The era of music videos began in the 1980s with the start of MTV. The rise of the internet only opened up new options, with bands using new technology to explore musical storytelling. The Y2K decade brought new genres, viral dance routines, and much more.
1. Toxic — Britney Spears
Britney Spears stepped out of her 1990s schoolgirl era with the 2003 hit, Toxic. The music video was a silly but fun storyline involving her as an airline hostess and spy. It drew on inspiration from James Bond and sought to show her as a mature, seductive woman. And it seems to have succeeded, particularly with the famous sequence of the singer dressed in thousands of diamonds and nothing else.
2. The Real Slim Shady — Eminem
Eminem exploded into the new millennium with the 2000 release, The Real Slim Shady, establishing his darker alter ego. “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?” remains a universally-known pop culture reference decades later, delivered by comedienne Kathy Griffin, who played a nurse in the music video.
3. Lady Marmalade — Pink, Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, And Mya
The star power of 2001’s Lady Marmalade is almost unparalleled, featuring Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Lil’ Kim, and Mya. The video gained widespread attention not just for this reason, but also because of its electric adaptation, which combined modern hip hop with turn-of-the-century cabaret styles. This was a nod to the movie Moulin Rouge! which came out the same year and featured the song on its soundtrack. It also won MTV’s Best Video of The Year.
4. Hey Ya! — Outkast
Hey Ya! was a wildly popular song, so it comes as no surprise that its music video made an impression as well. The track has been called one of the best of the 2000s and is considered the signature song of Outkast. The music video imagines a reversal of the British Invasion with a fictional eight-member band called The Love Below. All eight members were portrayed by André 3000.
5. Hurt — Johnny Cash
In 2003, mere months before he passed away, country music king Johnny Cash recorded his last music video. His cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt became the most-acclaimed final release of his career. The somber track, recorded in the House of Cash museum, seemed to be a reflection back on his own life. This includes his past struggles with addiction, his musical success, and his relationship with his wife, June Carter.
6. American Idiot — Green Day
Green Day set itself strongly against the Iraq War-era American ideals, surging in the wake of 9/11, with the 2004 song, American Idiot. The music video depicts the band playing in a warehouse in front of a green American flag. Though the song was highly countercultural for the time, it was still acclaimed by critics and received four Grammy nominations.
7. Seven Nation Army — The White Stripes
When it comes to music videos, it seems that The White Stripes don’t miss—or at least they didn’t through the 2000s. Their 2003 music video for Seven Nation Army was a masterpiece of camera tricks and editing; it seemed to consist of a continuous kaleidoscope shot, alternating colorful triangles with intensely-flashing lights and shots of the band playing.
8. Say My Name — Destiny’s Child
Though Say My Name was technically released in October 1999, its rise in popularity throughout the next year—including its win for Best R&B Video at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards—placed it solidly in the new millennium. The video depicts the members dancing in color-coordinated rooms before swapping rooms to continue the routine.
9. Stacy’s Mom — Fountains of Wayne
In 2003, Fountains Of Wayne released a song that made life unbearable for daughters named Stacy and possibly caused a drop in the name’s popularity altogether. The music video became wildly popular for its comedic vignettes depicting a teenage boy fantasizing about his girlfriend’s mother, played by actress and model Rachel Hunter.
10. It’s My Life — Bon Jovi
It’s My Life drew inspiration from the German film Run Lola Run. The music video, released in 2000, follows a boy named Tommy as he attempts to make his way through Los Angeles to join his friend Gina at a Bon Jovi concert. He must face a variety of obstacles along the way, including getting caught in a marathon and being chased by dogs.
11. In Da Club — 50 Cent
In Da Club was released in 2003, but its star power has barely slowed down; in 2020, it set a record for having amassed a billion views on YouTube. The music video depicts Dr. Dre and Eminem as lab scientists operating on 50 Cent, a cyborg being turned into the ideal artist. Call it high-handed if you like, but the video took home two MTV Video Music Awards and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Truly, this has to be considered one of 50 cent’s greatest songs.
12. Umbrella — Rihanna feat. Jay-Z
Rihanna’s career had already taken off in 2005 with the release of her first wildly successful single. However, she was propelled to superstardom two years later when she collaborated with Jay-Z on Umbrella. The music video played its part, featuring her dancing in neon rain while painted silver. The promo film won Video of The Year at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards.
13. Get Back — Ludacris
Hip hop singer Ludacris took things in an unusual direction with his video for 2004’s Get Back. It depicts him getting into trouble with another rapper—his former bandmate Fatlip—while trying to use a public urinal. Directed by the legendary Spike Jonze, the video also bizarrely showed Ludacris with cartoonishly muscular arms, which drew comparisons to the character Popeye. Sometimes, a music video is just about catching people’s attention.
