100 Best Music Videos Of All Time

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100 Best Music Videos Of All Time
Self

There are music videos, there are good music videos, and then there are the best music videos of all time. And we’ve seen it all. 

Sometimes a music video makes so little of an impact that you can hardly remember it at all. Sometimes you remember it for all the wrong reasons (Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” we’re looking at you).

And sometimes a music video completely redefines the music industry to the point where we can hardly remember life before it. These videos, the ones we cherish and watch on repeat, belong to this list.

What artist has the best music videos?

While there are many amazing, talented artists on this list, we have to give a special mention to David Bowie for his profound impact on the visual art form.

As an artist, visuals and music were intrinsically linked for Bowie. Who could forget his iconic lightning bolt makeup or vibrant hair?

He was one of the early adopters of the music video, and no doubt contributed to translating this from a form of marketing to an art form within itself. That’s why he has gotten more mentions on this list than any other artist.  

What makes a great music video?

When it comes to great music videos, there’s no ingredient list or how-to manual. If the formula was that simple, everyone would be doing it.

The greatest music videos are probably best measured by how little they conform to standards, rather than how much they fit into the ideal music video trope.

Great music videos tell a story, both of the songs and something broader. They speak to society, and they make us laugh, cry and everything in between. And that’s exactly what the entries to this list do. 

100 Best Music Videos of All Time

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This list isn’t about pitting artists against each other or counting down to the number 1 music video! Instead, we’re honoring 100 of the best music videos, in no particular order, so you can decide for yourself who your winner is. 

1. “Runaway” by Kanye West (2010)

West’s “Runaway” music video was part of an extended musical short film directed by the rapper. It featured songs from his "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" album, and a screenplay written by famous director Hype Williams. 

2. “Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim (2001)

Academy Award-winning director Spike Jonze directed this music video masterpiece in Los Angeles in 2000.

The video features actor Christopher Walken, who trained as a dancer before pursuing an acting career, tap dancing and flying around the lobby of a hotel to the sounds of electronic dance music.

3. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” by Beyoncé (2008)

This black-and-white music video is famous for its choreography, which Beyoncé and her backup dancers slay. Even Kanye West agreed that this video deserved a place in the music video hall of fame.

He rushed the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards stage after Beyoncé lost out to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” video in the Best Female Video category. Interrupting Swift’s speech, West uttered the now famous words, “Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!”

He perhaps should have stayed in his seat for a bit longer because Beyoncé did win the VMA for Video of the Year later on in the show, beating Wests own music video.

4. “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys (1994)

We have Spike Jonez to thank for another iconic music video, this time based on a fictional cop drama starring the Beastie Boys. The music video has been loved for decades, but initially fell victim to censorship rules and lost all 5 of its nominations at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards.

Outraged by the snub, Beastie Boys band member, MCA, stormed the stage while R.E.M. was accepting an award to protest. Perhaps this is what inspired Kanye West’s 2009 outburst!

5. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” by Missy Elliot (1997)

Believe it or not, this fashion-filled, fisheye-lens-shot 90s masterpiece was Missy Elliot’s first-ever music video.

Directed by Hype Williams, the video features cameos from Timbaland, Taj of SWV, Yo Yo, Lil' Kim, Total, 702, Da Brat, Lil' Cease, and Puff Daddy, making it a guaranteed hit. 

6. “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel (1986)

At the time of its release, this video was considered groundbreaking because of its use of pixelation and stop motion animation. It won 9 awards at the 1987 MTV VMAs, the most awards a single video has won in history.

To film the piece, Peter Gabriel lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while each frame of the video was shot one by one. 

7. “Hello” by Adele (2015)

Adele’s music video nearly broke the internet when it was first released, generating an average of one million views per hour in the first two days!

The video follows a heartbroken Adele making a phone call to her younger self. Currently, the video holds the record as the fastest ever video to hit 1 billion streams, hitting the milestone in just 87 days. 

8. “Life On Mars?” by David Bowie (1973)

This video is incredibly facile, but captures the essence of Bowie by being deeply expressive and striking in its simplicity. The backdrop is all white for the most part, but Bowie’s vibrant blue suit and matching eyeshadow leap out of the video. 

9. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash (2002)

A 71-year-old Cash was battling serious health issues when this video was filmed. Juxtaposing an elderly Cash with footage of his younger self, the video captures the fragility of life and truly drives home the lyrics, “Everyone I know goes away in the end.” 

