The 1990s continued in the footsteps of the 1980s by pushing the envelope on music videos. The decade brought genres forward such as grunge, indie rock, and metal, resulting in some of the best music videos of all time. Here are the 55 best music videos of the 1990s:
1. Criminal — Fiona Apple
Criminal personified the “heroin chic” fashion of the 1990s, with special effects used to make her eyes glow. The music video is proof that all press is good press, becoming the most successful single of Fiona Apple’s career and winning a 1998 MTV Video Music Award for Best Cinematography.
2. Around The World — Daft Punk
Daft Punk rose to prominence during the 1990s, but the faceless group’s biggest claim to fame of the decade was 1997’s Around The World. The music video was directed by superstar Michel Gondry, known for directing dozens of award-winning music videos.
3. Sabotage — Beastie Boys
Beastie Boys released Sabotage in 1994 and gained attention for its hard-hitting combo of rap and rock. The music video was directed by Spike Jonze and depicted the band members as actors in a fictional 1970s-style cop drama. It was nominated for five awards at the MTV Music Video Awards.
4. Right Now — Van Halen
Back in 1992, Van Halen’s Right Now was hard-hitting and revolutionary. It depicted Sammy Hagar singing while subtitles emphasizing social issues of the time appeared around it. It won MTV’s Music Video of The Year.
5. Nuthin’ But a G Thang — Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg
Snoop Dogg collaborated on Nuthin’ But A G Thang with Dr. Dre back when he was known as Snoop Doggy Dogg. The song came out in 1992, paving the way for the rest of the gangster rap and funk tracks of the 1990s.
6. Praise You — Fatboy Slim
Praise You made waves right at the end of the decade, becoming one of the earliest flash mob videos. The low-budget enterprise featured a group of community dancers breaking into a routine in front of the Fox Bruin Theatre in Los Angeles.
7. Doo-Wop (That Thing) — Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s 1998 video for Doo-Wop (That Thing) was remarkable because of its unique special effects. These used split-screen technology to depict her in two roles side-by-side: one was her contemporary self while the other was a woman from 1967. The video was widely acclaimed at the MTV Music Video Awards and has been called one of the best music videos of all time.
8. Give It Away — Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers went above and beyond for their 1991 music video Give It Away. The video was an ambitious—and expensive—artistic exploration under the direction of Stéphane Sednaoui. The band’s label wasn’t a fan of the video, saying that it didn’t fit with their public image. Nevertheless, it was extremely popular on MTV, gaining them a whole new generation of fans.
9. Crush With Eyeliner — R.E.M.
R.E.M. was extremely popular on the indie music scene of the 1990s, yet they did not often make music videos. This was reportedly because lead singer Michael Stipe hated lip-synching. But in 1994, the band capitulated with a music video for Crush With Eyeliner. The video depicted them as a mainstream Japanese pop group, an image that symbolized their sound shift from indie music to glam rock.
10. Outtasite (Outta Mind) — Wilco
Wilco wasn’t widely known before releasing the 1996 video for Outtasite (Outta Mind). But the sheer ambitiousness of the music video from a little-known indie band put them on the map. The video, which fans described as “thrilling,” depicted the members skydiving while singing a lighter rendition of the song—one of two versions on their album.
11. Paranoid Android — Radiohead
In the grand tradition of using animation in music videos of the 1980s and 1990s came Radiohead’s 1997 Paranoid Android. The simple, crude animation depicted a character named Robin going out in the world with his friend Benjamin and meeting various characters, including a bare-breasted mermaid who was subsequently removed by censors.
12. Closer — Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails shocked and impressed the public with the 1994 music video for Closer. The video, set in an ancient laboratory, was shot on an old-world crank camera. It explores religious, violent, and sexual imagery, including a beating, disembodied heart, lead singer Trent Reznor in bondage gear, and a monkey tied to a cross.
13. Elektrobank — The Chemical Brothers
Spike Jonze directed the 1997 music video for Elektrobank, which has been called the best music video of his career. The video portrays a young woman, played by Sofia Coppola, performing in a gymnastics competition.
14. What’s My Age Again? — Blink-182
What’s My Age Again? just barely makes it onto the list, having been released in 1999. Nevertheless, it became iconic, receiving heavy airtime starting in May. The music video featured the members of the band streaking through the streets of Los Angeles, giving them a reputation that they never seemed to live down.
15. Gin And Juice — Snoop Dogg
One of Snoop Dogg’s greatest hits, Gin And Juice was an early blueprint for gangster rap. Released in 1994, it would go on to influence other hip hop artists throughout the decade and even into the new millennium. The music video features a drug- and alcohol-heavy party that is broken up by the rapper’s angry parents.
16. …Baby One More Time — Britney Spears
…Baby One More Time single-handedly catapulted Britney Spears to star status thanks to her provocative music video. Released in 1998, the video portrayed the then-16-year-old singer dancing in a school uniform. It garnered both negative and positive attention and launched her career, becoming one of the most instantly iconic music videos of all time.
