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Top 10 Decade Defining Music Videos of the 1990s

VO: Matt Campbell
Script written by Sean Harris This decade really did have it all... Alt rockers, rap superstars, and pop princesses... And they were fantastically captured on film! Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Decade Defining Music Videos: 1990s! For this list, we've ranked the most popular, most iconic music videos, and those that best represent the 1990s in general. Special thanks to our user 8305kate and zendaddy621 for submitting this idea on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 Decade Defining Music Videos of the 1990s

This decade really did have it all... Alt rockers, rap superstars, and pop princesses... And they were fantastically captured on film! Join as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Decade Defining Music Videos: 1990s!

For this list, we've ranked the most popular, most iconic music videos, and those that best represent the 1990s 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: "Nothing Compares 2 U" (1990)
Sinéad O'Connor

In 1990, Sinead O'Connor was definitely 'ready for her close up'! She followed up her release of 1987 debut album, "The Lion and the Cobra", with a second record, which featured this much-heralded Prince cover, and this iconic-ally intimate video! A short film predominantly centered around close-up shots of O'Connor's face at various points of sadness, the tears that roll down the singer's cheek toward the song's end had everybody captivated. It's a 'heart on sleeve' performance!

#9: "I Want It That Way" (1999)
Backstreet Boys

The business of boy bands was booming in the 1990s, but Backstreet Boys were probably the genre's biggest hitters - and this was arguably their signature record! This video's all about the airplane! It's dance routines on an airport runway, it's cheesy lines at the check-in desk - and, as the end of this clip proves, it's a formula which really worked! With hoards of screaming fans to wave them off, the five-piece must've felt 'sky high' when this was released, even before they'd literally taken off!

#8: "Closer" (1994)
Nine Inch Nails

Easily one of the most controversial music videos of the decade, "Closer" is one of the best-known Nine Inch Nails records, not least because of this edgy accompaniment! In the short film directed by Mark Romanek, frontman Trent Reznor is bound, gagged and generally attired in all sorts of S&M outfits... Reznor images are then cropped together with shots of (amongst other things) a monkey tied to a cross, a severed, spinning pig's head, and diagrams of the female genitalia... Suffice to say, the unedited video was only ever played late at night!

#7: "Mo Money Mo Problems" (1997)
The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy and Mase

The rise and rise of rap music was one of the typifying trends of the 1990s. By the end of the decade, one Eminem had arrived, but our decade defining nod goes to The Notorious B.I.G.! "Mo Money Mo Problems" was released posthumously, but footage of Biggie features in the video, and the song itself is one of the most played in rap history! Famous for its futuristic feel, those shiny red jackets, and its Tiger Woods-inspired golfing narrative, the video is the hip hop equivalent of a hole in one! Just awesome!

#6: "Vogue" (1990)

One of the earliest videos to make today's countdown, Madonna's "Vogue" manages to be both controversial and classy! Directed by David Fincher, it's got a 1930s Art Deco feel and, in line with the song's lyrics, it's a recreation of classic Hollywood cinema. A salute to the icons of the past by an icon of the present, the singer made some headlines due to the sheer lace blouse she wears toward the video's beginning... But we 'see right through' that criticism, because this is high-end Madonna at her most magnificent!

#5: "Buddy Holly" (1994)

From the pop princess to some pop punk pioneers... Weezer was little-known upon their release of "Buddy Holly", the second single from the band's debut album... But this record, and this video, helped pin them to the musical map. A Spike Jonze creation, the clip sees Rivers Cuomo and co. superimposed onto original footage of the popular '70s sitcom, "Happy Days". A remarkably smooth piece of film and editing, it earned Weezer four awards at the 1995 MTV VMAs... The boys must've 'cared about that'!

#4: "Sabotage" (1994)
Beastie Boys

Another music video directed by Spike Jonze, "Sabotage" is a near-perfect parody of the classic cop shows of the 1970s. Think "Hawaii Five-O", think "The Streets of San Francisco", think "Starsky and Hutch"... This clip's the best bits of all of those, with a little bit of Beastie Boys magic thrown in for good measure! It's brilliantly badass! However, in what's widely regarded as one of the greatest injustices in VMA history, the video failed with all five of its 1994 nominations, winning not a single award! Now that really is criminal!

#3: "November Rain" (1992)
Guns N' Roses

An epic record in need of an epic accompaniment, "November Rain" sure got that! In terms of narrative and story, there are few videos to match it... Axl Rose takes the lead role, as he marries (and then mourns) a character played by his then-girlfriend, Stephanie Seymour. But arguably, it's lead guitarist Slash who's the star of this show! His two solos are immensely impressive, particularly the first, filmed outside of the church, and captured by swooping shots achieved using helicopters. 'Nothing lasts forever', but we'd gladly watch this film a few times over!

#2: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991)

In terms of decade-defining acts, Nirvana are a no-brainer for the '90s... "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is probably their most popular record, and its video accompaniment epitomises a lot of what they were about... Unadulterated, uncompromising, unapologetic carnage! This high school mosh pit was the first film directed by now-legendary 'music videoist', Samuel Bayer... Who has since highlighted Kurt Cobain's striking lack of vanity in comparison to other acts. The singer just wanted something genuine, and got something that had us all jumping around the room – even the clip's iconic janitor couldn’t keep himself from bouncing along!

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

"Basket Case" (1994)
Green Day

"Baby Got Back" (1992)
Sir Mix-a-Lot

"Bitter Sweet Symphony" (1997)
The Verve

"Tonight, Tonight" (1996)
The Smashing Pumpkins

"Waterfalls" (1995)

"Wannabe" (1996)
Spice Girls

#1: "...Baby One More Time" (1998)
Britney Spears

As a general rule, the 'and then she woke up and it was all a dream' line doesn't work too well... But for Britney Spears' debut record, it really, really did! Filmed fidgeting her way through the last few seconds of the school day, the then-teen singer takes us on a well-choreographed, and well-costumed tour of the school itself - its corridors and gymnasium, in particular! A daydream sequence which quickly proved a dream come true for everyone involved with her act, in 1998 Britney arrived, and, with this video, the whole world knew about it!

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite music video from the 1990s? For more top 10s that you'd watch one more time published daily, be sure to subscribe to


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