With the 2019 Video Music Awards upon us, we decided to refresh our list of the 50 Best Music Videos of All-Time.
A quick note on the criteria: Most importantly, the song had to be good. If a great video was matched with a bad song, what was the point? We also trended towards videos that were different or even groundbreaking. A straight performance video wasn’t getting on this list no matter how cool it was. Concepts and directing matter, as did strong, interesting visuals.
Alright, enough explanation. Here’s our list of the 50 greatest music videos of all-time.
(Some of the following videos contain graphic imagery and/or NSFW lyrics. Consider yourself warned.)
50. Firework — Katy Perry
Say what you want about Katy Perry, but the girl knows how to make a pop song. This won the 2011 VMA for Video of the Year and it’s not hard to see why. While it may not be my kind of music, this video has more than a billion YouTube views for a reason. It’s an endlessly catchy song accompanied by a video with a social message.
49. Losing My Religion — REM
Directed by Tarsem Singh (yeah, the guy who did The Cell and The Fall directed this video), “Losing My Religion” won Video of the Year at the 1991 VMAs. While REM just wanted to do a straightforward performance video, Singh sold them on a dream-like vision that gets a little weird. Somehow the fusion of the two styles works and creates an iconic video.
48. Fell In Love With a Girl — The White Stripes
The White Stripes had a number of visually incredible videos, this one fuses the song and video concept perfectly. Using Lego animation, this video was painstakingly crafted shot-by-shot with director Michael Gondry rebuilding the bricks each time to create the movement from shot to shot. The end product was worth it, as the video serves to enhance the song, which is the whole point of the medium.
47. Hotline Bling — Drake
“Hotline Bling” has a minimalist concept, and while we can endlessly debate whether or not Drake can actually dance, there’s no doubt something about this video is captivating.
46. Scream — Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson
Mark Romanek has directed videos for the biggest artists in the world, and they didn’t get bigger than Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson in 1995. This video was most notable for Janet’s darker, more confident persona and the defiant attitude Michael takes as he belts out the lyrics that were a response to negative media attention.
The song is powerful and hits hard, while the video was throwback to the choreography that made both Jacksons famous. It netted 11 VMA nominations in 1995 and won three.
45. Janie’s Got A Gun — Aerosmith
Before he was a multi-time Oscar-nominated film director, David Fincher was the most sought-after music video director in the world. How good was Fincher? At the 1990 VMAs, three of the four nominees for Video of the Year were directed by him. “Janie’s Got A Gun” was one of them. A great song, the video is even better and takes it to the next level.
44. The Bad Touch — Bloodhound Gang
The Bloodhound Gang just nailed this video. A bunch of guys dressed as monkeys running around Paris singing about having sex like animals? How could I possibly leave this off the list?
43. Somebody That I Used To Know — Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
Another simple concept, this video soars thanks to the execution. Gotye and Kimbra are naked, but wind up painted through stop-motion animation. There’s little movement, except when she shows up for the “breakup” section of the song. The paint is supposed to represent their combined relationship, and as the video continues, she breaks off. It’s really a mesmerizing video that reminds the viewer of a different time, like the late-80s when videos truly told a visual story as part of the song.
This was nominated for Video of the Year and Best Editing in 2012 but failed to win. It became one of the great breakup songs of all-time, and the video has been viewed on YouTube more than 1 billion times.
42. One — Metallica
This was the first video Metallica ever did and is the band’s best. An anti-war song is accompanied by a video that includes the band performing and scenes from the 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun. It’s incredibly powerful stuff, as the song was meant to portray a World War I soldier who is severely wounded.
It is another video that was underappreciated in its day (it had just one nomination at the 1989 VMAs), but has gained acclaim over the years.
41. Imitation of Life — REM
Wholly undervalued in its time, REM’s video of “Imitation of Life” is truly brilliant. It was shot in just 20 seconds using a single camera, but choreographed so those 20 seconds are played backwards and forwards for the entire length of the nearly four-minute video by zooming in and out.
Director Garth Jennings did an incredible job with this gem, which was only nominated for two awards at the 2001 VMAs and secured zero wins.
40. Under the Bridge — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Until this video, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were an LA-based rock/funk band that couldn’t seem to break out consistently. Yes, “Give It Away” had been a No. 1 hit, but the Chili Peppers hadn’t connected with a wider audience. Then they met Gus Van Sant and their lives changed.