17. Ironic — Alanis Morissette
Alt-rock singer Alanis Morissette has had many hits over her career, but 1996’s Ironic is by far one of her most famous. The music video, which won three MTV awards, features her driving a variety of passengers, also played by the singer, through a winter scene. The song has become known for its use of strange examples of irony.
18. November Rain — Guns N’ Roses
Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain was a departure from the band’s usual hard-hitting rock songs; it also made headlines as one of the priciest music videos ever filmed. Due to its on-location shooting and the transportation of a wooden church to Mexico, the music video clocked in at one and a half million dollars.
19. Nothing Compares 2 U — Sinéad O’Connor
Sinéad O’Connor’s 1991 music video for her cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U gained attention because it cut a contrast to other music videos of the time. It depicts her with a shaved head, singing directly into the camera. The simplicity was mesmerizing and led to her making history as the first female musician to win an MTV Video Of The Year Music Award.
20. Protection — Massive Attack
The famous Michel Gondry directed the music video for Massive Attack’s Protection. Though the video did not win him his usual bevy of awards in 1995, it experienced a resurgence when it was uploaded to YouTube in 2009. It is now considered one of the iconic music videos of the decade.
21. Bitter Sweet Symphony — The Verve
The Verve’s 1997 music video for Bitter Sweet Symphony depicted the members of the band resolutely striding down the streets of London, seemingly oblivious to the others around them. It received several nominations at the MTV Music Video Awards.
22. All is Full of Love — Björk
Icelandic musician Björk was widely known for her artistic, often bizarre music videos. All Is Full of Love was released in 1997 and has been called a landmark video in the development of computer animation; it has even been displayed at the New York City Museum of Modern Art.
23. Gimme Some More — Busta Rhymes
Busta Rhymes’ 1998 music video for Gimme Some More is a bizarre venture into memory, monsters, cartoons, and costumes. The song uses an orchestral motif from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as a backing track, making the whole thing eerier.
24. Big Me — Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters’ song Big Me sought to mock popular Mentos commercials at the time while also poking fun at the band itself. The video won Best Group Video at the MTV Music Awards and led to them being pelted with Mentos whenever they performed the song live.
25. Common People — Pulp
Common People is a 1995 pop-rock track that takes some hard hits at the trend of gentrification, with the rich co-opting poor people’s experiences for their own amusement. The music video featured loops of people going about their daily lives in London’s East End; it also made an homage to the Beatles’ video for Yellow Submarine.
26. Vogue — Madonna
Madonna’s career hardly slowed after peaking in the 1980s; she hit the next decade hard with a series of hits. One of the most striking was her 1990 hit Vogue, the music video for which is considered one of the best of the decade. It evokes the Golden Age of Hollywood, namechecking stars of the era such as Katharine Hepburn and Judy Garland.
27. Cryin’ — Aerosmith
Cryin’ made history not just for being the most famous video on MTV in 1993 but also reportedly for popularizing navel piercings. The storyline featured actors Alicia Silverstone and Stephen Dorff as a couple whose relationship falls apart following an instance of infidelity. She then sets off to find herself—a journey which, apparently, includes getting her belly button pierced.
28. Wannabe — Spice Girls
The Spice Girls captured the world with their 1996 music video for Wannabe. It was impossible to ignore the high-energy, in-your-face song that seamlessly combined female rap and pop in a result that was totally unique for the time. The award-winning music video also brought questions; we still don’t know what “zig-a-zig” means.
29. No Rain — Blind Melon
Blind Melon’s No Rain was released in 1993 and became widely popular on MTV, helping popularize the band. It featured a storyline of a character known as “Bee Girl,” who performed a tap routine while dressed as a bee. She is mocked by the audience until she finds a community of other “bee people” who accept her.
30. California Love — 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre
31. 1979 — The Smashing Pumpkins
The song 1979 is a look back on adolescence and the roles of boredom, violence, and idealism that play a part. The music video was highly acclaimed, winning the 1996 MTV Music Video Award for Best Alternative Music Video.
32. Virtual Insanity — Jamiroquai
Jamiroquai’s music video for Virtual Insanity, released in 1997, was wildly accoladed, receiving ten nominations and winning four awards. The video won particular acclaim for its use of clever special effects, many of which were achieved manually.
33. Smack My Bitch Up — The Prodigy
The 1997 music video for Smack My Bitch Up was rarely aired, as censors were so shocked by both the lyrical and visual content of the video. Nevertheless, the video gained widespread attention due to challenging gender expectations; it went on to win Best Dance and Best Breakthrough Video.
34. Got ‘Til It’s Gone — Janet Jackson
Got ‘Til It’s Gone featured a unique collaboration between Janet Jackson, rapper Q-Tip, and songstress Joni Mitchell. The music video showed a storyline taking place in South Africa during apartheid and was considered a skilled short film about racial segregation.
35. Where It’s At — Beck
Where It’s At earned its claim to fame by becoming the first music video to air on MTV2, in August 1996. The video, which depicts the lead singer in a variety of costumes and activities, won an MTV Video Award For Best Male Video.
