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

Original 1980s MTV logo

21. Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”


It’s cliché, but damn this is a great video. I’m not even a particular fan of the Beastie Boys, but I can’t resist the bad mustaches. – SJ

22. Journey, “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”


This video is the best and the worst of the ’80s wrapped into one neat, hilarious package and I sincerely adore it. Invisible instruments. Jeans so tight you can tell which way Steve Perry dresses. Feathered hair. Each of the band members puts in a heroically earnest effort but Jonathan Cain steals the show at 0:54, air keying like a lethargic, emo velociraptor. There is no day that cannot be made better by the inclusion of this video. It is better than vodka or Zoloft. – SJ

23. Peter Gabriel, “Shock the Monkey”


What’s this? No “Sledgehammer”? Meh, I like that video too, but this is the Peter Gabriel I love best. The one who experiments with dark and exotic sounds and images, all in an effort to frighten the shit out of you. – Chris

24. Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer”


If not for another more obvious choice, this would probably go down as the greatest video ever shown on MTV. “Sledgehammer” wasn’t just one of the most expensive videos of its time, it was one of the best executed ones. The animated imagery from the song’s lyrics proved to be iconic, and who can forget the dancing chickens (courtesy of Nick Park)? – Thom

25. a-ha, “Take On Me”


Aside from “Thriller,” this might be the definitive music video of the ’80s. Apparently it took 16 weeks to complete the rotoscoped frames and as lame as it looks today, it cleaned up at the 1986 MTV awards. Also, pipe wrench fight! – SJ

26. Michael Jackson, “Thriller”


This was THE EVENT. I still remember the anticipation of the Exclusive World Premiere and the excitement every time I flipped by MTV and just happened to catch it. The video for “Thriller” is the epitome of everything great about MTV in the ’80s, from the high concept storytelling to the crazy production values and, of course, the dancing. Almost 30 years have passed since that first showing and how many of us still remember almost every step of that dance? – Thom

27. Weezer, “Undone — The Sweater Song”


I know what you’re thinking — don’t you mean “Buddy Holly”? No, I don’t. As awesome as that video is, Spike Jonze did an even better job on his first effort with Weezer. It’s the subtle brilliance of slowing down the speed of the performance coupled with the absurdity of the dogs all in a single tracking shot that makes me love this video. – Thom

28. Fatboy Slim, “Weapon of Choice”


Christopher Walken dancing. I repeat, Christopher Walken dancing. – Thom

29. Devo, “Whip It”


Devo – Whip It by WBRNewMedia
I’m still not quite sure what the hell is going on here. Other than the very literal whip-cracking, of course. Being a Devo video I’m sure there’s about a half dozen layers of subversiveness I just never picked up on. – Chris

30. Paul Simon, “You Can Call Me Al”


Arguably the weakest point of one of the best albums of the ’80s (Graceland), but that doesn’t change how awesome the video is. Simon and Chevy Chase play off each other like an old comedy duo. The flute solo and the drum solo are two of the best comedic moments ever put in a music video. – Thom

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2 thoughts on “30 for 30 — Our Favorite MTV Music Videos of All-Time

  1. Clownyclownclown

    And “Sweep the Leg” (No More Kings) didn’t make the list, huh?

    1. Chris Holmes

      ‘Fraid not, but it certainly deserves an honorable mention. Was it ever shown on MTV?

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