Top 20 Music Videos of the Century So Far
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 20 music videos of the Century So Far.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the biggest, best, and most memorable music shorts on this side of the millenium.
Did we miss one of your favorite videos? Let us know in the comments below.
#20: “Work It” (2002)
Missy Elliott and Timbaland were the premier songwriting partnership of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Their countless hits span a revolutionary time for the world and popular music. This video encapsulates early 2000s culture in a nutshell, from early cell phones to baggy clothes. The short also makes brilliant use of a rewinding effect. Missy and her backup dancers move forward and backwards as the inventive chorus plays out. To top it all off, the crews’ use of live bees make this video stand out even more. Missy’s energy and creativity comes through in every frame of this accompaniment to her classic song.
#19: “Blinding Lights” (2020)
From his 2013 debut to his Super Bowl performance, the Weeknd took the world by storm with his own mixture of pop and R&B. In the video for his mega hit "Blinding Lights," the Weeknd takes a high octane trip through the city streets at night. He journeys through nighttime Las Vegas and Los Angeles and drives right into a trippy nightmare. After losing it in a nightclub, the Weeknd gets banged up, runs onto the streets and dances his way through a tunnel. With visuals that weave between fantasy and reality, the “Blinding Lights” video is a 1980s throwback and modern epic. Beautifully photographed from start to finish, this ambitious work highlights the Weeknd's endless talents and boundless imagination.
#18: “Radioactive” (2012)
As Imagine Dragons were conquering the world, they released a memorably strange and hilarious video for one of their biggest singles. The band find themselves caged up by a nefarious group that forces puppets to fight. Determined to free the band and the puppets, Alexandra Daddario and her teddy bear decide to shut down the illegal operation. The stuffed animal eventually unleashes its powers against ringleader Lou Diamond Phillips. These puppets make what could’ve been a fairly standard product extremely engaging. Overall, "Radioactive" functions as an enjoyable showcase of the band’s sense of humor and experimentation.
#17: “Alright” (2015)
Kendrick Lamar is one of those elite artists that effortlessly blends social issues into his songwriting in a compelling way. His emotionally charged and brilliantly written hit “Alright” definitely deserved a strong visual component. While there are joyful images of Kendrick flying above the road, these happy moments are contrasted with scenes of danger and police brutality. Lamar makes the audiences take an unflinching look at issues of systematic prejudice and injustice in America. And the choice to present the footage in black and white is both an artistic and visually stunning statement. By the end of this powerful video, a small smile from the artist gave us hope that things might be alright one day.
#16: “Uptown Funk” (2014)
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
Producer Mark Ronson set the world ablaze with a little help from hitmaker Bruno Mars when he released "Uptown Funk". In the video, the musicians don sunglasses and light up the city streets with nothing but their bright personalities. The video features slick costumes and even slicker dance moves. Packed with good vibes, "Uptown Funk" is a much needed dose of pure entertainment. Mars and company make their presence known with rhythmic swings that compel everyone to dance. Standing as one of the biggest hits of its time, “Uptown Funk” and its video served as an extremely rewatchable and fully-loaded salute to all things funk.
#15: “Runaway” (2010)
Kanye West feat. Pusha T
While some artists like to incorporate tons of huge setpieces in their videos, Kanye West took a more minimalist approach with the set for his “Runaway” video. It all begins with him playing a piano in a nondescript lot as ballet dancers run in from the background. While their moves mesmerize us, Kanye climbs atop his piano. The video also occasionally cuts over to a unique dinner party in the background. If you happen to be a fan of the video’s visuals, song and setup, there’s an extended version you can also check out. Whether you check out the full length cut or the video version, Kanye’s concept for the short was a great demonstration of his bold style.
#14: “Californication” (2000)
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The always funky Red Hot Chili Peppers entered the twenty-first century with a salute to video games. "Californication" mixes a variety of digital gaming influences with computer graphics that were cutting edge at the time. During the video, viewers follow each band member’s virtual avatar,as they move through different set pieces in wildly different terrains. Released on the cusp of another gaming revolution, this homage made it clear the band was still plugged into modern trends. While the Red Hot Chili Peppers continued to enjoy success after "Californication", this video marked a major milestone for their careers that coincided with big technological strides.
