The clip for this song off Queen's 1984 album The Works found Freddie Mercury and the rest of the band in drag, spoofing the long-running British soap opera Coronation Street. While it hardly raised an eyebrow in the UK, where cross-dressing was a long-standing tradition in comedy, it caused quite a stir stateside.
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This could've been a list of just Missy Elliott music videos and no one would've batted an eyelash. That's how memorable each of the groundbreaking rapper's visuals have been throughout her career. But this one for the hit single off her 2002 album Under Construction earns its spot thanks to its inventive choreography, bonkers imagery (the bees! the dunce cap!) and the arrival of little Alyson Stoner.
Fun fact: The video for this 1985 single from Norwegian synth-pop band A-ha, iconic for its groundbreaking hybrid of live-action and pencil-sketch, was the actually the second one they filmed. The first, released a year earlier, just featured the band singing in front of a blue background.
This video for the 2001 single that served as Shakira's breakthrough in the U.S. is the one responsible for introducing us to those hips. And for that, we'll be eternally grateful. No lie.
One of the more recent videos on the list, this video for Spanish singer Rosalía's 2019 single announced to the world that we had a burgeoning superstar in our midst. Directed by Bradley & Pablo, the eye-popping clip had us rushing to join the mystical and fierce AF Beauty Gang.
This video for Rihanna's 2007 smash hit serves up look after lewk, but the moment we witness her nude body coated in silver paint is something we'll never forget.
There may likely never be a more star-studded music video than this one for Taylor Swift's Katy Perry feud-referencing single off her 2014 album 1989. Selena Gomez! Gigi Hadid! Zendaya! Cindy freaking Crawford!
We're not sure what was bigger on the set of this video for the 2001 cover of this classic Labelle track, recorded for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack, featuring Mya, Pink, Lil Kim and Christina Aguilera: the hair or the egos. Either way, we love it just the same.
Mariah Carey went cinematically over the top in this clip for the lead single off her 1997 album Butterfly. Embracing a more overtly sexual look for the first time, the video helped the pop star shed her more conservative image once and for all. The moment her Agent M exits the pool after diving off the balcony? Iconique, darling.
Admit it, you're doing the choreography from this video for 'NSYNC's lead single off their 2000 album No Strings Attached in your head right now.
An image we'll never forget as long as we live: Miley Cyrus, naked, licking a sledgehammer. And we have this video for the hit off her 2013 album Bangerz to thank (blame?) for it.
Play this song off Beyoncé's 2008 album I Am...Sasha Fierce anywhere at any time and we can guarantee nearly everyone in the room will bust out the choreography from the unforgettable black-and-white music video.
The laser lights! The body crystals! The Y2K countdown! This video for the third single off Jennifer Lopez's debut 1999 album On the 6 was the one that put her on the map.
Has a music video ever made a nondescript location more well-known than the hotel staircase featured in this video for The Spice Girls' attention-grabbing debut single in 1996? The better question might be how many people still make a pilgrimage to the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel all these years later just to tread the same hallowed ground where Geri Halliwell, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Melanie C and Mel B got their start?
It was a very big deal when superstar siblings Michael and Janet Jackson came together to record the video for this single off MJ's 1995 album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1. Even bigger? The budget for the corresponding video, which saw the pair angry and getting as far away from Earth as they possibly could. At a cost of $7 million, it was listed in the Guinness World Records as the most expensive music video ever made.
From Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins dancing on water to the narrative scenes of people's lives being destroyed by drugs and AIDS, this video for the hit single off TLC's 1994 album CrazySexyCool was incredibly moving. And popular, too. The clip stayed atop the MTV Video Monitor chart for over a month following its premiere in 1995, making the group the first artists to ever achieve such a feat.
Who will ever forget the inimitable duo of Paula Abdul and MC Scat Kat, an animated feline rapper inspired by Gene Kelly's film Anchors Away, dancing together in the video for this smash hit off the former's 1989 debut album Forever Your Girl? Not us. And likely none of the voters who awarded it the Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video in 1991, either.
Over the course of her unparalleled career, Madonna has released several music videos that stuck in the public consciousness. But none have caused quite a stir as this one for the title track off her fourth studio album. Released in 1989, the video sees the pop star witness the murder of a white woman at the hands of a white man and turning to the church for safety when a Black man is wrongfully arrested for the crime. With the images of Ku Klux Klan-style burning crosses, stigmata and Madonna kissing a Black priest (played by Real Housewives of Atlanta star Cynthia Bailey's ex-husband Leon Robinson!), the video was condemned by the Vatican, protested by viewers, and eventually cost her a promo deal with Pepsi.
This video for the track off Lady Gaga's 2009 EP The Fame Monster is the one that announced to the music world a true artist had arrived. From the fashion to the choreography to the bonkers plot, it laid the groundwork for what we could expect from every music video the superstar would release moving forward.
This video for Beyoncé's hit single off her 2016 visual album Lemonade is a gorgeous paean to the Black experience in America, both a love letter and a rally cry. The opening shot alone of Queen Bey atop a police car in a flooded street, a stark and loaded image, is enough to earn her a second entry on this list. The rest is just icing on the cake.
From the choreography to the school girl uniforms, there's a reason that this video for Britney Spears' debut single in 1998 is still what immediately comes to mind whenever her name is mentioned.
As OK Go proved in 2006 with this video for a song off their album Oh No, you don't need a huge budget to produce something that'll be remembered forever. All you really need is an incredible concept—synchronized treadmill dancing, in this case—and the commitment to see it through.
Is Michael Jackson a polarizing figure? To say the least. Is the video for the title track off his 1982 album still arguably one of the greatest ever produced? You bet. It's the art all others aspire to be.