Top 10 Super Bowl games of all time
Whether it’s Joe Namath, Joe Cool, or Tom Brady, there have been many instant classic Super Bowls in the modern era, and these are the 10 best among them.
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With Super Bowl 58 upon us, it’s time to look back at some of the very best Super Bowl games in the history of the NFL.
In a winner takes all game to decide the Super Bowl champion each year, there have been some truly breathtaking games and moments that are forever seared into the minds of NFL fans around the world.
Every year brings a new matchup of great quarterbacks, coaches, and other legendary figures of the game, and many of those historically great players have left their mark on the Super Bowl. Trying to choose just ten games from the list of Super Bowls is a tall order, and that list of phenomenal football will only continue to grow as the years go by.
When is the Super Bowl Game?
The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will face off in the Super Bowl game in 2024, crowning a champion of the 2023 NFL season. Brock Purdy has gone from a 7th round hopeful to a Super Bowl quarterback, and will be attempting to take on the legacy of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs as they battle for their third Super Bowl in five years.
Super Bowl LVIII will mark Patrick Mahomes fourth appearance in the Super Bowl already in his young career. In just six seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback, Mahomes has led the franchise to the AFC Championship game every year, and now has a shot at winning his third ring in what would likely confirm his status as a Hall of Fame quarterback if he retired before even turning 30.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is yet to win a ring despite establishing himself as one of the most brilliant minds in the game. Defeating the Kansas City Chiefs would finally bring him the ring many feel he deserves in a repeat of the 2020 Super Bowl matchup.
What time does the Super Bowl game start?
Super Bowl LVIII will kick off at 6:30 PM EST on Sunday, February 11th.
How long is a Super Bowl game?
The average Super Bowl game lasts around three hours and twelve minutes, with a slightly elongated half time period to accommodate for the Super Bowl halftime show, largely dubbed as the greatest stage of all for artists who get the opportunity to perform. This year, Usher will be performing at the Super Bowl half time show in Las Vegas.
Super Bowl Games History
The very first AFL-NFL World Championship game, now known as Super Bowl I, took place on January 15th in 1967 between the AFLs 11-2-1 Kansas City Chiefs, and the NFLs 11-2 Green Bay Packers.
The belief was that the NFL teams were superior at the time to any team in the AFL, and the Packers were therefore the heavy favorite. They would go on to win the game 35-10, scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half after a close first half encounter.
The highest scoring Super Bowl is Super Bowl XXIX between the San Francisco 49ers and the San Diego Chargers, the game in which Niners QB Steve Young threw for 325 passing yards and six touchdowns against San Diego. Jerry Rice caught 10 passes for 149 yards and three receiving touchdowns in the game, with the Niners having one of the best offensive displays we’ve seen in a Super Bowl to date.
San Francisco also holds the record for the most points scored by a single team in a Super Bowl matchup. The 49ers scored 55 points in XXIV, dismantling the Denver Broncos in a 55-10 slaughtering. Jerry Rice had three touchdowns in that game too, and he holds the all-time records for touchdown receptions with eight.
Who won the last five Super Bowls?
The last five Super Bowls were as follows:
Super Bowl LIII New England Patriots 13–3 Los Angeles Rams
Super Bowl LIV Kansas City Chiefs 31–20 San Francisco 49ers
Super Bowl LV Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31–9 Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LVI Los Angeles Rams 23–20 Cincinnati Bengals
Super Bowl LVII Kansas City Chiefs 38-35 Philadelphia Eagles
Ranking the Top 10 Best Super Bowl games of all time
- Super Bowl XXV - New York Giants 20 - Buffalo Bills 19 | 1991
The Buffalo Bills were the favorite in the Super Bowl that followed the 1990 NFL season. Despite both teams going 13-3, the Bills looked like a force that was not going to be stopped. They had beaten the Raiders 51-3 in the AFC Championship game, with quarterback Jim Kelly leading the league in passer rating and completion percentage that season.