#13: “Feel Good Inc.” (2005)
Gorillaz feat. De La Soul
Masterminded by artist Jamie Hewlett and former Blur frontman Damon Albarn, Gorillaz is a multimedia band with an animated cast of musicians and guest stars. Seamlessly blending rock and hip hop, De La Soul accompanied the band for the era-defining mashup "Feel Good Inc." Gorillaz band members appear everywhere from a giant tower to floating hunk of land in the sky. The Miyakzaki inspired visuals make every frame breathtaking to look at. At the same time, the video also incorporates live-action elements to shake things up. The resulting combination is a stunning work of art that still looks incredible today. This unforgettable trip through the clouds is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.
#12: “Gangnam Style” (2012)
“Gangnam Style '' arguably signaled that K-pop was becoming a worldwide phenomenon. No one was prepared for Psy to break the internet with his song and dance moves alone. His upbeat video featured a bright color palette, lots of energetic gallops and wildly over the top scenes. It was a visual treat that also put Psy’s unique sense of humor on full display. “Gangnam Style” became such a sensation that it was the first video to get a billion views on YouTube. Since it was so popular, there was a time where tributes and parodies to it were absolutely everywhere. But no matter how much we poke fun at “Gangnam Style”, it’s definitely a beloved piece of pop culture.
#11: “Fell in Love with a Girl” (2002)
The White Stripes
While “Seven Nation Army” was an awesome video for the group, “Fell in Love with a Girl” showed even more of the band’s creative spirit. (xref).Visionary director Michel Gondry unleashed a truly outside-the-box idea in this video for The White Stripes. What could have been another traditional piece got a creative spin with help from some Legos. Thanks to stop motion, audiences got to see Jack and Meg White moving and performing in Lego form. And since each animated frame needed a different block arrangement, making this video was a serious time commitment. Although “The White Stripes” have appeared in many great shorts, “Fell in Love with a Girl” stands out as their most eye-catching and unique product.
#10: “Welcome to the Black Parade” (2006)
My Chemical Romance
Within their stacked portfolio of outstanding videos, My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade'' edged out the competition. The video recreates the Patient's journey from a hospital bed to the afterlife. As he travels, the group boards a parade float through a hellish, war torn landscape. Singer Gerard Way maintains an energetic performance as the band carries the Patient to the underworld. And the fantastical imagery, costumes, and set design make the main character's story feel even more epic. Whether you're a huge fan or a newcomer to the band, it's hard not to recognize the video as a massive achievement from start to finish.
#9: “In the End” (2001)
The fabled legacy of Linkin Park began with the release of their debut album “Hybrid Theory” and their anthemic song "In the End." Mixing ancient Egyptian architecture with a touch of futuristic design, the early 2000s video is unashamedly ambitious. Chester Bennington shows off his monumental vocal talent as he belts out the unforgettable song from atop a formidable tower. And although Mike Shinoda's trek through the desert might look dated, the band's performance feels completely raw and real. Linkin Park finishes out the short with a rainstorm that sells the song's epic climax. “In the End”’s fantastic video helped ensure that the band's journey to world fame and acclaim got off to a great start.
#8: “Somebody That I Used to Know” (2011)
Gotye feat. Kimbra
A few of the twenty-first century's greatest songs exist as one-hit wonders. One of the best examples came from Gotye’s team up with Kimbra. The timeless pop song that ruled the radio in 2011 got a stylistic yet simple visual accompaniment. Gotye starts the video by baring his emotions and skin to the camera. Suddenly, he’s covered in body paint that helps him blend into the background perfectly. Although Kimbra initially blends into the colorful scenery too, she eventually removes the colors from her body. The meticulous visuals and simple message manages to hit hard. This video is proof that artists can go far with nothing but a straightforward concept and a fantastic song.
