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Best 2000s Music Videos: 20 Promo Clips That Defined The Noughties
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Best 2000s Music Videos: 20 Promo Clips That Defined The Noughties

From newfangled CGI to jaw-dropping choreography, the best 2000s music videos broke new ground and helped usher in the viral video era.

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In the 2000s, the impact of new technology on music was more palpable than ever. The rise of social media, the growing power of the internet, and the adoption of iPods and smartphones meant that there were more ways than ever for fans to connect with their favourite musicians. Against this shifting landscape, MTV continued to set the agenda for most of the decade, and music videos were still strong currency, with many artists trying to one-up each other with their flashy visuals and big-budget productions. From the hip-hop eccentricities of Missy Elliott to the avant-garde mise-en-scène of pop saviour Lady Gaga, the best 2000s music videos became bigger, bolder and more visually striking than in any previous era. Here, then, is our countdown of the best music videos the noughties had to offer.

Listen to our Pop playlist here, and check out our best 2000s music videos, below.

20: The Darkness: I Believe In A Thing Called Love (2003)

For their UK No.2 hit I Believe In A Thing Called Love, hard rock group The Darkness went full-on B-movie with director Alex Smith, creating a video in which the group fire laser beams out of their guitars while riding about in a flying saucer and waging war with a giant squid. With frontman Justin Hawkins citing the special effects from cult movie Big Trouble In Little China as an inspiration, the glut of wacky Dr Who-style props were designed by Jim Friedlander, for whom this sort of thing was in his blood. “He was the son of the guy who created the Daleks, and he came and did our spaceship and beasts that you see in there,” Hawkins said. “It was all real things – we didn’t do any CGI stuff. We did old-fashioned, British science-fiction stuff.”

Director: Alex Smith

19: Britney Spears: Toxic (2003)

Costing a reported $1 million and becoming Britney Spears’ most expensive music video, director Joseph Kahn decided to channel “James Bond flicks and sex” by immortalising Spears as a high-flying air hostess and undercover agent. “The plot is pretty nonsensical,” Kahn admitted to MTV News. “It’s just fun.” The infamous scene in which Spears wears nothing but diamonds, however, was entirely her idea, and it apparently took hours to glue the gems onto her. “I came up with the concept and threw it out there,” Spears later said. “There are jewels all over my body. There’s nothing actually underneath.” Helping the single become a UK No.1 hit while also peaking at No.9 in the US, the promo clip for Toxic was an ingeniously potent distillation of the song’s lascivious themes, and it easily earns its place among the best 2000s music videos.

Director: Joseph Kahn

18: Kylie Minogue: Come Into My World (2002)

As one of the best 2000s music videos, Kylie Minogue’s Come Into My World clip was an insanely ambitious undertaking. Featuring the Australian pop star caught in an endless time loop while walking through the streets of Paris, the singer is duplicated (along with her background extras) after every one-minute cycle, and, naturally, the resulting anarchy is a feast for the eyes. Though the video was shot by French director Michel Gondry, his brother, Olivier, worked closely on motion control and rotoscoping for the video, and was tasked with harnessing the chaos in post-production. “To this day, I can rotoscope ten times faster than any other rotoscoping programme,” Olivier said. “I have some little tricks that make it fast and smart. I still use these things today.” Much like the rest of Michel Gondry’s oeuvre, Come Into My World is dizzyingly creative and playfully surreal, with lots of clever nuances that bear repeat viewings.

Director: Michel Gondry

17: OK Go: Here It Goes Again (2006)

After making a name for themselves with the homemade dance video for A Million Ways, indie-rock group OK Go began to brainstorm how to best it with the clip for their 2006 single Here It Goes Again. “We tried to think up a new, more ridiculous dance,” singer Damian Kulash said. “That’s when we came up with the treadmill idea.” With only a low budget at their disposal, choreographer Trish Sie had a dream about the band members performing a dance routine on eight treadmills and pitched it to them. “I remember when we put up the tarp behind us,” Kulash said. “We were like, ‘It’s OK that it looks shitty. We don’t want anyone to mistake this for a real, high-budget music video.’” Proving that all you needed to create one of the best 2000s music videos was a great concept, Here It Goes Again became one of the earliest viral hits on YouTube, racking up 900,000 views in a single day and leading to OK Go performing the “treadmill dance” at the MTV Video Music Awards. Since then, the band have cultivated a reputation for their increasingly ambitious promo videos, arguably making OK Go one of the pioneers of the art form in the 21st century.

