31. 1986: Dire Straits — “Money For Nothing”
The Dire Straits video utilizes graphics worse than your old-school video game console. Forgettable lyrics also prevent this video from scoring any higher. What happened in the video? I’m not sure. But the computer-generated dog falls asleep in it.
30. 2008: Britney Spears — “Piece of Me”
Britney Spears took on the haters with this song featuring an up-tempo beat and self-referential humor. While Britney may have had a wide collection of awesome performances, this winning video definitely fell short of her usual shock factor appearances.
29. 1987: Peter Gabriel — “Sledgehammer”
This video doesn’t really have much substance other than to jam as many crazy graphics as possible. And there are even dancing — not to mention, cooked — chickens. The only reason why it is not ranked at the bottom of the list is because it is actually quite amusing and pretty.
28. 1984: The Cars — “You Might Think”
Sure. In today’s Miley and Gaga-infested world, the trippy visuals in The Cars’ video are pretty tame. But band leader Ric Ocasek’s encounters with model Susan Gallagher were intense for 1984, making it the winner of the first Video of the Year award.
27. 1988: INXS — “Need You Tonight & Mediate”
You may not know the song by its title or artist but you would definitely recognize the opening riff if you heard it. The video even attempts to provide a special message about a “special date.” If you watch the a scene toward the end where a band member holds out cue cards, you’ll notice one card with the date “9-8-1945” — which represents the date, August 9, 1945, in the Australian date format — the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan.
26. 1985: Don Henley — “Boys Of Summer”
Trippy visuals were pushed to the sideline for Don Henley’s more emotional tune. Shot entirely in black and white, Henley sings about fighting for a girl he lost to the “boys of summer.” He made these kinds of songs cool long before Taylor Swift did.
25. 1998: Madonna — “Ray of Light”
It’s shocking to think this is Madonna’s only winner for Video of the Year. The video flashes with several blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments to go with the song’s high energy and style. The Queen of Pop’s video also won awards for Best Directing and Best Editing and the smart cinematography shows off 1998 at its peak.
24. 1996: The Smashing Pumpkins — “Tonight, Tonight”
With the feel of a film from the early 1900s with its use of puppet work and old-fashioned backdrops, The Smashing Pumpkins made a video unique for its time period. Also, the couple featured in the video fight aliens on the moon. Very cool.
23. 1989: Neil Young — “This Note’s For You”
Neil Young’s video parodied the advertising via music. It’s known for its use of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson celebrity look-alikes to convey how rock stars “sing” for others. The video’s Michael Jackson gets his hair caught on fire to mirror what happened to Jackson while he filmed a Pepsi commercial.
22. 2007: Rihanna f/ Jay-Z — “Umbrella”
Rihanna’s catchy song utilizes special effects, fun dance moves and a naked Rihanna covered in silver paint. If this list was based purely on nude performances, this video would rank much higher.
21. 2006: Panic! At the Disco — “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”
It goes without saying that if you have a bunch of stilt walkers and clowns crash a wedding, you will most likely be looked upon favorably at the VMAs. If the bride makes out with a clown after running off, then you get even more entertainment. The song was also parodied by the Westboro Baptist Church and if you can piss the WBC off, you have officially made it as an artist.
20. 1991: R.E.M. — “Losing My Religion”
With religious imagery and a dream-like setting, R.E.M. provided a memorable visual treat to viewers and the song immediately topped the charts.
19. 1995: TLC — “Waterfalls”
TLC’s signature song and accompanying video tackled issues of the illegal drug trade and HIV/AIDS. The song may have been nominated for Grammies but the VMA honor was significantly more prestigious.
18. 2000: Eminem — “The Real Slim Shady”
As one of Eminem’s first chart-topping singles, the song and video made fun of manufactured pop songs and even criticized several celebrities ranging from Christina Aguilera to Carson Daly.
17. 2005: Green Day — “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”
“I walk this empty street on the boulevard of broken dreams.” The melancholy tune off of Green Day’s “American Idiot” album features equally melancholic images of the band walking the streets. This is the ultimate song to listen to when you are sad and simply want to make yourself even sadder.
