Although MTV was barely two years old at the start of 1984, the channel had already completely flipped the music industry on its head. Whether they wanted to or not, rock’s biggest stars now needed to present their music and personalities via short-form video instead of just on the radio or on record. The artists you’ll see on this list of 1984’s 40 Most Awesome Music Videos rose to the challenge in some very creative ways.

40. Judas Priest, “Freewheel Burning”

The video for the lead single from Judas Priest‘s 1984 Defenders of the Faith album finds singer Rob Halford jumping into the world of video games, appearing onscreen as a kid plays Pole Position with the proper amount of reckless abandon.

 

39. Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time”

After making a big worldwide splash with her upbeat debut single “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper showed off a more serious side with the somber ballad “Time After Time.” The video finds the singer leaving her small town and her boyfriend behind to pursue her dreams.

 

38. The Cars, “Hello Again”

The Cars dominated MTV in 1984, releasing four hit videos from their Heartbeat City album. Andy Warhol co-directed and appears in the “Hello Again” video, which cheekily addresses parents’ concerns about sex and violence-filled music videos.

 

37. Huey Lewis & the News, “The Heart of Rock & Roll”

Originally intended as Huey Lewis‘ love letter to the city of Cleveland, “The Heart of Rock & Roll” instead became a tribute to the enduring spirit of rock music as a whole at the suggestion of his bandmates. Accordingly, the video features vintage footage of a wide variety of early rock pioneers such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.

 

36. Scorpions, “Rock You Like a Hurricane”

The Scorpions pack two videos’ worth of weirdness into their “Rock You Like a Hurricane” video. Of course you’ll remember they spend most of the clip surrounded by fans while performing inside a cage that appears to be made of rubber. But there’s also an Alien meets Mad Max storyline at the start and end of the video, which culminates with the band climbing into very flimsy-looking hibernation pods.

 

35. Rod Stewart, “Some Guys Have All the Luck”

If you had exactly four minutes to explain to somebody how keyboards and changing fashion trends led some of the rock’s biggest stars astray in the ’80s, all you’d need to do is show them this Rod Stewart video. (Genesis‘ “Invisible Touch” would also work.)

 

34. Bryan Adams, “Run to You”

In the first video from his star-making Reckless album, Bryan Adams braves all sorts of bad weather – snow, rain and high winds – in his dogged pursuit of infidelity. The video was nominated for five different MTV Video Music Awards, but went home empty-handed.

 

33. Night Ranger, “Sister Christian”

Night Ranger drummer Kelly Keagy wrote “Sister Christian” after realizing how fast his much-younger sister Christy was growing up. Much like when KissPeter Criss tried to sing about “Beck” instead of “Beth,” Keagy’s bandmates made him change the song title to something easier to understand.

 

32. Iron Maiden, “2 Minutes to Midnight’

Iron Maiden battle the sinister business and government forces behind the commercialization of war in the first video from their 1984 Powerslave album. Don’t worry, the bastards who starve millions in the name of making a better kind of gun get theirs in the end.

 

31. Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is”

Although Lou Gramm was left “stunned and crushed” when Mick Jones allegedly left him out in the cold in terms of songwriting credits for what would become Foreigner‘s biggest hit, he gets the lion’s share of the spotlight – and the girl – in the song’s video.

 

30. Pat Benatar, “We Belong”

No matter what the video directors put in front of her – waterfalls, a children’s choir, giant flowing strands of cloth, her own very green turtle-shell shaped earrings and matching gloves – Pat Benatar doesn’t blink her soulful, highly expressive eyes once during this video. “We Belong” found her successfully exploring more sophisticated musical territory, and became her second straight No. 5 hit single.

 

29. John Mellencamp, “Authority Song”

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a video that matches up with the message of its accompanying song with more style and substance than John Mellencamp‘s “Authority Song.” The black and white clip finds the singer fighting everything that stands in the way of his pursuit of happiness in a boxing ring – and if he doesn’t come out with a clear victory he’s at least made a positive influence on the next generation of brawlers.

 

28. Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.”

Although the “Born in the U.S.A.” video logically focuses largely on Bruce Springsteen‘s live charisma and happy scenes of small-town American life, he make sure to include some scenes of wounded soldiers and military graveyards near the end, driving home the song’s message about how poorly many of our veterans have been treated upon their return.

 

27. Frankie Goes to Hollywood, “Two Tribes”

Frankie Goes to Hollywood followed up their 1983 smash “Relax” with the equally infectious but much more serious-minded “Two Tribes.” The video illustrates the song’s Cold War-themed lyrics quite literally, with Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Konstantin Chernenko going one on one in a WWE-style fight that concludes with the world exploding.