Van Sant — a two-time Oscar nominee — directed this video, and it elevated a fantastic, bluesy, melodic tune about drug addiction into a generational hit. It connected fans to the group, with scenes of Los Angeles tied in with lead singer Anthony Kiedis and the band performing the song. You felt like you knew who these guys were after this video. And the rest is history.
39. Learn To Fly — Foo Fighters
Sometimes you just need to have fun with a video, and that’s what happened here. The Foo Fighters loosely parodied Airplane! with the help of Tenacious D and each of the band’s members playing themselves and several other characters. It’s an upbeat, breezy song and the video brings you in and makes it even more memorable. It won the 2000 Grammy for Best Music Video and scored three VMA nominations.
38. Wicked Game — Chris Isaak
For this day at least, Chris Isaak’s job did not suck. Directed by Herb Ritts, the video features Isaak and naked supermodel Helena Christensen rolling around the beach together. Widely regarded as the sexiest video of all time, it won three VMAs in 1991, including Best Male Video and was nominated for Video of the Year.
37. Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) — Beyoncé
As the selections on this list prove, sometimes a simple concept is the best route to an iconic video. That’s exactly what happened here as Beyoncé teamed up with two dancers to create something fantastic. Consequently, it was the cheapest and quickest to produce of all the videos in her career. The video scored nine nominations at the 2009 VMAs and took home three wins, including Video of the Year.
36. Bad Romance — Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga may not be for everyone, but this video/song combination is so memorable it has to make the list. Director Francis Lawrence — who helmed three of the Hunger Games movies and 2018’s Red Sparrow — is an excellent filmmaker who put together a really unique, creepy, sterile look for this video. The song is catchy and the video draws the viewer in deeper. It was rewarded with seven VMAs in 2010, including Video of the Year and a Best Direction statue for Lawrence.
35. Black Hole Sun — Soundgarden
Weird? Check. Memorable? Check. Different? Hell yes. “Black Hole Sun” dominated MTV’s airwaves in 1994, despite the song not being close to the best track on Soundgarden’s phenomenal fifth album, Superunknown. That’s all thanks to Howard Greenhalgh’s creepy-as-hell, surrealist video that asks the question, “What would happen if the entire decade of the 1950s went on a bad acid trip?”
34. California Love — 2Pac
Directed by Hype Williams and inspired by Max Max Beyond Thunderdome, 2Pac’s best video is a truly epic journey. Overlooked at the time thanks to a glut of overrated videos released in 1996 and 1997, this timeless song got the awesome, memorable video it deserved. Chris Tucker’s cameo works, as do the costumes and the overall theme.
33. Blurred Lines — Robin Thicke
Get models naked (or lightly clothed, in the censored version) and have them run around during a catchy song. It’s not exactly a high-minded concept, but director Diane Martel knew what she was doing because damn does it work.
Robin Thicke’s song dominated 2013, as T.I. and Pharrell joined him and the models to create something truly memorable. If you claim you didn’t watch this video repeatedly in 2013, you’re lying.
32. Right Now — Van Halen
Sammy Hagar hated the concept for the video when it was proposed to him. That should tell you all you need to know. A phenomenal video that accompanies one of Van Halen’s most underrated songs (from the band’s most complete album), it definitely connects.
It’s the best video Van Halen ever did, and that was reflected by winning three VMAs in 1992, including Video of the Year. Hagar has since said he was wrong, and called the video “brilliant.”
31. Closer — Nine Inch Nails
What looks like the set of a bad horror movie is used to emphasize the song’s main themes of isolation, obsession, self-hatred and untethered rage.
Underappreciated at the time, “Closer” earned just one VMA nomination and no wins in 1994. It has since become one of the most recognizable videos of the 90s.
30. Bad Blood — Taylor Swift
This was a simple concept but a complex video. Taylor Swift gathered together a legion of singers, actresses and models and as the video progresses then they train as spies to fight it out with another group.
A solid pop song is elevated to a much higher level by the revenge plot we see playing out. Oh, and Kendrick Lamar showed up (he will again shortly). “Bad Blood” was nominated for eight VMAs in 2015 and took home Video of the Year.
29. Humble — Kendrick Lamar
With a gorgeously-shot video deeply-laced with symbolism, director Dave Meyers elevated a decent Kendrick Lamar song to new heights. No one in this video, not even Lamar himself, is “humble” but that draws our attention even closer to the lyrics to figure out just what he’s talking about. The video is steeped in irony and is beautifully shot. It was nominated for eight VMAs and took home six, including Video of the Year. It was the third time Meyers has had a video win the award.
