MTV's 10 Coolest Videos From Michael Jackson to Metallica

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Today is MTV's 30th anniversary (30! OMG), so we thought we'd let loose with a list of some of the cooler/mind bending/watchable videos to grace the venerable network juggernaut's air waves.  Despite all of MTV's shortcomings as a commercial cable network channel, which has blighted our screens with TRL and Jersey Shore, there was a time when the channel was a springboard for some of the most creative personalities in entertainment.

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.



2. Aha's "Take on Me" 
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.



3. Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer"
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.

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10 comments
Jastina
Jastina

 In welcome to jungle brett michaels and vince neil surrounded by two beautiful woman.The airwaves with images of self important glam acts..

Marie Paul
Marie Paul

Bring back the MTV Michael Jackson Vanguard Award...in time for his birthday, he so deserves it .....The King of Pop but also  A King of Humanitarian Causes

Marie Paul
Marie Paul

Michael Jackson.....Thriller the best ever....MTV bring back that award

Claudia Van Tilburg
Claudia Van Tilburg

Just a little footnote: a-ha might be considered one-hit-wonders in the US, but had a succesful carreer of 25 years with several more hits in Europe.

Rey
Rey

billie jean made MTV! and is freaking awesome so is Beat It!

Munk4sale
Munk4sale

Cool Thriller, I'm not mad. It never gets old for me.

Méabh Kennedy
Méabh Kennedy

Aaah MJ's Thriller and Take On Me are probably my two favourite videos in the world!! :D

Medalka
Medalka

I wonder if you ever check you facts when you writing your articles. "Several years later, while directing another film, Landis saw three cast members lose their heads in a helicopter stunt gone awry. Two of them were children. Jackson would have been appalled." Actually, the accident, for which Landis was acquitted, happened BEFORE the Triller video was filmed. "With "Thriller," he spun cinematic gold and catapulted Jackson into pop immortality." Really? Landis himself in his recent interview mentioned that when the Thriller video was made, the Thriller album was on top for almost a year. Thriller video was a cherry but did not "catapulted" MJ anywhere. He was already on top and stay there forever.

briansays
briansays

google youtube for some of the classic scenes from miami vicethey were some of the best music videos inside a tv show

Bferguson
Bferguson

Thank you for pointing that out Medalka. I've made the necessary update.

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