The song itself is a completely reimagined version of the Nine Inch Nails original. So mesmerized by the cover, Nine Inch Nails singer and songwriter, Trent Reznor, said of Cash’s rendition, “That song isn’t mine anymore.”

10. “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi feat. Daddy Yankee (2017)

Filmed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the video captures the beauty of the country’s capital and celebrates Puerto Rican dancing, music, culture, and people.

The music video received a Latin Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video at the 18th Latin Grammy Awards. It's also currently the most viewed and most liked video on YouTube, amassing over 7 billion views as of October 2020.

11. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor (1990)

This arresting video is another deceptively simple concept. Consisting primarily of a close-up shot of O’Connor, the video shows her working her way through various stages of grief and sadness, which O’Connor is said to have used the memory of her late mother to channel.

The video won Video of the Year at the 1990 VMAs, making O’Connor the first woman to win the award. 

12. “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift (2015)

If this video was a trailer for a superhero movie, we’d all be rushing out to the movie theater. Swift recruited a star-studded female ensemble including Zendaya, Selena Gomez, Gigi Hadid, Cindy Crawford, Ellen Pompeo, Jessica Alba, and Karlie Kloss, all given their own badass superhero title and a killer look to match.

Though the song is widely considered to be a scathing attack on Katy Perry, the video may not be the symbol of female empowerment we want it to be. The video held the record for most views within 24 hours until Adele’s “Hello” came along. 

13. “Imitation of Life” by R.E.M. (2001)

What you’re looking at in this music video is just 20 seconds of footage looped over and over to capture different aspects of an elaborate scene.

Perfectly choreographed, the video picks up on various people in the frame and zooms in on what they were doing for the 20 seconds of filming. Characters were given a line to mime and a scene to act to create an elaborate pool party scene that we see from alternating perspectives. 

14. “Hey Ya!” by OutKast (2003)

This video is a spoof on The Beatles debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Andre 3000 plays all 8 members of a fictional band and builds a scene that is as vibrant and colorful as the song itself. It remains one of the catchiest tunes in history and has a video that is just as memorable. 

15. “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim (1999)

Before stepping behind the camera for “Weapon of Choice,” Spike Jonez starred in another of Fatboy Slim’s visuals as part of a fictional flash mob troupe at the Fox Bruin Theater in Westwood, Los Angeles, California.

This video cost just $800 to make and was shot guerilla-style, meaning on location without any permission, as you could probably tell based on some of the disgruntled reactions. It’s hilariously awkward but a great watch. 

16. “Wannabe” by Spice Girls (1996)

The inspiration behind this video was the Spice Girls themselves and how they had taken over the pop industry.

The video was filmed in a single shot and shows the girls running riot in the Midland Grand Hotel in St Pancras, London. Each girl shows off their personality and style, even though some of the looks did cause the video to be banned in parts of Asia.

The video is credited with launching the British group to stardom in the US. 

17. "Virtual Insanity" by Jamiroquai (1996)

The fur top hat, the tilting angles, the single-camera, the bright, white room — everything about this video is quintessentially 90s.

After 10 nominations, it took home 4 MTV VMAs in 1997 and has been a source of inspiration for many music videos since (check Ariana Grande’s “In My Head” video for a modern twist).

18. “Video Killed The Radio Star” by The Buggles (1979)

In one of the most influential shifts in the music industry, this video was the first music video to be aired when MTV first launched. Pretty meta considering the title of the track!

The video shows radios being blown up as the band recognizes the shift to a new kind of music consumption. 

19. “Hotline Bling” by Drake (2015)

Director X is the man behind most of Drake’s music videos, including this one. Inspired by the work of artist James Turrell, who is known for his use of light and space, the video is deeply ambient and atmospheric.

It also features some questionable dancing from Drake that is somehow both suave and awkward, and became the subject of many memes and parodies that no doubt contributed to its success.  

20. “...Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears (1998)

Who could forget Britney strutting around her Catholic school in this iconic uniform? Well, it almost didn’t make it!

Director Nigel Dick had an entirely different idea in mind for this video involving a cartoon-like sequence, and jeans and a t-shirt, but Spears wanted the setting to be more relatable to teens and came up with the wardrobe herself.

21. “California Love” by 2Pac (1995)

This song was 2Pac’s comeback track after his release from prison and it certainly made an impact.