28. Here It Goes Again — OK Go
OK Go is now known almost exclusively for its complex single-take videos (which are still amazing). But that all kicked off on July 31, 2006, when the group posted this video to YouTube. The then-Chicago-based rock band became a viral sensation immediately thanks to this video. It took 17 attempts to get this one just right. This video even won a Grammy for Best Music Video in 2007.
27. Like a Prayer — Madonna
Racism, religion and sexual ecstasy collide in one of the best videos of the 1980s. A controversial video that prompted boycotts and was protested by the Vatican due to “blasphemous use of Christian imagery,” it truly was the perfect Madonna video. She falls in love with a black man, who also turns out to be a Christ figure played by Leon Robinson (who later starred in Cool Runnings). But this is truly a great song and the video, directed by Mary Lambert, was even better.
It was nominated for Video of the Year in 1989, but failed to win, likely because of the controversy surrounding it, though it did win the coveted Viewer’s Choice award.
26. Tonight, Tonight — Smashing Pumpkins
This video truly fit the entire style of Smashing Pumpkins’ third album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
Inspired by George Méliès’ silent film A Trip to the Moon, this video was a powerhouse. An excellent song received the kind of next-level video it deserved when directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris were allowed to unleash their vision on MTV’s audience. Using old-style special effects, the cinematic quality drove people deeper into the song and created a truly magical experience. It won six VMAs in 1996 including Video of the Year, Breakthrough Video and Best Direction in a Video.
25. Virtual Insanity — Jamiroquai
Jay Kay and Jamiroquai are that rare one-hit wonder that produced an absolutely stellar, memorable video. This single-shot performance is one of the best ever, and there’s a really cool story for how they pulled it off. It was all worth it, as the video earned 10 VMA nominations in 1997, and took home four, including Video of the Year.
24. Hurt — Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash was 71 years old when he and Mark Romanek teamed up for this beautiful, poignant composition. Cash was battling serious health problems and his frailty was laid bare for all to see and set against video of him as a younger man. The decay of life we all face is the theme here and has never been more clearly expressed.
The emotion and sadness of Cash’s regret and loss fit with his voice and the powerful lyrics of this Nine Inch Nails cover. Hearing and seeing Cash sing, “Everyone I know goes away in the end,” is such a gut-punch of a line. Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, participated in the video, but passed away three months after filming. Johnny himself died four months after her. This video was the last bit of greatness he left us.
“Hurt” was nominated for six VMAs in 2003, though it failed to win. Justin Timberlake, who won Best Male Video for “Cry Me a River” said in his acceptance speech that Cash should have won. There was justice in the end, as the video won Best Short Form Music Video at the 2004 Grammys.
23. Nothing Compares 2 You — Sinéad O’Connor
Originally written by Prince, Sinéad O'Connor made this song famous with an arresting, unforgettable video. It largely focuses just on O’Connor’s face as she goes through the stages of sadness and anger associated with loss. And those emotions — and the tears at the end — were real. O’Connor channeled the death of her mother into the performance and absolutely nailed it.
“Nothing Compares 2 You” won three VMAs in 1990, including Video of the Year.
22. Cry Me A River — Justin Timberlake
Regardless of what Justin Timberlake may say, this video was squarely aimed at Britney Spears following their much publicized breakup in 2002. In it, Timberlake stalks a suspiciously Britney-looking blonde, then breaks into her house and films himself having sex with another woman, leaving the recording for his ex to find.
Setting aside how endlessly creepy the premise is, this is a fantastic video that complemented one of the best breakup songs ever.
It’s the best video Timberlake has ever done, and he has director Francis Lawrence to thank. It won Best Male Video and Best Pop Video at the 2003 VMAs and scored three more nominations, including Video of the Year.
21. Stan — Eminem
Stan is the portrait of an obsessed, mentally-unhinged fan who can’t deal with reality. The video features Devon Sawa as Stan and Dido as his pregnant girlfriend. Their performances are outstanding and bring the lyrics to life.
Easily Eminem’s most critically acclaimed song and video, it didn’t win any VMAs in 2001 despite four nominations. A huge oversight by the show, though it was an insane year for videos.
20. Work It — Missy Elliott
Dave Meyers directed this gem, that featured cameos from Timbaland, Eve and Halle Berry, while it also marked the debut of Alyson Stoner as Elliott’s young lead dancer.