16. 1997: Jamiroquai — “Virtual Insanity”
The song may not be very recognizable by today’s standards but Jamiroquai’s video for “Virtual Insanity” turned out to be the group’s most iconic video featuring moving walls and furniture. The result is a big, “How did they make this video?” reaction. The video still proves to be popular today with it’s unique style. Austin Mahone even mimicked it in his video for “Mmm Yeah.”
15. 2003: Missy Elliott — “Work It”
Missy Elliot pays tribute to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Aaliyah, who recently died at the time, briefly in this video for the fun song. Whatever happened to Missy Elliot anyway? This video makes us miss her.
14. 1999: Lauryn Hill — “Doo-Wop (That Thing)”
In the split-screen video, Lauryn Hill presents an homage to 1960s R&B on the left side of the screen while paying homage to present-day hip hop culture on the right side of the screen. Hill’s fun style and lyrics catapulted this video to fame.
13. 1992: Van Halen — “Right Now”
Van Halen’s video forces you to take a deeper look at your world and its surroundings. While these types of messages are overplayed nowadays, Van Halen’s message still remains timeless as you try to remember what is happening “right now.”
12. 2002: Eminem — “Without Me”
Eminem wears tights. That is all.
11. 2010 — Lady Gaga - Bad Romance
“Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah! Rama-ramama-ah! GaGa-ooh-la-la! Want your bad romance!” That’s going to be in your head all day now. A catchy song combined with Lady Gaga’s signature oddball antics and high-budget special effects make this video one of the singer’s strongest.
10. 2001: Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya, Pink — “Lady Marmalade”
Whether you loved the original Patti LaBelle song or if you simply just wanted to watch these girls dance half-naked, you can’t help but notice the visual treat of the burlesque-style video. Christina Aguilera may look like Twisted Sister but the girl always has the pipes to give you chills!
9. 2012 — Rihanna - We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris
RIhanna’s video for her hit song received controversy for its depiction of drugs and violence. But controversy is practically the middle name of the VMAs, which makes this video a winner in its own right.
8. 2004: OutKast — “Hey Ya!”
If you have ever been desperate for an Outkast reunion, it was because of this song. The video has a 1950s vibe as the rap duo performs on television. Even if you hate rap music, the colorful visuals and addictive lyrics immediately suck you in.
7. 2011: Katy Perry — Firework
Katy Perry not only extended the message of the song but also took it quite literally with this visually spectacular video. How can you not get chills when you see fireworks come out of a cancer patient’s chest?
6. 2013: Justin Timberlake — “Mirrors”
This upbeat love song was dedicated to Justin Timberlake’s grandparents and their loving relationship. If this video doesn’t make you cry, you’re not human.
5. 2009: Beyoncé — “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”
Beyoncé proved that less is more with her 2009 hit. The video is simple with no high-budget special effects or intense imagery. Instead, Beyoncé and her two back-up dancers show off their moves to the iconic dance. You barely even notice that you’re just watching a highly-choreographed dance video as you sit in awe at what the diva can do.
4. 1994: Aerosmith — Cryin’
Alicia SIlverstone made belly button piercings cool in her first of three Aerosmith video appearances. While the song is amazing, it’s clear this video was what catapulted Silverstone to superstardom and even led her to land the lead in “Clueless.”
3. 1990: Sinéad O’Connor — Nothing Compares 2 U
This is probably one of the only music videos to become iconic simply for a continuous close-up shot of a singer’s head. Sinéad O’Connor’s video became the subject of several parodies in the early ’90s and even Miley Cyrus tried to copy it in the Director’s Cut of “Wrecking Ball.”
2. 1993: Pearl Jam — Jeremy
Pearl Jam’s haunting tune about the effects of bullying was pretty controversial for its time and the images and lyrics still maintain the same heart-breaking value today. But there was only one video better….
1. 2014: Miley Cyrus — “Wrecking Ball”
This video doesn’t even need a description because you most likely have already seen it and if you haven’t, then do it now! Miley Cyrus proved that her “Hannah Montana” image was dead with this viral video. It has already made a mark in less than a year and it will likely not be forgotten for years to come.