Directed by Hype Williams, the video is inspired by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, set in a desert in the year 2095. Jada Pinkett Smith, who was a close friend of the rapper, is said to have come up with the idea for the music video.  

22. “Stan” by Eminem feat. Dido (2000)

Directed by Dr. Dre and Philip G. Atwell, this video served not only as a music visual but a short film.

Starring Devon Sawa as Stan and Dido as his pregnant girlfriend, the video is the portrait of a mentally-unhinged man. Through the lyrics, Eminem imagines what it’s like to be an obsessed fan struggling with reality. 

23. “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga (2009)

The world practically grinded to a halt when this video was released, capturing Gaga’s style in all of its outrageous and avant-garde glory. The video was directed by Francis Lawrence who would later direct the Hunger Games movies, and features many futuristic elements.

At the MTV VMAs, the video tied with Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” for the most nominations for a single video in the history of the show, taking home 7 of its 10 nominations. 

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24. “This Is America” by Childish Gambino (2018)

This is one of those songs that barely functions without its accompanying video. Gambino released this song and video simultaneously, and has never included the song on any album, signifying that it is more of a visual experience than a sonic one.

The video contains many hints towards racist violence in America, beginning with Gambino adopting a Jim Crow-style stance as he shoots his first victim. The video makes nods to the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile, and those who died in the 2015 Charleston church shooting.

For the entirety of the video, bodies are careless dragged away while Gambino’s gun is carefully placed in cloth as a reference to America’s willingness to protect gun rights over human lives

25. “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie (1983)

Bowie tackles themes of racism in this visual masterpiece. The video depicts the cruel treatment of the Aboriginal people in Australia at the hands of the continent’s white colonial population.

In the bar scene, where two students from Sydney's Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre are dancing, Bowie used real people and filmed their authentic reactions to the scene, many of them mocking and jeering the dance. 

26. “Take On Me” by A-Ha (1985)

This creative video pushed boundaries by combining live-action with pencil-sketch animation. To create the piece, live-action footage was traced over frame by frame. That amounted to approximately 3,000 drawings and 16 weeks of work.

27. “Basket Case” by Green Day (1994)

Taking its inspiration from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Brazil, this video was suitably filmed in a real, abandoned mental institution.

The video was originally filmed in black and white, with guitarist Mike Dirnt adding color in later on. This contributes to the surrealist, almost psychedelic feel of the video.  

28. “One” by Metallica (1989)

Metallica preached a powerful anti-war message in their first ever music video.

The video combines footage of the band performing, with scenes from the 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun as they sing about a wounded World War I soldier suffering from the effects of war. 

29. “When Doves Cry” by Prince (1984)

Only Prince could self-direct a video as exquisite as this. The video is almost ethereal, depicting Prince bathing in a purple hue while doves flutter around his bathroom.

Too advanced for his time, many network executives were appalled by the explicit nature of the video. 

30. “Buddy Holly” by Weezer (1994)

When Spike Jonze pitched this idea to Weezer, bassist Matt Sharpe told him, “I don’t think you’ll be able to pull it off.” 

Clearly up to the challenge, Jonze filmed the video across one day at the Arnold's Drive-In from the show Happy Days, and edited the footage into real clips from the show to make it look like the band was in the series. Original cast member Al Molinaro even made a cameo.

31. “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush (1978)

Kate Bush made two music videos for her famous track, but it’s the UK version that we have to top our hats off to. Considering MTV hadn’t yet been invented, official music videos were a relatively new concept and Bush was quick to get on board.

She choreographed this video herself and filmed it in a dark room filled with a white mist to pay homage to the ghost of Cathy from the Emily Brontë novel Wuthering Heights

32. "Don't Come Around Here No More" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (1985)

Petty channels Alice in Wonderland for this video, dressing up in a Mad Hatter costume. The scene is chaotic but entertaining, it’s not hard to imagine that Tim Burton took some inspiration from this video for his 2010 film. 

33. “Scream” by Micheal Jackson and Janet Jackson (1995)

The Jacksons made this song because of their frustration at the media. The video shows the famous siblings flying in a spaceship to flee Earth.

Stylistically, the video is darker than the kind of content the pair usually produced, showing them letting out their frustrations through breakdancing and, you guessed it, screams. 

