MTV's 10 Coolest Videos From Michael Jackson to Metallica
We don't make any claims as to the finality of this list, no doubt you have some of your own favorites from the past three decades. That's what the comment section is for, we want to hear them--unless it's about why Nirvana didn't make the list.
1. Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
Bet you didn't see this one coming. The 14-minute visual opus had it all: hot teen lust, precision-choreographed dancing zombies, a genuine disclaimer denying occult involvement, Vincent Price. Featuring a sprawling narrative (for a video), this was Michael Jackson's ode to iconic horror films of the 1950s. The clip's prosthetics, including Jackson's "Werecat" mask were created by special effects wizard Rick Baker who won his first academy award for his work on 1982's American Werewolf in London. The video was helmed by mainstream filmmaker John Landis, known for pushing crews to their limit. With "Thriller," he spun cinematic gold and catapulted Jackson into pop immortality. A year before "Thriller" first aired, Landis saw three cast members lose their heads in a helicopter stunt gone awry while fiming another project. Two of them were children. No doubt Jackson was appalled.
The fact that Seth MacFarlane meticulously spoofed this video by a Norweigien pop trio in a Family Guy episode speaks volumes about the impact it had on a generation of young television watchers. The original video featured pencil-sketch animation of singer Morten Harket attempting to elude wrench-wielding car enthusiasts through a sparsely drawn alternate universe with a pretty blond girl in tow. The only thing more memorable than the hook of this one-hit wonder's song were the charcoal-colored images of Harket slamming against the wall in frustration after losing the girl, falling to the ground, returning to full color, and looking up to see she was there in front of him.
This video demonstrates two traditions currently dying (or dead) in Hollywood: unbridled creativity and meticulously-crafted, hand made movie magic. The stop motion footage in this clip means each jumping-bean image is shot frame by frame. Though it took tedious days to make, the effort resulted in a couple minutes of zoney, stoney viewing joy.
4. Guns N Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle"
This vid first aired in 1987 and it couldn't have come a more urgent time for the metal genre. Most of us grew tired of seeing douchebags like Brett Michaels and Vince Neil surrounded by beautiful women. The airwaves had became saturated with images of self-important glam acts, who were obsessed with what brand of hairspray and lip gloss they bought for themselves, and somehow, music got lost in the mix.
When "Welcome to the Jungle" premiered, it, too, featured Axl with hair teased to the sky, but the images of human electrocution and clips of riots and molotov cocktails combined with the song's nihilistic lyrics appealed to restless irritable youth tired of having Europe's "The Final Count Down" crammed into their ear holes.
5. NWA's "Straight Outa Compton"
The angriest video in this list. Neither Axl or Metallica come close. The clip featuring gritty driveby footage of Compton streets and sinister mustachioed police officers. The song was produced by Dr. Dre and rocked a gnarly mix of ominous baritone wind instruments and the most righteously enraged lyrics about inner city life. It set a bar for hardcore rap that hasn't been touched since.