Directors: Damian Kulash, Trish Sie

16: Tenacious D: Tribute (2002)

What’s most remarkable about Tenacious D’s 2002 single Tribute is that it never actually charted in the US and only entered the UK singles chart at No.84. However, its music video, directed by Liam Lynch, is something of a classic, featuring as it does comedians Jack Black and Kyle Gass singing about “the greatest song in the world” in a shopping-mall karaoke booth and accosting old ladies with their tall tale of devilish one-upmanship. The moment where the duo face off with Satan himself – played by none other than Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl – is a stroke of comedic genius. “Dave is just a friend of ours so it wasn’t like we had to recruit him or anything,” Lynch later said. “It was just a given that he’d be Satan.” Whether Tribute is truly the greatest song in the world is, of course, a matter of conjecture, but the music video alone makes a very strong case for it.

Director: Liam Lynch

15: Coldplay: The Scientist (2002)

Fascinated with the idea of telling a story through footage that moved in reverse, director Jamie Thraves masterminded the high-concept music video for Coldplay’s The Scientist, the second single from the band’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head album, in which singer Chris Martin enigmatically walked backwards in time through Bourne Woods, in Surrey. By the video’s conclusion, the reverse-narrative technique reveals that Martin was the sole survivor of a car crash with Irish actress Elaine Cassidy – a tragedy which becomes miraculously undone before the video ends with the happy couple driving along a country road. Remarkably, Martin took a month to learn how to sing the lyrics of one of the best Coldplay songs in reverse, going to painstaking lengths to get the phonetics exactly right. “He got a tape of the song recorded backward and he listened to it over and over,” Thraves said. “He’s a very passionate guy, so he got really into it.” From its mystifying cold open with Martin lying on a mattress to its tragic and bittersweet denouement, The Scientist’s clip swept the board at the MTV Video Music Awards and instantly earned its place as one of the best 2000s music videos.

Director: Jamie Thraves

14: Daft Punk: One More Time (2000)

French house pioneers Daft Punk (aka Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo) were on cloud nine when they were given the opportunity to work with Manga legend Leiji Matsumoto for the video for one of the best Daft Punk songs of all. “We’re so happy to be able to join our creativity with a hero from our childhood,” Bangalter later said. “The wonderful thing about the music and animation is that they can both travel across all borders, cultures, languages, generations and human races,” de Homem-Christo added. As the perfect visual companion to Daft Punk’s second album, Discovery, the sci-fi-inspired promo for One More Time was featured in the accompanying animated film, Interstella 555: The Story Of The 5secret 5star 5ystem, and features blue aliens performing the song in an intergalactic nightclub. Helping to popularise anime cartoons for Western audiences, Matsumoto’s unique visual style carried across into Daft Punk’s further video releases, fully establishing the duo’s credentials not just as sonic pioneers but also as cultural aesthetes among the best 2000s musicians.

Directors: Leiji Matsumoto, Kazuhisa Takenouchi

13: The Avalanches: Frontier Psychiatrist (2000)

There’s a fine line between madness and genius, and The Avalanches’ sample-heavy plunderphonics wonder Frontier Psychiatrist walks that tightrope with manic glee. With all its outlandish samples – from squawking birds to galloping horses – Robbie Chater floated the idea of doing an elaborate stage show for a one-off TV special. “That was an idea that we had,” Robbie said, “and the guys making the video just kind of took the idea and adapted it.” Directed by Tom Kuntz and Mike Maguire, the Frontier Psychiatrist promo was a trippy journey into an unhinged therapy session, featuring a turtle with a human head (“What does that mean?”), duelling cowboys and animated Rorschach paintings. Easily one of the best music 2000s videos, the directors’ work with The Avalanches proved to be a stepping stone towards future craziness, as seen on the videos for Electric Six’s Danger! High Voltage and Gay Bar. However, Frontier Psychiatrist remains the creative duo’s greatest triumph.