34. “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam (1992)

This is a truly haunting video that follows a young boy, bullied by his classmates, who is driven to suicide.

The video is interspersed with the names his classmates called him, which also double as biblical references in some cases. The video has become a symbol of gun violence awareness and advocates against bullying. 

35. “Opposites Attract” by Paula Abdul (1989)

Dancer and singer Paula Abdul performs alongside an animated cat in this video. MC Skat Cat seemingly plays a love interest for Abdul, and despite their obvious differences, opposites really do attract!

Abdul choreographed both her own moves and the animated moves that match hers. The video won the 1991 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video and was nominated for Breakthrough Video at the 1990 MTV Video Music Awards.

36. “Yonkers” by Tyler, The Creator (2011)

Tyler, The Creator came to director Anthony Mandler with just 6 lines on what he wanted his “Yonkers” video to be: “‘I’m sitting on a chair rapping, I’m playing with a bug, I eat it, I throw it up, my eyes go black, and I hang myself.” 

So, all Mandler did was provide Tyler with equipment and the young artist self-directed this black-and-white, tilt-shifted video that became one of the most unlikely Video of the Year VMA nominations of all-time. 

37. "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer (1990)

No other artist could ever replicate this video! Featuring the famous “Hammer pants” and many iconic moves, like the running man and the Hammer dance, this video is a true 90s heirloom.

38. “Formation” by Beyoncé (2016)

Building on the themes explored in the lyrics of "Formation," this video features references to Hurricane Katrina, antebellum and Louisiana Creole culture, police brutality, racism and black pride.

The music video modifies the song to include spoken interpolations from the New Orleans artist Big Freedia, and the YouTube personality Messy Mya, who was murdered in New Orleans in 2010.

Between the MLK newspaper, the “stop shooting us” graffiti tag, and the Blue Ivy cameo, this is the kind of video you need to watch repeatedly to catch all the references.

39. "Cryin'" by Aerosmith (1993)

Clueless star Alicia Silverstone stars in this dramatic music video that chronicles the ultimate revenge plot against a cheating ex.

Silverstone steals her ex's car, gets some piercings and tattoos, fights a strange,r and lures her ex to a bridge where she pretends to jump to her death, only to be attached to a bungee cord so she can dramatically flip her ex off while she dangles above cars. Iconic. 

40. “No Scrubs” by TLC (1999)

Hype Williams strikes again with this futuristic video concept. Stylistically, the video takes inspiration from The Jackson's “Scream” video, but TLC had a more playful take on the concept featuring some killer monochromatic outfits. 

41. “Firework” by Katy Perry (2010)

There’s an important social message behind this song and video: love yourself just the way you are!

Filmed in Budapest, the video shows young people across the city overcoming their insecurities and bettering themselves. A boy breaks up a fight between his parents, a body-conscious girl unapologetically joins her friends at a pool party, a closeted teen kisses his male friend in a club, and a struggling young performer uses magic to fight off a gang of thugs.

The video won Video of the Year at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards and was nominated for Best Female Video, and the newly introduced Best Video with a Message category. 

42. “Under the Bridge” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers (1992)

Until this video was released, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers had only had one hit single and were otherwise struggling to connect with a wider audience. Directed by two-time Oscar nominee Gus Van Sant, this video really showcased who the band members were and what they were about. 

43. "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette (1996)

This song is the ultimate track to belt out when on a roadtrip, and that’s just what this video captures as multiple Morissettes cruise through a wintery landscape.

The video was nominated for six MTV Video Music Awards in 1996: "Video of the Year," "Best Direction in a Video," "Viewer's Choice," "Best Female Video," "Best New Artist in a Video," and "Best Editing," winning the last three. It was also nominated in 1997 for the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.

44. “Here It Goes Again” by OK Go (2006)

Any of OK Go’s famous one-take music videos could be included on this list, but we have to make a special place for the video that started it all for the Chicago-based viral sensation.

It took 17 attempts to perfect this one-shot dance sequence, which takes place on moving treadmills, winning the group a Grammy for Best Music Video in 2007.

45. “Penny Lane” by The Beatles (1967)

Before music videos were even called music videos, the Beatles were making promotional films for their songs. The nostalgic sequence captures The Fab Four not as world-famous superstars, as they were at the time, but just as friends who make music together.

When music videos did eventually become mainstream, the band was awarded a Vanguard Award at the first MTV VMAs in 1984, where they were credited with “essentially inventing the music video.” 

