Five greatest halftime Super Bowl shows ever

Prince at Super Bowl
Which shows make our ranking of the best halftime Super Bowl performances? Photo from Ultimate Prince.
  • Ranking the greatest ever halftime Super Bowl performances
  • Beyonce, Prince, Michael Jackson all feature
  • What’s the most memorable halftime Super Bowl show?

As Super Bowl LV approaches, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so does the halftime show which will be headlined by The Weeknd.

For the last couple of decades, the entertainment that features during the game has become its own spectacle, with performances from some of most prolific superstars in music. Ahead of next week’s game, we’re taking a look back at the five best Super Bowl halftime shows of all-time.

5. Beyonce – Super Bowl XLVII

When you’re talking about the superstars who have featured in the halftime show, you can’t look further than the 2013 headliner, Beyonce.

As the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers – and the two Harbaugh brothers who faced off against each other as head coaches – fought it out in Super Bowl XLVII, the halftime show was set to be as hyped as any previous performance.

The show started with Beyonce ascending above the stage while a speech from Vince Lombardi was played. When Lombardi’s quote ended, flames and lights erupted, and one of the best live performers in music history started a setlist by singing her song ‘Love on Top’ a capella.

She then sung ‘Crazy in Love’ – which featured an electric guitar solo which was erupting sparks onto the stage, ‘End of Time’ and ‘Baby Boy’. She was then joined by the other two members of her previous girl-band Destiny’s Child, for a few songs, concluding with ‘Single Ladies’ – with the very Super Bowl appropriate focus on acquiring a ring.

Beyonce then finished with a solo rendition of ‘Halo’, to conclude an epic halftime show. SB XLVII was remembered for the halftime period like no other game before it, as after Beyonce’s performance, Ravens returner Jacoby Jones scored on the kickoff, and then there was a partial power outage which resulted in a 34-minute delay and the nickname the ‘Blackout Bowl’.

The game ended 34-31, and the combination of Beyonce’s efforts to put on one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows ever, the following power issues, and the close ending to the game make it one of the most memorable Super Bowls in recent years.


4. Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Super Bowl XLVIII

The more recent halftime performances have been pretty spectacular from a presentational standpoint, and the level of billing that the headline act receives is bigger and bigger by the year.

In 2014, the Seattle Seahawks faced the Denver Broncos in SB XLVIII, and Bruno Mars had the job of entertaining a crowd who were witnessing one of the most one-sided games in Super Bowl history.

After a children’s choir opened the show with the intro of ‘Billionaire’, Mars – known much more for his singing – played a drum solo, before the platform he was on moved backwards to the main stage.

After his solo, he performed his hits ‘Locked Out of Heaven’, ‘Treasure’ and ‘Runaway Baby’, while adorned in a golden suit. His backing band was dressed in matching attire, as they combined brass instruments with electric guitars. After Mars finished the main section of the set, he introduced surprise guest act, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who performed their song ‘Give It Away’.

This transition from slick pop music and dancing to rock music and lots of jumping was unexpected but fun. After the rock band finished their song, Mars sang a final song, ‘Just the Way You Are’, which was a tribute dedicated to the US Armed Forces and their loved ones. Bruno Mars was already rapidly becoming very popular, but this performance and his impressive showmanship helped to put on one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows we’ve ever seen.

3. Michael Jackson – Super Bowl XXVII

Before January 1993, the halftime period of the Super Bowl was barely recognisable compared to what we see today.

Just a year prior, the biggest game of the NFL calendar lost a notable number of viewers across the halftime break, and it started them on a path towards the modern halftime show. In an attempt to maintain viewership, they asked the biggest superstar in music to headline the show at Super Bowl XXVII – Michael Jackson.

The Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys were facing off at the Rose Bowl in front of an epic 98,000-person crowd – the sixth highest attended Super Bowl ever – when the face of halftime changed forever.

Two body doubles of the star emerged from the top of jumbotrons in the corners of the stadium, and then moments later, Jackson himself leapt up through the middle of the stage. He stood completely still for more than 60 seconds as the crowd roared. After almost 2 minutes of silence, the performance began. He performed ‘Jam’, ‘Billie Jean’ and ‘Black or White’ with his iconic dancing and singing bringing a whole new level of production to the Super Bowl halftime show.

After his high-energy songs, he bought out a children’s choir who song ‘We Are the World’ and then Jackson finished the show with ‘Heal the World’, surrounded by the children. This performance was epic, and not only was it one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows in history, it paved the way for the spectacle that we now expect every year.

2. U2 – Super Bowl XXXVI

In February 2002, the first Super Bowl after 9/11 took place, the New England Patriots faced the St. Louis Rams, and the Super Bowl halftime show took on a very different form.

Irish rock band U2 gave a performance honouring the victims of the September terrorist attacks, with an emotive and epic performance.

The first song of ‘Beautiful Day’ was a great introduction, and one of the band’s most popular songs, with lead singer Bono walking through the crowd on the field to reach the stage as it began.

As the second song, ‘MLK’, began, a huge fabric screen was raised up behind the band, in the middle of the Louisiana Superdome. For the rest of the performance, the names of people lost in the September 11th attacks were shown moving up the 120ft screen. The final song of the performance was ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’. Towards the end of the song, the screen dropped down behind the band, and Bono opened his leather jacket and presented an American flag which lined it’s interior. Janet Jackson was scheduled to featured in the SB XXXVI halftime show, previously.

However, due to the events in late 2001, they called upon U2 to provide a show that had a more appropriate tone. While Janet Jackson is known for a very memorable halftime show when she performed two years later, U2’s epic and emotive performance was one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows ever.

1. Prince – Super Bowl XLI

In 2007, Prince put on a very purple and very rainy performance, at Super Bowl XLI, during a matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears.

He adorned a Miami-coloured suit and had a purple guitar in the shape of his logo, which matched the giant stage he performed on. After some fireworks and an introduction of ‘We Will Rock You’, Prince and his backing band New Power Generation performed a few of his own songs, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘Baby I’m a Star’ and ‘1999’, as well as some iconic covers. The covers included ‘All Along the Watchtower’ by Bob Dylan (and later Jimi Hendrix, for whom the song is just as often attributed) and ‘Best of You’ by the Foo Fighters.

The epic show took place in a heavy Florida downpour, and in the most memorable and iconic song since Michael Jackson turned the half-time show into a superstar event, he performed Purple Rain. Apparently, when the people running the show queried if the weather would be an issue, Prince asked if they could make it rain harder. This whole performance was epic, and will go down to many, including this list, as the best Super Bowl halftime show of all time.

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About Tyler Arthur 36 Articles
Tyler is an NFL writer who has had a love for American Football since he discovered the sport when he attended De Montfort University, where he studied Journalism, and played wide receiver and eventually quarterback. While at QB, he led the DMU Falcons to a division title in his final year before graduating. His passion for the game, and enjoyment of learning and understanding the nuances and details of the sport led him to start writing about it. Years later he has taken advantage of numerous opportunities involving writing, attending games and events and co-hosting a podcast. More of his work can be found on The Touchdown, Gridiron Hub and Read American Football. Tyler is a Las Vegas Raiders fan and he also enjoys baseball, in which he is a Chicago Cubs fan. He loves fantasy football and his other hobbies include video games and chess.

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