The 100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time
Music videos are, above all, used as a marketing device, and that’s why they’re not taken very seriously. However, not only they are a great medium where directors can play with symbolism and not be accused of pretentiousness, but they’re also the best place for creatives to experiment with the visual media. This visual genre has seen the emergence of groundbreaking directors such as Michel Gondry, Mark Romanek, Sophie Müller, David Fincher, Hype Williams, among others.
Avant-gardism has never been so present among the masses.
Rules and Disclaimers
This list doesn't weigh the quality of the songs or artists, but it takes into consideration if the music pairs with the visuals.
The order is relative and not very strict: the difference between #7 and #77 might be significant, but between #31 and #39 is non-existent.
No limits per artist or director, but a band or soloist might appear with just one video that represents their whole videography.
No clips taken from movies, e.g., Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, Beyoncé’s Formation, Daft Punk’s One More Time.
100. Electrolite - R.E.M.
directed by Peter Care & Spike Jonze
In which Spike Jonze and Peter Care assemble a music video from leftover ideas. None of these fun concepts would’ve worked for a full-length video—even though we’re dealing with three-minute-long short films here—and there’s hardly any cohesion between them, but they do help to achieve its random-for-the-sake-of-being-random spirit. Watch.
99. Shadrach - The Beastie Boys
directed by Adam Yauch
What could have been some boring footage of just any other of their concerts, thanks to the rotoscope technique, the Beastie Boys have created a video as stimulating as their music. Shadrach is a psychedelic and anarchic feast of images and colours. Watch.
98. Be Good or Be Gone - Fionn Regan
directed by Si & Ad
Be Good or Be Gone's video has a simple structure that shows us the importance of context: it is not the same listening to a song on the beach, in a casino, or with farm animals watching you from behind. You know how tough cows can be as a crowd. Watch.
97. Bastards of Young - The Replacements
directed by The Replacements
An anti-video or Duchamp’s urinal in the middle of the TV screen, Bastards of Young perfectly represents punk’s rebel spirit. Forced by their record company, The Replacements didn’t want to release any music video at all, so Bastards of Young is their declaration of principles. You don’t watch music, you jerks, you listen to it. Watch.
96. The Greeks - Is Tropical
directed by MEGAFORCE
I remember back then when we used to play as soldiers or cowboys or terrorists or drug dealers, but our parents were not very keen on these games because later they had to clean all the blood, take us to A&E and find a way to get rid of the bodies. Ah, the good ol’ days. Watch (NSFW).
95. The Rip - Portishead
directed by Nick Uff
Nick Uff, who actually works as a gardener, and has animated this video all by himself, has created a short film that predicts an overpopulated Apocalypse with no trees, no food, no way to escape, and definitely no hope. Uff’s lo-fi style makes the visuals way more creepier. Watch.
94. From the Sun - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
directed by Rick Alverson
Rick Alverson (The Comedian, The Mountain) doesn’t stop torturing his main characters—not even on music videos. In this short film inspired by Marina Abramović’s Rhythm 0, a man submits himself to a bunch of art-students for the love of art and, as a result, suffers all sorts of humiliations. The students might be cruel to the performer, but Alverson is also cruel to the actor/character. When they’re painting his nails, spitting at him or tying him to a chair, the director is also telling the actors to do so. Because nobody is innocent when it comes to art. Watch.
93. Close (to the Edit) - Art of Noise
directed by Zbigniew Rybczynski
Art of Noise's statement goes straight to the point: with the arrival of synthesisers and samplers, the hell with classical instruments! They smash pianos, break guitars and cut cellos into small pieces because this is the future now, a grim and desolated future. Watch.
92. I’m Afraid of Americans - David Bowie (Feat. Trent Reznor)
directed by Dom & Nic
David Bowie is an alien, a legal alien, a (paranoid) Englishman in New York, who’s also afraid of Americans, particularly Trent Reznor, and their obsession with guns. Eerily relevant for the current times. Watch.
91. Crystal Ball - Keane
DIRECTED BY Giuseppe Capotondi
In Crystal Ball, a real estate agent sees how his idyllic life is taken away by supernatural forces. The open ending and Giovanni Ribisi’s tragic performance make this short film one of the worst nightmares ever screened—and it was all shot in broad daylight. Watch.