Giants head coach Bill Parcels and his defensive coordinator Bill Belichick built what is now regarded as one of the greatest game plans of all time to stifle the Bills, and it worked perfectly.
They planned to run the football down the Bills throats in order to maintain as much possession as possible, and that’s exactly what they did, having control of the football for over 40 minutes of the game. The defense was aggressive at the line of scrimmage and disrupted the Bills passing game enough to keep the Giants in the lead.
It ultimately came down to a last second field goal, which Bills kicker Scott Norwood pushed right of the uprights, and the Giants won the Super Bowl. The game plan for the game is now on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots 28 - Seattle Seahawks 24 | 2015
The Seattle Seahawks had won the Super Bowl in the 2013 with Russell Wilson and a defense led by one of the best secondaries in the history of the game, dubbed ‘The Legion of Boom’.
Down 28-24, the Seattle Seahawks had a shot at driving down the field to win the Super Bowl for a second straight year.
Marshawn Lynch had come up big in the game with 102 rushing yards and a touchdown, and after a 33-yard reception from Jermaine Kearse, the Seahawks found themselves five yards from the end zone. Lynch took the ball from the five to the one with the clock continuing to tick, and at that point it seemed as though Seattle would hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, punch the ball into the endzone and win the game.
Instead, they called a quick slant pass play, and rookie Malcolm Butler jumped in front of it to intercept the football on the goal line, winning the Super Bowl for the Patriots.
Euphoria ensued on the Patriots sideline, with Tom Brady jumping up and down while Richard Sherman's face showed total despair. The player’s reactions to the moment are now famous moments in the history of the NFL, including Malcolm Butler, who came off the field in tears surrounded by his teammates.
- Super Bowl XXXIV - St. Louis Rams 23 - Tennessee Titans 16 | 2001
The ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ St. Louis Rams' team had been controlling this game for three quarters. Late in the third they led 16-0, with Kurt Warner and the Rams offense playing a sensational game.
The Titans brought the game back to 16-16, led by quarterback Steve McNair and the rushing ability of Eddie George. After tying it up with a field goal, Kurt Warner launched a touchdown to Isaac Bruce, giving the Rams the lead once again at 23-16.
Wide receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce had combined for 271 receiving yards and a touchdown apiece, and the Rams were looking comfortable, but Tennessee kept it within arm’s length despite being largely outmatched for most of the game.
It was then that the game was decided by mere inches. Tennessee drove all the way back down the field to the 10-yard line with just six seconds on the clock. Steve McNair threw a pass to Kevin Dyson over the middle of the field for what looked like the game tying touchdown.
Rams’ linebacker Mike Jones had different plans, grabbing Dyson by his legs and holding onto him for dear life. Keith Dyson reached the ball out for the goal line but came just one yard short in what is one of the most dramatic endings to a Super Bowl of all time. The play by Jones is known as ‘The Tackle’.
- Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles 41 - New England Patriots 33 | 2019
The Philadelphia Eagles lost starting quarterback Carson Wentz in the penultimate game of the regular season. They’d had a sensational year, but even Eagles fans believed the season to be over when Wentz went down in Week 16.
However, backup quarterback Nick Foles came in, and with the help of all-time great Eagles coach Doug Pederson, they made the Super Bowl against all odds. They’d go into the game a heavy underdog against Tom Brady and the dynasty of the New England Patriots, but they still weren’t done yet.
Philadelphia controlled much of the game, including the ‘Philly special’ in which running back Corey Clement took the direct snap and pitched it to tight end Trey Burton, who threw a touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the corner of the end zone. The play is one of the most iconic in football history, and now has a bronze statue outside the Eagles stadium in Philadelphia of Foles and Pederson discussing the play.
The Eagles went on to win the game despite Tom Brady throwing for a Super Bowl record 505 passing yards. Foles threw for 373 and three touchdowns, plus the one he caught, and the Eagles won their first championship in the modern Super Bowl era.
They had been the underdog since the playoffs kicked off but defied the odds and overcame all obstacles to bring the first Lombardi trophy to Philadelphia.