36. Karma Police — Radiohead
Karma Police has been called one of the greatest songs in history, not just one of the best of the 1990s. The 1997 music video depicted a car chase with a twist ending; the band later said the goal was to create a video that was evocative but could be summarized in a sentence.
37. Waterfalls — TLC
Waterfalls became so famous that it is widely considered TLC’s signature song. The music video depicted storylines about societal issues of the day, including poverty, drug violence, and the AIDS crisis.
38. Freak on a Leash — Korn
Korn was unmissable during the 1990s, pioneering the genre of nu metal. The 1998 song Freak On A Leash was moderately popular until the release of the music video, which earned the band widespread attention. The video combines animation and live-action, with elements from each “world” crossing into the other.
39. Freedom! ’90 — George Michael
George Michael’s Freedom! ’90 has been called one of the greatest songs of all time; the music video features five models imitating the singer’s signature looks while lip-synching along to the verses. The musician did not appear in the video.
40. Pumping on Your Stereo — Supergrass
Supergrass’ 1999 music video for Pumping On Your Stereo featured the band members playing cartoonish instruments while wearing fake heads that have been compared to Muppets. As the song ends, one member’s head falls off; the track ends with a voice asking “Can we go home now?”
41. No Surprises — Radiohead
Radiohead’s music video for No Surprises served as a metaphor for a self-destructive lifestyle; it featured singer Thom Yorke wearing a helmet that slowly fills with water throughout the song until he is completely submerged and unable to sing.
42. The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) — Missy Elliott
The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) was hip hop singer Missy Elliott’s debut solo single. The music video, released in 1997, gained attention for her unique wardrobe and use of a fisheye lens, which would become standard for similar music videos in the following years.
43. Are You Gonna Go My Way — Lenny Kravitz
Are You Gonna Go My Way is widely considered Lenny Kravitz’ breakthrough hit. Though it is understated in comparison to many other videos of the decade, it reached icon status thanks to its mesmerizing choreography and the use of colorful light tubes displayed behind the playing band.
44. It’s Oh So Quiet — Björk
Björk’s 1995 cover of the 1950s song It’s Oh So Quiet gained widespread attention partly due to her eccentric music video. Like many of the singer’s other videos, it was artistic in the extreme because of her own influence and the direction of Spike Jonze.
45. Wonderwall — Oasis
Oasis’ 1995 hit Wonderwall was so widely played that the band earned a reputation as a one-hit wonder; the song later spawned a recurring internet joke. Nevertheless, the playtime was well-earned; the music video was simple but artistic, winning British Video of The Year in 1996.
46. Black Hole Sun — Soundgarden
Soundgarden knew its stuff when it came to making an impression on the grunge scene. The 1994 song Black Hole Sun won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance; meanwhile, the music video made an impression and won an MTV Music Video Award for its apocalyptic storyline.
47. Jeremy — Pearl Jam
Jeremy was a 1992 single from Pearl Jam, the story of a real student who shot himself in front of peers. The controversial music video caused shock but also made waves, winning four MTV Music Video Awards. It was originally financed by the band members themselves after other investors refused due to the content.
48. Coffee And TV — Blur
Continuing in the grand tradition of combining animation with live action in music videos, 1999’s Coffee And TV made waves with a character known as Milky. The video shows singer Graham Coxon depicted as a missing person on the side of a milk carton, which comes to life to find him.
49. Headache — Frank Black
Though Headache flew under the radar at the time, critics look back on Frank Black’s 1994 track as an underappreciated gem. The song, along with its accompanying black and white music video featuring him flying through the sky, has been called “anthemic.”
50. Dirty Boots — Sonic Youth
Dirty Boots was released in 1991, an indie rock song that largely slipped under the notice of mainstream sources. The music video features a couple meeting at a Sonic Youth concert before making their way onstage to share a passionate kiss.
51. Smells Like Teen Spirit — Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit was almost single-handedly responsible for making Nirvana one of the most successful grunge bands of all time. The music video, released in 1991, received heavy airtime on MTV and quickly became the symbol of teenage rebellion.
52. Scream — Michael Jackson And Janet Jackson
Scream was a sibling collaborative effort from Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson, released in response to allegations about the King of Pop’s personal life. She joined in as a show of support for her brother, leading to the electric song and dance duet.
53. My Name Is — Eminem
Squeezing in at the end of the decade was Eminem’s music video for My Name Is. It has been called one of the best music videos in history. It portrays him in a variety of roles, from a porn star to a ventriloquist dummy to President Bill Clinton.
54. Losing My Religion — R.E.M.
Losing My Religion put R.E.M. on the map as one of the “it bands” of the 1990s; the music video, released in 1991, won a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video. It drew heavy inspiration from Renaissance art, Indian films, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and religious art.
55. Buddy Holly — Weezer
Buddy Holly was released in 1994; it made waves due to its nostalgic music video, which placed the band on the set of the 1970s sitcom, Happy Days. The video even included a cameo from an actor in the show, Al Molinaro, and a body double dressed as Fonzie. It gained widespread attention for its contemporary sound combined with an old-world feel.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
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