The 100 Greatest Music Videos of All Time


Lucas, “Lucas with the Lid Off” (Michel Gondry)

No music video director has ever called as much attention to the process of filmmaking than Michel Gondry did with “Lucas with the Lid Off.” Robert Altman and Orson Welles (in Touch of Evil and The Player, respectively) called attention to their film’s opening long takes, and Alfred Hitchcock went as far as to use clever camera tricks to give the illusion that his film Rope was shot in one continuous take. “Lucas With The Lid Off” represents a fascinating point of departure because Gondry’s goal is to call attention away from his remarkable technical achievement. In the video, Lucas plays a recording artist supervising his own creative process and subsequent success. Though the entire video was shot in one long take, the action presented in the video does not transpire in real time. A series of numbered frames indicates where Gondry’s camera will need to stop before recording the next movement in the video’s action. More importantly, though, these stoppage points evoke passages in time and call attention to the very nature of the recording process. This rigorous, head-trippy experiment evokes the human mind’s own subjective ability to perceive and edit the world around it with as little as a blink of an eye.


Michael Jackson, “Thriller” (John Landis)

Never before had a music video, a largely artless marketing tool up until that point, employed plot, costume and cinema style so expansively as Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Despite its ghoulish subject matter, the clip possessed an innocence not unlike that of its famous star. Black actors were transplanted into a 1950s setting for the video’s opening film-within-a-film. Jackson and his date exit the theater and take a detour through a graveyard, awakening a troupe of pelvic-thrusting zombies. To give the video its authentically creepy quality, Jackson enlisted director John Landis and Academy Award-winning make-up artist Rick Baker, both hot off 1981’s An American Werewolf in London. The video’s dancing zombie sequence, choreographed by Jackson and Michael Peters, has yet to be topped.


Mariah Carey, “The Roof” (Mariah Carey and Diane Martel)

The video for “The Roof,” a standout track from Mariah Carey’s 1997 album Butterfly, tells the sophisticated tale of a sexy rooftop encounter and finds the singer at her least artificial. Boomboxes, break-dancers, blow pops and snug Sergio Valentes abound, the video effectively transplants Carey to an NYC rooftop circa 1983. Submerged—and ultimately soaked—in her fleeting moment of sexual liberation, Carey displays a stark innocence and authentic vulnerability that had been missing from much of her previous work. Shot in a seedy hotel room and a dark limousine, the gritty images did plenty to redeem the singer of her bubblegum pop past. When Carey rises through the limo’s sunroof and relishes the warm November rain, she’s not drunk on the bubbly but on the memory of past delights.


Björk, “Bachelorette” (Michel Gondry)

Destiny plucks Björk from the obscurity of her forest home and her success story is exploited and re-exploited to where reality is no longer discernible from its aesthetic representation. With each staged adaptation of Björk’s bestselling book, My Story, we move further and further away from the truth of the forest nymph’s origins, so much so that it becomes someone else’s story. These reproductions turn on themselves, falling into an existential vortex that ushers in Björk’s return to nature. Björk cries, “I’m a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl!” Destiny rewrites itself and words disintegrate, as does the flesh.


Madonna, “Open Your Heart” (Jean-Baptiste Mondino)

The Consumption of the Female Body and the Male Gaze. Professor: Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. Hours: Fridays and Saturdays from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. Materials needed: (1) shirt, (1) tie, (2) wigs (colors optional) and (3) boxes of Kleenex.