8 Movie Directors Who Got Their Start In Music Videos

MTV in the ’90s was basically a training ground for the auteurs of today.

1. Spike Jonze

Being John Malkovitch


Where the Wild Things Are

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Spike Jonze established himself as one of the greatest and most influential video directors of all time before he embarked on a highly acclaimed film career with Being John Malkovitch in 1999. He’s the man behind a huge number of the most iconic videos of the ’90s: Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” The Breeders’ “Cannonball,” Björk’s “It’s Oh So Quiet,” Pavement’s “Shady Lane,” Daft Punk’s “Da Funk,” and Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You,” just to name a few.

ID: 1299558

Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”

Weezer, “Buddy Holly”

Daft Punk, “Da Funk”

ID: 1298742

2. Michel Gondry

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

The Science of Sleep

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party

ID: 1298759

Michel Gondry was also a famous music video auteur before launching a career in movies. There’s a clear connection between his colorful, whimsical approach to his many collaborations with Björk, The White Stripes, Beck, and many other musicians, and his eccentric, visually inventive films.

ID: 1299622

Björk, “Hyperballad”

Chemical Brothers, “Let Forever Be”

White Stripes, “Fell In Love With A Girl”

ID: 1298805

3. David Fincher


Fight Club

The Social Network

ID: 1298822

David Fincher’s distinct visual aesthetic was right there from the start – if you’ve ever seen Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, or The Social Network, you’d immediately recognize his work on classic late ’80s/early ’90s clips like Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Express Yourself,” Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got A Gun,” and George Michael’s “Freedom ‘90.”

ID: 1299647

Aerosmith, “Janie’s Got A Gun”

Madonna, “Vogue”

George Michael, “Freedom ‘90”

ID: 1298849

4. Garth Jennings

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Son of Rambow

ID: 1298966

Garth Jennings is more famous for his music videos as part of the duo Hammer & Tongs – Blur’s “Coffee & TV,” R.E.M.’s “Imitation of Life,” Vampire Weekend’s “Cousins,” and Radiohead’s famous “Lotus Flower” clip – but he’s made some very underrated films, too. If you’ve never seen Son of Rambow, go out of your way to check it out – it’s one of the sweetest, most clever movies ever made about childhood and imagination.

ID: 1299773

Blur, “Coffee & TV”

R.E.M., “Imitation of Life”

Radiohead, “Lotus Flower”

ID: 1299019

5. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Little Miss Sunshine

Ruby Sparks

ID: 1299193

The husband-and-wife duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have only made two feature films – Ruby Sparks and the Academy Award-nominated Little Miss Sunshine, but have a long and celebrated career in making advertisements and music videos. Their first big break was the clip for Jane’s Addiction’s breakthrough hit “Been Caught Stealing,” but they are best remembered for their work with The Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

ID: 1299805

Jane’s Addiction, “Been Caught Stealing”

The Smashing Pumpkins, “1979”

The Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight”

ID: 1299209

6. Michael Bay

Bad Boys



ID: 1299251

Michael Bay is one of the most bombastic movie directors of all time, so it’s not really a big surprise that he cut his teeth working with extremely over the top artists like Meat Loaf and Aerosmith. It’s not that big of a leap from “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” to giant robots smashing cities.

ID: 1299915

Divinyls, “I Touch Myself”

Meat Loaf, “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”

Aerosmith, “Falling In Love (Is Hard On the Knees)”

ID: 1299271

7. McG

Charlie’s Angels

We Are Marshall

Terminator Salvation

ID: 1299316

Much like Michael Bay, McG established a very strong aesthetic with videos for Sugar Ray, The Offspring, Smash Mouth, and Basement Jaxx before making big budget popcorn movies like Charlie’s Angels and Terminator: Salvation. His taste for big, flashy images makes sense in both areas of filmmaking.

ID: 1299930

Sugar Ray, “Fly”

Smash Mouth, “All Star”

Basement Jaxx, “Where’s Your Head At”

ID: 1299335

8. Marc Webb

(500) Days of Summer

The Amazing Spider-Man

ID: 1299358

Marc Webb was another guy who made tons of music videos before launching a career as a movie director. Webb has made a lot of videos, but he’s best known for nailing the aesthetics of ’00s mall rock and emo with clips for My Chemical Romance, Evanesecence, Green Day, Good Charlotte, Yellowcard, Jimmy Eat World, The Used, All-American Rejects and Weezer. These days he’s busy with The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, which makes total sense, since Spidey is the most emo superhero.

ID: 1300017

My Chemical Romance, “Helena”

Evanescence, “You Never Call Me When You’re Sober”

Green Day, “21 Guns”

ID: 1299400

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