46. “Around the World” by Daft Punk (1997)

The French duo are known for two things: their robot disguises and their groundbreaking electronic music. But their tongue-in-cheek, goofy videos show that even great artists don’t have to take themselves seriously.

This surrealist video features a mismatched dance troupe of mummies, synchronized swimmers, astronauts and skeletons, all directed by French auteur Michael Gondry.

47. “Learn to Fly” by Foo Fighters (2000)

As a parody of a parody, this is one of the funniest videos on this list.

Based on the hilarious movie, Airplane!, each band member plays a range of wacky characters in this comedy of errors. It won the 2001 Grammy for Best Music Video and scored three VMA nominations.

48. “Like A Prayer” by Madonna (1989)

Interweaving themes of racism and religion, this video shows Madonna lusting after a Black, Christ-like man. The imagery is shocking, showing Madonna dancing in front of KKK-style burning crosses after her lover is wrongfully accused of a crime.

It might go down in music video history now, but at the time of its release the video was publicly condemned by the Vatican. Who knew the Pope watched MTV? 

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49. "The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy and Monica (1998)

Brandy and Monica are living in adjacent apartments and dating the same man. They learn of the infidelity and talk through their problems, realizing that the man has wronged them both.

They decide to band together and slam their door in the face of the man once he comes knocking for them. Now that’s what I call girl power. 

50. “Otis” by Jay-Z & Kanye West (2011)

Back when Kanye West smiled in public and had the most enviable bromance with Jay-Z, Spike Jonze directed the duo rapping, laughing and destroying a $350,000 Maybach that was later sold at auction for just $60,000.

The video is something of a relic from a time when two people who now rarely appear in the same room together made an entire album and tour as one. 

51. “My Name Is” by Eminem (1999)

There was a time where the only true measure of fame for celebrities was getting a mention on an Eminem track.

The rapper is known for ruthlessly calling out famous faces in his lyrics, but took things even further in this video with a series of celebrity impersonations of everyone from Bill Clinton to Marilyn Manson.

52. “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails (1994)

Mark Romanek directed this captivating but disturbing video that perfectly captured the darkness Trent Reznor was exploring in his lyrics at the time. Set in what looks like a 19th Century mad scientist laboratory, the video is a vision of terror and is amongst the scariest music videos of all time. 

53. “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (1983)

Speaking of the scariest music video ever made, no great music video list can go without mentioning Jackson’s “Thriller” music movie!

Referencing several horror films, the video shows Jackson dancing amongst a horde of undead characters. The video has one of the greatest legacies of any music video, completely revolutionising the industry.

The video created the possibility of storylines and intricate choreography for all music videos that would follow, and cemented Jackson as one of the most innovative and ambitious artists of all time. 

54. “Everybody Hurts" by R.E.M. (1993)

Jake Scott, son of Ridley Scott, expertly captured a vision of how human suffer in silence despite being always surrounded by people who may be going through similar pain. In short, everybody hurts. 

55. “Honey" by Mariah Carey (1997)

Mariah Carey is a Bond-esque super-spy who manages to escape being held hostage and ride away on a jet ski. We’re not going to pretend it’s the most revolutionary music video, but it’s a brilliant watch and is a form of pure entertainment, exactly what a music video should be. 

56. “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar (2017)

Laced in symbolism and gorgeously-shot, this video was the righteous winner of 6 VMAs, including video of the year. Lamar and everyone in the video are far from humble, forcing us to really listen to the lyrics.

With papal references, a Last Supper reenactment, and a money-firing gun, the video challenges us to look at who and what we worship in modern society.

57. “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden (1994)

Weird and wonderful, this apocalyptic video really came to life in post-production thanks to a talented team of editors. The video follows the inhabitants of a suburban town that is on the cusp of being swallowed up as the sun becomes a black hole.

The video became a hit on MTV and received the award for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. 

58. "Bye Bye Bye" by NSYNC (2000)

This video had an estimated budget of $1 million, with the band willing to go above and beyond to be noticed by MTV. And it looks like it paid off because the band took home Best Pop Video and Best Choreography at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards.

The band start out as puppets, then they’re running on top of a moving train, then they’re dancing in a spinning blue room. I can’t really keep up, but I like it! 

