The 100 Greatest Music Videos of the 21st Century: Critics' Picks

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At the dawn the 21st century, the music video was in a boom period: The TRL era was still at its zenith, CDs were flying out the stores, budgets for music videos were still regularly in the seven-digit range, and MTV was the place you turned to in order to see the latest clips from pop's best and brightest.

Flash forward to 2018, and none those things are true anymore. Album sales have been depleted by the rise downloading and then streaming, MTV has been supplanted by the Internet as the video's primary home, and attempts to reboot TRL only prove how different times are now than when Backstreet and Britney ruled the world. But with all that's changed, the music video still reigns paramount in the pop world, as a conversation-starter, as a starmaker, as a cementer legacy. Though the ways we consume music videos in 2018 would've been almost unthinkable at century's start, the impact they have on our lives and pop culture remains relatively similar. 

But course, it's been an interesting ride for the music video to get to this point: From the tail end MTV's peak to the introduction  YouTube and the minting the viral star to the rise social media and the countless different forms the video can now take in 2018. This week, Billboard is reflecting on the evolution the music video with a week's worth content about the form's past, present and future — starting, today, with a list our staff picks for the 100 greatest music videos the century so far, essentially telling the story the form during its middle-age period, and a potential crisis ultimately averted. 

See our staff favorites below, with a YouTube playlist all available clips at the bottom, and get lost in the recent greatest hits an artform that continues to be among popular culture's most vital.

100. Fall Out Boy, "Sugar We're Goin Down" (dir. Matt Lenski, 2005)

From Under the Cork Tree’s lead single was much the world’s introduction to these former hardcore punks from the Chicago burbs, and for their first video with a big ol’ Island Records budget, they indulged their mission statement: a full-on underdog’s folk tale. Our small town teenaged protagonist is a sort Napoleon Dynamite with — get this! — deer-like antlers, an effective stand-in for just about any condition that could have left a young Fall Out Boy feeling socially alienated. His love interest’s shotgun-wielding father doesn’t approve, but in the end, let’s just say he’s behooved to sympathize. — CHRIS PAYNE

99. Shakira, "Whenever, Wherever" (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2001)

The video for Shakira’s first English-language hit is not her most seen; those honor belong to the Maluma-featuring “Chantaje" and World Cup anthem “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)," both with around two billion YouTube views. But “Whenever, Wherever” was the video that introduced Shakira’s swiveling hips to the world, as well as her “small and humble” breasts. The minimalist production, which memorably featured Shakira dancing alone without props, musicians or other dancers, was enough to catapult her to international stardom. — LEILA COBO

98. Scissor Sisters, "Let's Have a Kiki" (dir. Vern Moen, 2012)

Ana Matronic, Jake Shears, and the rest the crew served up a brilliant DIY instructional dance video for their unlikely viral hit, which became their third No. 1 hit on the U.S. Dance Club Songs chart in 2012. The smartly staged and creatively choreographed one-take clip is as unpolished, campy, and full energy as the Scissors themselves. — PATRICK CROWLEY

97. Adele, "Rolling in the Deep" (dir. Sam Brown, 2010)

The room full glasses water gently quaking to the bass drum heartbeat "Rolling in the Deep," like Jurassic Park to the tenth power, was appropriately foreboding for what Adele's 21 ended up being, a commercial behemoth the likes which was supposed to have long gone extinct. It all starts here: Director Sam Brown capturing the once-in-a-generation vocalist at simultaneously her most vulnerable and her most powerful, unclear if the wreckage surrounding her is representative her internal turmoil, or a direct result it. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER

96. Frank Ocean, "Pyramids" (dir. Nabil Elderkin, 2012)

Opening with color bars, liquor shots, and gun blasts, this Nabil-directed 8-minute odyssey follows a zonked-out Frank Ocean as he zips across the desert on a motorcycle, giggles his way through a strip club, and runs into John Mayer in the middle nowhere for a woozy, bluesy guitar solo. Landing somewhere between Lost Highway and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, "Pyramids" is a dusty, neon-drenched vision quest that's hard to shake. – JOE LYNCH

95. The Avalanches, "Frontier Psychiatrist" (dir. Tom Kuntz & Mike Maguire, 2000)

Music videos can sometimes feel unimaginative when they simply translate a song’s lyrics into a four-minute clip, but for the Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatrist,” the literal approach also happened to be the wildest one. The Australian electronic group’s mishmash vocal samples is acted out as theater, with dueling therapists, chattering dentures, an old guy with a turtle body, and a ghost chorus comprising a visual representation both surreal and enduring. — JASON LIPSHUTZ

94. Ariana Grande feat. Zedd, "Break Free" (dir. Chris Marrs Piliero, 2014)

“Brace yourself for something so fantastically fantastical that you’ll soil yourself from intergalactic excitement" reads part the tongue-in-cheek Star Wars-style scroll that introduces Ariana Grande’s video for “Break Free." The stakes in this outer space-based video are as high as Grande’s ponytail, as she uses her blaster to shoot down guards and free prisoners. But wait! Ari herself has been taken captive! Will she… break free?! Yes, and then she will board a spaceship where Zedd is both captain and DJ. Phew. — CHRISTINE WERTHMAN

93. Aaliyah, "Rock the Boat" (dir. Hype Williams, 2001)

The video for Aaliyah’s sinuous “Rock the Boat” might have easily gone down as just one the many examples the beloved singer’s preternatural cool and low-key sex appeal, featuring Aaliyah leading an all-female ensemble in understatedly sexy moves mirroring the song’s hypnotic, undulating melody. But it’s impossible to watch without feeling a deep pang sadness: Directly after filming this video, Aaliyah and eight others were killed in a plane crash over the Bahamas. “Rock the Boat” begins with an in memoriam sorts, and as the video starts, Aaliyah walks on a deserted beach beneath a sky so beatifically sunlit, it could very well be heaven. The video ends with a gorgeous shot her swimming alone, trailed by billowy silk, toward a surface that seems contiguous with the clouds. In between, we’re reminded an artist who was an effortlessly entrancing dancer and singer, a happy young woman with so much ahead her — before she floats f to somewhere else. — REBECCA MILZOFF

92. Girls' Generation, "Gee" (dir. Cho Soo-hyun,  2009)

One the biggest K-pop hits ever, Girls’ Generation’s saccharine electro-pop anthem “Gee” was key to making the nonet one South Korea’s biggest pop acts, largely thanks to its video’s living mannequins, viral “crab” dance, and  brightly hued outfits. The success it led to the group releasing further videos that rank among K-pop’s all-time most recognizable, including “Genie” and “I Got A Boy,” but nothing will ever replace this 2009 music video for its critical spot in the genre's history. — TAMAR HERMAN

91. Tim McGraw, "Humble and Kind" (dir. Wes Edwards, 2016)

It would have been understandably tempting to make a video that interpreted the song as literally as songwriter Lori McKenna intended: As a message to her children. But instead, the clip — with assistance from OWN’s series Belief (thanks, Oprah!) and McGraw’s understated delivery — turns the tune into a grander prayer that celebrates our universal humanity and diversity through scenes people from all ethnicities and religions. — MELINDA NEWMAN

90. Marina & The DIamonds, "How to Be a Heartbreaker" (dir. Marc & Ish, 2012)

Six years ago, Marina Diamandis gave us a video with six showering Calvin Klein models juxtaposed with a clothed woman, gloriously flipping what is unfortunately still the modern standard. (Each guy is wearing a Speedo, mind you.) As she sings about her guide to breaking you-know-whats, Marina alternates between cozying up to different gentlemen, dancing in the shower, and presenting a severed, bloodied mannequin head on a platter to the camera. It’s hard to know who you’re supposed to be drooling over in this visual — Marina, or the male models? — and that’s the whole point. — GAB GINSBERG

89. Mitski, "Your Best American Girl" (dir. Zia Anger, 2016)

Mitski’s songwriting is ten spiked with a dark, sharp sense humor. The visual for her shrugging, contemplative Puberty 2 single “Your Best American Girl,” directed by longtime collaborator Zia Anger, brings that wit to the forefront, trapping the Japanese-American artist in a love triangle with an all-too-familiar cute white hipster and his Coachella-ready girlfriend as the song’s lyrics muse on cultural clashes and ethnic identity. It’s hard not to roll your eyes as the couple cuddles naked under an American flag (seriously, guys?), leaving our heroine to make out with her own hand like a lovesick middle-schooler, channeling rage into electric guitar. Not too much subtlety here, but the video’s almost uncomfortably on-the-nose references are exactly what make it so brilliant, with just the right dose funny. — TATIANA CIRISANO

88. Kanye West feat. Dwele, "Flashing Lights" (dir. Spike Jonze, 2007)

Kanye West would be the first to tell you he’s more than just an artist — he’s an innovator, on the same intellectual playing field as Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. And when it comes to visual manifestations or companion pieces to his music, well, he’s not always totally wrong. The video for “Flashing Lights” isn’t as dazzling or frenzied as videos for hits like “Gold Digger” and “All the Lights,” but the tension between the thump the song and the slow-mo, one-shot portrait a beautiful woman committing heinous acts violence makes the clip as unsettlingly hypnotic as the trance-like intonation its chorus. — STEVEN J. HOROWITZ

