Best Music Videos Directed By Movie Directors

Music videos are one of the few topics about music that feel universal. Everybody has seen plenty in their lives, and everyone remembers at least one that has left a mark. Like small films that try to translate the content of a song into an image, there are different styles and forms. A form of artistic expression itself, music videos allow great freedom to those who know how to use it to tell a story. That’s why many young filmmakers start in this field. Spike Jonze is perhaps one of the best examples, making his name first as a great music video director and then transitioning to the big screen. But every so often, even seasoned directors want to try their hands on music videos, like Steven Spielberg recently did in Marcus Mumford’s „Cannibal.“ So here are some iconic music videos that you may recognize, all of them directed by great film directors.

RELATED: 7 Music Videos Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson That Reflect His Feature Films


Weapon of Choice – Fatboy Slim (dir. Spike Jonze)

Anyone who grew up at the turn of the millennium has Christopher Walken marked not only for his accomplished career in Hollywood but also for his iconic performance in Fatboy Slim’s video for „Weapon of Choice“. The image of him dancing through the halls of an empty hotel is for sure one of the most iconic in music video history.

Walken is a trained dancer by the Washington Dance Studio, and he explained in a Theater Talk interview that he was a chorus boy who toured musicals such as West Side Story, all before he made a name for himself in movies . The opportunity came when he expressed his desire to get his dancing on film, while Spike Jonze was searching for someone to do the music video. The idea itself came from Jonze, who revealed his dad used to stay at a Marriott hotel when visiting him: „I just imagined my dad at these hotels, traveling around the country, the mundane, repetitive, numbing quality of that. The idea was like the fantasy that kind of comes out of that,“ he told The Nine Club in 2018.

This video is also one of the best Spike Jonze-directed music videos and won many awards at the 2001 MTV VMAs, as well as the Grammy for Best Music Video in 2002. Jonze is a master in the field, and has many other successful iconic videos, such as the Beastie Boys‚ „Sabotage“, Weezer’s „Buddy Holly“ and Björk’s „Oh So Quiet“.

I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself – The White Stripes (dir. Sofia Coppola)

Very rarely do we get a combination of choices as perfect as for the 2003 music video of „I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself,“ the White Stripes‚ heavier version of the Burt Bacharach classic. As the song plays out, Kate Moss, another iconic name of the 2000s, pole dances on screen, everything set to Sofia Coppola’s directing. The alluring vibe of the video makes it one of the best and sexiest of that decade, and uniquely captures Coppola’s style and expression. Known for classics like The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, she is also an accomplished music video director, a fact that comes as no surprise since music is often one of the key elements in her films. Other iconic works of hers include Phoenix’s „Chloroform“ and Air’s „Playground Love“ – two bands that are featured heavily in her work.

Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers (dir. Gus Van Sant)

The video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers song „Under The Bridge“ is a piece that perfectly captures the essence of the 1990s. The saturated colors, superimposed images of the band playing, and many other effects are typical of that time period. It won two awards at the 1992 VMAs and was a constant in MTV’s programming throughout the whole decade. Directed by Gus Van Sant, the theme of the clip echoes that of the song itself. In the lyrics, singer Anthony Kiedis talks about loneliness and finding solace „in the city he lives in“ – Los Angeles. To make this feeling explicit, he walks through the streets of LA, sings to the people he passes through, and visits other iconic locations in town, such as the LA river channel. More than an ode to the city itself, the song speaks of the feeling of community and being part of a whole, even in one’s darkest moments.

Vogue – Madonna (dir. David Fincher)

Strike a pose! This line alone is enough to describe how influential Madonna’s „Vogue“ was during the 1990s, as it became something of a catchphrase in the period. It drew inspiration from – attention to – vogueing, a dance style created by the queer community in New York that adapts the poses from runways and fashion editorials. The song itself talks about enjoying the dance floor for what it is, no matter who you are, while name-calling many Old Hollywood stars. The video was directed by David Fincher and remains to this day one of Madonna’s most iconic music videos. The video takes place in a studio decorated with sculptures, pictures by famous photographers, and many Art Deco references. That, aligned with Madonna herself performing routines along with dancers and vogue legends of the House of Xtravaganza, is a perfect translation of the song onto the screen.

Bad – Michael Jackson (dir. Martin Scorsese)

Martin Scorsese directing a piece on street gangs and a young man with a change of heart? That’s his typical (and highly successful) formula and, coupled with Michael Jackson’s music, it just couldn’t go wrong. The result is the music video for „Bad,“ which turned into a short feature written by Richard Price. The video sees young Darryl (Jackson) leave his expensive private school at the end of the semester and take the subway back home, to a neglected neighborhood in New York City. He reunites with his old gang, led by Mini Max (Wesley Snipes), but relations grow tense as they notice Darryl has had a change of heart while out and is no longer „bad.“ Although simple, the video has almost an educational tone – which doesn’t make it any less good. Fewer people navigate filming the streets like Scorsese, and music videos are no different for the acclaimed actor.

