20 Best Music Videos of All Time

NOTE: This is a repost of a Facebook Note I published in 2010. I was reminded of it when I started talking about my fave music video over on my other blog. It’s a bit of a cheat for my “one-post-a-month” quota, so I will likely add something more for March. I haven’t thought too much about how my opinions have changed since 2010. If I did this list again there’d be a few differences here and there but most of it would be similar.

Music videos aren’t usually thought of as art – which is a fair call for the most part. The majority are either cheesy, trashy, poorly produced, cliche-ridden, containing only one under developed idea – or all of the above. But with genius’s like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze making contributions, there are bound to be exceptions. So in the tradition of “Andrew’s Favourite Albums of All Time”, here comes my list of the most awesome music clips! Instead of writing essays on each entry I’m going to let the clip do most of the talking by putting in links, but like last time I’d love to hear your own opinions.

20. GOMEZ – WE HAVEN’T TURNED AROUND

Summary:

Guy runs around the city looking distressed. Is he trying to warn everyone of something? Why does he keep pointing to the sky?

What’s So Good About It?:

This is one of those clips where you spend the whole time wondering what on earth is going on. Naturally it’s all about the pay-off at the end, and I reckon it’s a pretty good one that suits this sombre tune to a tee.

Director:

Laurence Dunmore

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THI4U3OsDQY

See Also:

No suggestions … this is the only Gomez clip I’m familiar with.

19. JEFF BUCKLEY – SO REAL

Summary:

Jeff rides his bike around town before stopping at a cafe where he encounters some odd characters and some unexpected thieves. The rather odd and noisy bridge of the song is coupled with an equally odd break from the visual narrative, before we return to Jeff expressing his angst by stripping off.

What’s So Good About It?:

Despite the presence of some very comic elements, the overall feel of the clip is haunting (helped by the amazing song, of course).

Director:

Sophie Muller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcaxrqhUJ4c

See Also:

None of Jeff’s other videos are that great.

18. FLAMING LIPS – DO YOU REALIZE???

Summary:

After a short intro involving a bench, a pig and a frog, we see Wayne walking the beat (presumably somewhere in Vegas) with two rabbits and four girls dressed in white. Sprinkle in some shots of an elephant and people smiling, and you have one of the most surprisingly effective videos around.

What’s So Good About It?:

Besides being an amazing use of colour and stunning white, the video manages to make what some may feel is a depressing song into a heart-warming experience. Simple things, like a close up shot of someones face breaking into a smile, become moments of true beauty.

Director:

Mark Pellington or James Frost. There are two versions and I’m having trouble finding which is which.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPXWt2ESxVY

See Also:

You Gotta Hold On, Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, The Golden Path, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Turn It On, Be My Head

17. THE CURE – CLOSE TO ME

Summary:

The band play the song on mini-instruments while crammed inside a wardrobe perched on a seaside cliff.

What’s So Good About It?:

It’s a fine example of a simple but great idea executed to near perfection. Just the right mix of fun, weirdness, and gloom that the song called for.

Director:

Tim Pope

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjvfIJstWeg

See Also:

Let’s Go To Bed, Boys Don’t Cry, Love Cats, Why Can’t I Be You?, Lullaby, Friday I’m In Love

16. AIR – ALL I NEED

Summary:

The clip follows a young real life couple in typical suburbia.

What’s So Good About It?:

Perhaps it’s a bit sappy, but something about this clip breaks through my coal black heart and brings one word to mind … Awwwwwwwww

Director:

Mike Mills

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw8i28bNoYY

See Also:

Kelly Watch the Stars, Don’t Be Light

15. BJORK – IT’S OH SO QUIET

Summary:

Bjork walks through a dull tyre shop before the whole city bursts into a singing, dancing musical spectacular!

What’s So Good About It?:

It’s a blast to watch. The juxtaposition between the quiet verses and the bombastic choruses is amplified by the brilliant visuals.