87. David Bowie, "Lazarus" (dir. Johan Renck, 2016)

Shortly after David Bowie succumbed to liver cancer on Jan. 10, 2016, his longtime producer and friend Tony Visconti wrote in a Facebook tribute, “His death was not different from his life – a work Art.”  He most certainly was referring to “Blackstar” and “Lazarus,” the haunting and bleak final two music videos that the legend left behind. Both are rich with references to Bowie canon — Major Tom, Station to Station — and optimally should be seen in tandem. But “Lazarus” delivers the bigger gut punch because it is Bowie’s acknowledgement that he is not long for this earth, a video cut with scenes the gaunt artist writhing on what could be his deathbed, his head wrapped in a bandage with buttons for eyes. Watch the video, then venture down the rabbit hole Bowie-ologists deconstructing the video’s meaning: The Starman may have left the building, but he did so in a way that insures his artistic immortality. — FRANK DIGIACOMO

86. The Lonely Island, "Lazy Sunday" (dir. Akiva Schaffer, 2005)

"Lazy Sunday" has the distinction being the only video on this list to originate from television — the historic first ficial Digital Short on SNL, preceding future classics like "I'm On A Boat" and "Dick in a Box," and setting the template for the first wave YouTube viral videos. "Lazy Sunday" lives on in infamy because the sheer ridiculousness their investment in the song's mundanity: Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell rap about going to see The Chronicles Narnia, but not before "macking on some cupcakes" from Magnolia Bakery and shouting out answers to movie theater Matthew Perry tri. Part the video's allure is its low-production quality — it looks like it was shot by high schoolers in an afternoon — going to show that you don't need a million-dollar budget to make a classic music video. Perhaps all you need is a camcorder and smartly dumb lyrics. — XANDER ZELLNER

85. Grimes, "Kill v. Maim" (dir. Claire Boucher & Mac Boucher, 2016)

Grimes made all our cyberpunk dreams come true with the “Kill v. Maim” video. The singer previously explained that the song’s inspiration was for a fictional movie that was “a mixture Godfather and Twilight,” but the video itself transports the viewer into a wild post-apocalyptic world: Imagine if Final Fantasy took place in the Mad Max universe… but was also shot in Harajuku in the ‘90s. And what better way to end this giddy mix cult-film homages than with an ode to Blade’s bloody rave scene? — BIANCA GRACIE

84. Alicia Keys, "You Don't Know My Name" (dir. Chris Robinson, 2003)

It's as vivid a straightforward rendering song narrative as 21st-century music video has produced, with Alicia Keys and fictional love interest Mos Def acting out Keys' Songs in A Minor melodrama as a brilliant blur fantasy and reality. Director Chris Robinson's sumptuous New York visuals make the theatrics pop with both pleasing familiarity and near-uncomfortable intimacy, lifting you into Keys' daydream — right up to the crushing ending, when it turns out that Mos never will know just how different she looks outside her work clothes. — A.U.

83. Residente, "Descencuentro" (dir. Residente, 2017)

Residente — and prior to him, Calle 13 — has long been known for his gritty, graphic, ten violent video material. But his ster, romantic side is even more compelling, and the second video from his 2017 self-titled solo outing is drenched in love, the kind that sends shivers down your spine. Filmed in Paris' iconic Crémerie-Restaurant Polidor bistro and starring Charlotte Le Bon and Edgar Ramirez, "Descencuentro" (directed by Residente himself) is a mini-film about a man and a woman whose inevitable encounter inside the restaurant is delayed by a string happenstance that goes from accidental to comical. “I wanted to stay away from clichés, but stay close to hope, to what motivates you to keep on trying in the midst so many setbacks,” Residente told Billboard. The end result is breathtakingly (and unexpectedly) lovely. — L.C.

82. FKA twigs, "Papi Pacify" (dir. Tom Beard & FKA twigs, 2013)

If a music video can leave you with one indelible image, it’s done good work. The video for “Papi Pacify" is one the most erotic clips in recent memory, opening with a silent shot a tall, brawny man with one hand around twigs' throat and the other curling at her mouth. “It’s meant to ask questions the viewer,” co-director Tom Beard told The Guardian. “Who’s got the control in this relationship? Who’s got the power?” There’s no unbraiding the sexual charge from the discomfort, just as there’s no forgetting the shot at 2:23, when twigs holds your gaze as the man takes his fingers from her mouth and pulls her into his chest as she continues to stare, looking nothing if not serene. — ROSS SCARANO

81. A$AP Rocky, "Peso" (dir. Abteen Bagheri, 2010)

The low-budget street video, shot in the artist’s neighborhood, is a hip-hop staple, and one the best 21st century entries in the genre drops you in Harlem for an annunciation. Is there a more invigorating entrance in contemporary rap than Rocky busting through a sticker-covered bodega door wearing a black baseball cap that reads FUNERAL, while rapping, “I be that pretty motherfucker”? The money spent shows up in the form Rick Owens, Raf Simons and Supreme, but the swag is priceless. — R.S.

80. Miley Cyrus, "We Can't Stop" (dir. Diane Martel, 2013)

There’s tiptoeing into a new era, and then there’s diving in headfirst: Following her underperforming Can’t Be Tamed album, Miley Cyrus chose the latter in 2013, reinventing herself in the first video from the Bangerz campaign and boldly kickstarting her adult career. The “We Can’t Stop” video features a house party full debauchery and twerking, but for all the hip-hop excess Cyrus was clearly cribbing from, Diane Martel's clip also provides several uniquely f-kilter set pieces, from the giant-teddy-bear-backpack dance sequence to the game kick-the-french-fry-skull. — J. Lipshutz

79. Madonna, "Hung Up" (dir. Johan Renck, 2006)

Faced with relationship trouble, a pop queen doesn’t cry it out — she dances it out. Madonna’s ‘80s-infused video for the ABBA-borrowing Confessions On A Dance Floor smash “Hung Up” turns the star’s sweaty, solo aerobics workout into a therapy session where all you need to squelch anxiety is a pink leotard and a boombox. The visual only gets better as it expands to scenes resembling a Los Angeles street corner, a subway car, and a Chinese restaurant, where crowds all ages, races, and ethnicities erupt into fiery dance battles their own. Meant as a tribute to John Travolta’s ubiquitous dance roles in film, the whole thing ends (how else?) with Madonna breaking it down on an arcade Dance Dance Revolution machine — not bad for a star who broke several bones in a horseback-riding accident just weeks before shooting. — T.C.

78. Toby Keith, "Red Solo Cup" (dir. Michael Salomon, 2011)

These days, it might be hard for many viewers to get past the first word the title when watching the video for Toby Keith's highest-charting, least-resistible Hot 100 hit, especially considering the cameo-strewn close featuring fellow Red-alligned rocker Ted Nugent, among others. But the 2011 clip is such a clever and pure distillation the forever unpartisan joys filling your cup, lifting it up and proceeding to parrr-tayyyyyy that it'll make you seethe with nostalgia for a time, perhaps only imagined, when a superior brand kegger supplies was all you needed to reach across the aisle for. — A.U.

77. Gotye feat. Kimbra, "Somebody That I Used to Know" (dir. Natasha Pincus, 2011)

Behold one the few instances in which a music video helped launch a relatively unknown act to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gotye's haunting "Somebody That I Used to Know" visual shows the frontman and duet partner Kimbra naked in front a blank backdrop, then slowly painted over stop-motion animation, a living artifact what used to be a relationship. The design, inspired by an actual work done by Gotye's father, Frank De Backer, took 23 hours and helped the video surpass the 1 billion-views mark on YouTube. — X.Z.

76. ANOHNI, "Drone Bomb Me" (dir. Nabil Elderkin, 2016)

ANOHNI’s 2016 solo debut Hopelessness combined dazzling experimental pop with the sort radical social activism most prominent musicians are too timid to approach. For this Hudson Mohawke- and Oneohtrix Point Never-produced song, ANOHNI sings from the perspective a nine year-old Afghani girl whose family has just been killed by a drone bomb, her despair sending her atop a mountain to demand she be taken next. In the gripping, exquisitely produced video (bankrolled by Apple in a move ANOHNI later regretted), a teary-eyed Naomi Campbell gives a sublime performance, lip-synching and tantalizingly dancing along to the this glistening dirge while a team dancers contorts around her.  — C.P.

