Billboard unveiled our picks for the best performances from the awards show’s 45-year history. After unveiling our ranked list one by one, we've compiled an official countdown with a snapshot from each unforgettable performance below.
20. Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball," 2013
Miley Cyrus shocked the 2013 crowd with a larger-than-life cat lip-synching along behind her for her performance of "Wrecking Ball." Cyrus matched her adorable two-piece outfit with the cat co-performer as she absolutely killed with her vocals. - Allison Stubblebine
19. Britney Spears, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," 2002
In 2002, 21-year-old pop princess Britney Spears really was "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." In this personal performance, Britney shows a side of her that up until then hadn't been seen much by the American public. From there, there was nowhere to go but up. - Chris Malone
18. *NSYNC, "Bye Bye Bye," 2000
*NSYNC was still on the verge of releasing what would be the most successful album of their career when they took over the AMAs stage in January 2000 with "Bye Bye Bye." But between the dramatic look-alike puppets and unforgettable dance moves, they did more than set themselves up for greatness with their performance - they forever solidified their place in boy band history. - Taylor Weatherby
17. Usher & Alicia Keys, "My Boo," 2004
At the height "My Boo," at the AMAs in 2004, Alicia Keys and Usher performed the duet theatrically. The performance mimicked the scene of a throwback underground club and featured flirtatious choreography with both Keys and Usher dressed in white. - Megan Armstrong
16. Janet Jackson, Medley, 2009
Janet Jackson commanded respect and adoration from the second she stepped onstage at the 2009 AMAs, determined to rewrite her narrative after the "Nipplegate" fiasco at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show nearly derailed her career. She breezed through a career-spanning medley of hits including “Control” and “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” dedicating the heartfelt closing number, “Together Again,” to her late brother Michael. - Bryan Rolli
15. Gloria Estefan, Medley, 1988
When Gloria Estefan took the stage at the 1988 AMAs, she turned up the heat to Miami levels with a medley of some of her biggest hits. Estefan performs "Rhythm is Gonna Get You" and "Surrender" before ditching her little black dress for a bright red can-can dress. - C.M.
14. We Are The World, 1986
At the 1986 AMAs, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson led a number of artists who participated in the recording of the charity single "We Are the World" in singing the song on stage following Harry Belafonte's award for organizing the effort. A year after the song's release, the performance showed that its spirit of compassion was still very much alive. - C.M.
13. Beyonce, "Single Ladies," 2008
Back in 2008, Beyoncé fully embodied her onstage persona Sasha Fierce with her album 'I Am…Sasha Fierce,' and for her AMAs performance that year, she showed that less is more when you’re as fierce as Bey. She ruled the stage with two dancers (including Glee’s Heather Morris) and an all-female backup band, focusing on showing off her incredible dance moves, making audience members want to join along, including Queen Latifah. Right when the performance appears to be over, Beyoncé brings out two guitarists to jam out with her, foreshadowing the rock side she unleashed 8 years later on 'Lemonade.' - Tatiana Tenreyro
12. Adam Lambert, "For Your Entertainment," 2009
Fans eagerly anticipated Adam Lambert’s 2009 AMAs performance, his first live appearance since his American Idol run. He gave them plenty to talk about during “For Your Entertainment,” leading a scantily clad backup dancer across the floor on a leash and planting a kiss on the lips of his male keyboardist. The Parents Television Council was furious, but fans sent his debut album to No. 3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart the following week. - B.R.
11. Lady Gaga, "Bad Romance'/'Speechless," 2009
During the 'Fame Monster' era, Gaga was all about theatrics - and for the 2009 AMAs, this Lady Gaga performance was no different. Gaga performed her hit “Bad Romance” in a skeletal, flesh-toned outfit accompanied by backup dancers in a spooky, sensual performance. She then moved on to playing “Speechless,” a powerful piano ballad, as the piano engulfed in flames, making it a captivating performance unlike anything else witnessed at previous AMAs. - T.T.
10. Celine Dion, “Hymne à L'Amour," 2015
Ten days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, Celine Dion took to the AMAs stage to perform a tribute to the 130 lives lost. The mournful rendition of Edith Piaf’s “Hymne à L'Amour” was a tearjerker that brought a certain level of gravity to the evening. - Caitlin Kelley
9. Taylor Swift, "Blank Space," 2014
If the world didn't know Swift had a certain affection for theatrics before 2014, they sure did after this performance. The singer danced through fire and exes as she brought "Blank Space" to life for the AMAs audience. - A.S.
8. Madonna and Babyface, "Take A Bow," 1995
In the only live performance of this track by both Madonna and Babyface, the unlikely duo delivered an orchestral duet devoid of the in-your-face gimmicks of the Material Girl’s past eras. The autobiographical ballad exposed a new level of vulnerability for Madonna, which paid off - “Take a Bow” became her longest-running No. 1 on the Hot 100. - C.K.
7. Whitney Houston, Medley, 1994
To say a Whitney Houston performance was a showstopper is redundant but also the truth. At the 1994 AMAs, Houston performance included just her and her booming voice before a microphone. She sang the standard versions of "I Loves You Porgy" and "I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" before finishing with her own hit "I Have Nothing" while her then-husband, Bobby Brown, and daughter, Bobbi Kristina, as an infant watching on from the audience. - M.A.
No one - not PSY, and certainly not YouTube - was anticipating the rabid popularity of “Gangnam Style.” The video’s wildly infectious dance moves and colorful, slightly-absurd scenes caused a surge in both K-Pop and PSY himself to the point where YouTube had to change its view counter to accommodate. While “Gangnam Style” set a complicated precedent both for Korean artists in America and at the AMAs, siding himself alongside MC Hammer for his performance allowed him to lean into his one-hit wonder status while still standing out as a showman. - Zane Warman
5. Justin Bieber, 'Purpose' Medley, 2015
Just after celebrating his fourth No. 1 Billboard 200 album in a row, Justin Bieber took the AMAs stage to sing the three 'Purpose' hits: "What Do You Mean?," "Where Are Ü Now?" and "Sorry." Starting out acoustic, Bieber continued with striking choreography and finished with an onstage downpour that ultimately blew everyone's minds - and turned them into Beliebers. - T.W.
4. Billy Gilman, "One Voice," 2001
As a small boy, Billy Gilman made his debut in the Billboard Hot 100 with "One Voice" peaking at No. 38. The pint-sized country singer performed the song at the 2001 AMAs in a black leather jacket - the same AMAs where he was awarded Favorite Country New Artist. - M.A.
3. Sheila E., "Glamorous Life," 1985
It’s disappointing but somewhat understandable that few mentions of Sheila E. go without also referencing her connection to Prince. That seems in part because the chances people today get to experience her as a front woman - drumming with glow-in-the dark sticks and kicking cymbals without batting an eye - are rare. Sheila E.’s four-minutes-and-change on the AMAs stage frames her as a magnetic performer without being overshadowed by the icons she’s known for supporting. - Z.W.
2. Pink, "Try," 2012
Pink is no stranger to acrobatics in her performances, but the ease with which she danced her way through this performance of "Try" really tops them all. Without ever stopping to catch her breath, the singer is flung across the stage, swings from the chandelier, and lights the set up in flames. - A.S.
1. Prince & The Revolution, "Purple Rain," 1985
Prince snatched three awards at the 1985 AMAs and delivered the most iconic performance in the show’s 45-year history. His “Purple Rain” performance embodied every quality for which the 5-foot-2 fireball became known: stratospheric vocals, incendiary guitar solos, mesmerizing stage presence and the ability to make every member of the audience feel a part of something bigger than themselves. - B.R.