Super Bowl halftime shows: The ten most memorable performances of all time

Wardrobe malfunctions, the Boss’s crotch, M.I.A.’s middle finger, oh my! Peep the most stirring and scandalous Super Bowl halftime shows in the game’s 47-year history.

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  1. 10–6
  2. 5–1

5. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (2009)

The most memorable thing about this set wasn’t the Boss imploring viewers to “put the chicken fingers down.” This was the night that (thanks to an awkward camera angle) we were introduced, intimately, to Springsteen’s crotch—and we’ve never quite gotten over it.

4. Michael Jackson (1993)

This was the halftime show that made halftime shows cool. Before MJ jump-materialized onto the stage in a gold-and-black drum-major outfit, Super Bowl breaks were the time when you decamped from the couch to heat up more nachos. From this point on, the halftime show became a cultural spectacle.

3. Prince (2007)

The Purple One kicked all kinds of ass with a medley of classic-rock covers and his own hits, but the weather-fueled spectacle created by this rain-soaked Miami game was equally enthralling. Standing in a literal downpour, the Artist tore it up on “Purple Rain.” Pop shows don’t get much better than that.

Watch (Purple Rain) Superbowl Halftime Performance - Prince

2. U2 (2002)

In the wake of 9/11, Bono and his cohorts performed this moving tribute, playing “Where the Streets Have No Name” on a heart-shaped stage as the names of those lost in the attacks were projected onto a giant screen. Paul McCartney appeared during the pregame show to perform his own memorial, the anthemic “Freedom.”

1. Janet Jackson + Justin Timberlake (2004)

The unforgettable event that cemented the phrase wardrobe malfunction in the popular lexicon provided a valuable lesson: The half-second appearance of a nipple on national television is enough to destroy the moral fabric of the nation. As a result of Nipplegate, halftime shows in the years that followed played it safe with a string of old-dude rockers sporting far less edgy outfits.


  1. 10–6
  2. 5–1

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