75. Kendrick Lamar, "i" (dir. Alexandre Moors, 2014)

If this video had come out even two years later, the dance that Kendrick rolls out throughout the visual might have spawned enough challenge/meme copies to send it all the way to the top the charts, rather than the mere No. 39 it topped out at on the Hot 100. As it stands, the video is a clever nod to both the song's influences — sampled artist Ronald Isley is in on the party throughout, while George Clinton makes a nonchalant cameo reading a copy his own autobiography outside a club — and to the darker forces underlying the song's self-love ethos. — DAN RYS

74. Dua Lipa, "New Rules" (dir. Henry Scholfield, 2017)

Some new new rules: 1. Launch a thousand Pinterest boards with a beachy pastel color scheme and an enble hotel slumber party. 2. Take unlikely inspiration from the animal kingdom with head-bobbing choreography meant to evoke the fidgety movements a pack flamingos. (No, really!) 3. Embrace the storytelling power repetition for a dance routine whose third-act twist still delights as much as it did the first time. Follow those steps, and you'll earn admission to YouTube’s billion-views club — and maybe fast-track yourself to a level international superstardom that half a dozen prior singles couldn’t snag. — NOLAN FEENEY

73. Janelle Monáe feat. Big Boi, "Tightrope" (dir. Wendy Morgan, 2010)

To those who are just discovering the genius  Janelle Monae with her Dirty Computer rollout: Where have you been? From her futuristic "Many Moons" video to her uncomfortably direct "Cold War" clip, Monáe has consistently delivered on the visuals. "Tightrope" showcases Monae's swagger-for-days as she gyrates through an insane asylum, rocking her early-career androgynous style and delivering some impressive st-shoe. — P.C.

72. Sum 41, "Fat Lip" (dir. Marc Klasfeld, 2001)

From its opening beatbox freestyle to its closing tongue wag, "Fat Lip" couldn't have been a better encapsulation the pop-punk '00s if it had been directed by a sentient Hot Topic bracelet: It's all shaved heads, half-pipes, convenience stores, and four-star frosted tips, as the snottiest bunch snots that ever snotted perform from a literal pit dirt. For extra flat-sole kicks, check the hair-metal-homaging "Pain for Pleasure" outro that ten played with "Fat Lip" on MTV, proving that adolescent rawk brattiness knows no generation gap. — A.U.

71. Kylie Minogue, "Come Into My World" (dir. Michel Gondry, 2002)

No music video director works sleight–film better than Michel Gondry, the guy who turned a countryside train voyage into Chemical Brothers sheet music or a theatrical Björk drama into a cinematic matryoshka doll. But his greatest cinematic achievement may remain Kylie Minogue's four-lap trek around the streets Paris, with Kylie and her universe's neighbors somehow layering on top themselves each time she passes Go. It's a marvel that remains magical 16 years later — though one that might make you reticent to accept her titular invitation, since it seems like her World barely has room for one you, let alone four. — A.U.

70. Ozuna, "Se Preparo" (dir. Nuno Gomes, 2017)

Ozuna is Latin music’s current master the video universe: The Puerto Rican reggaeton/trap star has so many great videos to his name, it’s hard to settle on a favorite. But “Se Preparo,” with its mix whimsy and edge, is as fun as the song is compelling. Directed by Venezuelan video master Nuno Gomez, who delights in storytelling, it sets the stage for the wronged girl, who, to forget her boyfriend’s infidelities, preps for a night on the town with the girls. Except it’s actually an elaborate ruse to get even — one that keeps you watching till the hilarious end. — L.C.

69. JAY-Z, "The Story O.J." (dir. JAY-Z & Mark Romanek, 2017)

A theme Jay's work late has been taking stereotypes and tropes about the black community and forcing them right in front his audience's faces. Seldom has that ever been more clear than in the "O.J." video, which lifts its inspiration from a set racist Looney Tunes cartoons from the '40s, casting himself and others in blackface and hammering home the message the song's lyrics through the visual. It's among the best examples this in his catalog. — D.R.

68. Kesha, "Blow" (dir. Chris Marrs Piliero, 2010)

"She was adamant you can't back away from the crazy" was how director Chris Marrs Piliero summarized the Artist Formerly Known as K-Money's approach to the "Blow" video, which sounds about right: Lasers, unicorns, muenster cheese, no-soap-radio jokes, a pre-meme James Van der Beek, and a whole lot glitter (natch) combine in the "Blow" video for a visual singular early-'10s lunacy. That the era's cheekiest director and most game pop star only worked together once remains a bummer, but their sole collab remains a slice pure lactose gold. — A.U.

67. BTS, "Blood, Sweat & Tears" (dir. Choi Yongseok & Ko Yoojeong, 2016)

“Blood, Sweat & Tears” is the thesis for BTS as a K-pop group whose work is rich for interpretation. The grab-bag high-art references makes this music video ripe for fan theories. Cut to a museum filled with European Renaissance replications: Michelangelo’s Pietà explodes! Van Goghian sky swirls abound! V jumps f a balcony in front a painting the fallen Icarus! Amid this lavish portrait BTS at the height their game, one thing is clear: the septet makes K-pop for the thinking fan. — CAITLIN KELLEY

66. Ludacris feat. Shawnna, "Stand Up" (dir. Dave Meyers, 2003)

The clip for Luda's first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 is more bizarre than it has any right to be. A kiss from 'Cris makes a woman's ass expand to cartoonish size, after which Luda puts on a Sideshow Bob-sized sneaker to start stomping the dancefloor and bring the house down (literally). At the end the video, Luda and Shawnna's faces are superimposed onto baby bodies, and we're treated to Baby Luda dancing Ally McBeal-style, before an unlucky woman changes his soiled diaper. Why? Who knows! But when he moved in 2003, we followed, just like that. — J. Lynch

65. Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication" (dir. Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, 2000)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers' video for "Californication" features the quartet navigating everything from the Hollywood Walk Fame and movie studios to San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada Mountains — only as avatars themselves in an imaginary video game, racking up high scores and eventually meeting at the center the earth. As fun as the stunning and innovative visuals are, it's the juxtaposition with the song's melancholy lyrics that still lingers well after it's Game Over. — DENISE WARNER

64. Missy Elliott, "Gossip Folks" (dir. Dave Meyers, 2002)

Most everything seems a whole lot more fun in the crazy-colorful, twisted realm Missy music videos: Even the gossip-fueled, bully-ridden hallways high school. Back in a pre-social-media 2002, Elliott heard all the whispers about her recent and somewhat drastic weight loss, her sexual orientation, and more, so she channeled her frustration into an eminently danceable track and classic video. Ludacris and Ms. Jade make stellar guest appearances; Tweet, Eve, and Trina keep score as the coolest clique ever in the cafeteria scenes; even Darryl “DMC” McDaniels shows up for a late cameo as a school bus driver.  But then there’s the real stars the video — three little girls with better moves than most grown-ups (including now-pro Alyson Stoner), and a closing image that might be Elliott’s most brilliant touch all: a mural depicting the late Aaliyah, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, and Jam Master Jay, reminding her audience that, just maybe, the industry could focus on more important things than gossip, folks. — R.M.

63. Ciara, "Promise" (dir. Diane Martel, 2006)

Ciara has spent much her videography trying to defy gravity — consider the Matrix-style back-bend she first debuted with “Goodies” and later honed in clips like “Gimme Dat” and “Like a Boy.” But with a little movie magic, Ciara actually pulled it f for 2006’s “Promise,” turning a microphone stand into a worthy dance partner through a G-rated pole workout that shook its butt in the face laws physics. Ciara’s legacy as an artist is as much about her dancing as it is her music, and “Promise,” with its magic mic and the sheer athleticism Ciara’s hypnotic hip rolls, is the most entertaining distillation all her talents. — N.F.

62. Bat for Lashes, "What's a Girl to Do" (dir. Dougal Wilson, 2006)

Dougal Wilson directed this single-shot video in which Natasha Khan takes a late-night bike ride with some her best pals, a foreboding brood hoodie-wearing guys in creepy animal masks, a la Donnie Darko’s Frank. According to a 2009 interview, Khan wanted the director to model the video after films like E.T., The Goonies, The Karate Kid, and even the aforementioned Gyllenhaal cult classic, movies that she dubbed “hoodie movies,” because they featured boys wearing hoodies and riding bikes, “a symbolic reference to breaking out their suburban trappings and going on this journey self-discovery." Wilson nails the sentiment, only this journey comes with more sick bike tricks. — C.W.

61. Rihanna, "Bitch Better Have My Money" (dir. Rihanna & Megaforce, 2015)

A year before labeling herself a savage, Rihanna had already proved she was the baddest gal in town with 2015’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” video. The murderous affair, co-directed by the singer and Megaforce, is a menacing “don't fuck with me” message to her real-life former accountant, portrayed here by Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen. Rihanna and her badass female sidekicks play the stars their own revenge fantasy film as they torture his rich white wife, and the final scene is nothing short chilling, with a blood-soaked Rihanna lighting up a joint while resting in a trunk full cash. — B.G.