Director:

Spike Jonze

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htobTBlCvUU

See Also:

Human Behaviour, Army of Me, Bachelorette, All is Full of Love, I’ve Seen It All, Triumph of a Heart

14. TOOL – SOBER

**At the time I actually chose the song Prison Sex (which the image is from) but I want to change my mind on this one**

Summary:

Not sure of the narrative, if there is one. But there’s lots of creepy stop-motion figures being creepy.

What’s So Good About It?:

It was hard to pick a favourite Tool clip as they’re all great, but kind of similar. I ended up choosing Sober because it doesn’t take as long to get to the point as some of their other videos.

Director:

Fred Stuhr

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hglVqACd1C8&

See Also:

Prison Sex, Stinkfist, Schism, Aenima, Parabola, Vicarious

13. MICHAEL JACKSON – THRILLER

Summary:

Everyone has seen this clip, though you may not have seen the full 14 minute version, which adds a werewolf story to the zombie theme.

What’s So Good About It?:

It’d be hard to find anyone who doesn’t like this one so I don’t really need to convince you. The drawcard is the brilliantly choreographed zombie dance near the end, but the rest adds up to easily the most ambitious and entertaining music video of it’s time.

Director:

John Landis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOnqjkJTMaA

See Also:

Billie Jean, Beat It, Black & White ... there are some other decent clips but they probably aren’t worth your time unless you’re a fairly big MJ fan.

12. UNKLE (FEAT. THOM YORKE) – RABBIT IN YOUR HEADLIGHTS

Summary:

Guy talks to himself and acts crazy as he walks through a busy tunnel, in serious danger of being hit by the traffic.

What’s So Good About It?:

Despite the camera never leaving the man in the tunnel, the video keeps you intrigued until you’re left with a final shot that is unexpected, disturbing and strangely beautiful.

Director:

Jonathan Glazer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNWFHpPu1qs

See Also:

Burn My Shadow, Heaven

11. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – GO WITH THE FLOW

Summary:

The band (in a semi-animated state) play on the back of a pick-up truck racing down the open highway. But there’s another truck on the road hell-bent on causing chaos, and when the two meet there will be spectacular consequences.

What’s So Good About It?:

Fast cars, desert landscapes, loud music, and a healthy dose of sleaze. Sounds like quintessential Queens. The black/red/white look of the clip is very cool, but the colourful explosion towards the end is brilliant.

Director:

Shynola (a collective)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcHKOC64KnE

See Also:

Feel Good Hit of the Summer, No One Knows, Burn the Witch

10. KORN – FREAK ON A LEASH

Summary:

All the kids in town sneak off at night to play hopscotch (for some unknown reason). A security guard goes off to investigate but drops his gun, and a bullet flies off toward a young girl. From there, the video follows the bullet as it causes havoc in various places.

What’s So Good About It?:

Not many people will admit to liking Korn or the whole nu-metal thing these days. But I gotta say, I always liked this video. It’s creative, a little creepy, and you can tell the band had a bit of cash to spend at this point – because it looks awesome.

Director:

Jonathan Dayton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRGrNDV2mKc&

See Also:

Got the Life

9. APHEX TWIN – COME TO DADDY

Summary:

More freaky kids – but this time there’s something very wrong with them. In the clip they join forces with some kind of Aphex Twin/Satan hybrid to terrorise a granny and a few other civilians.

What’s So Good About It?:

It’s the surely the most genuinely frightening clip ever made. The song is a bit rubbish – but it does kind of suit the visuals.

Director:

Chris Cunningham

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWDAtMPoBHA

See Also:

Windowlicker, Donkey Rhubarb

8. SUPERGRASS – PUMPIN’ ON YOUR STEREO

Summary:

Supergrass as giant muppets!

What’s So Good About It?:

The sight of their heads attached to 10-foot colourful puppets is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face. And yes, it does stay entertaining for the whole 3 and a half minutes.

Director:

Garth Jennings

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQbVyWED6Ac&

See Also:

Alright

7. RADIOHEAD – JUST

Summary:

Man inexplicably decides to lay down on a city footpath. A bunch of people try to figure out why, while the band play in an apartment, watching the scene from above.