59. “Fell In Love With A Girl” by The White Stripes (2001)

Director Michael Gondry painstakingly built and rebuilt Legos to create each shot of this stop-motion video. The music video received four nominations for Video of the Year, Breakthrough Video, Best Visual Effects, Best Editing at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, winning the latter three.

60. “Janie’s Got A Gun” by Aerosmith (1989)

Before he was an Oscar-nominated film director, David Fincher directed this musical masterpiece and a whole host of other famous music videos, including Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Express Yourself” videos.

In fact, when “Janie’s Got A Gun” was nominated for Video of the Year at the 1990 VMAs, 3 of the 4 nominations were directed by Fincher. 

61. “The Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang (1999)

Sometimes this video appears from the corners of my memory and I wonder if the late 90s was just one big fever dream. A team of men dressed as monkeys running around wreaking havoc on the streets of Paris shouldn’t work as a video concept, but it just does. 

62. "All the Small Things" by Blink-182 (2000)

Blink-182 hilariously poke fun at the cheesy pop band videos that had become typical of the 90s. Parodying Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, NSYNC, and more, the band put on quite the spectacle. 

63. "Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa, and Pink (2001)

Some of the most iconic 2000s female artists joined forces for this track, which acted as a promotion for the Moulin Rouge film. The ladies strut their stuff in lingerie on a set built to replicate the actual Moulin Rouge in Paris, winning them two VMAs that year. 

64. “Waterfalls” by TLC (1995)

Taking home four awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards, this video spoke to both the AIDs epidemic and the struggle of the poverty trap.

The video tells two stories. First, of a mother who begs for her son to stop selling drugs before he is shot during a drug deal. The other story is a man who contracts AIDs and slowly fades from the frame. The video ends with the man lost and the boy in ghost form, demonstrating a needless loss of young lives. 

65. “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye feat. Kimbra (2011)

Stop-motion was used in this video to recreate a Cubist artistic experience in which Gotye’s and Kimbra’s bodies become part of a painted mural.

The video’s background was inspired by a 1980s piece by Gotye’s own father, an artist named Frank de Backer. The video was nominated for Video of the Year and Best Editing in a Video at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards

66. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams (2012)

Scantily clad models aren't exactly a new concept, but this video really seemed to rub some people up the wrong way as it became a source of public outrage. Director Diane Martel knew what she was doing, though ,because controversy sells, and this song and video became one of the most overplayed of the year. 

67. “Clint Eastwood” by Gorillaz (2001)

As an entirely virtual, animated band, Gorillaz relied heavily on their music videos to put them on the music map.

The video and song name is a reference to the famous western starring actor Clint Eastwood, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, but featured more ghost and zombie references than you might usually find in a western.

68. “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses (1992)

This video is an entire cinematic experience that is as lavish and experiential as the song itself. From the wedding to the shot of Slash played a guitar solo outside a chapel, everything about this video is pure art. 

69. “Tonight, Tonight” by Smashing Pumpkins (1995)

Transforming this song into a magical visual experience drew fans of the tune even further into the Smashing Pumpkin sonic style. It won six VMAs in 1996 including Video of the Year, Breakthrough Video, and Best Direction in a Video.

70. "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence (2003)

Don’t watch this one if you’re scared of heights! Some serious CGI work went into making lead singer Amy Lee look like she was falling from her apartment building. It’s dark and terrifying but matches the song perfectly. 

71. “Walk This Way” by Run DMC and Aerosmith (1986)

The battle between hip-hop and rock was real in 1986, with many music lovers feeling like they had to remain loyal to one over the other.

This video shows leading rock and hip-hop groups literally and figuratively breaking down the divide between the genres by smashing through a wall and joining forces for one of the most unlikely but iconic collaborations of all-time. 

72. "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes (2003)

This video looks like it was shot through a kaleidoscope thanks to the triangular images and rotating backdrop. The result is a seriously trippy visual experience that matches perfectly with the catchy beat in this song. 

73. “Freedom! '90” by George Micheal (1990)

George Micheal was somewhat critical of MTV when it first began, concerned that it made music too looks-based.

Disillusioned with fame, he poked fun at the music video format by not starring in this video, a move that was unheard of at the time. Instead, he cast only beautiful models and the video was adored by MTV, proving the exact point Michael was trying to make. 

74. “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne (2002)

Lavigne lives out every 2000s teen’s fantasy with her disastrous run around her local mall in this video. This is intercut with footage of Lavigne performing the song at a skatepark with her band, making her the ultimate skater girl. 

