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The 50 Greatest Music Videos of All Time, Ranked

A.V. Club has taken on the task of ranking the best 50 music videos, from the first video ever played on MTV (Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles, featuring none other than soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer on keys) to Thriller, Sabotage, Addicted to Love, and Sledgehammer. You can watch the whole list via this playlist on YouTube.

I loved the video for Sledgehammer. I was 12 years old the summer it came out. We didn’t have cable TV then, but I’d turn on MTV anywhere I could, hoping for a glimpse of it. My dad used to take my sister and me on roadtrips all over the country and I vividly remember the rare times we got to stay in a motel (they had to have a swimming pool with a diving board), turning on MTV, and catching that Sledgehammer video a few times every hour. It was only years later, after becoming a Wallace and Gromit fan, that I learned that — of course! — Aardman had done the animation for Sledgehammer.

Discussion  29 comments


Always loved the Sledgehammer video! An old friend worked on it in some capacity (video editing, color grading, something). I always liked the video for Billy Joel's Pressure as well. It wasn't as artful, but it was fascinating in its own way. Today, Sledgehammer still looks great; Pressure's getting dated.

Tim CarmodyMOD

Generally pleased with the coverage here, but I'm surprised there's no Radiohead — the videos for Karma Police or No Surprises are iconic to me

Ben Gates

I have feelings about this list's methodology.

"Don’t think of this list as comprehensive as much as a thorough sampler, one that illustrates the wide range of music videos and their lasting impact on the culture over the last four decades."

This list is akin to the Academy giving an award to films that made an impact at the box office, and doesn't seem to rely on a grading rubric as much as it is a list of music videos the curator found impressive or culturally impactful (which is fine I guess?)

Its a good list, but I'd rather see a list of music videos that graded them based on more concrete metrics such as artistic or technical inventiveness, instead of 'I think these are important'.

Irwin Chen

I always loved the video for Paranoid Android:

Jennifer L Levering

My husband and I sometimes have "best video" nights where we take turns watching what we consider the greatest music videos of all time. Sledgehammer is always #1!

Aileen Gallagher

Wish the LL Cool J entry were "Mama Said Knock You Out" vs. "Going Back to Cali." It's a better song and the video is mesmerizing.

Aileen Gallagher
Henrik Karlstrøm

Great videos, but I see exactly one not by an American or British artist (Take On Me). Was hoping to see at least one Björk video, they're almost all great - Triumph of a Heart being perhaps my favourite. Or if cultural impact is the guiding criterium, what about the first billion view internet video, Gangnam Style?

Henrik Karlstrøm

Björk links (for Caroline)
Triumph of a Heart:
It's Oh So Quiet:
All Is Full Of Love:


The absence of the Jonathan Demme-directed spot for New Order's "The Perfect Kiss" is about as strange and unexplained as the shadowy figure looking in at Peter Hook near the end of the video.

Caroline G.


Wayne Bremser

not going to make anyone’s best list, but photographer Robert Frank’s video for “Run” is delightfully awkward

Dave Sandell

This is a fine list for nostalgia purposes, but YouTube has absolutely made music videos relevant again and so this list feels pretty incomplete. From culture-shifters like Beyoncé's "Formation" to personal favorites like the absolutely giddy "Turn Down for What" video (or any of the Daniels' videos for that matter.)

Dave Sandell
Caroline G.

Please, dear commenters, add a link to the videos you reference... I am interested in seeing them but am also too lazy to look them all up on youtube.

Matt M.

I learned that — of course! — Aardman had done the animation for Sledgehammer.

Not only Aardman, but also the Quay Brothers. What a team!

Robb Monn
Matt Jacobs

I would like to recommend two honorable mentions from my (our?) youth:

Robb Monn

my daughter and i used to have weekly music video time. some standouts include, in no particular order:

bat for lashes, what's a girl to do?

ok go, this too shall pass

ibid white knuckes

lcd soundsystem, drunk girls

royksopp, this tv performance of girl and the robot

dj format, we know something you dont know

beastie boys, 3 mcs and 1 dj

cat power, tv performance of colors and the kids

and of course the entire Gondry collection, which we watched on DVD over and over.

I look with sadness on my youtube playlist of our favorites and see literally 100 videos i can no longer watch, shut down for copyright reasons I guess.

my bloody valentine, to here knows when

lush, deluxe

avalanches, frontier psychiatrist

battles, ice cream

cassius, foxxy

cassius, sound of violence

kings of convience, misread

there are a lot more, this is probably enough.

oh wait. how could i forget the #1: beck, e-pro (shinola version)

Daniel Swartz

Too many great videos to consider 'The Best', but 'Video Killed the Radio Star' is burned in my brain as the first video ever showed, back when MTV was on for only 6 hours a day in San Jose, CA (I forget the cable provider). I wish they would have shown older videos, as one could argue The Beatles gave birth to the music video concept. But I never recalled seeing those at the time or ever.

Daniel Swartz

Others from that time that really stand out:
- Cyndi Lauper (Girls Just Want to Have Fun)
- Anything by Van Halen from the Roth era.
- Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel
- Billy Idol (Eyes Without A Face)
- Everything by The Pretenders
- 'One Step Beyond' by Madness was always fun when it came on.

This list can be endless.

David Friedman

I guess I get why it’s not on the list, but Voices Carry has always been a memorable video for me.

Joseph Mastroeni

Just watched it again --- still so powerful

Joseph Mastroeni

Well ! All outstanding. I'll add:

-Yes (Owner of a Lonely Heart)
-I Ran (So Far Away) (A Flock of Seagulls)
-Sober (Tool)
-Lucas with the Lid Off (Lucas)
-Buffalo Stance (Neneh Cherry)
-This is America (Childish Gambino)

Bob Walicki

If, hypothetically, someone used a thing that scrapes classic-MTV-era videos from YouTube, and then, hypothetically, these are stored on a Media Server. One can have a ton of hypothetical fun shuffling these while pretending you're watching classic-era MTV. Or, so I've been told.

Jason KottkeMOD

"Daddy, can we stream some music videos on YouTube?"

"We have YouTube music videos at home..."

Matt F

I remember having my young, naive, simple midwestern mind blown away the first time seeing Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon.

Or seeing Courtney Cox for the first time in Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark.

Chuck B.

Well, they made a list, it's not easy. Any top 10 list I've made hasn't stayed the same for long or even held to 10. Nothing better than the music no matter how it's packaged, so.
Buzzcocks - What Do I Get?

This thread is closed for new comments & replies. Thanks to everyone for participating!