The ten best music videos span across a variety of musical genres as well as several decades. These artists have proven that a music video is more than just a promotional outlet, it is truly an art form.
About the Rankings
Top 10 Videos
#1 Thriller by Michael Jackson (1983)
Just about any list you care to check has Michael Jackson's classic music video Thriller in the number one spot. Rolling Stone has it as the best of all time, as does MTV. Billboard, where it got a monstrous 65 percent of the vote, named it the number one music video of the 80s. It's 14 minutes long, sold 9 million copies on DVD, and was produced by John Landis, the director of American Werewolf in London. 30 years after its debut, it never ceases to amaze and amuse.
#2 Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana (1991)
One of the best songs of the 90s also produced one of the best music videos of the decade. Over the years Nirvana's signature video has, from time to time, even bumped Thriller out of the top all-time spot. In fact, Smells Like Teen Spirit is the only music video that has done so consistently, though never permanently. Ranked number three of all time by both MTV and Rolling Stone, Kurt Cobain's tribute to a high school pep rally gone awry is Nirvana at its best.
#3 Vogue by Madonna (1990)
MTV ranked Vogue ahead of Smells Like Teen Spirit at number two, while Billboard ranked it third. Madonna knows how to make a riveting music video and this is one excellent example. It's a classic in every sense of the word. With a black-and-white overlay straight out of 1940s Hollywood, an incredible dance routine and irresistible music, this one stands the test of time.
#4 Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel (1986)
Billboard says Sledgehammer is the sixth best music video of the 1980's. MTV ranks it number four of all time and Rolling Stone has it all the way up at number two. This stop-motion animation and Claymation gem helped make Peter Gabriel's 1986 video the winner of several awards including an MTV Video Award and an American Music Award. Moreover, if dancing raw chickens won't get you a prize, what will?
#5 Take On Me by A-Ha (1986)
Take On Me made it to number four on Rolling Stone's all time list. Not bad for a Norwegian band whose single accomplishment seems to be jumping from comics to real life. Yes, it looks a little dated now, but it was a breakthrough in its day and a big part of the reason the band won 7 MTV VMA awards in 1986 including Best New Artist and Viewer's Choice. Besides, you can't possibly watch this video without singing along.
#6 Baby One More Time by Britney Spears (1998)
Billboard alone, of the top three, rated Baby One More Time by Britney Spears the number one video of the 1990s. Millions of fans adored the teenaged superstar as she danced and sang this pop classic. The fact that she was dressed in a racy schoolgirl uniform along with a host of attractive young backup dancers likely contributed to the video's popularity.
#7 Walk This Way by Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith (1986)
This music video was historic in the sense that it laid the groundwork for the heavy metal-rap fusion that became a signature of rock music in the late 90s. Run-D.M.C.s decision to cover Walk This Way was inspired. Their decision to invite Aerosmith to guest on the recording turned out to be pure genius. MTV selected this historic hybrid as its fifth favorite all-time hit. Billboard crowned it number eight for the 1980s.
#8 Bad Romance by Lady Gaga (2009)
One of only two entries from the post-MTV music video era, this Lady Gaga 2010 Video of the Year winner, like Thriller, is almost epic in scope. With direction by Francis Lawrence and a plot that rivals some of the best Hollywood has to offer, Bad Romance features Gaga as an android queen who struts around a Balkan bath house, asserting herself in a way that easily justifies Billboard's rating of best video for the 2000's and Time magazine's designation as one of the 30 best music videos ever.
#9 Hurt by Johnny Cash Hurt (2002)
Director Mark Romanek served up what many describe as the most fitting audiovisual epitaph of the Man in Black of all time, with this cover of a Nine Inch Nails signature song. Perhaps that why the video won the MTV best cinematography award in 2003. Anyone remotely familiar with Cash's long, storied, and tortured career cannot but weep at those opening words: "I hurt myself today to see if I still feel." In July 2011, Hurt was named one of Time magazine's 30 best music videos ever, and the greatest music video of all time by NME.
#10 Just by Radiohead (1995)
Ranked second best music video of all-time by NME this video features one of the strangest mysteries within a mystery ever set to music. Just, directed by Jamie Thraves, opens with a short musical intro followed by a man bathing and getting ready for his day. While walking down the street, suddenly he lies down on the pavement. He isn't dead, just motionless. Passersby want to know why he is there but he refuses to say. In case you wondered, he does reveal the reason for lying down at the end of the video. But, unless you're an expert lip reader, it will remain a mystery. Iconic Radiohead at its best.
Memorable Music Videos
Artists and record labels employ a number of different strategies to create memorable music videos, from elaborate choreography to stunning special effects. The best videos are those that stick in your memory and play out like mini movies, making the videos synonymous with the songs themselves.