1. Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball” [Directed by Terry Richardson]
This video inspired countless parodies, and for good reason — it’s full of simple, striking, memorable images. Miley’s video for “We Can’t Stop” is also iconic, but this edges it out in how it somehow manages to be a bit playful and silly without getting in the way of the song’s earnest emotion.
2. Au Revoir Simone, “Crazy” [Directed by Alex Braverman]
This is a remarkably faithful remake of Martin Scorcese’s hugely underrated After Hours in which all three members of the band appear as various characters in the movie.
3. G-Dragon, “MichiGO”
G-Dragon is known for making the most flamboyant and weird videos in K-Pop, and this delightfully weird video is his best yet.
4. Superchunk, “Void” [Directed by Scott Jacobson]
Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster is joined by fellow comedians Jon Benjamin and Jon Glaser in this video about a group of aging dudes reliving their punk rock glory at a DIY venue in Brooklyn. It’s hilarious, unless you’re actually an aging dude, and it’s incredibly sad.
5. Kanye West, “Bound 2” [Directed by Nick Knight]
Kanye West spent the better part of 2013 being edgy and provocative, but who knew his most daring move would be a video featuring his fiancée, Kim Kardashian, that’s so sentimental and kitschy that people instantly assumed he was either joking or had lost his mind? New York’s art critic Jerry Saltz described the clip as a prime example of what he calls “The New Uncanny,” but the video might be even better if you assume that West doesn’t intend it to be ironic, and this is his way of telling us that he thinks of the often lewd “Bound 2” as being a genuinely romantic and sweet song.
6. Ylvis, “The Fox”
Even if you’re totally sick of this one by now, you’re probably grateful that at least now we all know what the fox says.
7. Disclosure, “When a Fire Starts to Burn” [Directed by Bo Mirosseni]
The opening song from Disclosure’s album Settle feels like an ecstatic religious experience, so it makes a lot of sense that Bo Mirosseni took this idea to its logical, ridiculous conclusion in this video.
8. Persia featuring Daddies Plastik, “Google Google Apps Apps” [Directed by Vainhein]
“Google Google Apps Apps” seems incredibly bizarre on the surface, but Persia and Daddies Plastik’s over-the-top jokes are basically a colorful, danceable delivery system for a scathing critique of tech companies rapidly gentrifying San Francisco.
9. Arcade Fire, “Here Comes the Night Time” [Unofficial video by Seinfeld2000]
Arcade Fire put out four very serious and classy official music videos this year, but as good as those are, they just don’t approach the unlikely pathos of this clip made from old Seinfeld footage by the makers of the hilarious Seinfeld2000 Twitter account.
10. Janelle Monaé featuring Erykah Badu, “Q.U.E.E.N.” [Directed by Alan Ferguson]
What’s more remarkable about this video: watching Janelle and Erykah have fun, or the art direction, which makes the most of simple black-and-white patterns? It’s really hard to say.
11. Vampire Weekend, “Ya Hey” [Directed by Greg Brunkalla]
Lyrics videos have come into their own over the past two years, but Vampire Weekend really committed to the form this year with clips for “Step” and “Ya Hey” that weren’t just a stopgap until the “real” video came along — they were the official videos, and perfectly captured the atmosphere of the songs while doing their basic function of showing you the words. “Ya Hey” is the better of the two, but only by a bit. The shots of the band and weird folks in robes spraying champagne on top of a Manhattan skyscraper is one of the most evocative images of the year.
12. Chvrches, “Gun” [Directed by Pen$acola]
Pen$acola’s clip for the Scottish pop trio is a dizzying kaleidoscopic swirl of geometric designs, echoed images, and digital distortion. It perfectly captures the energy of the song while also hinting at the emotional distress at the core of it.
13. Tyler, the Creator, “Tamale” [Directed by Wolf Haley]
Tyler, the Creator’s “Tamale” is a clever critique of what censors will or will not allow. He blurs out an extended scene with a disclaimer claiming that it’s blurred “because people aren’t ready to have intelligent conversations before they judge,” but then cuts to a shot of him using an enormous bikini girl’s ass as a trampoline because “this shit is allowed.”
14. Mumford & Sons, “Hopeless Wanderer” [Directed by Sam Jones]
This is the video where Mumford & Sons proved they have a sense of humor, or at least that they’re willing to be good sports while Jason Sudeikis, Ed Helms, Will Forte, and Jason Bateman goofed on their whole earnest old-timey shtick.
15. Lady Gaga, “Applause” [Directed by Inez & Vinoodh]
Lady Gaga’s comeback video is exactly what you want from a Gaga clip: gleefully pretentious, visually thrilling, and overloaded with references to high and low art.
16. Haim, “The Wire” [Directed by Alexander Hammer]
The video for “The Wire” is a fantastic showcase for the Haim sisters’ considerable charm, and it’s evidence that if they ever get sick of being a rock band, they could comfortably transition into becoming sitcom stars.
17. Samantha Craine, “Never Going Back” [Directed by LAMAR+NIK]
Lamar+Nik’s video for country singer Samantha Crain’s “Never Going Back” is lovely and technically inventive — all 3,800 frames of the video were printed out and animated like a cross between a flip book and tumbling dominoes.
18. Cults, “We’ve Got It” [Unofficial video by David Dean Burkhart]
David Dean Burkhart has made dozens of wonderful unofficial videos out of old footage for indie acts this year. It’s hard to pick just one of his clips, but this one for an album track by Cults is sexy, exciting, and incredibly stylish.
19. Steve Grand, “All-American Boy” [Directed by Jason Knade]
Steve Grand’s “All-American Boy” is notable for being the first openly gay country music video, but even without that novelty factor, it’d still be a very poignant clip about the doomed romance of two ultra-hot dudes.
20. San E featuring Sanchez, “Break Up Dinner”
The key to appreciating this delightful K-Pop video is to watch it with the English subtitles. Just do it.
21. Beach House, “Wishes” [Directed by Eric Wareheim]
Eric Wareheim’s video for “Wishes” is extremely surreal, with the guy who played Leland Palmer on Twin Peaks leading some kind of mystical pep rally. It’s extremely weird, but also somehow incredibly sad.
22. Rihanna, “Pour It Up”
Rihanna’s video for “Pour It Up” may be the most overtly feminist statement of the singer’s career — it deliberately subverts the male gaze, and makes her both an observer and participant in its display of feminine sexuality and athleticism.
23. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, “Mottai Nightland”
Japanese singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu looks like the happiest person in the history of the world in this video in which she is the only human being in a colorful, surreal, and hyperactive fantasy world. The art direction of this clip is just astonishing.
24. Fiona Apple, “Hot Knife” [Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson]
Fiona Apple reunited with her ex-boyfriend and frequent collaborator, film auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, for this intense clip for “Hot Knife,” a song from her 2012 record The Idler Wheel. If only he could direct all of her videos.