- Super Bowl XXIII - San Francisco 49ers 20 - Cincinnati Bengals 16 | 1989
What a game. Joe Montana, already a two-time Super Bowl champion at this point and undoubtedly one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, turned Super Bowl XXIII into one of the greatest Super Bowl games of all time late in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals defense had held well despite a big game from Montana and found themselves with a 16-13 lead late in the fourth quarter.
Joe Montana jogged onto the field with the Super Bowl on the line, stepped into the huddle and famously pointed into the crowd saying, ‘Hey, isn’t that John Candy?’.
In what has now got to be one of the most famous quotes in the history of the game, 49ers fans and football fans alike couldn’t believe that in that moment Joe Montana could possibly be that calm. He was totally unphased by the fact the Niners needed to score on that drive, and that’s exactly what they did. It was in that game that the Joe Cool nickname got its wings.
Montana led an 11 play, 92-yard drive to close out the game that ended with a famous touchdown pass to John Taylor that gave the 49ers the win. The Niners victory without doubt deserves a spot as one of the top 5 Super Bowls of all time.
- Super Bowl LVIII - Kansas City Chiefs 38 - Philadelphia Eagles 35 | 2023
Super Bowl LVIII certainly didn’t disappoint. The game was hyped to be one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory, and Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes certainly brought that to life.
The Eagles went into the game as a slight favorite, having been unstoppable on offense and boasting the league's best passing defense throughout the 2022-23 season. They started the game hot in the Super Bowl, with Jalen Hurts and his receivers going to work early on a young Chiefs secondary.
Hurts was phenomenal in the game, throwing for over 300 passing yards and a touchdown, plus 70 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns on the biggest NFL stage. The Eagles were flying early in the game, but a Hurts fumble scooped up by linebacker Nick Bolton for a Chiefs score turned the tides and brought the Chiefs right back into the game.
It was then Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense doing what they do best. Mismatches in the red zone led to easy touchdowns for both Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore, who both had just one reception in the game that happened to earn the Chiefs six points apiece.
Perhaps the biggest play of the game came from Toney on a punt return early in the fourth quarter. The electric young receiver took the football down the left side before reversing all the way back to the right and down the sideline, taking the punt inside the five-yard line and setting the Chiefs up for the score that put them up 35-27.
The Eagles came right back, driving the entire field and converting on the two-point attempt, drawing the game level at 35-35 in an exhilarating fourth quarter. Ultimately, the Chiefs would settle it with a Harrison Butker field goal, but both sides deserve their props for a sensational game.
In a back-and-forth battle between two outstanding rosters and two of the league's most exciting young quarterbacks, Super Bowl LVII certainly deserves a spot on the top ten.
- Super Bowl XIII - Pittsburgh Steelers 35 - Dallas Cowboys 31 | 1979
The 1979 season ended with one of the most star-studded Super Bowl games in the history of the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys franchises were both littered with some of the best to play the game, and those two teams now boast a combined total of 26 Hall of Famers, including 18 players, 11 Steelers and seven Cowboys.
It was a battle between the Steelers dynasty led by legendary quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the equally impressive Roger Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys.
The Steelers eventually took a big lead, up 35-17 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys drove down the field and scored a touchdown, before recovering an onside kick, driving again, and finding paydirt once more with just 22 seconds left on the clock.
On the second onside kick attempt, the Steelers recovered, winning the game. It was a star-studded game with two impressive quarterbacks and accompanying rosters, and one of the best Super Bowls of all time.
- Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots 34 - Atlanta Falcons 28 (OT) | 2017
Tom Brady’s legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time was already etched in stone before Super Bowl LI. He had already won four rings, but in Super Bowl LI he took it to an even higher level of excellence.
The game didn’t start well at all for the Patriots, they got behind in a hurry to a strong Atlanta Falcons team that had built a brilliant defense under head coach Dan Quinn. The defense put Brady and the Patriots under pressure early, including a pick six that left football fans' mouths wide open as Robert Alford took his interception all the way back for a touchdown.
