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Best Super Bowl halftime show performances, from Michael Jackson to Beyoncé

The first Super Bowl halftime show, before the game was even called the Super Bowl, consisted of marching bands from the University of Arizona and Grambling University, a baton twirler and two men in jet packs.

The stakes have been upped significantly in the 50 years following. Some of the most memorable moments of the Super Bowl broadcast have come during halftime, be it Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson’s rendezvous, Bruce Springsteen sliding groin-first into a camera or Madonna … being Madonna.

Who did it best? Here are our seven favorites.

Michael Jackson, 1993

Like in so many other ways, the King
Photo Credit: Getty Images / George Rose

Like in so many other ways, the King of Pop was a trendsetter for Super Bowl halftime shows. While prior performances were usually either based on a theme or featured happy-go-lucky theater troupes like Up with People, Jackson was the first megastar around whom the show was planned. A five-song set featuring "Billie Jean" and "Black or White" would be the closest predecessor to today's intermissions.

U2, 2002

While some canceled touring plans in the wake
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jed Jacobsohn

While some canceled touring plans in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Irish band continued with its planned North American leg of the "Elevation" tour, changing its song "Walk On" to a hymn of overcoming adversity (a literal hymn, in some ways; the coda became a driven string of hallelujahs). The Super Bowl performance, complete with the names of those killed in the attacks scrolling on a backing screen, struck all the right notes at a difficult time.

The Rolling Stones, 2006

The Rolling Stones offered a sampling of their
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Theo Wargo

The Rolling Stones offered a sampling of their top hits during their Super Bowl XL halftime show performance -- "Start Me Up," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "Rough Justice." Fans stood in the center of the Stones' giant tongue logo and Mick Jagger swung his hips like only he could.

Prince, 2007

There may be no better moment in Super
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

There may be no better moment in Super Bowl halftime history than Prince wailing away on the "Purple Rain" guitar solo in the middle of a South Florida downpour. And having a musician of Prince's caliber taking over the halftime show meant the seamless incorporation of cross-genre hits, as well, like his cover of Foo Fighters' "Best of You."

Beyoncé, 2013

How electric was Queen Bey's halftime set? When
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Patrick Smith

How electric was Queen Bey's halftime set? When the Mercedes-Benz Superdome's power went out during the second half, a good chunk of posts on Twitter were devoted to the idea that Knowles had shut the place down. The addition of the Destiny's Child reunion was practically superfluous (if still welcome).

Bruno Mars, 2014

Bruno kept us entertained during his 13-minute halftime
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Larry Busacca

Bruno kept us entertained during his 13-minute halftime show at Super Bowl XLVIII with special guests, the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- an exciting move, even if it wasn't a surprise. Plus, his show was arguably the most intriguing thing about the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks game in East Rutherford, N.J., which left Seattle leading 22-0.

Coldplay, 2016

Chris Martin was joined by Beyoncé and Bruno
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Ezra Shaw

Chris Martin was joined by Beyoncé and Bruno Mars during Coldplay's 2016 Super Bowl halftime show in Santa Clara, Calif. Though Beyoncé's "Formation" caused some controversy, seeing her on the same stage with Bruno and Martin was worth it.

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