5 Music Videos Directed by Famous Filmmakers

Looking back today, we see that more than a few budding filmmakers started their careers directing music videos. At the same time, as MTV’s popularity grew, some established filmmakers wound up directing music videos, lending their style to the format. Either way, there are many, many examples of these collaborations.

Below are five music videos made by well-known filmmakers. 

Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”

Director: Spike Jonze

This cop-show spoof feels like it was shot guerrilla-style on the streets of L.A., which is part of what makes it such a blast. It has an irreverent attitude that pokes fun at itself and fits perfectly with the band’s approach. Jonez appears to have had a lot of fun with the music video format – he’s done quite a few other videos that stand out, including “Weapon of Choice” for Fatboy Slim, starring…well you know, that scary cowbell guy (see the video at the top of this page).

Flaming Lips, “This Here Giraffe”

Director: Sofia Coppola

The songs is from the Flaming Lips’ album Clouds Taste Metallic, released in 1995 after the success of their song “She Don’t Use Jelly.” Like the song, the video is playful and feels very lo-fi. Coppola hadn’t even directed a feature film at the time yet – her debut the Virgin Suicides wasn’t released until 1999, and Lost in Translation came four years after that. Coppola directed other music videos as well, most famously for the White Stripes for their cover of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself,” featuring Kate Moss.

Sting, “An Englishman in New York”

Director: David Fincher

Know it or not, we can almost guarantee you’ve seen more than one David Fincher music video. Because years before he directed The Social Network and Gone Girl (let alone Alien 3), Fincher was getting his career started in the 1980s creating videos for Foreigner, Madonna, Loverboy, Paula Abdul, George Michael, Rick Springfield, the Outfield, and…the list goes on. (He directed more than 50 music videos, and if you’re curious IndieWire ranked them all.) His best-known video may be Madonna’s “Vogue,” but this one is a lovely black-and-white portrait of New York City (and, like the song, a tribute to Quentin Crisp).

Michael Jackson, “Thriller”

Director: John Landis

If you had to pick one, this may be the most famous music video of all time, as it took the then-still-young format to new places (including turning it into a sort of short film). By the early 1980s, Landis was a hugely successful director, his films including the Blues Brothers and Animal House. But it was Landis’ film An American Werewolf in London that caught Jackson’s eye and led to this collaboration. Jackson would later hire take this music/film collaboration idea further, working with Martin Scorsese on the video for “Bad.”

Public Enemy, “Fight the Power”

Director: Spike Lee

This is more than a standard music video. Written by Chuck D, the song was actually commissioned by Spike Lee for Do the Right Thing, and ever since it’s been closely associated with that film. Lee shot this video separately, on the streets of Brooklyn, and the result is part live show, part political rally. It’s a song that transcends its time, and the video captures that. The energy is intense – you can feel everyone burning wild and cutting loose in that summer heat, and you’re not quite sure what is going to happen next.

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