14. Bad Romance — Lady Gaga
Back in her meat dress era, Lady Gaga was all about high fashion and shock value. Never was that more apparent than in her 2009 music video for Bad Romance, which put all her wackiness on full display. From the opening nonsense hook of “Rah, rah-ah-ah-ah,” the video launched into a storyline involving futuristic cyberpunk outfits, human trafficking, and futuristic social commentary. Though the music video was released in the last months of the decade, it remains one of the definitive videos of the 2000s and one of Lady Gaga’s greatest songs.
15. Sugar, We’re Goin Down — Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy was one of the most iconic bands of the early 2000s, and the 2005 hit Sugar, We’re Goin Down is one of their best-known songs. It gained attention in part for its catchiness and in part because of the widespread misheard lyrics. The music video took the track in an artistic if slightly bizarre direction, featuring a boy who has antlers coming to accept himself. It won both the MTV Video Music Award and the Karang! Award for Best Video.
16. Drop It Like It’s Hot — Snoop Dogg Feat. Pharrell Williams
Snoop Dogg’s 2004 music video for Drop It Like It’s Hot leaned into the tropes of hip hop videos with plenty of skimpy clothing, expensive cars, and drug use. But it also had a restrained air that made it feel more polished than many other music videos in the same genre. It won an Australian MTV Music Video Award For Best Hip-Hop Video and was nominated for several Grammy Awards.
17. You Belong With Me — Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s 2008 song You Belong With Me marked the transition of her public image from country sweetheart to mainstream pop star. It was due in no small part to the music video, which won countless awards for its artistry. The video depicts the singer in two roles—one a studious blonde girl next door while the other a dark-haired queen bee—as they vie for the attention of the same boy.
18. Crank That (Soulja Boy) — Soulja Boy Tell’Em
Crank That (Soulja Boy), released in 2007, introduced the world to the viral Soulja Boy dance, sparking a worldwide craze. It was referred to as the biggest dance craze since the Macarena, which swept the world in the late 1990s. It was nominated for a Grammy Award For Best Rap Song.
19. Californication — Red Hot Chili Peppers
Californication has become one of the signature songs of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, having been played live an estimated 500 times. The music video, released in 2000, depicts the members of the band as video game avatars who navigate various challenges until they are replaced with their real selves.
20. Helena — My Chemical Romance
My Chemical Romance was no stranger to the dark and the macabre, and their music video for Helena was no different. In a video that fulfills all the most emo of fantasies, the story follows the band members as they attend a funeral. Of course, most funerals don’t include emotional dance numbers that include the deceased rising out of her coffin to dance into the afterlife.
21. Triumph of a Heart — Björk
Icelandic singer Björk has had no shortage of artistic-to-the-point-of-baffling music videos, and none has pushed the envelope more than 2004’s Triumph Of A Heart. The music video, which raised more questions than it answered, depicted her as a woman married to a vest-wearing cat. Growing tired of domestic life, the singer leaves the house and embarks on a wild drinking binge. There is a beatboxing competition before she leaves the pub and passes out on the road. When she awakes, she is reunited with her husband, who grows in size to dance with her.
22. Dilemma — Nelly
The 2002 song Dilemma blended smooth R&B with a sample of Patti LaBelle’s 1983 Love, Need And Want You. LaBelle herself appears as an actress in the video, playing the mother of Kelly Rowland. The song was wildly popular, with the music video depicting a storyline that takes place in the fictional town of Nellyville. In the story, Kelly Rowland and Nelly are neighbors who develop feelings for one another despite being in relationships with other partners.
23. Fell in Love With a Girl — The White Stripes
The White Stripes have a long history with excellent music videos, and their 2001 video for Fell In Love With A Girl remains at the top of the list. Under the direction of the legendary Michel Gondry, the video was shot as live-action before being entirely replicated with Lego blocks. The band contacted Lego to ask about an official sponsorship; the company refused, missing out on the deal of a lifetime, as the song took home three wins at the MTV Video Music Awards.
24. Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) — Beyoncé
Beyoncé was a wildly successful pop star long before the release of Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) in 2008. But both the song and the music video nabbed the world’s attention, in no small part because of the singer’s electrifying dance moves. It even sparked a dance craze, with many people attempting to replicate the complex, high-energy choreography—some even claim that it was the first dance trend of the social media era. Both the track and video won countless awards the following year, including Best Choreography at the MTV Music Awards.
25. Honey — Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu’s 2008 music video for Honey was intended to showcase her musical diversity and talent while also homaging the many musicians who have influenced her career. The video depicts a customer browsing in a small record store. As they sort through the available LPs on the shelf, they see her edited into the cover art of each album. The clever editing turns the singer into a moving component of groups and artists such as The Beatles, Diana Ross, Olivia Newton-John, Earth Wind & Fire, Funkadelic, and more.
