The year was 1989, a time before the Super Bowl Halftime Show was handed over to superstar performers to do their thing. The act? An Elvis Presley impersonator and magician known as Elvis Presto who attempted the world's "largest card trick" that required audience participation from the thousands of fans in Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium as he crooned some of The King's greatest hits. As if the "Be-Bop Bamboozled" extravaganza wasn't odd enough, millions of sets of 3D glasses were distributed to viewers at home, but the technology proved to be not quite ready by showtime. Oops.
Disney has long been involved with producing various Super Bowl Halftime Shows, dating back to Super Bowl XI in 1977, when a theme of "It's a Small World" and a performance from the Los Angeles Unified All-City Band was enough to be considered a spectacle. But in 1995, they really missed the mark with their bizarre Indiana Jones-themed production. With the Indiana Jones Adventure ride due to open at Disneyland that March, the performance—complete with appearances from (inexplicably) Tony Bennett, Patti Labelle, Teddy Pendergrass and (more obviously) a low-rent Harrison Ford impersonator—amounted to nothing more than an misguided commercial for the theme park's newest attraction. You can relive all the ridiculousness here.
The controversy with the Super Bowl XXV Halftime Show, a tribute to 25 years of the big game and yet another "Small World" theme courtesy of producer Disney, wasn't the inoffensive performance from New Kids on the Block and a group of 2,000 local children belting out cornball tracks like "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" and "It's a Small World After All." Rather, it was the fact that ABC News coverage of Operation Desert Storm bumped the performance from airing live, meaning that all audiences at home got when the game play took a break was an informative, yet grim newscast. The halftime show aired at the conclusion of the game, instead.
When headliner Bruno Mars brought out Red Hot Chili Peppers for some reason that never quite made sense to any of the rest of us during his performance at Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, eagle-eyed fans realized one very glaring error: None of the bands' instruments were actually plugged in as they performed "Give It Away." Bassist Flea took to the band's website days later to explain that the trickery was done at the insistence of the NFL. "When we were asked by the NFL and Bruno to play our song Give It Away at the Super Bowl, it was made clear to us that the vocals would be live, but the bass, drums, and guitar would be pre-recorded," he wrote. "I understand the NFL's stance on this, given they only have a few minutes to set up the stage, there a zillion things that could go wrong and ruin the sound for the folks watching in the stadium and the t.v. viewers. There was not any room for argument on this, the NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period."
Years before she stunned audiences with her unique rendition of the National Anthem, Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie left some rock purists out in the cold when the group was joined by famed Guns 'n' Roses guitarist Slash during their headlining performance at Super Bowl XLV in 2011. She gave their classic track "Sweet Child O' Mine" her all, but for many watching, it wasn't exactly a match made in heaven. You can judge her performance for yourself here.
No one had any issues with Prince's electric solo show during the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show in 2007. Rather, it was this suggestive moment during his set's closing number, "Purple Rain," when he and his guitar's silhouette were displayed on a large, flowing sheet, that left us all wondering whether the unusually-shaped guitar was designed specifically to seem so phallic when held in such a way.
When Madonna was tapped as the headliner for the Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show in 2012, audiences watching at home got more than they bargained for when she brought out Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. to join her for their track "Give Me All Your Luvin." During M.I.A.'s verse, rather than singing the lyric "s--t," she extended her middle finger towards the camera. Madonna later called it "a teenager...irrelevant thing to do," while the NFL and NBC were quick to label the gesture "obscene" and "inappropriate." And nearly a year and a half later, it was revealed that the NFL had hit the singer with a $1.5 million dollar lawsuit about a month after the performance, which they followed up with a request for an additional $15.1 million in March of 2013—a lawsuit her lawyer told The Hollywood Reporter was "hilarious" in light of the NFL's less-than-stellar reputation. The suit was settled in August of 2014 and the terms of the settlement remain private to this day.
OK, so this one isn't as controversial as it was just plain ridiculous. Katy Perry's kitschy-cool performance during Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 was full of standout moments—our fave was and always will be Missy Elliott's surprise hijacking of the show with her hits "Work It" and "Lose Control"—but all anyone could talk about was Left Shark. During Perry's mid-set performance of "Teenage Dream," she was joined on stage by dancers in palm tree, beach ball and shark costumes. And, well, the shark on the left clearly forgot some of their choreography and went rogue. And thus, a meme was born. After the performance, as people began to try and sell some Left Shark merch, Perry's lawyers went after everyone like, well, sharks, claiming she owned the copyright to the costume.
In 2013, Beyoncé delivered arguably one of the best Super Bowl Halftime Shows ever. When she returned three years later to give headliner Coldplay an assist and join fellow guest Bruno Mars in a dance-off, she found herself mired in controversy thanks to her performance of new single "Formation," which some on the right believed to be "anti-police," and her costume, a nod to the Black Panther Party. The hashtag #BoycottBeyoncé began trending and protesters planned an "anti-Beyoncé" rally for the morning of February 16 outside of NFL headquarters in New York City—a rally no one showed up to.
In the end, though, nothing compares to Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" moment at the very end of the Super Bowl XXXVIII Halftime Show in 2004. Her bare breast was exposed to millions of viewers for all of 9/16ths of a second and the rest, as they say, was history.