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10 Most Controversial Super Bowl Halftime Shows

The weirdest, most contentious moments from 46 years of Super Bowls

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    Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
    Kevin Mazur

    The Super Bowl is supposed to be a time when hundreds of millions of people can put aside their differences and unite under the guise of football. Thankfully for us, the halftime show, a ritual as important (if not moreso) than the game, offers us plenty of opportunity for controversial moments. The No. 1 moment should be obvious to anyone older than 5, but it was hardly the only one.

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    10. Sting and Gwen Stefani's Awkward Union

    Hardcore rock purists, never the most forgiving and tolerant bunch, were none too happy about No Doubt joining Sting on the Police's "Message in a Bottle." Maybe it was Gwen Stefani's belly dancing. Maybe it was anyone besides Sting performing the song. Either way, it was a polarizing performance.

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    9. Blatant Shilling, Pt. 1

    Remember when Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman teamed up for Blues Brothers 2000, destroying the legacy of a once-classic film? The duo doubled down on the universally maligned film by appearing with James Belushi in the 1997 Super Bowl, angering fans of both the original film and original star John Belushi.

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    8. Elvis Presto!

    An Elvis Presley quasi-impersonating magician named Elvis Presto. A weird, cheesy backdrop screen of outer space. And a magic trick performed to the world. Just click play.

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    7. Black Eyed Peas and Slash Bring the Nadir of Rap-Rock

    Look, whatever you think about Black Eyed Peas, you can't say their sanitized, commercial pop-rap was unexpected at an equally sanitized event like the Super Bowl halftime show. It's like being mad at a snail for moving too slow. But when Slash appeared to provide the "Sweet Child o' Mine" riff with Fergie doing her best (worst?) Axl imitation, a generation of rock fans threw their TVs out the window.

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    6. New Kids on the Shlock

    New Kids on the Block teamed up with hundreds of children for a halftime performance bordering between "creepy" and "WTF?" After the group sang "Step By Step," in which young, innocent children were forced to hear about how five guys all want to have sex with the same girl, the group sit on the stage and break into "This One's for the Children" while the titular urchins pretend they're boy band Santas. Let's move on.

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    5. Prince Strokes...His Guitar

    Prince performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XLI football game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2
    AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

    While organizers presumably thought the man behind "Jack U Off" and "Orgasm" would bring his usual subtlety and restraint, The Purple One instead turned in one of the most controversial performances, thanks mainly to using his guitar as an extension of other princely parts.

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    4. Blatant Shilling, Pt. 2

    In a theme that can only be described as "Using Your Captive Audience to Plug Your Latest Business Venture Under the Guise of Entertainment" (catchy!), the Disney-designed show used the event as a way to promote the opening of their latest Disneyland attraction Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Indy himself said it best in the video above: "Hold on! I got a bad feeling about this!"

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    3. Ice Skating and Football Don't Mix

    Ants on a log. Dramedies. Reggaeton. We're not, on principle, against blending disparate things into something new. And while we commend organizers for wanting to celebrate the Winter Olympics, it's hard to imagine many football lovers getting excited at the idea of figure skating champs Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill skating on sheets of Teflon.

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    2. M.I.A. Tells Super Bowl They're No. 1

    Rabble-rousing anti-consumerist millionaire M.I.A. used her bully pulpit to flip the middle finger while performing with Madonna and Nicki Minaj. Madonna would later slam M.I.A.'s gesture, presumably since it took most of the attention off of her.

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    1. Nipplegate

    Nine years after the boob seen round the world, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's revealing performance remains (and will forever remain) the craziest thing to ever happen at a halftime show. Almost immediately after the incident, the FCC received a flood of complaints from parents who just wanted their children to enjoy a nice, wholesome three hours of grown men inflicting damaging and long-lasting pain on each other for sport. Halftime shows would never be the same.

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    Photo of the day

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