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Top 10 Decade Defining Music Videos of the 1980s

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Sean Harris In the decade that saw the creation of MTV, these were the records that really made the most of the new-fangled music video format! Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Decade Defining Music Videos: 1980s! For this list, we've ranked the most popular, most iconic music videos, and those that best represent the 1980s in general. Special thanks to our users by zendaddy621 and radon548 for submitting the idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Decade Defining Music Videos of the 1980s


In the decade that saw the creation of MTV, these were the records that really made the most of the new-fangled music video format! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 decade defining music videos: 1980s!

For this list, we've ranked the most popular, most iconic music videos, and those that best represent the 1980s in general. There are no criteria limitations in terms of genre, although only one video per act is allowed. This is part of a series of videos spanning the decades from the 1980s and beyond.

#10: "Faith" (1987)
George Michael

George Michael flies solo to kick things off - although he almost made the cut with Wham! and dance-pop anthem, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"! But, we've put our faith in "Faith", and all its leather jacketed, shiny shoed glory! In this video, Michael's unforgettable get-up is often copied, but never bettered! As the smartly edited close-ups suggest, it's the expertly accessorised details that do it... A single earring, some knockout shades, and jeans that are ripped in all the right places... He's a jukebox superstar!

#9: "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" (1987)
Beastie Boys

An all-out anthem ever since it was released, the video for "Fight For Your Right" is a literal reflection of the song's lyrics, and that's what makes it awesome! In the short film, the Beastie Boys bring their anarchic 'A game' to an otherwise event-free gathering... Transcending the tedium into cream pie-infused chaos! The trio regularly break the fourth wall, making accomplices of us all! 'Do you like parties??', because with this video, it's almost impossible not to try this at home!

#8: "Hungry Like the Wolf" (1982)
Duran Duran

One of the earliest '80s videos to really stand out, "Hungry Like the Wolf" was also one of the first music videos to receive heavy rotation on MTV. It massively contributed to the rise of Duran Duran in general, and received particular praise for its cinematic quality. Shot in Sri Lanka, the narrative follows lead singer Simon Le Bon, as he pursues a tiger-like woman through the jungle. There're iconic images aplenty in this one, but we best remember his emergence out of a lagoon... It's all very "Apocalypse Now"!

#7: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" (1983)
Cyndi Lauper

Arguably the anthem of the '80s, the video accompaniment to "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" is exactly that - very fun! It's packed full of classic '80s-style computer effects, it's got probably the most colorful cast ever assembled, and it boasts possibly the widest variety of sunshades ever worn! It became Cyndi Lauper's signature tune, and that dress became her signature look! And, what makes this video even more impressive is its relatively low cost... Most actors volunteered, and a lot of equipment was loaned out free of charge! No wonder everyone's smiling!

#6: "Like a Virgin" (1984)
Madonna

The "Like a Virgin" video is Madonna at her most provocative! Set predominantly along the canals of Venice, images of the singer suggestively dancing on the city's famous gondolas are matched to another, alternative scene, where it's all white sheets and wedding dresses! Playing on the ideas of purity and sexual desire, there's even room for a real-life lion in this video(!), as the bestial power-play of sex is plainly alluded to as well... The film's empowering, it was eyebrow-raising, it'll always be iconic!

#5: "Walk This Way" (1986)
Run-D.M.C. feat. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry

Next, a video of two halves, and a hip hop hybrid pioneer! NYC rap outfit Run-D.M.C. team up with stadium rock legends, Aerosmith, for what is widely considered one of the records of the decade. In the short film, a simple narrative shows both bands performing in studios next to each other, with Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler especially annoyed by this! So, Tyler trashes the partition wall... And before we know it, we have an unexpected double-act on our hands! Unexpected, and undeniably brilliant!

#4: "Money for Nothing" (1985)
Dire Straits

One of the first computer animated features ever made (especially in terms of music), Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" almost didn't make it onto MTV at all. Lead singer Mark Knopfler was unenthusiastic about music videos in general, believing that they detracted attention away from the performance itself... But video director, Steve Barron, eventually brought Knopfler round, and the film picked up 'Video of the Year' at the third MTV VMAs in 1986! It looks almost primitive now, but it was pioneering then!

#3: "Take On Me" (1984)
A-ha

Another Steve Barron beauty, the legendary music video director is also the creative force behind our third place finisher! This iconic A-ha clip is actually the second video shot for "Take On Me", and, besides the aforementioned Dire Straits win, it dominated the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards! The film follows an unsuspecting comic book reader, as she becomes a literal part of the pages that she's reading. It's pencil-sketch animation meets live action film... And it all looks remarkably effortless!

#2: "Sledgehammer" (1986)
Peter Gabriel

It has been labelled as the most played music video in MTV history, and the channel itself ranks "Sledgehammer" as the fourth greatest music video ever made! The praise heaped onto our runner-up was unprecedented! With claymation, pixilation and stop motion techniques all provided by the people who would go on to create "Wallace and Gromit", it's an unbridled celebration of all things animation! A picture of the progress that was being made at the time, the video for "Sledgehammer" really hit on something good!

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

"I Want to Break Free" (1984)
Queen

"Land of Confusion" (1986)
Genesis

"Hot for Teacher" (1984)
Van Halen

"Whip It" (1980)
Devo

"Simply Irresistible" (1988)
Robert Palmer

"If I Could Turn Back Time" (1989)
Cher

#1: "Never Gonna Give You Up" (1987)
Rick Astley

Boom! Rickrolled!

#1: "Thriller" (1983)
Michael Jackson

Our winner is way more than the average music video! With a running time of over thirteen minutes, there's probably nothing to match "Thriller" in all of history, let alone just the '80s! The Michael Jackson anthem merged filmmaking with music like nothing else before it, and is often described as the most influential example of its format. Efforts were even made for it to be considered for an Oscar nomination, that's how much it transcends its contemporaries! We might've listed Jackson's "Beat It" in today's top ten, but this record beats that - and everything else!
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