30 for 30 — Our Favorite MTV Music Videos of All-Time

classic MTV logo with moonmanIt seems like forever since watching videos on MTV was a regular part of our lives, but once upon a time it was. We could go on and on about how the station — which turns 30 on August 1 — turned to crap years ago for one reason or another, or about how the “M” in MTV seems to stand for Mook now, but let’s not go there. Let’s make this post a happy remembrance, one in which we celebrate what was rather than lament what isn’t.

So in that spirit of celebration, here is a list of our 30 favorite music videos of the MTV era (which kicked off on August 1, 1981). Not the best videos, necessarily, but the ones that had the most impact on us. Oh, and for you ranking junkies — sorry, this is strictly in alphabetical order.


1. Daft Punk, “Around the World”


In college we had a primitive system in the dining hall that allowed us to watch music videos while we ate. Unfortunately, the school was too cheap to buy any more than a dozen (mostly awful) songs, so there wasn’t much choice. “Around the World” was the perfect stylish, hypnotic video to make you forget that you were eating Grade D meat at filet mignon prices. – SJ Stanton

2. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”


Joy Division Atmosphere by DrEuthanasia
A beautiful memorial to Ian Curtis. Other directors turned music videos into short movies, but I think this is one of the finest examples of pure art. – SJ

3. Talking Heads, “Burning Down the House”


Talking Heads – Burning down the house by Dan_of_the_Land
The fascinating yet distrubing image of David Byrne’s disembodied head singing this song will be etched into my memory forever. – Chris Holmes

4. 2Pac, “California Love” (feat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman)


This is not only the only 2Pac song I can listen to from start to finish, this is easily my favorite hip hop video of all time. – Chris

5. Art of Noise, “Close (to the Edit)”


I love the early videos when no one was entirely sure what would sell well, so they just did whatever weird crap they wanted. That little girl is probably my age now, which makes me feel really old. – SJ

6. Pearl Jam, “Do the Evolution”


Part of me wanted to go with “Jeremy” because I associate it with MTV more. But the truth is that the Todd McFarlane-animated video for “Do The Evolution” is simply superior. Watch carefully to catch all the repetitive symbolism. – Thom Slattery

7. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Don’t Come Around Here No More”


High concept video that freaked me out as a kid. I mean, the main character turns into a cake and they eat her. What’s up with that? A great idea that really goes well with the trippiness of the song (and yes, that is Dave Stewart as the sitar-playing caterpillar). – Thom

8. Korn, “Freak on a Leash”


This was released right about the time I was done with MTV, but I always managed to catch it somehow. I always dug the song, but what’s not to love about a bullet flying through the air and blowing stuff up? The Todd McFarlane animation part is cool but not essential to me. – Chris

9. George Michael, “Freedom ’90”


Sexy supermodels seductively lip-syncing the song while lounging around in various states of undress. “Freedom 90” definitely spoke to me as a teenage boy, but David Fincher actually made this a very artful video. – Thom

10. Cyndi Lauper, “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough”

Part 1

Part 2

I love The Goonies and this video is an awesome partner to it. Keep an eye out for the Bangles as the gang of female pirates, and nearly every ’80s wrestler you can think of. – SJ

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