Here With Me – The Killers (dir. Tim Burton)

A dark theater. An overly romantic song. Winona Ryder. Obsession. If you haven’t guessed already, we are talking about Tim Burton, just not about his movies. He only ever directed two music videos, both for The Killers: „Bones“ and „Here With Me“, the latter being the better work to capture his essence as a music video director. Imagine something like Lars and the Real Girl directed by Burton. In the video, Craig Roberts (of indie flick Submarine fame) is obsessed with a performer played by Ryder. He goes to see her every day but doesn’t dare get any closer. To fill that void, he steals a wax mannequin of her that he dances around with through many locations until he becomes the very thing he obsesses over, as the mannequin comes to life and both of them dine with a candle wick burning over their heads.

Man From The Magazine – HAIM (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Another Hollywood household name, Paul Thomas Anderson is also an accomplished music video director. He has 21 credits to his name in the field, with strong partnerships with influential artists like Radiohead and Fiona Apple. His biggest working partners, though, are HAIM, of whom he directed eight videos. There’s a bit of everything, from choreographed dance routines (like in „Little of Your Love“) to studio performances (like in „Valentine“), but his best work with the Los Angeles sisters is „Man From the Magazine.“ The song features Danielle Haim singing about cases of sexism she and her sisters have been through. It resembles an early Bob Dylan song, with just voice and acoustic guitar serving as the background for the lyrics to discuss an important topic of our era. In the video, Danielle tends to customers in Canter’s Deli, in Los Angeles, while taking glances at the camera between one client and another, who are all male – an obvious metaphor for how the music industry works.

The Blue Song – Mint Royale (dir. Edgar Wright)

If you have watched Baby Driver, you know how this goes. A getaway driver sets the exact duration of a song for his gang to perform a robbery and then drive away. In the movie, the scene happens to „Bellbottoms“, by The John Spencer Blues Explosion. Here, it’s the music video for „The Blue Song“ by Mint Royale, directed by the very same filmmaker as the movie, Edgar Wright. When analyzing the two pieces, we see that even the driver’s mannerisms – here played by Noel Fielding – are the same. The song came out in 2002, and Wright started writing a script based on the same premise. Around 2010, he even got a suggestion from J.J. Abrams to turn the clip into a movie, to which Wright answered: „Way ahead of you!“. He also has a decent track record in the music video field, having directed “Gust of Wind” by Pharrell Williams, and “Colors” by Beck.

Around the World – Daft Punk (dir. Michel Gondry)

Michel Gondry is another case of an awesome filmmaker with an extensive career in music videos. He has 27 credits, including collaborations with artists such as the Rolling Stones, Björk, Foo Fighters, and The White Stripes. His best work, though, is his single work with French duo Daft Punk in „Around the World“. Filmed with a slowed-down mix of the song, the image is then accelerated to match the usual rotation. Dancers go around a round track with a texture that resembles a vinyl record, and each group of dancers represents one of the instruments in the song. A few months ago, Daft Punk released an official making-of video, providing us with an amazing look into Gondry’s process and the impeccable work of the dancers.

Losing My Religion – R.E.M. (dir. Tarsem Singh)

Another 1990s gem, the music video for „Losing My Religion“ by R.E.M., was another trendsetter in the field. Director Tarsem Singh worked closely with the band, especially lead singer, Michael Stipe, to create the dreamlike atmosphere, which is heavily reminiscent of baroque art and biblical imagery. The video took home six awards at the 1991 MTV VMAs, including Video of the Year and Best Direction. While R.E.M. would further establish themselves as one of the most influential bands of the period, Singh would go on to become one of the main commercial directors of the decade, moving into feature territory in the 2000s, with movies such as The Fall and Immortals.

Headlights – Eminem (dir. Spike Lee)

To say that Eminem’s relationship with his mother, Debbie, is troubled would be an understatement. Over his career, he has dissed her in many of his most successful songs, a fact for which he came to apologize in „Headlights“, also stating that everything he wanted to say about his mother „is on that record.“ To illustrate that feeling, Spike Lee directed a video that focuses on Debbie’s point of view. The video follows her revisiting their relationship through a picture book, while Eminem reflects on his behavior towards her in the lyrics. Just as heartbreaking as the song itself, the video is enough to make anyone go down in tears.