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75. “We Found Love” by Rihanna (2011)

If you never wanted to party in a field in Northern Ireland, you will after watching this video! Though, the rural rave scene didn’t go down too well with the locals.

After seeing Rihanna filming topless and wearing a bikini, one Northern Irish farmer withdrew his permission to film in his barley field, forcing Rihanna and her team to relocate.

76. “Big Pimpin’” by Jay-Z feat. UGK (2000)

Hype Williams can barely capture all the elements of the party boy lifestyle Jay-Z promotes in this song. The Brooklyn native pops bottles, flirts with models and lounges on a yacht, all set against the backdrop of Trinidad's carnival season, earning the video an MTV Video Music Award for Best Rap Video nomination. 

77. “Rio” by Duran Duran (1982)

Before there were rappers on yachts, Duran Duran made sailing look cool with their famous 3-piece suits. It may not be the most practical attire for the open waves, but it sure looked good. 

78. “Toxic” by Britney Spears (2004)

Britney showcases her versatility in this video as she dons a variety of wigs and outfits that all contributed to making this video one of the most memorable fashion moments of the year. The video is said to have been part of the inspiration for Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video, showing Spears’ powerful pop legacy. 

79. "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" by Panic! at the Disco (2005)

Remind me to never accept a wedding invitation from Brendan Urie. This was the band’s first ever music video, and showcases a chaotic circus/wedding hybrid. It’s a brilliant spectacle that won the VMA for video of the year.

80. “Thnks Fr Th Mmrs” by Fall Out Boy (2007)

There may never be a collaboration more random than Kim Kardashian appearing in a Fall Out Boy music video. The band pokes fun at how seriously artists take their music videos by casting a chimpanzee as their director.

If we didn’t have the video to prove it, we probably wouldn’t even remember a world where vowels were unacceptable in texting slang, and Kim Kardashian was less famous than Fall Out Boy.

81. “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson (1989)

The same year that Janet Jackson became the youngest ever recipient of the MTV VMA Video Vanguard Award at 24 years old, she also took home "Best Choreography" and "Best Dance Video." The video has inspired countless dance routines.

Jackson was also the recipient of the "Director's Award," "Best Female Video Artist," and the "Music Video Award for Artistic Achievement" at the Billboard Awards. The video's long-form version won a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.

82. “Q.U.E.E.N.” by Janelle Monáe (2013)

Triple-threat Janelle Monáe always brings it when it comes to visuals.

Carrying a black-and-white motif through all of her videos and much of her personal style, her art threads together seamlessly as one entire body of work. This video explores Afrofuturism and rightfully earned Monáe her first ever VMA nomination. 

83. "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg (1992)

Snoop Dogg became an overnight sensation after the release of this track and its accompanying video.

Many people associate rap with flaunting money, parties, cars, chains and anything that could be considered part of the “thug life,” but what people don’t realize is that this video basically paved the way for this braggadocious expression. 

84. “Ashes to Ashes” by David Bowie (1980) 

The production of this video set Bowie and his team back $250,000, a hefty price tag at the time. But the imagery and conceptualism that Bowie experiments with in the video is priceless.

When you compare this video with other music videos of this era, it’s easy to see why Bowie is considered one of the most creative music artists of all time. 

85. “Chandelier” by Sia (2014)

The elusive Sia is best known for her blunt blonde wig and not showing her face on camera, so it’s no surprise that she opted out of this self-directed video.

But the video allowed Sia to have a new form of recognition by introducing the then 11-year-old Dance Moms star, Maddie Ziegler, who has starred in almost every Sia music video and live performance since.

Ziegler, underneath a Sia-style wig, dances with impressive flexibility in an interpretive style that you’d struggle to find in any other choreography. 

86. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen (1975) 

Before there were music videos, this promotional clip inspired other artists to produce their own films that could be used in lieu of live performances. As one of the most experimental tracks of all time, this song needed a video to match.

The video follows the song’s operatic structure by giving a new scene for each clip. The opening image of the band singing in near darkness is said to be Queen’s favorite image of themselves, and is the same shot that had been used on their second album cover. 

87. "My Hero" by Foo Fighters (1998)

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl directed this music which is filmed in one continuous shot. It follows a real-life hero whose face is never revealed as he rescues a baby and a dog, and saves a photograph from a burning building. 