60. Justice, "D.A.N.C.E." (dir. Jonas & Francois, 2007)

Who knew that the video for a song called “D.A.N.C.E.” could be built around two guys… walking… for the entire video… and still be a huge win? Justice’s Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay stroll through the duo's most popular clip as their t-shirts morph into mesmerizing pop-art displays, capturing the crossover hit’s effervescence through a series slogans and cartoons. “D.A.N.C.E.” was nominated for video the year at the 2007 MTV VMAs, turning Justice into dance headliners (pun intended) years before EDM took over every American festival. — J. Lipshutz

59. Robyn, "Call Your Girlfriend" (dir. Max Vitali, 2011)

In one continuous three-and-a-half minute shot, Robyn manages to hold your attention in the music video for "Call Your Girlfriend." The video simply shows Robyn dancing and singing in an empty soundstage, wearing a furry top and looking like her own heart has just been shattered, but it feels impossible to look away. The clip was ten parodied and recreated after its release, most notably by former SNL cast member Taran Killam, in which he filmed a near-perfect recreation  the video in the show's writers room at 4:00 a.m. — X.Z.

58. Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful" (dir. Jonas Åkerlund, 2002)

Christina Aguilera eloquently touches on insecurity in the Jonas Åkerlund-directed “Beautiful," as the dark-lit scenes underscore the decimation that occurs when someone is ostracized for being less than perfect: too fat or skinny, ugly, gay. Alone in a sparsely furnished room, Aguilera zeroes in on songwriter/producer Linda Perry’s affirmation that everyone is beautiful, no matter what people say. “Words can’t bring me down,” she sings as the video’s characters conquer their insecurities: one woman bashes in her mirror, another tosses beauty magazines into a fireplace while a gay couple publicly kiss and hold hands. The video won a GLAAD Media Award for its positive portrayal gay and transgender individuals. — GAIL MITCHELL

57. UGK feat. OutKast, "International Players Anthem (I Choose You)" (dir. Bryan Barber, 2007)

In the pantheon music videos capturing some sort ceremonial celebration, UGK’s “Int’l Players’ Anthem” stands as one the all-time best. The absurdity it the clip — including André 3000 in a kilt, a wedding party that counts Lukas Haas, and some the best wedding outfits all time (including Pimp C in head-to-toe white fur) — is nothing compared to how seamlessly the video captures the ebullience the accompanying song. — S.J.H.

56. Beyoncé, "7/11" (dir. Beyoncé, 2014)

As we all know in 2018, The Carters love a production — but travel back with us to a Friday night in November 2014, when Beyoncé proved that she could go low-budget and still make a high-quality music video. The grainy, iPhone-looking footage “7/11” features Beyoncé and her dancers going f in their underwear in various hotel-room settings. They twerk. They drink from red plastic cups. They turn hair dryers into props. Beyoncé uses someone’s butt as a surface for throwing dice. Quick-cut edits and scene jumps give the video a playful, frenetic energy, while choreography and costume changes make it pro without being overly polished. It’s safe to assume that the peak into this informal world is highly curated, but “7/11” has the intimacy a selfie: Even though it doesn’t look like anything you've actually ever shot on your phone. — C.W.

55. Justin Bieber, "Sorry" (dir. Parris Goebel, 2015)

The Bieb brought choreography — and women — to the forefront his "Sorry" visual, with the singer enlisting New Zealand’s all-female troupe ReQuest Dance Crew to bring his upbeat Purpose chart-topper to life. The colorful visual immediately racked up millions views, with the wildly funky outfits inspiring Halloween costumes (just one week after the vid’s Oct. 22, 2015 release) and the ReQuest girls' impressive moves sparking plenty twerk-filled tributes across the Internet. Nearly three billion views later, “Sorry” proved that the heartthrob doesn’t even need to make an appearance to make one his videos special. — TAYLOR WEATHERBY

54. Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX, "Fancy" (dir. Director X, 2014)

For Iggy Azalea’s biggest pop moment, the ‘90s throwback love  the 2010s was in full swing, with the Australian rapper and her hook-slinging co-star traveling back to the set classic teen comedy Clueless. Iconic scenes — the classroom debate, the house party, the near-car crash on the freeway —  are reproduced with no-expense-spared flair, the cinematic set design and hordes in-costume extras vaulting this 2014 good-life anthem straight into 1995 and all its plaid-clad pizzaz. Millennial Mean Girls babies nodding to their era’s spiritual forerunner — it’s game recognizing game in a music video that should similarly endure. — C.P.

53. Bruno Mars & Cardi B, "Finesse" (Remix) (dir. Bruno Mars & Florent Dechard, 2018)

Everyone loves a good dose  nostalgia, and Bruno Mars served up a giant splatter-painted platter it with his “Finesse” video. Recruiting Cardi B for a remix the high-energy 24K Magic track, Mars emphasized the song's punchy ‘90s-style hip-hop beat with an homage to the era’s sketch-comedy classic In Living Color, using smooth moves and neon outfits to create an awesome spitting-image tribute. And the shout-outs were reciprocated: “Finesse” immediately drew praise from show stars Damon, Marlon, and Kim Wayans, and even sparked a reaction out Jennifer Lopez, who got her start dancing as a Fly Girl on the show. Just as ILC was a cultural moment the ‘90s, “Finesse” helped Bruno Mars and Cardi B solidify their place as icons  2018. — T.W.

52. Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me" (dir. Roman White, 2009)

A pivotal video in Taylor Swift's pop mythology, "You Belong With Me" saw the burgeoning superstar still playing the underdog, whose cartoonish glasses, school-pride wardrobes, and goy dance moves made her the idol (and/or go-to Halloween costume) for a generation unsatisfied overachievers. But don't forget she plays the bad girl in the video, too, and with equal aplomb; listen closely as she marks her territory with the boy next door in her red convertible, and you can hear the snakes from the Reputation Tour hissing impatiently in the distance. — A.U.

51. Lana Del Rey, "National Anthem" (dir. Anthony Mandler, 2012)

All Lana Del Rey’s music videos are cinematic — it’s kind her thing — but “National Anthem” has a movie-quality plot to boot. Del Rey stars first as Marilyn Monroe in a reimagined staging the icon’s 1962 performance "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," then as Jackie Kennedy alongside A$AP Rocky’s suave, handsy JFK. Through Del Rey’s eyes, we see familial scenes unfold between one the most fascinating couples in American history, culminating in a re-enactment the Kennedy assassination. When Del Rey’s castle crumbles, you feel it in your chest, too, and her monologue at the end never fails to bring chills. — G.G.

50. The Diplomats, "Dipset Anthem" (dir. N/A, 2003)

Twenty-plus Harlemites in their baggy, early-2000s best rocking at canted angles away from the camera, arranged on courtyard steps — this is a movement. This is what power looks like. This is what’s really good. That image primes you for Juelz Santana’s opening line: Today is a new day. And if you haven’t got the message, the beat shifts midway through the video into the magisterial “I Really Mean It” to drop an immaculate Cam’ron into your living room, stepping out an Escalade in custom pink Dipset Timbs. Truly, did we dream this? — R.S.

49. Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell, "Drop It Like It's Hot" (dir. Paul Hunter, 2004)

One the most memorable and instantly accessible tracks in Snoop's extensive oeuvre got a similarly delectable video to match, shot in black and white on a blinding background with Pharrell supportively in tow as his head-nodding sidekick. The video's sleek and casually surreal aesthetic was as ubiquitous at the time as the song itself, and now 15 years later it remains a blast to re-watch, particularly for its cameos by the similarly-ageless Pusha T, Chad Hugo, and Lauren London, not to mention Snoop's young sons at the time. — D.R.

48. Orange Caramel, "My Copycat" (dir. Digipedi, 2014)

Orange Caramel have never been bound by K-pop conventions, and “My Copycat” represents the pinnacle the trio’s out–the-box thinking with its interactive game. The full visual experience requires repeat viewings to scope out all the Easter eggs hidden in each frame, as the sweeping Where’s Waldo shots turn a simple concept into a grandiose design. So this is what Orange Caramel meant when they sang, “Play games with my heart tonight.” — C.K.

47. Drake feat. Lil Wayne, "HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)" (dir. Director X, 2012)

More than any us Jewish kids would have ever dared daydream about during Hebrew School: the biggest rapper in the world documenting his own adult Bar Mitzvah, replete with the requisite torah reading, hora dancing, and ever so many popped bottles Manischewitz. Did three-and-a-half minutes Drake and Lil Wayne going HAM — err, going smoked salmon — on the former's special day do more to get kids to their local congregations on Saturday morning than every rabbinical sermon this century combined? Impossible to say for sure, but chances are the JTS wouldn't wanna see the box score that showdown. — A.U.

46. Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink, "Lady Marmalade" (dir. Paul Hunter, 2001)

This clip from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack was more than a music video; it was a pop culture event. And while several groups lady titans have recently tried to recreate the magic (see: "Girls" and "Bang Bang," to name a few), none have come close to conjuring up the spectacle that was "Lady Marmalade." With Mya's hyper-feminine feathers, Pink's rocker-chic top hat (a possible nod to Slash?), Kim's blinged-out statement necklace, and Xtina's ginormous, crimped mane, the video let each soul sister showcase their own personality without stealing the attention from the ensemble. — P.C.