The Video of the Year at the 2003 VMAs, there’s so much that’s memorable about this one, including Missy Elliott just owning the camera the entire time. An insanely catchy tune got a mesmerizing video with great dancing, cool visuals and memorable cameos. You can’t do much better than that.
19. Walk This Way — RUN-D.M.C.
It’s hard to explain to people just how groundbreaking this song and video were. Aerosmith, one of the world’s most popular rock bands and RUN-D.M.C., one of the world’s most popular hip-hop groups combined forces, to create something special and cross some barriers.
The video starts with a literal wall between the two, as the two groups feud. The battle between rock and hip-hop was real in 1986, and many fans felt they had to be loyal to one or the other. After some feuding, the wall gets literally and figuratively broken down and the groups earn each other’s respect through performance and wind up playing together.
Again, it’s obvious what’s going on in the video and not particularly clever, but at the time it was huge. The message is that artists are artists, and music is music, no matter what the form. The performers show immense respect for one another and broke down the barriers that separated their mediums. This made it OK for the average listener to like and appreciate both types of music.
18. Hey Ya! — OutKast
The 2004 Video of the Year winner mimics The Beatles’ debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, but it sets the action in London. Andre 3000 plays all eight members of fictional band The Love Below, while Ryan Phillippe portrays a Sullivan-like character introducing the band.
Director Bryan Barber and OutKast really hit a home run here. Aside from giving an insanely catchy tune a fun premise, the video enhances the song’s energy and makes it even more memorable. I truly can’t believe this video is 15 years old. It has aged remarkably well.
17. Praise You — Fatboy Slim
One of several Spike Jonze-directed videos on this list, Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You” has a great concept and flawless execution. Shot guerrilla-style featuring Jonze as the leader of the fake Torrance Community Dance Group, it was essentially a precursor to Jackass in music video form.
The video cost just $800 to produce and won three VMAs in 1999 along with gaining immortality for how hilarious it was.
16. Cryin’ — Aerosmith
This was the first video of Aerosmith’s trilogy featuring Alicia Silverstone and became an enormous hit. Silverstone plays a teenager who breaks up with her boyfriend (played by Stephen Dorff) when she catches him cheating. She goes through a period of rebellion afterwards and becomes self-sufficient. She even beats up a purse-snatcher, played by future Lost star Josh Holloway.
The video won three VMAs in 1994, including Video of the Year. The impending trilogy of videos led to Silverstone’s casting in the 90s classic Clueless, and many credit the scene where she gets her belly button pierced as helping take the practice mainstream.
15. Sabotage — Beastie Boys
Another Spike Jonze-joint, “Sabotage” is the best video the Beastie Boys ever produced. They play cops as the video parodies 1970s police procedurals like S.W.A.T. and Starsky and Hutch. The concept and execution took a decent track off the stellar Ill Communicationand lifted it to immortality.
The video lost all five categories it was nominated in at the 1994 VMAs.
14. This Too Shall Pass — OK Go
If your whole video is centered on a Rube Goldberg machine, you’re going to get high marks from me. This perfectly executed video took OK Go’s one-take performances to another level. It took a month and a half to build the machine and the video was filmed over two days an an estimated 60 takes. The machine worked correctly all the way through just three times.
The end result is a fun, funny video, where an endlessly complicated machine fulfills its purpose…of shooting the band’s members in the face with paint. Yep, that’s it.
13. Gangnam Style — Psy
I can only understand about five words in this entire video, but it’s arguably the most memorable ever produced. Psy and director Cho Soo-hyun shot this video in 48 hours in 2012 and skewered a culture I know nothing about with the help of celebrities I couldn’t pick out of a lineup with a gun to my head. Somehow, it all works.
Psy relentlessly mocks himself and the “Gangnam” image while dancing around to a super catchy beat. There’s just nothing to hate about this video other than possibly oversaturation. At last count it’s been viewed more than 3.4 billion times on YouTube.
As K-Pop has become mainstream in America, it can thank Psy and this video for helping pave the way.
12. Buddy Holly — Weezer
Spike Jonze strikes again, with an outstanding concept. Combining Weezer’s catchy “Buddy Holly” with a scene from Happy Days was simply brilliant. The song fits perfectly, as does the band’s look. The fact that he got Al Molinaro to actually be in the video just elevated it further.
It took home four VMAs in 1995 including Best Direction, Best Editing and Breakthrough video, but lost out to TLC’s “Waterfalls” for Video of the Year in a gross miscarriage of justice.