Directors: Tom Kuntz, Mike Maguire

12: Missy Elliott: Work It (2002)

Famous for creating some of the most groundbreaking music videos of her era (her clip for Sock It 2 Me, from her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, stands as one of the best 90s music videos), hip-hop queen bee Missy Elliott’s 2002 single Work It is a veritable honey trap. As eccentric as ever, it careens from seeing Elliott as a DJ beset by a plague of bees to body-popping in the playground, with green screens showcasing an array of special effects that match the production wizardry of Elliott collaborator Timbaland. “There are no limits with Missy. The crazier, the better,” director Dave Meyers told Fortune magazine. “In Work It, she was like, ‘I see this beauty salon. We should do something with beauty salons,’ then I’ll just kind of riff on that and build a whole context around it.” A postmodern homage to the golden era of hip-hop, Work It fully deserves its place among the best 2000s music videos thanks to its no-holds-barred choreography, overseen by Hi-Hat, with child dancer Alyson Stoner arguably stealing the show.

Directors: Missy Elliott, Dave Meyers

11: The White Stripes: Fell In Love With A Girl (2002)

Toying with Lego bricks, the two-minute garage-rock blast of Fell In Love With A Girl saw French director Michel Gondry at his most whimsical. For guitarist Jack White and drummer Meg White to be brought to life in this stop-motion project, the video was shot as a live-action clip before each frame was replicated in Lego bricks by Gondry’s team. “We had 14 animators who would build a wall of Lego and we put that in front of the camera and shot it,” Gondry said. “So that took, like, more than two months to do.” Prior to its release, Jack White approached Lego to pitch the idea of packaging a limited-edition run of the Fell In Love With A Girl single with toy bricks that would allow fans to build Jack and Meg figures. Sadly, Lego declined, saying they did not market to anybody over 12 years old. “Then, of course, the video became a big hit,” Jack White recounted, “and they ended up calling back saying, ‘Oh well, can we do some kind of thing together?’ And I was like, ‘Ah, you know, you had your chance.’” With Fell In Love With A Girl going on to win three awards at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, Gondry’s clip at least offers a glimpse at what could have been.

Director: Michel Gondry

10: Linkin Park: In The End (2000)

Though many early-2000s music videos utilised CGI, Linkin Park’s In The End is perhaps the most impactful and well-remembered of them all. Deciding not to create the skateboarding video that the band’s record label had requested, co-director Joseph Hahn put together something far more cinematic by digitally placing the band in an apocalyptic wasteland inspired by the work of the 19th-century painter Alphonse Mucha. Spinning the pessimistic themes of this Hybrid Theory album highlight into a visual depiction of the cycle of evolution – from destruction to rebirth – the video depicts Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda rapping through a barren desert as it magically sprouts with grass. “The world that they start in is dismal, desert, emptiness,” says co-director Nathan “Karma” Cox, “and it starts to rain and then the world becomes a beautiful place.” With digital effects created by production designer Patrick Tatopoulous (Independence Day, Godzilla), the In The End clip enhanced the impact of one of the best Linkin Park songs and became the quintessential nu-metal music video, garnering a nomination for Best Video Of The Year at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Directors: Nathan “Karma” Cox, Joseph Hahn

9: OutKast: Hey Ya! (2003)

Never ones to stick to convention, OutKast gave their acoustic-led rap bop Hey Ya! a video that was was every bit as energising as the song itself. “One day I was sitting in the car with Dre,” director Bryan Barber recalled, “and I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we did a video with a spin on The Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan?’” In response, André 3000 went one better. “Let’s not do Sullivan,” he replied. “Let’s make it seem like the Americans invaded England!” Performing as every member of his fictional group, The Love Below, the rapper gives Austin Powers star Mike Myers a run for his money, and even memorably dresses up in polo gear in order to represent a trio of backing singers. One of the best 2000s songs, Hey Ya!’s infectious retro vibe was only boosted Barber’s video, helping the single become a Top 5 hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Director: Bryan Barber

8: R.E.M.: Imitation Of Life (2001)