26. You Don’t Know My Name — Alicia Keys
You Don’t Know My Name was an understated but captivating music video; it depicted Alicia Keys working as a waitress and falling in love with a diner in her workplace. She imagines telling him how she feels and later runs into him at a party but ultimately can’t bring herself to speak her heart. Though the video largely escaped mainstream notice, it remains evocative for its use of storytelling.
27. Stan — Eminem feat. Dido
Eminem’s 2000 music video for Stan rocked the music video industry in a unique way, while also introducing the slang term for an unhealthily-obsessed fan into the lexicon. The video, which qualifies as a short film, follows a fictional Eminem megafan in a relationship with English singer Dido, whose song Thank You is sampled on the track.
28. Milkshake — Kelis
Milkshake gained attention not just for its high-energy beat and nebulously suggestive lyrics, but also for the music video. By 2003 standards, it was wildly raunchy, and let’s be fair—sexy dancing and an exploding milkshake machine might be shocking these days, too.
29. Here It Goes Again — OK Go
Here It Goes Again started out as a low-budget music video debut and sparked one of the earliest viral YouTube sensations, widely known as the treadmill dance. Subsequently, OK Go became known for its over-the-top, creative music videos that pushed the envelope for musicians everywhere.
30. Stronger — Kanye West
Kanye West released Stronger in 2007, after a reported 12 days of shooting and three months of painstaking editing. The rapper’s perfectionist tendencies paid off, however; the music video snagged a bevy of awards from MTV and the Grammys and became widely known as one of the best of the decade.
31. Leather So Soft — Birdman And Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne and Birdman teamed up for 2006’s Leather So Soft, a song that both exemplified all the standard hip hop tropes and seemed to try to include other genres as well. The music video featured scantily-clad dancers, opulent jewelry and cars, and other common themes of similar hip hop performances. However, it also featured Lil’ Wayne playing the guitar, child ballet dancers, and a sign language interpreter. We’ll leave the interpretations up to you.
32. Weapon of Choice — Fatboy Slim Feat. Bootsy Collins
Though Fatboy Slim had gained attention for their low-budget dance videos of the 1990s, the band sought to make something more polished for the music video for 2001’s Weapon Of Choice. Under the direction of Spike Jonze, the band reached out to actor Christopher Walken, who was known for his love of dancing, which he had never gotten the chance to explore professionally. He enthusiastically agreed, resulting in a music video that channeled Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and stacked up the awards at the VMAs and the Grammys.
33. Come Into My World — Kylie Minogue
Australian songstress Kylie Minogue made history with her 2002 music video for Come Into My World. Through a series of video tricks involving rotoscoping and motion control, the camera managed to create a time loop of all the people in the video. As such, they were replicated every minute, resulting in some of the most groundbreaking camera work of the early 2000s.
34. D.A.N.C.E. — Justice
The French electropop group Justice was no stranger to pushing the envelope when it came to both music and music videos. The 2007 music video for the song D.A.N.C.E. was a clever and creative combination of animation and pop art, with plenty of pop culture references thrown into the mix. Careful listeners will catch references to many Michael Jackson songs as well as Video Killed The Radio Star. The video received a nomination for MTV’s Video of The Year.
35. Pork And Beans — Weezer
In 2008, Weezer’s record label asked them to be more commercial in their music videos; the band’s response was a tongue-in-cheek video that was stuffed to the brim with celebrity cameos, internet memes, and pop culture references. The video was wildly popular online and went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
36. Work It — Missy Elliott
Missy Elliott made a name for herself through the 1990s not just for her hip hop talents, but also for her eye-catching, often bizarre music videos. The new millennium didn’t change her mission; her 2002 music video for Work It depicted her as a wildly dancing DJ being attacked by bees.
37. Forgot About Dre — Dr. Dre And Eminem Feat. Hittman
Forgot About Dre was a collaboration between Dr. Dre and Eminem, two of the biggest names in hip hop at the turn of the century. The song was a diss track to rap artists who had beef with Dr. Dre; the video won MTV’s Best Rap Video of The Year.
38. Welcome to Jamrock — Damian Marley
Welcome To Jamrock was a 2005 reggae song by Damian Marley, son of the legendary Bob Marley. The music video was dedicated to Jamaica but showed the less savory parts of the country, including corrupt law enforcement, poverty, and crime.
39. I Want Love — Elton John
The last person you’d expect to see in Elton John’s 2001 music video is Robert Downey Jr. But Tony Stark is the whole focus of the video, wandering through the singer’s mansion as he lip-syncs the words in one continuous shot.