 

26. Van Halen, “Panama”

After releasing two straight keyboard-dominated hits, Van Halen clearly felt the need to remind everybody that they were still the best rock band in the world with the hard-charging, stage-set “Panama” video. The opening scene, in which a sputtering biplane is suddenly replaced by a soaring, boombox-toting David Lee Roth, remains one of the best transitions in music video history.

 

25. Kenny Loggins, “Footloose”

Rock’s official soundtrack king Kenny Loggins struck again with the theme song to 1984’s Footloose, which topped the charts in America and six other countries. Loggins doesn’t appear in the video, wisely ceding the spotlight to the Olympic gymnast / death-defying stuntman-style dancing of the film’s star, Kevin Bacon.

 

24. Ratt, “Round and Round”

Comedian Milton Berle makes a brief but memorable appearance in Ratt‘s breakthrough “Round and Round” video, playing both halves of an elderly high society couple whose elegant dinner is first disturbed then utterly destroyed by the band’s raucous performance.

 

23. The Cars, “Drive”

Bassist Benjamin Orr handled lead vocals on the third hit single from the Cars’ Heartbeat City album, but it was his bandmate Rick Ocasek who ended up marrying the video’s star, supermodel and actress Paulina Porizkova.

 

22. Steve Perry, “Oh Sherrie”

In a textbook case of having your cake and eating it too, Journey frontman Steve Perry parodies the overblown pomp and grandeur of modern music videos on his first solo video – while also fully hitting every one of the still-developing art form’s important beats.

 

21. Billy Idol, “Eyes Without a Face”

Billy Idol almost wound up having a face without eyes after shooting the video for his second Rebel Yell single. After leaving his contact lenses while spending two days shooting the video on a set filled with fog machines, flames and powerful lights, then flying directly to the Arizona desert, the singer found that the lenses had painfully fused to his eyes, requiring a two-day hospital stay to allow his corneas to heal. “Eyes Without a Face” hit No. 4 in America, and the video was nominated for two MTV awards, so his suffering was at least somewhat rewarded.

 

20. Bob Dylan, “Jokerman”

Bob Dylan‘s lyrics appear over numerous famous paintings and photographs in the video for his six-minute Infidels epic “Jokerman.” Along with performance video and vintage photos of Dylan, we get glances of Muhammad Ali, Adolf Hitler, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kennedy brothers and Batman’s Joker. Not pictured: the song’s amazing guitar team of Mark Knopfler and Mick Taylor.

 

19. U2, “Pride (In the Name of Love)”

Everybody seemed to love the video for U2‘s big breakthrough hit except the band themselves, who commissioned a completely different second conceptual video, and then a third focused on footage from the recording sessions for The Unforgettable Fire album.

 

18. Queen, “Radio Ga Ga”

What better way to promote a song about the death of rock radio than with an absolutely bonkers music video? Queen use video magic to insert themselves into the 1927 science fiction classic Metropolis. A year later, during their first-ever performance of the song at Live Aid, the band were stunned to see the audience replicating the movements of the crowd in the video. “It became one of the first great proofs of the power of television,” said Brian May.

 

17. Art of Noise, “Close (to the Edit)”

Nearly a decade before Jackyl’s Jesse James Dupree made the chainsaw a musical instrument with “The Lumberjack,” Art of Noise used a power saw to destroy all sorts of musical instruments in the “Close (to the Edit)” video. The band wasn’t exactly sure about how they came off in the video. “Sometimes you had video art directors get excited about how they were going to present The Art of Noise,” Paul Morley later explained, “and in that particular case, he interpreted it as a strange young girl with Huey Lewis & The News. Half of it was fun and half of it was slightly sad.”

 

16. Sammy Hagar, “I Can’t Drive 55”

With hit singles, gold and platinum albums and sold-out arena tours under his belt, there was only one thing Sammy Hagar needed – a career-defining anthem. He got it with 1984’s “I Can’t Drive 55” and a video that proved Hagar had comedic, dramatic and action star chops. How has this not been made into a movie yet?

 

15. Lou Reed, “I Love You, Suzanne”

After initially refusing his girlfriend’s request to join her dancing at an extremely ’80s looking party – there’s no doubt what’s going on in that bathroom, right? – Lou Reed proves to be surprisingly capable of busting some moves once she gets him jealous enough by dancing with the business suit-wearing dorks.

 

14. Madonna, “Like a Virgin”

Warner Bros. reportedly shelled out a then-record $150,000 to shoot Madonna cavorting on a gondola in Venice for the “Like a Virgin” video, but it’s hard to argue they didn’t get their money’s worth. The song became cemented Madonna’s superstar status, becoming her first No. 1 hit. Fun fact: She changes outfits for times in the video’s first 30 seconds, and that’s before she even gets around to the wedding dress.