Up until that point, Tom Brady had never thrown a pick six in 33 playoff appearances. The touchdown put the Patriots behind 21-0, which would eventually become 28-3 with eight minutes to play in the third quarter.
At some point, Tom Brady and his teammates appeared to be the only men on earth who had not accepted the result of the game. Despite the enormity of the challenge, they gradually managed to put it back together, executing several spectacular plays, including a remarkable catch by wide receiver Julian Edelman, who barely scooped the ball off the ground amidst a group of defenders, despite it being bobbled amidst bodies.
The Patriots drew the game level by some sort of miracle, completing the biggest Super Bowl comeback in history, and when they won the toss in overtime, the game was there for the taking. James White bundled his way into the end zone for the game winning touchdown, marking one of Brady and the Patriots greatest achievements of all time, and one of the very best Super Bowl matches in history.
Prior to that game, teams leading by 17 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter in a playoff game were 133-0, signaling just how impressive the Patriots victory was. It is thought to be Brady’s greatest moment in a career full of highlights.
- Super Bowl XLIII - Pittsburgh Steelers 27 - Arizona Cardinals 23 | 2009
Super Bowl XLIII was largely touted to be the game that capped the brilliant career of Kurt Warner, but Pittsburgh took the game in a different direction with two of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl game history.
At the end of the first half with the Cardinals driving, they found themselves on the one-yard line with 18 seconds left to go before the break. Warner threw a pass intended for Anquan Boldin in the end zone, only to have it picked off by linebacker James Harrison, who ran it all the way back for a touchdown, stretching the Steelers lead to 17-7 at the half.
Warner and the Cardinals fought back in the second half, including the legendary 64-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald that gave them a 23-20 lead with less than three minutes left to play in the game.
Pittsburgh rallied, and it was Santonio Holmes who came up with two remarkable plays on the final drive. The latter of the two was a touchdown in the corner of the end zone with one of the most iconic toe taps you’re going to see. Ben Roethlisberger threw the perfect pass that only Holmes was going to catch, who completed the play for one of the most talked about catches in NFL history, and the Steelers won the Super Bowl.
- Super Bowl XLII - New York Giants 17 - New England Patriots 14 | 2008
The New York Giants came into the playoffs as the number five seed and had to win three road games in a row in the playoffs to make it to the Super Bowl. Eli Manning and the Giants, built around a sturdy defensive line that featured Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora overcame all the odds and made it to Super Bowl XLII.
By Super Bowl game time, the Giants had beaten the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the rival Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers all on the road.
They entered the game against the New England Patriots as a twelve-point underdog. Brady and his team were 18-0, having had the perfect regular season, and were looking to complete just the second perfect season in NFL history, along with the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
All that stood in their way was the Cinderella story New York Giants, with a quarterback in Eli Manning who just a few months ago was almost out of a job. He would eventually lead the Giants to a Super Bowl victory, spoiling the Patriots perfect season, and he did so with the help of one of the most famous plays in NFL history.
Manning was almost sacked but scrambled and wriggled free to find David Tyree over the middle of the field. Manning heaved the football towards him, and Tyree proceeded to catch the football by pinning it against his helmet with one hand. The play kept the drive alive, and the Giants finished it off with a touchdown to Plaxico Burress with just 35 seconds left on the clock.
The game belongs at number one for many reasons. It’s the greatest upset in Super Bowl history. The Giants ruined the Patriots perfect season, and the helmet catch is truly one of the most spectacular football moments the game has ever seen, perfectly capping off the best Super Bowl game ever.
Parameters for Rankings
These all-time great Super Bowl games have been ranked based on multiple factors. The competition of the game plays a large part in the rankings. While blowout wins are impressive for the winning team, they don’t necessarily make for the best competition in the Super Bowl.
Circumstances of the game itself play into rankings too, with the prime example being the number one game on the list, where the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots to spoil their perfect season.