#7: “The Real Slim Shady” (2000)
“The Real Slim Shady” cleared any doubt that Eminem was one of the best rap emcees of his era. This video sees Eminem rhyme his way through a collection of skits with cameos galore. Everyone from Kathy Griffin to Dr. Dre shows up in the rapper’s satirical look at the entertainment industry. He’s also unafraid to address the criticisms that have been lobbied at him from all sides. Chaotic and surprising, this video perfectly captures the speed and humor of Eminem’s verses. And the countless pop culture references and signature bleach blond hair made sure the visuals would never be forgotten by fans. After this masterpiece, the rapper continued making his unmistakable brand of music videos with works like “Godzilla”. (xref).
#6: “Chandelier” (2014)
Australian singer Sia burst onto the scene with earth shattering vocals and an enigmatic image. Preferring to keep her identity at bay, Sia opts out of traditional music videos that show off the artists themselves. This is why "Dance Moms" star Maddie Ziegler took the spotlight for “Chandelier”. The young dancer donned Sia’s trademark wig and twirled around an abandoned apartment. Not only does she give us a show stopping performance that highlights her dance talents, but she also complements Sia’s vocals perfectly. Choreographer Ryan Heffington definitely deserves praise for coming up with Ziegler’s extraordinary moves. His work, Sia’s songs and Ziegler’s incredible dancing definitely captured our attention and our hearts.
#5: “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” (2021)
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X fully capitalized on his viral success from “Old Town Road” with his debut record “Montero.” The titular single and video received attention and praise while raising some eyebrows for its edgy content. While the video begins with the artist in a heavenly paradise, he eventually finds himself at the receiving end of violence and judgment. Lil Nas X eventually makes his way to hell and gives Satan a lap dance for the ages. Many people praised Lil Nas X for crafting an imaginative video with genuine artistic expression. Not only did it rack up millions of views, but it also won Best Music video of the year at the VMA’s. Lil Nas X’s bold risks definitely struck a chord with many.
#4: “This Is America” (2018)
In 2018, Childish Gambino turned heads with the release of “This is America” video. Within the narrative, Glover moves around a warehouse that depicts a few of the horrors of modern society. Practically every frame of the video contains striking social commentary about the state of criminal justice and racial inequality in America. As the video’s environment descends further into chaos, audiences are forced to question how deep the country’s social issues run. It demands repeated viewings just to catch all the messages hiding behind cheerful dancers and great dance moves. By capturing the pulse of serious issues with audacious and compelling images,“This is America” became a shocking reflection of modern society that demands to be seen.
#3: “Oops!... I Did It Again” (2000)
Although Britney Spears was already on top of the world at the turn of the millennium, she reached new heights with her incredible video for “Oops!... I Did It Again”. Audiences were introduced to her iconic red jumpsuit in this treasured sci-fi themed video. In the narrative, Britney finds herself on Mars after her album is discovered by an astronaut. While there, she uses a few acrobatic moves and backup dancers to deliver a routine that’s truly out of this world. She also steps outside of Mars to make an extended reference to “Titanic” that we still quote today. Combining space aesthetics with a love story, this video gives you everything you could want from Britney and puts it in one out-of-this-world package.
#2: “Bad Romance” (2009)
There are few twenty-first century artists as captivating as Lady Gaga. She made huge waves with her visually stunning “Poker Face. (*xref) And her team up with Beyoncé on “Telephone” is definitely praiseworthy too. (*xref) However, Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” video had the combination of unique design elements and iconic outfits that we couldn’t ignore. Director Francis Lawrence helped Gaga tell a tale of liberation and triumph. Along the way, each of her dance moves and wardrobe changes prove more daring than the last. All of the risks she took culminated in visuals that were quite unlike anything around. Ultimately, Gaga set a new standard for music videos while being completely and unabashedly herself.
#1: “Formation” (2016)
Beyoncé somehow managed to top her seminal performance in “Single Ladies” with this magnificent video (xref). “Formation” combined social commentary, history, and dance into one visual feast. This video captured the look and feel of New Orleans while tackling everything from issues of police brutality to feelings about the government response to Hurricane Katrina. From the powerful image of Beyoncé on a flooded police cruiser to the scene of a boy dancing in front of riot police, this video makes every effort to highlight issues with law enforcement in America. At the same time, it’s also a celebration of black culture and female empowerment. And it certainly didn’t hurt that the song and choreography is incredible too. Ambitious and unrelenting, this music video undoubtedly stands as one of the best artistic statements of the 21st century.