45. Tierra Whack, "Whack World" (dir. Thibaut Duverneix and Mathieu Leger, 2018)

Philly rapper Tierra Whack’s 15-track, 15-minute debut is the perfect example what a full-length visual can, and more importantly should, do for an audio body work. She delivered a multi-part video so striking it demands attention be paid to the music, and vice versa. Each colorful and ten jarring clip — one (literal) minute she’s getting a manicure with a brutally busted face, and the next she's kicking back in a pet cemetery —  shows the ingenuity an artist unfamiliar with boundaries. Let’s hope she never finds them. — LYNDSEY HAVENS

44. Carlos Vives, "La Tierra del Olvido" (dir. Carlos Vives, 2015)

This 2015 remake  Vives’ original video and recording from 1995 is an achingly beautiful love letter to Vives’ native Colombia, where he enlisted help from multiple fellow Colombian stars — including Fanny Lu, Fonesca and Maluma, each hailing from a different region in the country — for a stunning, sweeping trip through his homeland. Meanwhile, the evocative lyrics and melancholy, yet danceable melody, bring to mind memories Gabriel García Marquez. — L.C.

43. Johnny Cash, "Hurt" (dir. Mark Romanek, 2003)

Whether you knew that country Jesus was knocking on heaven’s door in 2002 or not, this 2003 Mark Romanek masterpiece hits like a slow-motion mule kick to the gut. With his Mt. Rushmore face ravaged by time and hard living, Cash plucks a black guitar in a baroque living room overstuffed with the junk life, as a montage snapshots from his younger, hell raisin' years flash across the screen. The devastating, funereal cover  Nine Inch Nails' '90s hit about decay oozes over the unshakable image a frail Cash pouring out wine at a Last Supper and quick-cuts Jesus being nailed to the cross. If this final reckoning doesn’t give you shivers, maybe you’re already dead inside. — GIL KAUFMAN

42. JAY-Z, "99 Problems" (dir. Mark Romanek, 2004)

Intended as his pre-retirement swan song, JAY-Z’s 2003 opus The Black Album gave fans several striking visuals, from “Change Clothes” to “Dirt Off My Shoulders.” But Hovito’s most visceral clip came when he and director Mark Romanek conjured up the black and white video for “99 Problems.” With "Problems" producer Rick Rubin riding shotgun, Jay masterfully illustrates his volatile relationships with the New York streets, the boys in blue and, ultimately, his own demise, as he is violently gunned down at the end the video. Though Hov never really “faded to black” and continued to release more albums, the video for “99 Problems” had every rap fan petrified at the sheer thought losing the culture’s most revered hero. Luckily for us, Superman is still taking out rap villains for a living. — CARL LAMARRE

41. Avril Lavigne, "Complicated" (dir. The Malloys, 2002)

“Dude, you wanna crash the mall?” 

–Avril Lavigne, in the first ten seconds her first music video for her first single

Can you and your skateboarding friends/bandmates who look like a generic-brand Sum 41 (Sum 31?) really “crash” a mall if it’s daytime and already open? The premise is shaky, but whatever: From her first moment on MTV screens, Avril Lavigne established her extraordinary brand PG-13 coming–age tomfoolery with a music video that’s almost too 2002 to function. The ties! The food court! The Jackass-style stunts! Life gets complicated when your friend starts getting all two-faced and trying on NFL jerseys and jewelry store bling, but finally, suburban early-'00s teens had their keeping-it-real heroine. — C.P.

40. Lady Gaga, "Paparazzi" (dir. Jonas Àkerlund, 2009)

With the music video running double the length the song, Gaga's Jonas Åkerlund-directed "Paparazzi" covers a lot ground: Attempted murder by Alexander Skarsgård, the successful murder  Alexander Skarsgård, old movie homages, Mickey Mouse-esque flip-up glasses, and some the fiercest looks from Stefani's early avant-dance diva days. The image crutch-bound Gaga staggering across a purple carpet like Evil Robot Maria from Metropolis — while her dapper backup dancers vogue behind her — made it clear that unlike most pop stars on the planet, Gaga was here to get weird. And in 2009, we devoured it like the fame-obsessed monsters she was sending up. — J. Lynch

39. Kanye West feat. Pusha T, "Runaway" (dir. Kanye West, 2010)

More short film than music video, the genius "Runaway" comes from its stark simplicity, and the meaning seemingly imbued within it. After the solo repetitive piano note that opens the song summons a troupe black-clad ballet dancers, West begins to deliver each line with an increasing look urgency and desperation on his face, ultimately climbing on top the white piano before giving way to Pusha T's verse and the dancers' graceful stoicism. After building the song to its highest intensity with almost Christlike posture, West then cedes the floor to a ballet showcase as the song's coda wrenches to its conclusion, ultimately ending with the rapper placing hand over heart, somber in one the most quintessential images his career. — D.R.

38. Gwen Stefani, "Hollaback Girl" (dir. Paul Hunter, 2005)

Ah, “Hollaback Girl:” a video that contains multitudes. This is prime Love.Angel.Music.Baby content, which means the Harajuku Girls — Stefani’s “super kawaii” but disturbingly silent Japanese girl squad — are front and center, riding through Van Nuys and Reseda in an Impala behind fearless leader Gwen, twerking, and (quietly) helping her spell “bananas.” The minimalist-meets-marching band sound, courtesy the Neptunes, is in nearly every frame — along with Pharrell himself, blessing Stefani with a brief cameo and his ineffable brand cool. But this video, in the end, is really all about Stefani and the charming ball contradictions she has increasingly revealed herself to be: a magnetic-enough presence to make us consider her motives, and then abandon any semblance logical thought to scream “This shit is bananas!” at the top our lungs. — R.M.

37. Nicki Minaj, "Anaconda" (dir. Colin Tilley, 2014)

The Sir Mix-a-Lot sample "Anaconda" is built around may have been met with a collective eye roll for its obviousness, but Minaj fully redeemed herself by pairing it with her most memorable visual to date. Between a bikini-clad aerobics session and an unforgettable lap dance (one that Minaj bragged left guest-star recipient Drake, ahem, "excited like hell"), the colorful clip solidified Minaj's superstar status, helping "Anaconda" slither to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, still the rapper's highest peak yet. — P.C.

36. Rihanna feat. JAY-Z, "Umbrella" (dir. Chris Applebaum, 2007)

A waterfall sparks, umbrella-based choreography and — best all — an iconic silvered silhouette one the biggest pop stars both then and now makes the recipe for this timeless video. It’s the perfect blend sexy, playful, and artistic — risqué without being raunchy, thematic without being tacky. But the video’s biggest feat all is proving that, even if only for Rihanna, it is possible to look that good with an umbrella. — L.H.

35. Dixie Chicks, "Goodbye Earl" (dir. Evan Bernard, 2000)

Starring a blonde Lauren Holly as the badass Mary Ann, pre-30 Rock Jane Krakowski as the helpless Wanda, and NYPD Blue star Dennis Franz (outfitted in a purposefully terrible wig) as the title villain, "Goodbye Earl" is a delightfully campy and colorful video from the Dixie Chicks about "the best friends" who poison the titular character after he beats up Wanda. It's a tale that highlights the power the female bond, without making light its serious subject matter. Yes, "Earl had to die," but the clip shows us just how sweet revenge can be — and by video's end, even a zombified Earl has joined in on the hoedown. — D.W.

34. Eminem, "Without Me" (dir. Joseph Kahn, 2002)

Like the song itself, the 2002 music video for “Without Me” is a fragmentation grenade rapid-fire images designed to level Eminem’s critics — most which he plays in the video himself. The rapper uses battery cables to fry a quasi-mechanical Dick Cheney lookalike and flips f his mother Debbie (Em in a blond metal wig, natch) as she appears on a When Sons Go Bad talk show. And Shady Records lieutenant Obie Trice, in a cameo, body slams Em-as-Moby, who called Shady’s music homophobic and misogynistic. But the real thrill  this clip is watching Shady and partner-in-crime Dr. Dre dressed, respectively, as comic-book characters Robin and Blade, head-bouncing with abandon as they rush to save a minor from purchasing a copy  The Eminem Show, which carries a Parental Advisory sticker. — F.D.

33. Britney Spears, "Oops!… I Did It Again" (dir. Nigel Dick, 2000)

Think another outfit that’s had such decades-long legs. Everyone who's seen this spacey Nigel Dick-directed mini-space epic — the follow-up to the equally one–a-kind “… Baby One More Time” — can instantly picture Brit’s second-skin red pleather catsuit (which was her idea, as was the concept dancing on Mars). The whole experience is a crash course in Britney 101: seductive, if a bit wooden, group dancing; hard-core eye contact with the camera; requisite bare mid-riff squirming; and a silly comedic bit, all which remain key parts the star's rust-free brand blueprint to this day. — G.K.

