For all the annual hype, the Super Bowl—which turns 50 in 2016—has often failed to deliver. The first four contests were pretty one-sided affairs, but Super Bowl Sunday eventually amassed some truly memorable moments—and we're not referring to the halftime shows and wardrobe malfunctions. Here are our favorites, in chronological order.
  1. Super Bowl III: Jan. 12, 1969 New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7
    This game was memorable for what it signified: the ability of the upstart American Football League to compete with the more established National Football League. The NFL champion Green Bay Packers handily defeated their AFL opponents in the first two Super Bowls, and the Colts were heavy favorites to do likewise to the Jets. Undaunted, Joe Namath guaranteed a Jets victory three days before the game. He delivered, aided by Baltimore's Earl Morrall, who threw three interceptions in the first half.
  2. Super Bowl VII: Jan. 14, 1973 Miami Dolphins 14, Washington 7
    The lowest-scoring game in Super Bowl history wasn't as close as the final score might make it appear. Miami's defense had propelled the Dolphins to the first (and so far only) undefeated season in NFL history, and Washington's only score came in the fourth quarter when Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian attempted a forward pass.
  3. Super Bowl XIII: Jan. 21, 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31
    Cowboys fans remember this as the "what-if" game, as in "what if Jackie Smith had caught that wide open pass?" Smith, a normally sure-handed future Hall of Famer, dropped a 10-yard touchdown pass that could have allowed the Cowboys to tie the game at 21 late in the third quarter. Instead, Dallas settled for a field goal, cutting their deficit to four points, the final margin of victory. The Steelers became the first team and Terry Bradshaw the first quarterback to win three Super Bowls.
  4. Super Bowl XXIII: Jan. 22, 1989 San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16
    This rematch of Super Bowl XVI reproduced the final result of the first meeting, in even more thrilling fashion. San Francisco outgained the Bengals, 453 total yards to 229, but trailed late in the fourth quarter after a Jim Breech field goal gave Cincinnati a 16-13 lead. Always steady under pressure, quarterback Joe Montana led the 49ers on an 11-play, 92-yard drive culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left.
  5. Super Bowl XXV: Jan. 27, 1991 New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19
    Apologies to Buffalo fans—this was the first of the Bills' four consecutive Super Bowl losses. This game also had many firsts: first decided on the final play, and first—and so far only—to feature a one-point margin of victory. Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood's final field goal attempt, which could have won the game, sailed wide right.
  6. Super Bowl XXXIV: Jan. 30, 2000 St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16
    Just a few years earlier, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was playing for the Arena Football League and bagging groceries. But his MVP 1999 season brought the Rams and coach Dick Vermeil their first Super Bowl trophy. St. Louis jumped out to a 16-0 lead in the third, but Tennessee clawed back behind halfback Eddie George and quarterback Steve McNair. Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson at the St. Louis 1-yard line, preventing a touchdown that could have altered the outcome.
  7. Super Bowl XXXVI: Feb. 3, 2002 New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
    The Rams and their "Greatest Show on Turf" offense were 14-point favorites, but they were stymied by New England's smothering defense. The Patriots scored three times off turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble) to take a 17-3 lead at the end of the third quarter. But the Rams tied the game with 90 seconds left. Quarterback Tom Brady, who inherited the starting job in week two when Drew Bledsoe was injured, drove to the 30-yard line and set up a game-winning field goal as time ran out.
  8. Super Bowl XLII: Feb. 3, 2008 New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
    By the Super Bowl, the Giants (10-6) were the only team standing between the Patriots and a complete, undefeated season. The Patriots led 7-3 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which featured a relative explosion of offense and three lead changes. The most memorable play was Manning's 32-yard pass on third-and-five to keep the final TD drive going. Manning somehow extricated himself from two New England defenders and threw to David Tyree, who pinned the ball to his helmet.
  9. Super Bowl XLIII: Feb. 1, 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
    Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison intercepted a pass by Arizona's Kurt Warner in the end zone and rumbled down the field for a record 100-yard touchdown as the first half ended. That play was the prelude to a rollicking second half capped by two lead changes in the game's last three minutes. Ben Roethlisberger orchestrated a 78-yard drive to the 6-yard line, then hit Santonio Holmes, who landed in the end zone with the game-winning TD.
  10. Super Bowl XLIX: Feb. 1, 2015 New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
    After trailing by 10 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Patriots gained a lead that held going into the final seconds. But Seattle had the ball at the 1-yard line with 26 seconds left. Instead of handing the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll called for a pass to wide receiver Ricardo Lockette, and Patriots safety Malcolm Butler, who had been beaten two plays earlier, intercepted the pass at the goal line.