11. Jeremy — Pearl Jam
The third single from Pearl Jam’s groundbreaking debut album Ten, “Jeremy” is a sobering look at the life of a disaffected teenager. The band’s record label, Epic, initially refused to fund the project because it didn’t think the song was worth promoting as a single. In time the label relented, and the resulting video brought on massive controversy.
“Jeremy” features a bullied boy who drifts into depression before shooting himself in front of his classmates. Complete with biblical references and outside descriptions of the character, this video is arresting. Jeremy is the only character who moves, everyone else remains still, bringing us closer to him as the most human character of the bunch. The strobe lighting and quick cuts create a truly haunting effect. It truly is a visual masterpiece accompanying a powerful song.
The video won four VMAs in 1993, including Video of the Year and helped elevate Pearl Jam above from the rest of the Seattle “grunge” bands to something much more.
10. Basket Case — Green Day
“Basket Case” is a fantastic song and was truly the single that took Green Day into the stratosphere. Arguably the most recognizable of the band’s laundry list of hits, the accompanying video helped distinguish it, as director Mark Kohr executed on a perfect premise. Given the song’s lyrics, going with an homage to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as the video was an excellent idea.
Aside from tons of crazy imagery to add to the mental hospital feel, Kohr also shot the video in black and white, then had bassist Mike Dirnt add the color, which creates a more uncomfortable, jarring look. This is a case where a truly great song matched with a killer premise and both were elevated as a result.
The video was nominated for nine VMAs in 1995 but somehow didn’t win any.
9. Take On Me — A-Ha
As I’ve always said, if you’re a Norwegian synthpop band and you’re going to be a one-hit wonder, do it with a great video. A-Ha took that advice in 1985, creating one of the most memorable videos of all-time.
Combining pencil-sketch animation and live-action, director Steve Barron produced a classic. It’s a great 80s song, but the video truly took it to another level. It won six VMAs in 1986, but somehow lost out on Video of the Year. While it hasn’t aged incredibly well, it’s still a great video and was groundbreaking at the time.
8. Everybody Hurts — REM
“Losing My Religion” and “Imitation of Life” are both on this list, but “Everybody Hurts” is REM’s best video. If you’re not absolutely gutted every time you watch it, you have no soul. Directed by Ridley Scott’s son, Jake, the video pays homage to Fellini’s 8 1/2.
It won four VMAs in 1994 but lost out on Video of the Year and Best Group Video to “Cryin'” by Aerosmith. It did take home the coveted Breakthrough Video, along with a Best Direction in a Video nod for Scott.
7. This is America — Childish Gambino
Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) is brilliant in everything he does, and it’s possible “This is America” is the greatest piece of art he’s created yet. The song and video pair to create something incredibly powerful. The video, directed by Hiro Murai, has been analyzed endlessly in numerous think pieces and wound up as one of the most hyped video releases in the last 15 years when it dropped in 2018.
Murai and Glover combined create a hard-hitting, visceral video in which gun violence, racism and police brutality are set against America’s propensity for being distracted by flashy things and pop culture phenomena. At the center of it all is Glover, whose mesmerizing performance makes it hard to focus on the awful violence and confusion happening in the background. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
“This is America” won Best Music Video at the 2019 Grammy Awards and was nominated for seven Video Music Awards, winning three. It somehow lost out on Video of the Year.
6. Weapon of Choice — Fatboy Slim
Hey look, a Spike Jonze video! Jonze’s magnum opus involves a run-of-the-mill Fatboy Slim song and a 57-year-old Christopher Walkendancing and flying around a hotel. The video is way better than it sounds.
Walken is a trained dancer (including tap), and he put those skills on display as he freestyle dances through an empty hotel lobby. While Jonze deserves credit for shooting this perfectly, the video owes everything to Walken’s insanely charismatic performance. It’s something that can be watched on repeat solely because of how amazing the Oscar winner is.
This won six VMAs in 2001 and the Grammy for Best Music Video in 2002. It’s one of the greatest ever made but somehow fell short in the Video of the Year category.
5. Freedom! ’90 — George Michael
It’s easy to forget but in the late 80s, Michael Jackson and George Michael were locked in a battle to be the world’s top pop star. When 1990 rolled around, Michael was disillusioned with fame, so he hired David Fincher and had a radical idea for a video.
