Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Best Music Videos of All Time - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Best Music Videos of All Time

Watch the winning videos, including clips by Michael Jackson, Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses


Last weekend, we asked our readers to vote for their favorite music videos of all time. We received an enormous number of votes, and after counting every one, we now present the results. (And remember, you did the voting; we just announce the winners — even if they are exclusively videos by male artists.)

Play video

9. Nine Inch Nails, ‘Closer’ (1994)

Everything about Nine Inch Nails' "Closer," from its "I want to fuck you like an animal!" chorus to Mark Romanek's stylish yet perverse music video, runs counter to anyone's idea of mainstream entertainment, but it was a massive hit anyway. Romanek's arty, transgressive clip was instrumental to the song's success — it made Trent Reznor look sexy, cool and different from every other rock star on the planet.

Photos: Nine Inch Nails' Final Show

Play video

7. Foo Fighters, ‘Learn to Fly’ (1999)

The Foo Fighters are best known for their silly, cheerfully ironic music videos, and "Learn to Fly" may be the best of the bunch, with the Foos acting as both themselves and several other memorable passengers. In this clip, the band is forced to land an airplane after two boneheaded mechanics, played by Tenacious D's Jack Black and Kyle Gass, attempt to smuggle a sleeping drug in the flight's coffee supply.

Foo Fighters Hang with Rolling Stone at SXSW 2011

Foo Fighters Play 'Wasting Light,' Other Hits on 'Live on Letterman'

Play video

6. Fatboy Slim, ‘Weapon of Choice’ (2000)

Spike Jonze has made some of the most famous videos of all time — he's responsible for the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet" and Daft Punk's "Da Funk," just to name a few — but his clip for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" gets to the essence of his playful spirit. The video is simply four minutes of Christopher Walken dancing around a hotel in a suit. It might not be that impressive on a conceptual level, but Walken's performance is mesmerizing and unforgettable.

Play video

5. Guns N’ Roses, ‘November Rain’ (1992)

Andy Morahan's video for Guns N' Roses' "November Rain" is just as epic and cinematic as the song itself. It's an expensive, lavishly produced clip, but every penny spent was worth it, as it remains the band's greatest achievement in the medium. Who can ever forget the wedding scene, or the image of Slash wailing away on his guitar outside a chapel?

Guns N' Roses: The Early Years

Play video

4. a-ha, ‘Take on Me’ (1985)

With its imaginative high concept and stylish mix of live action and rotoscoped pencil animation, Steve Barron's video for a-ha's "Take on Me" is one of the most iconic clips of the Eighties. Barron also made Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing," the Human League's "Don't You Want Me," Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," making him one of the most influential video directors of all time.

The Secret History of a-ha's Smash "Take on Me"

Play video

3. Nirvana, ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (1991)

Samuel Bayer's music video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was just as radical and widely imitated as Nirvana's song itself. The clip pretty much invented the visual lexicon of grunge, with a bunch of dudes in ratty clothing wilding out at what appears to be a pep rally for a high school full of burnouts and gutter punks. After years of glossy pretty-boy rockers and video vixens, Bayer and Nirvana came out of nowhere to give a brand-new look to mainstream rock music.

Kurt Cobain's Last Days: Rolling Stone's 1994 Feature

Photos: The Rise of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and More

Play video

2. Peter Gabriel, ‘Sledgehammer’ (1986)

Stephen R. Johnson's 1986 clip for Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" was considered a groundbreaking video upon its release for its innovative use of claymation, pixilation and stop-motion animation. But today, long after digital technologies have made this once cutting-edge video look relatively quaint, it's still impressive for its goofy, surreal sense of humor.

Play video

1. Michael Jackson, ‘Thriller’ (1983)

John Landis' 1983 short film for the title song from Michael Jackson's record-setting album is so iconic and influential that it's not exactly a surprise that it won this poll by a landslide. So much more than a promo clip for a song, this mini-movie practically invented the notion of the music video as a major cultural event, and it opened up a world of possibilities for the medium that artists are still exploring today.

Photos: Michael Jackson Remembered

Photos: Michael Jackson Immortalized

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.