Led by director Garth Jennings and producer Nick Goldsmith, Hammer & Tongs have produced some of the most iconic music videos of all time, such as Blur’s Coffee & TV clip, but rarely did they get more ambitious than with their promo for R.E.M.’s Imitation Of Life. Filmed with 12 Super 8 cameras at a pool party in Calabasas, California, the idea was to shoot singer Michael Stipe and various extras singing different lines of the song and merge them all into one 20-second shot. Cleverly edited with “pan and scan” which zooms in and out of the action, rewinding and fast-forwarding throughout, the video comes together like puzzle pieces forming one continuous whole. Despite the duo’s ambition, Goldsmith recalls feeling like they had bitten off more than they could chew. “We were flying home, and we shot the whole thing out of sync, and it was the worst flight ever,” he said. “We thought we’d completely and utterly ruined it.” With Jennings knowing they only had seven minutes of rushes to edit down, he was similarly anxious. “It was only one 20-second shot, and we’d only had a few goes at it,” he admitted, rueing the fact that they had spent a ton of money only “to come home with just that tiny reel”. Thankfully, their apprehension was misplaced. Saved in the editing room, the Imitation Of Life clip not only turned out exactly how Jennings and Goldsmith had visualised it, but it remains fondly remembered as one of the best 2000s music videos.

Director: Garth Jennings

7: My Chemical Romance: Welcome To The Black Parade (2006)

Described by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way as “the definitive video for the record” which “summed up” The Black Parade – itself one of the best 2000s albums – the promo for My Chemical Romance’s Welcome To The Black Parade single was a bombastic rock-opera production overseen by Samuel Bayer, the director of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit clip. With a man of his pedigree at the helm, the result was always destined to be one of the best 2000s music videos. The costumes were created by Academy Award-winning designer and Tim Burton collaborator Colleen Atwood, and the video’s storyline mirrors the dystopic narrative on the song’s parent album by depicting The Patient (played by actor Lukas Haas) being ushered into the afterlife by the group as they parade the streets like a gothic-noir marching band. Taking its visual queues from 1920s German expressionist films, the Welcome To The Black Parade video is a remarkable feat of visual storytelling, artfully turning one of the best My Chemical Romance songs into a life-and-death battle cry. In 2017, MTV named it the Greatest Music Video Of The Century.

Director: Samuel Bayer

6: Eminem: Stan (Featuring Dido) (2000)

By all accounts, Eminem’s 2000 single Stan introduced the term “stanning” into the popular lexicon. Tackling toxic fandom, the song presents a tale of murderous obsession, sung almost entirely from the perspective of a Slim Shady copycat who writes fan letters and crashes his car off a bridge with his girlfriend (played by British pop singer Dido) in the trunk. Already cinematic enough to be movie material, the song inspired a music video – complete with an extended eight-minute edit – which faithfully adapted Eminem’s lyrics in a way that was every bit as chilling as late-90s slasher flicks such as I Know What You Did Last Summer. While searching for the role of the crazed Eminem fan Stanley Mitchell, co-directors Phil Atwell and Dr Dre opted to cast actor Devon Sawa, who had just played the lead role in the 2000 horror movie Final Destination. “Dre’s been talking about his movie forever,” said Atwell. Fitting in perfectly with Eminem’s horrorcore stylings, the clip was as dark and haunting as any psychological thriller, becoming one of the best 2000s music videos while giving a boost to Eminem’s burgeoning reputation as a cause célèbre.

Director: Philip Atwell, Dr Dre

5: Red Hot Chili Peppers: Californication (2000)

A visionary undertaking that predicted the future of gaming, the music video for the title track to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication album was released just a few months after the PlayStation 2 hit the shelves, and it saw 3D avatars of Anthony Kiedis, John Frusciante, Flea and Chad Smith explore an open-world depiction of California. With wacky gameplay featuring Smith snowboarding across San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge and Frusciante stealing Leonardo Da Vinci’s flying machine, the video pointed to a future of open-world gaming that would explode in popularity after the release of Grand Theft Auto III and Metal Gear Solid 2. “Obviously it was inspired by games that had come before it,” said animator Josh Scherr, “but also in many ways, the games everyone hoped to see in the future.” After placing Red Hot Chili Peppers in their own video game, Scherr would go on to work for Naughty Dog, the developers behind games such as Uncharted and The Last Of Us, proving just how ahead of its time the Californication clip truly was.

Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Bobby Leigh

4: Johnny Cash: Hurt (2002)

In the last years of country-music legend Johnny Cash’s life, the American Recordings series of albums he recorded with producer Rick Rubin, featuring surprising cover versions of songs by contemporary artists, brought much him critical acclaim. However, his rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt became his swansong, thanks to a deeply emotional music video that still has the power to reduce people to tears. A visit to the derelict House Of Cash museum in Tennessee – subsequently chosen as the video’s primary filming location – is what prompted director Mark Romanek to be as viscerally honest about the ravages of time as possible. “That’s when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny’s health,” Romanek said, “as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs.” Mixing archive material of the singer’s illustrious career with latter-day footage of a frail and elderly-looking Cash with his wife, June Carter Cash, the video transforms Trent Reznor’s song about drug addiction into a thought-provoking meditation on ageing and mortal decay. Several months after Hurt’s release, Johnny Cash died, aged 71, making the video one of the most emotionally devastating epitaphs in music history.

Director: Mark Romanek

3: Lady Gaga: Bad Romance (2009)

Featuring clothing designed by the late fashion icon Alexander McQueen, the music video for Lady Gaga’s 2009 single Bad Romance brought the singer’s craziest and most avant-garde impulses screaming to life. “She had all these crazy outfits,” director Francis Lawrence recalled. “She was working with this guy, this Italian stylist, he was amazing.” With a hair-raising plot involving female trafficking and supermodel auctions for the Russian mafia, Bad Romance was part grimdark futurism and part cyberpunk shock art, showcasing Lady Gaga’s affinity for grotesque social commentary and the weirder periphery of beauty and glamour. “I was really excited to make the opening scene [of the video] a fashion ad that was slightly moving but bizarre,” Gaga said in an interview with i-D magazine. Released in October 2009, Bad Romance is something of a last-gasp candidate for inclusion among the best 2000s music videos, but it would be a crime to overlook it.

Director: Francis Lawrence

2: Fatboy Slim: Weapon Of Choice (2001)

Seeking to move away from lo-fi amateur dance videos (Praise You) to high-production choreography, director Spike Jonze pitched the idea of asking 57-year-old Hollywood actor Christopher Walken to cut some rug to Fatboy Slim’s 2001 single Weapon Of Choice. With Walken keen to embrace his passion for dancing while he was still young enough to do it, the resulting project – a surreal wish-fulfilment fantasy of a besuited businessman going full Fred Astaire in a hotel lobby – was a pop-culture watershed that remains one of the best music videos of all time. Standing tall among the best 2000s music videos, Weapon Of Choice went on to win numerous awards, collecting gongs at the Grammys and the VMAs. “It’s a very catchy tune,” Walken later said of the song. “It’s good for tap because it has a deliberate almost drum-like beat. They say tap dancers are like drummers.”

Director: Spike Jonze

1: Gorillaz: Clint Eastwood (2001)

The brainchild of Tank Girl animator Jamie Hewlett and Blur frontman Damon Albarn, the virtual band Gorillaz were created to set pop music on a different path to the cul-de-sac many manufactured boy bands and girl groups found themselves in at the turn of the millennium. “If you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell – there’s nothing of substance there,” Hewlett said in a 2005 interview with Wired. “So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that.” Lifted from Gorillaz’s self-titled debut album, the group’s debut single, Clint Eastwood, made an immediate splash thanks to an iconic music video that introduced the world to the cartoon bandmates 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel by way of a spooky graveyard and a bunch of zombie gorillas doing Thriller-style dance routines. With rapper Del The Funky Homosapien voicing a colossal ghost that emerges from Russel’s head, the video took four months to animate and presented a groundbreaking 360-degree turn away from the insipid superficiality of late-90s pop promos. Wildly original and unashamedly bizarre, Clint Eastwood was a much-needed act of mutiny, and that’s why it tops our list of the best 2000s music videos.

Director: Pete Candeland, Jamie Hewlett

Looking for more? Check out our best 2000s songs.

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