Michael didn’t want to appear on camera, something unheard of at the time. Instead, he and Fincher hired the world’s five most famous supermodels and a few male models to sing the song. The result is one of the most iconic videos ever made, and while the concept of “attractive women in a video” may seem simple, there’s a sly humor here too.
Michael’s major criticism of MTV was that it had pushed music to be far too looks-centric. So he put a ton of attractive models in a video instead of himself, and it wound up in heavy rotation. Clearly the artist’s talent didn’t matter anymore, how the video looked did.
Fincher did great work in this video too, as Michael was trying to move beyond his image from the wildly-popular “Faith” video. To help that transition, Fincher destroyed the recognizable images from that video, as the jukebox and guitar explode, while Michael’s signature leather jacket goes up in flames.
There’s a lot going in this video, but you probably just remember the models. Which was Michael’s entire criticism of the culture of MTV.
4. Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
This video cost less than $50,000 to produce and will live on forever. Despite a low-budget and a basic concept, this was the video of the early 90s. Directed by first-timer Samuel Bayer, the concept of a school devolving into a riot was inspired by the Ramones’ Rock ‘n’ Roll High School. While the feel was decidedly punk, there was something different about Nirvana and this song. It punched you in the face, but somehow you liked it. It was such a hit for precisely that reason.
Kurt Cobain’s melodic, intense screeching found a home in this video, it meshed perfectly. But mostly, this video set the tone for the next decade. It was the “grunge” movement in video form. A bit dark, a little dirty, harsh, and unfiltered. That was the next generation of rock. The angst-filled vision that poured forth from your screen and told you things were going to be different from now on.
Nirvana was the anti-80s band, and this video was an in-your-face introduction to their world.
Also, a fun side note on this video (which was nominated for three VMAs in 1992, winning two): the extras were kept all day at a sound stage in Culver City, forced to listen to repeated takes of the song for the video. At the end, Bayer allowed them to mosh around the set as the climax of the video, and what he filmed wasn’t faked. They were so frustrated they destroyed the set. Which was a perfect way for the birth of the Nirvana era of rock to start.
3. Sledgehammer — Peter Gabriel
The best use of stop-motion animation in a video goes to…Peter Gabriel for this classic. To film the video, Gabriel was forced to lay down under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while the video was filmed one frame at a time. The man sacrificed for his art and created one of the greatest videos of all-time.
A great song with a soulful feel, it’s not just your typical 80s pop track. There’s some real depth to it, which is why it rocketed up the charts even without the video and was nominated for three Grammys. But, let’s face it, the video is why we all remember this song.
“Sledgehammer” was nominated for 10 VMAs in 1987 and won a record nine of them, including Video of the Year.
2. November Rain — Guns N’ Roses
In 1992, Guns N' Roses was the biggest band on the planet, and that’s why they got a $1 million budget for the best video they ever made. Axl Rose’s nine-minute ballad had been a kernel in his mind for nearly a decade when it was finally released on Use Your Illusion I. Given the epic nature of the song, an epic video was needed to match.
From the wedding scenes with Rose’s then-girlfriend Stephanie Seymour, to the performance shots, to Slash wailing away in front of a church in New Mexico, everything about this video is expansive. It’s powerful, evocative and truly in keeping with arguably the band’s most complete, accomplished song. Yes, others are great, but “November Rain” is truly a special composition that took the band beyond the bounds of just a hard rock group.
Somehow, this video was only nominated for two VMAs in 1992, and won just one, for cinematography. It could be that people were just fed up with Rose and his bandmates at that point, but that was the biggest snub in the history of the awards show.
1. Thriller — Michael Jackson
I know the world’s current feelings about Michael Jackson will make this selection controversial, but it’s important to remember artists aren’t the only ones who work on videos. The dozens of other people who worked on “Thriller” deserve recognition for creating the greatest video of all-time.
Yes, “Thriller” is the greatest music video of all-time and everything else is just trying to stay on the same page. This production set the stage for music videos to become a true art form. Director John Landis and Jackson modeled the video off of An American Werewolfin London. Landis decided to accept the opportunity despite the fact that film directors didn’t direct music videos at the time. That would soon change thanks to this gem.
Filmed in October of 1983 in and around Los Angeles, the nearly 14-minute video is more of a short movie than a music video. With a number of horror movie homages, Landis nailed this. From the pervasive creepy Halloween feel to the dance sequence, everything is on point.
“Thriller” was nominated for six VMAs in 1984 and won three, but did not take home Video of the Year.