 

13. Daryl Hall & John Oates, “Out of Touch”

In a clever play on the title of their Big Bam Boom album, the video for Daryl Hall & John Oates‘ “Out of Touch” is dominated by a gigantic drum kit, with the bass drum breaking loose and rolling over the duo, leaving them flat as pancakes.

 

12. Twisted Sister, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

You want to know why democracy can’t be trusted anymore? Because when you let your normally honorable co-workers vote on important issues such as the most awesome 1984 music videos they somehow let this masterpiece of teenage rebellion fall out of the top 10. It’s Dee Snider vs. Animal House‘s Niedermeyer, what more do you need?

 

 

11. Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got to Do With It”

Tina Turner made one of if not the most impressive comebacks in rock history with 1984’s Private Dancer album, and this was the song and video that kicked her return into overdrive. The video itself doesn’t tell any particular story, but her voice, eyes and the confident but world-weary strut she carries all around New York City make it very clear there’s a lot more at stake here than the relationship being discussed in the lyrics.

 

10. David Bowie, “Blue Jean”

You need more proof that the Grammys are out of touch and pointless? The only one David Bowie ever won during his lifetime was for this 1984 video. (To be clear, we’re saying it should have been one of many awards he got, not that this video isn’t worthy.) Excerpted from the ambitious 21-minute Julian Temple-directed Jazzin’ for Blue Jean short film, the video finds Bowie performing dual roles on stage and in the audience at a fancy nightclub.

 

9. Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer”

Eagles star Don Henley got downright cinematic with the video for his 1984 Top 5 hit “The Boys of Summer,” casting three different actors to play the same character looking ahead to, enjoying, and then sadly looking back on a life-defining summer romance.

 

8. The Cars, “You Might Think”

The Cars proved themselves to be quick studies of the music video format with the delightfully inventive – if more than a little creepy – “You Might Think” video, which finds Ric Ocasek stalking a woman while taking on the form of King Kong, the Fly, a Robot Monster and even a tube of lipstick. It was the first video to ever win the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year, and deservedly so.

 

7. Prince & the Revolution, “Let’s Go Crazy”

Released about a month after Prince‘s Purple Rain soundtrack and a week before the movie of the same name became an unexpected smash hit, the “Let’s Go Crazy” video is basically an extended trailer, with the film-opening performance of the song interspersed with other key scenes. But luckily his onstage charisma was more than enough to light the fuse and send fans flocking to theaters around the world.

 

6. Cyndi Lauper, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”

Cyndi Lauper called in a lot of favors in order to make one of the most famous music videos of all time for less than $35,000. Saturday Night Live boss Lorne Michaels contributed state-of-the-art video editing equipment while wrestling legend Captain Lou Albano and employees of her record label all donated their time. In 2022, the video crossed one billion views on YouTube.

 

5. Prince & the Revolution, “When Doves Cry”

Although the opening scene of a nude Prince crawling out of a bathtub reportedly almost kept the “When Doves Cry” video off MTV, once it hit the airwaves it became clear that the Purple Rain album and movie would be the Purple One’s ticket to superstardom.

 

4. Van Halen, “Jump”

After taking a big musical risk by making keyboards the dominant instrument on the first single from their 1984 album, Van Halen kept things simple on the video front with a low-budget, quickly shot video of the band performing the song in a rehearsal studio. Of course, the band had their stage moves and laid back rock star vibes perfected by this point, leaving MTV viewers helpless to their charisma and charms.

 

3. ZZ Top, “Legs”

The fourth and final video from ZZ Top‘s world-conquering Eliminator album found the grizzled trio, their mysterious female friends and that magical car coming to the uh, aid of a beleaguered cafe waitress. Of course, that help comes in the form of a sexy makeover. Think of it like an updated version of Sandra Dee’s carnival scene from Grease, but with less clothing.

 

2. Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark”

A winning formula doesn’t have to be complicated. Bruce Springsteen had been known as a dynamic live performer long before he got all buff and filmed the first video from his mega-smash Born in the U.S.A. album. He just needed a talented director to help capture that energy. He brought in a real ringer with Scarface and Carrie director Brian De Palma, who in turn recruited future Friends star Courtney Cox to dance with Springsteen at the end of the clip.

 

1. Van Halen, “Hot for Teacher”

Van Halen’s original lineup went out in a spectacular blaze of glory with the “Hot for Teacher” video. Just as the unconventionally-structured song pushed at the boundaries of rock music, the video set a new standard for humor and storytelling in short-form rock videos. We didn’t know that the bow the tuxedo-wearing foursome took at the conclusion of the video would mark the end of their time together, but it’s a perfect farewell.

 

Top 30 Albums of 1994

Grunge, punk and alternative ruled the roost, while several classic rockers updated their sound accordingly.

Gallery Credit: Bryan Rolli





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