The 9 most unforgettable Super Bowl halftime shows ever

Before Lady Gaga hits the Super Bowl LI stage on Sunday, ET is looking back at the stars who have made the biggest impact during the big game.

While the Super Bowl halftime show is the most-watched live performance on TV in America today, it wasn't always such a big deal. For the first 24 years, the halftime show was primarily just marching bands and flag-spinning tributes.

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When competing networks started counterprogramming is when the show's producers started booking big name acts, but the show would never be the same after Michael Jackson rocked the crowd at Super Bowl XXVII.

1. Michael Jackson (1993)

If you grew up in the '90s, you remember this show. M.J. pulled off an unprecedented spectacular performance complete with the late GRAMMY winner exploding out of the bottom of the stage.

2. Britney Spears, 'N Sync, Aerosmith, Nelly and Mary J. Blige (2001)

This might have been the most crowded Super Bowl stage ever, but it was worth it. The show is everything that was pre-9/11 pop culture that ends with a giant mashup of "Walk This Way."

3. Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Kid Rock, Jessica Simpson and Nelly (2004)

This show gave birth to one of the most infamous scandals in American history. The FCC reportedly received more than 200,000 complaints when Jackson's nipple became exposed while performing with J.T. The performance also gave us a new term: "wardrobe malfunction."

4. Paul McCartney (2005)

A year after Janet and J.T.'s controversial performance, producers were looking to bring some wholesome nostalgia to the show, and who better than Sir Paul? The icon proved to be a major crowd pleaser by launching into tunes like "Drive My Car" and "Live and Let Die."

5. Prince (2007)

If Michael Jackson invented the modern Super Bowl halftime show, Prince might have perfected it. The mix of sensuality and pure spectacle has been a part of the format ever since he put the crowd on their feet in Miami, Florida, in the middle of a downpour.

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

Playing hits like "Tenth Avenue Freezeout," "Born to Run" and "Glory Days," the only complaint about The Boss' halftime show was that it only lasted for 12 minutes. "Great time. Great crowd," Springsteen told ET afterwards.

7. The Black Eyed Peas (2011)

The foursome took the audience into the world of Tron with their futuristic themed performance with Slash and Usher. We knew we were in for a treat when the group descended from the Cowboys Stadium roof. "That was amazing," Fergie told ET backstage. "Biggest show on Earth!"

8. Katy Perry, Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott (2015)

ET was with Perry after her show, which was the most-watched halftime show ever. The performance attracted more than 118 million viewers -- 4 million more than who tuned in for the actual game.

9. Beyonce, Bruno Mars and Coldplay (2016)

Last year marked Coldplay's first time on the Super Bowl stage, but it was the second time for Mars (who performed there in 2014) and the third appearance for Beyonce. Queen Bey donned a custom-made outfit that paid homage to the King of Pop while belting out "Formation," and Mars put the crowd on its feet for "Uptown Funk." "It feels good to know that the hard work paid off," Beyonce told ET's Kevin Frazier backstage.

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While the halftime performers don't get paid, there are major monetary benefits. Sales of Coldplay records jumped 365 percent in the U.S. after their performance last year.

Super Bowl LI airs Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT on Fox.