32. Tyler, the Creator, "Yonkers" (dir. Wolf Haley, 2011)

Tyler, the Creator had a vision: “‘I’m sitting on a chair rapping, I’m playing with a bug, I eat it, I throw it up, my eyes go black, and I hang myself.’ That was his treatment,” explained director Anthony Mandler (Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied,” Rihanna’s “Man Down”) in a 2011 interview. Mandler, along with director photography Luis “Panch” Perez, gave Tyler the guidance and equipment he needed to self-direct the black-and-white, tilt-shifted video for “Yonkers." In the breakout clip, Tyler does exactly what he outlined: He sits in a chair, lets a giant cockroach crawl over his hands, appears to take a bite, pukes, blacks out his eyes, and hangs himself. Effective enough to make stomachs the world over turn — and earn Tyler one the all-time least-likely nods for a Video the Year VMA. — C.W.

31. Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe" (dir. Ben Knechtel, 2012)

Fittingly, one the century’s most beloved No. 1 hits arrived with a timeless visual. Carly Rae flips the male gaze voyeuristic videos past and becomes the behind-the-blinds observer snooping on a backyard hottie, her giddy enthusiasm matching the lyrical tone perfectly. She’s fanning herself from the heat the shirtless car-washing hunk a little too vigorously, fantasizing herself into the cover the kitschy romance novel that’s sitting on her cfee table. She eventually musters the courage to make it out the living room and into the steamy driveway scene, where the iconic “here’s my number” exchange leads to one similarly expectation-subverting final plot twist. — C.P.

30. Fountains Wayne, "Stacy's Mom" (dir. Chris Applebaum, 2003)

"We looked at a lot treatments and some directors were trying to be kind arty and subtle with it, but Chris Applebaum went completely for the jugular,” Fountains Wayne guitarist Adam Schlesinger said the Applebaum-directed “Stacy’s Mom” clip in a 2004 interview. In retrospect, there was no better approach for the surprise pop smash: the broad, brightly colored comedy here — driven by model Rachel Hunter in the titular role — accentuates the song’s storytelling while mixing in some fantasy elements and highly appropriate Ric Ocasek references. Special kudos to Shane Habouca as the teen protagonist, so nimbly capturing the weird, confusing wonder that is male puberty. — J. Lipshutz

29. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, "Despacito" (dir. Carlos Peréz, 2017)

The most-watched video in YouTube history, directed by Carlos Perez, is an unabashed celebration all things Latin, from the opening guitars and the vistas Puerto Rico to the brightly painted homes La Perla with their religious icons and chickens on the porch. And finally, there’s the dancing. Clichéd? Maybe, but totally real, and so expertly realized, we couldn’t help but watch. Ultimately, 5.3 billion viewers can’t be wrong. — L.C.

28. Missy Elliott, "Get Ur Freak On" (dir. Dave Meyers, 2001)

You can ask Kendrick Lamar, and he'll tell you that one his early inspirations was Missy Elliott. In the late '90s and early 2000s, Elliott bloomed into a music video savant because her audacious attempts to do the impossible in under five minutes. In '01, Elliott wiped the competition with her Dave Meyers-shot visual for "Get Ur Freak On." The funky track included a starry cast, with appearances by Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, and Eve. Meanwhile, Missy rhymes inside an underground sewer, glides on top a chandelier — and just when you thought the fun was over — she even sneaks in a quick verse from her Miss E LP highlight "Lick Shots" to restart the party all over again. — C.L.

27. Charli XCX, "Boys" (dir. Charli XCX & Sarah McColgan, 2017)

If you came for “Boys,” it’s boys you’ll find in this genius self-directed visual by Charli XCX — approximately 60 them, in fact, from Diplo bench-pressing puppies and Joe Jonas seductively feasting on pancakes to Charlie Puth hosting a car wash. Did we mention the whole thing is bathed in millennial pink? The idea, Charli told BBC Radio 1, was to reverse traditional music video gender roles, making dudes do “all the sexy things that girls usually do in videos.” Whip-smart, thought-provoking, and fun as hell — not to mention providing fans with enough GIFs to last a Twitter lifetime — “Boys” set the Internet into mayhem, and left it with a message. — T.C.

26. Christina Aguilera feat. Redman, "Dirrty" (dir. David LaChapelle, 2002)

In the world pop divadom, frequent reinvention isn’t just a choice, it’s practically a rule. But back in 2002, Christina Aguilera, loathful her prefab pop princess persona, committed to one the most explosive image resets in history with a red thong, a pair chaps, and a dance move that would come to be known as “the slut drop.” You can only imagine the kind language her critics used against her, and, indeed, there was plenty outrage, vitriol, and mean-spirited mocking flung her way. Still, Aguilera seemed to weather the attention like a pro, and outlets that gave the young singer a chance to explain herself were treated to a brief lesson in sexual agency that was years beyond the general public’s understanding back then: “I may have been the naked-ass girl in the video,” she told Blender in 2003, "but if you at it carefully, I’m also at the forefront. I’m not just some lame chick in a rap video; I’m in the power position.” Guess Bionic wasn’t her only work ahead its time. — N.F.

25. The White Stripes, "Fell in Love With a Girl" (dir. Michel Gondry, 2002)

What better way to play up the youthful sensation a first love than with LEGOs, a classic toy for a classic rock song. The toy choice works in a surprising way here, as the figurines capture the similarly unclear mindset a boy so confused by love he believes “the two sides my brain need to have a meeting.” But, most impressive all is how the video turns something seemingly so simple into something much more complex — reportedly, the video was shot frame by frame, requiring the LEGOs to be rebuilt each time — a situation that anyone who has ever fallen in love is likely all too familiar with. — L.H.

24. Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me a River" (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2003)

There’s a long and tired history Justin Timberlake using Britney Spears as a punch line, and, sure, the concept a disgruntled ex breaking into his former girlfriend’s house and lurking menacingly while she showers hasn’t aged well. But the kind pettiness on display in the captivating “Cry Me a River” is an extinct breed: a revenge fantasy that doesn’t bother with plausible deniability or subtle shady references, and instead lets its darkest impulses curdle in the open for all to see. It wasn’t pretty, but it swung big — and everyone grabbed the popcorn and gave in to the twisted voyeurism it all. — N.F.

23. Katy Perry feat. Snoop Dogg, "California Gurls" (dir. Matthew Cullen, 2010)

A bold, candy-colored cornucopia delectable delights from start to finish, the 2010 Mathew Cullen-directed clip features Perry — sometimes covered only in strategically placed cotton candy, other times in a whipped-cream exploding bra, and always in a day-glo wig — as a pawn in Snoop Dogg’s Queens Candyfornia board game, though course she escapes Snoop's clutches to lead a dance party on the beach. The only way the video would be better were if it were actually edible, especially Snoop Dogg’s army bird-flipping gummy bears. — M.N.

22. M.I.A., "Bad Girls" (dir. Romain Gavras, 2012)

M.I.A. and director Romain Gavras had already proven that they could make an unforgettable video with 2010’s highly controversial “Born Free" — and two years later, they did it again with “Bad Girls.” Shot in Morocco, the video depicts Saudi drifting, where cars ride on their sides on only two wheels. Scenes stunt men and women sitting on the outside the tilted rides are juxtaposed with shots M.I.A. and a glam posse women covered in animal prints and metallic fabrics. Not one to be a bystander, M.I.A. even gets in on the drifting action, as she’s filmed lounging on the passenger door a white BMW, filing her nails as the car cruises along sideways. How could the duo top that? “The next video needs to be shot on the moon,” Gavras mused in a behind-the-scenes video. “With hookers.”   

21. *NSYNC, "Bye Bye Bye" (dir. Wayne Isham, 2000)

This is a boy band video with a complex dramatic setup: We open in a dimly lit vaudeville theater, where the boys *NSYNC hang from strings, manipulated from above by a diabolical but very pretty lady, who then cuts each said strings to set one beautifully-coiffed *NSYNC member at a time on his very own mini-action adventure, racing cars through the desert or running across the top a locomotive, Bond-style. But let’s be honest: That’s not what we’re here for. We’re here to see baby-faced J.T. mean mug for the camera! We’re here to see J.C. torturously belt his “Byyyyye baaaaby!” ad-lib. And above all, we are here to see the dance moves — the steps that would go on to be repeated at countless school dances and house parties, and that will certainly go down in music video history as some the most classic choreography ever captured. Even if they were doing it in some sort intergalactic vacuum, as *NSYNC appear to be in the “Bye Bye Bye” video, it was impossible to look away — and easy to imagine, as we followed those moves in our living rooms, that we could transcend the screen and live in their magical world, too. — R.M.

20. OK Go, "Here It Goes Again" (dir. Trish Sie, 2006)

In 2006, long before Kim Kardashian broke the Internet, this Chicago band went viral with what is otherwise known as “the treadmill video,” a self-choreographed DIY affair — with the help lead singer Damian Kulash’s sister Trish Sie, who was working as a ballroom dancer at the time. The clip features the band executing a series (mostly) precision dance moves on six moving treadmills, and if you’ve ever fallen f one those things, the video is as thrilling as it is entertaining, helping it rack up a reported 900,000 views in a single day. It wasn’t the first ambitious video the group had recorded — see 2002's “C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips” — nor would it be the last, as the band would only scale up with subsequent visuals, most recently culminating in 2016's “Upside Down & Inside Out,” shot in a plane that simulated zero gravity. How they’ll top that one remains to be seen, but we'll probably find out soon enough. — F.D.

19. Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball" (dir. Terry Richardson, 2013)

“Wrecking Ball” was not the lead single for the all-grown-up coming-out party that was Miley Cyrus' Bangerz, but nothing from that era, not even her controversial MTV Video Music Awards performance, forced viewers to recognize Cyrus on her own terms more than this Terry Richardson-directed clip. In it, Cyrus doesn’t push buttons — she, well, uses a sturdy tool ten found at constructions sites to smash them, doing whatever she can to inspire feeling, any feeling, in those watching. There’s the raw play for emotion with the tearful close-ups, which Cyrus has said were meant to evoke Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U." And then there’s the more polarizing attention-grabs — Cyrus licking a sledgehammer, appearing naked atop the title object as it swings around. Cyrus did whatever she could to get a reaction, and she didn’t care what kind she got as long as people were looking. “I think people are going to hate it,” she told Rolling Stone at the time, “and then when we get to the bridge, they’re gonna have a little tear and be like, ‘Fuck you!’ … It’s something that people are not gonna forget.” — N.F.

18. Sia, "Chandelier" (dir. Sia & Daniel Askill)

Ever the elusive star, Sia opted to sit out the videos for 2014’s 1000 Forms Fear. It yielded some the most exhilarating visuals the time, with a notable assist from then-pre-teen dancer Maddie Ziegler, then known for starring on Lifetime’s Dance Moms. Clad in a white, tight-cropped wig that resembles Sia’s signature coif, Ziegler stepped in for three the videos from the set, most notably “Chandelier,” a clip with over 1.5 billion YouTube views, which tracks her as she dances through a dilapidated apartment, breathing life into the drab and mundane surroundings around her — and making a star out its absent singer. — S.J.H.

17. My Chemical Romance, "Helena" (dir. Marc Webb, 2005)

It wasn't supposed to rain on set, but course it did: My Chemical Romance and Marc Webb brought the emo downpour for "Helena," and the elements simply responded in turn. One three brilliant video collaborations between band and director for MCR's starmaking Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge album, "Helena" was both the simplest and the most affecting: Its balletic funeral proceeding made for the best high-concept rock melodarama since Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris were doing feature-film dry runs with Smashing Pumpkins a decade earlier. But for all the elaborate choreography and staging, the most indelible moment remains the curl lead singer Gerard Way's lower lip as he sings the final tearjerking chorus — a reminder that the song was inspired by Gerard and bassist brother Mikey's late grandmother, and thus the video held far more weight than just the prop cfin they were carrying. — A.U.

16. Drake, "Hotline Bling" (dir. Director X, 2014)

The dorky dad moves, the Sean Paul references, the pastel lighting reminiscent artist James Turrell, the slightly passive-aggressive lyrics, the D.R.A.M. "Cha Cha” controversy, the parodies, the endless memes! There was no way that anyone could escape the pop culture phenomenon that was Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video. Helmed by Director X, the video catches you f guard by beginning with a bunch Drizzy-approved women working at — what else — a call center. As the camera zooms into the water cooler just 20 seconds in, the dancing that sparked a thousand GIFs begins. No matter how hard you try to look away, Drake keeps you lured in with every corny salsa step, cell phone-imitating hand wiggle, and agonized facial expression. Being the cultural mastermind that he is, Drake had to have predicted the video’s outcome. And somehow that makes it all the more brilliant. — B.G.

15. Kendrick Lamar, "HUMBLE." (dir. Dave Meyers & The Little Homies, 2017)

Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning video for “Humble” is a lesson in irony: While the song is a finger-wagging anthem about modesty, the video itself is overflowing with wealth — both physical and metaphorical. Opening with Pope Lamar in a vacant church, the video rapidly shifts through scenes the rapper playfully toying with a money machine, enjoying Grey Poupon, and teeing f atop a car’s ro. But the more memorable parts highlight black-centric symbolism. With Lamar recreating Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper with all black men and and a woman fearlessly displaying her stretch marks, the video becomes yet another celebration the culture in the rapper’s visual armory. — B.G.

14. Lady Gaga feat. Beyoncé, "Telephone" (dir. Jonas Åkerlund, 2010)

What happens when you pair up two the most influential female pop stars in recent history for a music video? That would be “Telephone,” the gloriously ridiculous, nine-and-a-half-minute spectacle from director Jonas Åkerlund that involves a women’s prison, Beyoncé (ahem, “Honeybee”) feeding Lady Gaga a pastry, a murder at a diner, a poison sandwich-making tutorial, Quentin Tarantino references aplenty, and a dance sequence that has spawned dozens YouTube tutorials. If all that’s not enough to make “Telephone” an instant classic, consider that the video is actually a continuation Gaga’s “Paparazzi” video from the year prior, with the same director — which ends with Gaga in the can — and let your mind be blown. Could a third installment be in our future? We can only hope. — T.C.

13. Taylor Swift, "Blank Space" (dir. Joseph Kahn, 2015)

After years receiving criticism for writing songs about her exes, Taylor Swift stuck it to the haters with a visual portrayal just how “insane” she seems to former suitors and critics alike. The result is the singer’s best video to date, as “Blank Space" makes a mockery the crazy-ex persona while entrancing viewers with imagery that’s both fanciful and harrowing. The video sets up a classic romance with a handsome guy, a breathtaking mansion, stunning gowns, and white horses (plus a cameo from her celebrity cat Oli Benson), turning the seemingly perfect relationship on its head once infidelity and jealousy strike. Swift’s acting is brilliant as she takes a knife to painted portraits her beau, chops up his clothes, and sings with mascara streaming down her face — almost making it believable that she’s as crazy as naysayers make her out to be. Whether you think she loves the drama or it loves her, Taylor Swift always makes sure her videos tell a story, and “Blank Space” could be its own damn novel. — T.W.

12. PSY, "Gangnam Style" (dir. Cho Soo-Hyun, 2012)

It's hard to believe that it's been over half a decade since the satirical dance track "Gangnam Style" took the world by storm to become the first-ever video to be viewed over 1 billion times. With its over-the-top antics aimed at mocking the denizens Seoul's Gangnam neighborhood, numerous cameos from local comedians and pop stars, and its easy-to-learn equine choreography, PSY’s video became a surprise global sensation that turned all eyes to South Korea’s music industry. Though it’s no longer the world’s most-viewed music video, the legacy “Gangnam Style” remains. — T.H.

11. JAY-Z & Kanye West, "Otis" (dir. Spike Jonze, 2011)

What part 2011's impossibly joyful video for "Otis" feels the least likely in 2018? That it had a world premiere on MTV (like, MTV the cable TV channel) with a rebroadcast on MTV2 a couple hours later? That the most controversial thing about it — the thing that necessitated a disclaimer at the end — was that the needless deconstruction the vehicle used for the clip's joyriding would be seen as financially irresponsible? That the big celebrity cameo comes from a silent Aziz Ansari? That Kanye appears to be having an absolute blast? That Jay and Kanye act like they genuinely love each other? Or is it that there's a gigantic American flag plastered on the wall behind the duo, with no message seemingly attached to it except to ask, "How could you not love a country where we get to do shit like this?" At the time, the point felt like a strong one. — A.U.

10. Childish Gambino, "This Is America" (dir. Hiro Murai, 2018)

We get the music videos we want, but also sometimes the ones we need. Amid racial strife stirred up by a president who blames “both sides” and endless uniformed violence against minority men and women came actor/rapper Donald Glover’s funky, neck-snapping surprise statement. As Gambino, Glover — dressed in Confederate Army grey pants and no shirt in a possible nod to Afrunk godhead/provocateur Fela Kuti — busts hip-cracking African Gwara Gwara dance moves while shooting a hooded black man and striking a pose straight outta Jim Crow imagery. Yes, it’s a lot. Released as Glover rebooted intergalactic schemer Lando Calrissian in Disney’s Solo, the sight the Atlanta star grabbing his suddenly global platform and gunning down a church choir with a machine gun (à la the Charleston church massacre) then sprinting away from the Sunken Place tells you everything about the current state the nation. — G.K.

9. Fatboy Slim, "Weapon Choice" (dir. Spike Jonze, 2000)

"Weapon Choice" predicted the viral video as well as any other clip released in the pre-YouTube era, down to the fact that a lot the people who remember the video probably couldn't name who its song was by: Undoubtedly, at least half the clip's Internet traffic comes from "Christopher Walken hotel dancing" searches. "Choice" was a good song but a sensational video, one that brings the aforementioned four-word concept to such improbable three-dimensional life that it remains compulsively watchable even after the 57th time you're seeing the guy who played Max Shreck doing the hands-in-pockets shimmy. The key? Those beginning and closing shots a silent, still Walken seated in deep contemplation, with only the whirring sounds hotel maintenance showing signs life around him, as existentially haunting as anything Beckett ever staged. — A.U.