What’s So Good About It?:

Another difficult decision but I once again went for the “simple idea with wonderful execution”. There’s another very memorable closing shot, too.

Director:

Jamie Thraves

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIFLtNYI3Ls&

See Also:

Street Spirit, Paranoid Android, Karma Police, No Surprises, Knives Out

6. SMASHING PUMPKINS – TONIGHT, TONIGHT

Summary:

A couple set off on a trip to somewhere in space, but figure the moon looks pretty cool so they jump ship and land there. Apparently no one followed them because the moon is full of aggressive, pointy headed aliens.

What’s So Good About It?:

Choosing a favourite Pumpkins clip was the hardest decision of this list. ‘Today’ and ‘1979’ are both classics, but for sheer spectacle you just can’t beat ‘Tonight Tonight’.

Director:

Jonathan Dayton

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOG3eus4ZSo

See Also:

Today, 1979, Disarm, Rocket, Bullet with Butterfly Wings, Thirty Three, Ava Adore

5. FATBOY SLIM – RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW

Summary:

Evolution in all it’s glory, from single celled animals to a fat guy – with a dancing monkey man somewhere in between.

What’s So Good About It?:

It looks amazing. The right mix of big dollar effects and homemade rough-around-the-edges style.

Director:

Garth Jennings

See Also:

Praise You, Weapon of Choice

4. BLUR – COFFEE & TV

Summary:

A walking milk carton sets out into the city to find the missing member of a family, but soon finds the city can be a big scary place.

What’s So Good About It?:

That milk carton is so damn cute. His mis-adventures induce a big fat grin for me everytime, but there’s a slight melancholy and darkness to the whole thing, which suits the song perfectly.

Director:

Garth Jennings

See Also:

Song 2

3. WEEZER – BUDDY HOLLY

Summary:

Weezer as the feature-band on ‘Happy Days’ – even though the show was recorded 20 years before the song was released.

What’s So Good About It?:

Every effort has been taken to make it look like a a scene from a missing episode of ‘Happy Days’. The way they’ve made it appear like the band are interacting with characters like the Fonz is brilliant.

Director:

Spike Jonze

See Also:

Undone (The Sweater Song), El Scorcho, Hash Pipe, Island in the Sun (Spike Jonze version), Keep Fishin’, Pork and Beans

2. FOO FIGHTERS – EVERLONG

Summary:

A couple lay in bed, and dream of being attacked by the same two creepy guys. The husband (Grohl) defeats them in his dream, but in the real world he receives a phone call for help from within the woman’s dream.

What’s So Good About It?:

13 years before ‘Inception’ made the concept of dream-sharing cool, Michel Gondry made this genius clip. It’s comedic, but also very clever, and just surreal enough to be properly dream-like. It also features the best reveal of a hidden drum-kit ever.

Director:

Michel Gondry

See Also:

Learn to Fly, Big Me, My Hero, Next Year, Low, Long Road to Ruin

1. PEARL JAM – DO THE EVOLUTION

Summary:

Harpooned whales, suicidal businessmen, nuclear blasts, mind-controlling computers … basically every thing you can think of that’s f#*ked up is in there somewhere. The clip acts as a stylised map of where the human race has come from and where we’re going, but with almost every bit of optimism erased.

What’s So Good About It?

:If the apocalypse was distilled into 4 minutes it would look something like this. More than a little disturbing, but strangely exhilarating.

Director:

Todd McFarlane & Kevin Altieri

See Also:

Jeremy

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9 Responses to 20 Best Music Videos of All Time

  1. stephen1001 says:

    Nice list, especially Buddy Holly in the top 5 – Twisted Sister would also be up there for me!

  2. This is a genuinely terrific playlist in its own right. Props to the Air shoutout, Moon Safari is an excellent album! 🙂

  3. Deep Ruts says:

    Great list! Inspired me to and give Freak on a Leash another watch.

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