88. “WAP” by Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion (2020)

Garnering over 26 million views in its first day, this video broke the record for the biggest 24-hour debut for an all-female collaboration on YouTube. The video is a star-studded affair that celebrates femininity featuring cameos from Kylie Jenner, Normani, Rosalía, Mulatto, Rubi Rose, and Sukihana. 

89. “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M. (1991)

Tarsem Singh, the man behind The Fall and The Cell, directed this video that took home Video of the Year at the 1991 VMAs. The dream-like vision wasn’t originally a concept favoured by the band who just wanted to be a performance video, but somehow the fusion of styles works. 

90. “Work It” by Missy Elliott (2002)

Pre-Disney channel fame, a young Alyson Stoner put on quite the performance in this Dave Meyers directed video. The video pays tribute to Aaliyah and TLC member Left Eye, who had both recently died at the time.

The video won the award for Video of the Year at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. 

91. “Fade” by Kanye West (2016)

Inspired by Flashdance, this highly choreographed video is an addictive watch. The video features West’s GOOD Music label mate, Teyana Taylor, performing in an 80s style gym, and has a cameo from Taylor’s daughter and husband, Sacramento Kings guard Iman Shumpert, at the end.

Looking at Taylor’s washboard abs, you’d hardly believe she had given birth just 8 months prior. 

92. “All Star” by Smash Mouth (1999)

A fun song needs a fun video to match, and that is exactly what we get in this music video. It features William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, Paul Reubens, Kel Mitchell, Janeane Garofalo, Doug Jones, and Dane Cook as their characters from the superhero film Mystery Men

93. “Vogue” by Madonna (1990)

This David Fincher directed video recalls the look of films and photography from the Golden Age of Hollywood with the use of artwork by the Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka and an Art Deco set design.

The alchemy of old-school glamour with innovative dance routines makes it some of Fincher and Madonna’s best visual work. 

94. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana (1991)

Slamming a door in the face of the 80s, this video and song set the tone for an entire decade that would follow. It was dark, harsh and decidedly grungy, and every angsty teen played it on loop on their TV sets wishing they could mosh and riot at a high school pep rally. 

95. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson (1983)

Still a relatively new platform, MTV had been somewhat inaccessible for Black artists until Jackson levelled the playing field with this mainstream hit. The choreography is so very Jackson, and the video made him into a fashion trendsetter thanks to that leather suit. 

96. “Cry Me A River” by Justin Timberlake (2003)

Music artists have a long, tired history of poking jabs at exes through their music, but Timberlake possibly started the whole “is that supposed to be...?” phenomenon that we see in music videos from time to time.

Try as he might to deny it, there’s no doubt that the female lead in this video bares a striking resemblance to Britney Spears who Timberlake had recently parted ways from. There’s no plausible deniability here, but that only makes the scorned ex revenge plot all the more relatable and iconic. 

97. "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" by Céline Dion (1996)

An emotive song with an even more heart-wrenching video, this will make Dion’s Titanic video look like a fairytale. A bereft Dion grieves her deceased love while roaming around their shared mansion. 

98. “L$D” by ASAP Rocky (2015)

Borrowing imagery and influence from French director Gaspar Noe's 2009 psychedelic art film Enter the Void, Rocky puts on a trippy display that captures the intoxicating nature of love and lust.

The neon lights and neo-psychedelic sounds allowed the video to be nominated for Best Music Video at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.

99. "Love Shack" by The B-52's (1989)

The real-life love shack was located at the home and studio of ceramic artists Philip Maberry and Scott Walker in Highland, New York, but was transformed into some kind of rural nightclub for this shoot. The video also starred a pre-fame RuPaul, giving the renowned drag artist an early big break. 

100. “Lazarus” by David Bowie (2016)

The music video for “Lazarus” was released just two days before Bowie passed away after a long battle with liver cancer, and marks a creativity and innovation that outlives the singer.

The video is cut with scenes of the gaunt artist writhing on what could be his deathbed, his head wrapped in a bandage with buttons for eyes, acknowledging that his time on earth is fleeting.

It not a tragic video, but a triumphant one that makes his life a work of art. It is a vision of an artist who is constructing his own legacy.

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Alice Kelly is a writer and storyteller with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics. When she’s not creating content for YourTango, you can catch her working on creative fiction and vintage shopping.