10 Greatest Music Videos Inspired By Movies


The music video is the visual soundtrack to your life, its length and body a truncated moment of shared time between the viewer and screen as defined by a director’s eye.  Whether the music video is articulating your mood or imposing its own vision upon you, it forever captures the instant of time and stores it away in the chambers of your subconscious, only to be stirred up when that video is re-experienced and forces you to ponder, “Hmmm…I remember that summer when I first saw this video.”  Music videos are markers in the time continuum.  When you remember a music video, you remember a piece of your life.   

Music videos and film itself are almost the same age.   In 1894, Edward B. Marks and Joe Stern promoted their music by hiring an electrician, George Thomas, to project a series of still images on a screen to simultaneously coincide with a live band performance.   Music videos have certainly come a long way.   But even with the evolution of the medium, artists continue to reinterpret its core spirit of still images set to music, as seen in such videos like "Breathe Me" by Sia. 

Though MTV launched itself on August 1st, 1981 with The Buggles’ "Video Killed The Radio Star", it really wasn’t until 1983 when John Landis directed Michael Jackson’s ground-breaking "Thriller" did movies and music videos merge to become an elevated art-form.   "Thriller" was not only inspired by movies (parts NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, parts WEST SIDE STORY), it was an homage to movies and its effect on popular culture, and was the first music video to be a movie itself.   Other masters of the cinema have turned to music videos as a form of expression, from Martin Scorsese with "Bad" to Gus Van Sant with "Under The Bridge".  Then there are those who come from music videos and have gone on to lucrative feature film careers like David Fincher, F. Gary Gray, Spike Jonze, Michael Bay, Brett Ratner, and Michel Gondry, while others were less successful, such as Joseph Kahn,  Tarsem, Jonas Akerlund, Wayne Isham, and Roman Coppola --  though separated by individual accomplishments, all of them are threaded by the commonality of being inspired by movies.


10.  “D.O.A. ” by Jay-Z (inspired by ZABRISKIE POINT)

D.O.A’s music video was directed by Anthony Mandler, who cites Michelangelo Antonioni’s 70’s counter-culture film ZABRISKIE POINT as a major influence.  Not only does D.O.A’s washed-out, rebellious color palette shadow those of Antonioni’s work, but also pays homage to ZABRISKIE POINT’s explosive ending.

9.  “LAST CUP OF SORROW” by Faith No More (inspired by VERTIGO)

Mike Patton is not only one of the greatest frontmen ever, but is also a mad musical genius that has no fear of challenging the casual listener.   Though Faith No More is probably Patton’s most accessible project, they still proved to be a ground-breaking band that helped to redefine rock.   In their music video for “Last Cup of Sorrow”, the band gives a heavy nod to Hitchcock’s masterpiece with Patton playing the Jimmy Stewart role and Jennifer Jason Leigh filling the shoes of Kim Novak.


8.  “RUSH, RUSH” by Paula Abdul (inspired by REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE)

Director Stefan Wurnitzer decided to shoot “Rush, Rush” in the spirit of REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, the Nicolas Ray film that turned James Dean into an eternal icon.  Though the original film was an attempt to portray the moral decay of 50’s youth in America, the music video plays up the romance, pairing singer Abdul with a young Keanu Reeves.

7.  “BODY MOVIN’” by The Beastie Boys (inspired by DANGER: DIABOLIK)

The music video (using the Fatboy Slim remix) was directed by band member MCA, who was inspired by the 1968 Italian spy film called DANGER: DIABOLIK.   The video follows closely the film’s eye-popping color scheme and retro-style. 

6.  “BACK AT ONE” by Brian McKnight (inspired by FEARLESS)

Known for his songs of inspiration, McKnight chose to pay tribute to Peter Weir’s compelling 1993 drama FEARLESS for the music video to his hit song “Back At One”.  In the video, McKnight plays the role of the lost soul originally interpreted by Jeff Bridges (in what many consider to be his best performance to date).   The video also attempts to recreate the famous plane crash site, a scene from the movie that alone cost $2 million. 

5.  “NO MORE WORD” by Berlin (inspired by BONNIE AND CLYDE)

The video opens up with scrolling text describing Depression-era misery, only to surprise you with the upbeat sounds of synth-pop.   Berlin recreates the dusty cinematography and fashion of Arthur Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE, but with a happier ending. 

4.  “EVERYBODY HURTS” by REM (inspired by 8 ½)

REM’s AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE is arguably one of the greatest American albums of the last 20 years.   Filled with soaring vocals, haunting melodies, heartbreaking tracks, and irreverent asides, the album’s soul comes from the majestic “Everybody Hurts”.   The enigmatic music video, directed by Joseph Kahn, pays homage to Federico Fellini’s Italian masterpiece 8 ½ (specifically the famed opening dream sequence). 

3.  “TO THE END” by Blur (inspired by LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD)

Alain Resnais’ famed French film LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD burst onto international cinema as the must-see film in 1961.  It was a film unlike any other, an experiment without the air of the experimental, a novelty without a the trace of the crudely new, and flowed with the never-to-be-questioned illogic of a dream.  The music video to Blur’s “To The End” floats the camera with Renais’ exactness and recreates the film’s aesthetic thesis of how we diminish ourselves with our own metaphors. 


2.  “LINGER” by The Cranberries (inspired by ALPHAVILLE)

Jean Luc Godard’s brilliant French New Wave classic ALPHAVILLE was an anti-cinema science-fiction film that also encompassed popular culture, ranging from Sam Spade to James Bond to George Orwell.   Godard’s use of stark black-and-white and minimalistic set-design is perfectly captured in the music video to “Linger”.      

1.     “TONIGHT, TONIGHT” by Smashing Pumpkins (inspired by A TRIP TO THE MOON)

Smashing Pumpkin’s music video, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, is a handsome recreation of Georges Melies’ 1902 silent film A TRIP TO THE MOON (historically considered to be the first science-fiction movie).  The inspiration came to the directors from the album cover artwork, which reminded them of the turn-of-the-century look of silent movies.   The video took 3 days to shoot. 

Mike Le is a writer/producer living in Los Angeles.  You can follow him on Twitter: @DFTVYP

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