackson delivered a poignant message of unity and compassion.
Michael Jackson’s show was unprecedented, as it was the first time a major star, rather than a marching band, performed at the Super Bowl. To date, it remains one of the most-watched events in American history, with 133.4 million views.
1. Prince (2007)
The best, the best, the best, the best…
Yes, this is a Foo Fighters song. But its cover by Prince is part of what is, according to many, the best and the most memorable Super Bowl halftime show in history. The Artist’s sheer musical talent and stage presence were and arguably remain unparalleled to this day.
Even the “biblical” storm that rocked Miami that February night couldn’t stop the phenomenal performance. Prince even reportedly requested that the producers make it rain harder.
Kicking off with Let’s Get Crazy, Prince immediately set the tone for an electrifying show full of energy, counteracting the storm. His covers of Proud Mary, All Along the Watchtower, and The Best of You blended together with his own songs in a stunning medley that resonated with the audience at the stadium and beyond.
The emotionally charged performance of Purple Rain was truly a magical finale to an otherworldly performance that forever embedded itself into the minds of millions.
Super Bowl 2024 Halftime Show
In 2024, the Super Bowl halftime show will be headlined in Las Vegas by the R&B performer Usher. Other artists joining him will be country singer Reba McEntire, Post Malone, Andra Day, and Tiesto who will be Super Bowl’s first-ever DJ. The show is expected to run for 13 minutes.