40. Fatlip — Sum 41
Frosted tips, singing in a liquor store, and generally, being manic to the camera? It isn’t polished, but it is the name of the game in Canadian band Sum 41’s 2001 music video. The video perfectly encapsulates their often hectic energy.
41. Back to Black — Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse’s 2006 hit Back To Black was praised for its retro sound and lyrical yet unashamed lyrics; it became one of her most famous songs. The music video, shot in black and white, featured the musician taking part in a funeral procession; the headstone was revealed to spell out “R.I.P. The Heart of Amy Winehouse.”
42. Clint Eastwood — Gorillaz
Part commentary on pop media content, part exploration into cutting-edge animation technology, 2001’s Clint Eastwood instantly made history. The music video reportedly took four months to animate and featured a fictionalized, animated version of the band members in a storyline involving dancing zombie gorillas and a ghost popping out of someone’s head.
43. Forever — Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, And Eminem
In 2009, four titans of the hip hop genre came together to create Forever, a single for the soundtrack of Lebron James’ documentary. The music video dripped with star power, featuring clips from the documentary and a smorgasbord of rapper cameos.
44. Last Nite — The Strokes
The 2001 music video for Last Nite has become iconic in a way that may seem ironic, as the band initially refused to film a video at all. Instead, their performance became widely homaged and parodied by other bands, particularly lead singer Julian Casablancas’ dramatic spear throw of the microphone stand.
45. 99 Problems — Jay-Z
All the way back in 2003, rapper Jay-Z gave us the famous line “I got 99 problems, but a b*tch ain’t one”—or popularized it, to be technical. The music video was filmed in black and white near the singer’s childhood home and featured a variety of street vignettes; it also drew attention to certain societal issues, ending with him being shot to death and being “reborn.”
46. Welcome to The Black Parade — My Chemical Romance
MTV would go on to call Welcome To The Black Parade the Greatest Music Video Of The Century; the anthemic ballad, released in 2006, became a rallying cry for the millennial generation. The music video drew inspiration from 20th-century German expressionist movies, depicting the band members in gothic-style marching band costumes as they march into the afterlife.
47. In The End — Linkin Park
Released in 2000, Linkin Park’s In The End was a pioneer in the world of music video CGI. It depicts the band’s lead singer walking through a fantasy-style desert that sprouts with vines and grass throughout the song.
48. Frontier Psychiatrist — The Avalanches
The 2000 music for Frontier Psychiatrist was a delightfully unhinged foray into a fictional live show as well as scenes in a therapist’s office with actors examining Rorschach tests. The bizarre video made waves and has been called one of the best videos of the decade.
49. One More Time — Daft Punk
Daft Punk knows how to make a dynamic music video, already evident in their 2000 release, One More Time. It depicts aliens with blue skin performing for a crowd of other aliens before being contacted by a mysterious light.
50. I Believe in a Thing Called Love — The Darkness
I Believe In A Thing Called Love drew heavily on inspiration from old-world BBC sci-fi shows, even consulting the son of the man who designed the Daleks on the original Dr. Who. The Darkness fully embraced the campiness in their 2003 music video, resulting in an experience that is nothing but delightful.
51. Imitation of Life — R.E.M.
R.E.M. was known for their incredibly ambitious and creative music videos throughout the 1990s, but they really shot for the stars with their 2001 music video for Imitation Of Life. The video relied on intricate camera work to shoot a series of clips of extras lip-synching to the song; these were edited together in one seamless shot that earned this a slot on the list of the best music videos of all time.
52. Stress — Justice
The French pop music group Justice shocked and awed with their music video for 2007’s Stress. Though the song itself was well-received, the music video was strongly criticized for its violent and sometimes graphic content. The seven-minute video depicts a gang of teenagers wandering through Paris, committing crimes and acts of violence, including setting a car on fire. It was immediately banned by French censors and criticized by racial justice groups.
53. The Scientist — Coldplay
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin studied for a month to learn how to sing the lyrics to The Scientist in reverse. The 2002 music video featured reverse motion, which had been used since the late 1980s. But this took it in a totally unique direction, using the technique to depict the story of a fatal car crash in reverse.
54. Tribute — Tenacious D
When you watch the 2002 music video for Tenacious D’s Tribute, you’ll find yourself asking yourself “Is that Jack Black? Is that Kyle Gass? Is that Dave Grohl?” The strange but delightful video features Black and Gass trying to one-up each other in a mall karaoke competition. The climax comes when they ultimately come before the judge himself… who for some reason is Satan, played by Grohl.
55. 1234 — Feist
Shooting a continuous music video is a wildly ambitious task. Feist did it back in 2007 and managed to get it perfect with more than 100 background dancers. Reportedly, shooting took more than 20 takes to get right; the efforts are widely regarded as one of the most technically-skilled and successful music videos of the decade.
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other 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.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.