8. Beyoncé, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" (dir. Jake Nava, 2008)

Kanye West nearly committed career suicide when he crashed the MTV VMAs stage in 2010 to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video: “I’ma let you finish,” he infamously commented, “but Beyonce had one the best videos all time!” He wasn't wrong, though — directed by Jake Nava, the stunning, breathless visuals for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” marked a turning point in Beyoncé’s career: She had proven herself so talented, so enrapturing, that all you really needed to pull f a milestone video was to simply train the camera on her in an empty room and let her handle the rest. The resulting clip is an unstoppable assailing the senses: Bey, clad in an over-the-shoulder leotard, is joined by two backup dancers, all in heels, hitting a for-experts dance routine and making it look simple. As the background gradient shifts colors and the cameras circle her, she never breaks focus for even a split second, keeping the energy on full throttle. It’s no wonder West put his name and rep on the line for the sake the video — Beyoncé earned it. — S.J.H.

7. Britney Spears, "Toxic" (dir. Joseph Kahn, 2004)

Britney Spears gifted the 21st century with a number indelible looks, and the "Toxic" video boasts an embarrassment them: Britney the Mile High Club-bound stewardess whose kiss turns a schlubby passenger into a stunning model; Britney the laser-tripping secret agent with fire engine-red hair; and course, Britney in the buff, covered in diamonds and writhing around the floor like the Bond Girl to end all Bond Girls. Whether prancing down the aisle an airplane or poisoning her boyfriend (five years before "Paparazzi") and jumping f a balcony into the night, "Toxic" Britney wiped clean the schoolgirl imagery and set the tone for the next 15 years her career: Breathtaking, flawlessly executed camp that was closer to drag culture than fashion week. — J. Lynch

6. Rihanna & Calvin Harris, "We Found Love" (dir. Melina Matsoukas, 2011)

Anyone who wondered if pop stars had lost their ability to excite, to surprise, to unnerve with their music videos had to feel the "We Found Love" clip like a bolt lightning to the chest. Melina Matsoukas' dizzying visual for Rihanna's career-recalibrating smash Calvin Harris collab was a tale a toxic relationship starring RiRi and a pouty, peroxide-blond gentleman who looks a lot like oh-take-a-guess, edited like a light-speed four-minute relationship montage that recreates the shock all music videos must've delivered to fans classic Hollywood back in '81. Like Trainspotting, what makes "We Found Love" really frightening is how palpably electric the highs are, enough to make it plausible that its star would do what it took to feed her addiction initially. But that doesn't mean you don't still breathe a sigh relief when she decides to choose life at the end instead. — A.U.

5. OutKast, "Hey Ya!" (dir. Bryan Barber, 2003)

Coming up on the 15th anniversary its release, “Hey Ya!” remains an infectious slice pop culture — as does its video. A twist on the Beatles’ own era-defining appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, “Hey Ya!” finds OutKast turning the British Invasion on its ear, complete with black & white footage, a screaming female audience, a black family viewing the momentous TV performance at home, and Ryan Phillippe in the guise host Sullivan. Speaking guises, Big Boi acts as the band manager, while André 3000 portrays all eight band members, including background group The Love Haters — all garbed in eye-catching green finery. During the two-day shoot in Los Angeles, André reportedly performed “Hey Ya!” 23 times. Beyond introducing the phrase “shake it like a Polaroid picture” into the pop lexicon, OutKast also single-handedly revitalized the camera company’s public image. The Bryan Barber-directed video later won a bevy  awards, including video the year at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards. — G.M.

4. Beyoncé, "Formation" (dir. Melina Matsoukas, 2016)

Beyoncé stopped the world for the umpteenth time when she dropped the explosive song and video for “Formation," just a day before performing the anthem at Super Bowl 50. Frequent collaborator Melina Matsoukas may have shot the video in Los Angeles, but every second is deeply rooted in Louisiana and its Creole background — the ancestral origin Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles Lawson. The historical references are overwhelming: the Antebellum-style houses, Beyoncé’s Victorian hoop skirts and petticoats, the now-legendary wide-brimmed hat suitable for American Horror Story: Coven, Blue Ivy happily rocking her fluffy afro, the singer being submerged underwater while on top a police car as a nod to Hurricane Katrina , the inclusion New Orleans stars Big Freedia and the late Messy Mya. At one point in the video, a young boy is seen dancing in front a line gun-clad ficers, who respond by putting their hands up. In a time where racial tensions were climbing to new, uncomfortable heights, “Formation” served as an active reminder that black people could not be silenced. To top it all f, the “Formation” video dropped just a few months before the singer’s second Super Bowl halftime performance, which further shoved its socio-political message in the face America. — B.G.

3. D'Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)" (dir. Paul Hunter, 2000)

Naked as the day he was born, save for a gold chain and bracelet, D’Angelo is the entirety the simple, single-take video for “Untitled.” The song asks how does it feel. and the video attempts to answer what it looks like, and it does so with such candor that the song and video have become inseparable. You see parts this man’s body move, tense, and ripple in ways that must’ve been previously only available to his romantic partners. From the vantage 2018, the self-scrutinizing gloom that it cast on his career, the way it fueled his performance anxiety as fans showed up to the post-video tour dates expecting total access to Adonis each night, feels safely in the rearview. D’Angelo returned in 2014 with Black Messiah and toured successfully after its release, allowing us to once again to just admire the physicality and emotion one the greatest sex jams ever made. — R.S.

2. Missy Elliott, "Work It" (dir. Dave Meyers, 2002)

While most her contemporaries settled for music videos that made them look tough or sexy, Missy Elliott got strange with hers, and "Work It" is a perfect distillation her idiosyncratic vision warped world. From upside-down dance moves on a post-apocalyptic playground to Missy swallowing a Lamborghini whole and donning a dunce cap for the deliciously goy "why you act dumb?" segment, Elliott pushed imagery into the mainstream that most rappers, rockers, and pop stars wouldn't dare go near in an era before being "weird" or "nerdy" had cultural cache. Sure, someone else might have a Prince parody or a split-second Halle Berry cameo in their clip, but would they also have a U.S. Marine mouthing "give you some-some-some this Cinnabun" or the lead artist lip-syncing to camera while bees swarm their face? Like its forward-thinking Under Construction parent album, Missy's "Work It" video made it clear that what was normal was boring, and the future belonged to those who weren't afraid to defy expectations, conventions, and even gravity on occasion. — J. Lynch

1. Lady Gaga, "Bad Romance" (dir. Francis Lawrence, 2009)

By the time she crawled out your mom’s Volvo ro box to deliver her first rah-rah-rahs, Lady Gaga had already hosted a poolside orgy, transformed the subway into her debaucherous lair, and sought poisonous revenge on Alexander Skarsgård for throwing her f the edge a castle. Her ideas were big; her budgets were catching up. But the video for “Bad Romance,” the lead single from 2009’s The Fame Monster, went beyond the kind spectacle that rising superstars like her had the resources to pull f. It fered a glimpse into an entire cinematic world that thrilled and disturbed in equal measure, expanding the possibilities what a music video could achieve — and challenging other stars to step their game up at the same time.

“Bad Romance” features some her most gorgeous music-video looks — as silly as it seems now in the post-Joanne era, the video was praised by some critics for the “stripped-down” and “normal” makeup on display — as well as her most unsettling. The white crowned bodysuits look like Max from Where the Wild Things Are hit up a fetish club. The bathtub-bound Gaga with CGI-enlarged eyes beckoned to the uncanny valley. And despite all the glossy, sterile exteriors abound, an element body horror lurks underneath the surface, from shots that linger over dancers’ exaggerated bony spines to the emaciated Gaga-monster hiding in a cage during the second verse. Pause the video at any moment and you’ll probably find yourself starting at something worth dissecting; even the briefest scenes and cutaways — Gaga suspended in a cloud diamonds, Gaga covering her face with razor-blade sunglasses, Gaga stomping around in alienesque Alexander McQueen heels — could have sustained their own storylines as standalone videos.

Those mini-moments were mostly in service a bigger story, one in which Gaga gets kidnapped and drugged by models, sold into some kind sexual slavery an ominous pack Russian men, and eventually enacts a fiery revenge plot. Considering how “Bad Romance” cemented the branding and iconography her “Little Monster” fanbase — witness the birth the monster claw! — it’s a little ironic that Gaga has described the video’s plot as an allegory about the entertainment industry, one that asks viewers to examine their relationship to their idols, what they ask them, and at what cost they get it.

Of course, Lady Gaga would go on to make more elaborate music videos than “Bad Romance” — the mini-movie that was “Telephone,” the space opera that was “Born This Way,” each weaving in social commentary in both obvious and subtle ways. But more than providing any one look, dance move, or message, "Bad Romance" was a supernova reminder that there was still so much room to push the art form — and that no one was more game to lead the charge than the free bitch herself, baby. It’s fitting that the video ends with the singer torching the place and everything in her path, lying among the embers and shooting sparks out her pyro-bra. With “Bad Romance,” she took the old standard for great music videos and set it aflame, then got to work building a new one. — N.F.