10 Best 80s Pop Videos
By Classic Pop | November 3, 2021
The 1980s really were the golden years for the pop video. They may not have started in that decade, but the 80s were when the form truly flowered. Here then is our pick of the best 80s pop videos.
10. Walk This Way – Run-DMC & Aerosmith
A brilliantly simple idea – Run-DMC on one side of a wall, Aerosmith on the other, finally coming together at the end for this groundbreaking rock-rap mashup. Fun fact – aside from Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, none of the other musicians in the video are the actual Aerosmith, instead being members of hair metal outfit Smashed Gladys.
9 Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel
The former Genesis frontman used stop-motion animation and claymation to stellar effect for the video for 1986 single Sledgehammer. Made by a pre-Wallace & Gromit Aardman Animations, it would prove a gruelling shoot for Gabriel, who had to lay under a sheet of glass for 16 hours while filming the video one frame at a time.
8 Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran
Rio may include the most iconic shot of the band, sailing across a sky-blue ocean on a top-of-the-range yacht, but the Russell Mulchahy-directed Hungry Like The Wolf is arguably their most cinematic promo, casting the group in a glossy Indiana Jones-type adventure. Filmed in Sri Lanka, it’s suitably ambitious and became the first winner of the Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
Read more: Tim Pope interview
7 Like A Prayer – Madonna
The religious imagery in the video for Madonna’s 1989 hit found the Material Girl under fire from the Vatican and various Christian groups. Directed by Mary Lambert, it’s strong stuff, depicting burning crosses, murder and scenes of stigmata, yet, despite the condemnation from quarters, it won Video Of The Year at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards.
6 Girls Just Want To Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
Proof that sometimes all you need is a simple, great idea and not necessarily a massive budget, the video for Cyndi Lauper’s signature song cost just $35,000, featuring as it does the singer doing the girl power thing in a variety of locations, including parading down New York’s Lower East Side. Fun fact – her parents in the video are played by her real-life mum and professional wrestler Captain Lou Albano.
5 Land Of Confusion – Genesis
It’s hard to overestimate the cultural impact of Spitting Image during the 1980s, its popularity being so great it even gave the satirical show a No.1 single. A few months after The Chicken Song, however, came this Spitting Image-produced video for Genesis’ Land Of Confusion. Featuring puppets not just of the three Genesis members, but Ronald Reagan, Ayatollah Khomeini, Mikhail Gorbachev and Muammar Gaddafi, it’s a politically-charged promo that won the short-lived Grammy Award for Best Concept Music Video in 1988.
4 Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Directed by Godley & Creme, the video for Frankie’s second single was as political as the song it came from. Featuring alarmingly accurate lookalikes of American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Konstantin Chernenko in a wrestling match, it caused controversy for a scene in which Reagan bites the ear of his Russian opponent.
3 Money For Nothing – Dire Straits
The CGI may have dated, but the video for Dire Straits’ 1985 single remains one of the most iconic of the decade. Directed by Steve Barron, the promo’s then innovative animation was created by Ian Pearson and Gavin Blair, who later went on to form Mainframe Studios, the effects house behind Bob The Builder and Phineas And Ferb.
Read more: Steve Barron interview
2 Thriller – Michael Jackson
At nearly 14 minutes, the Thriller video was the first truly epic pop promo, opening up the form to more ambitious and cinematic offerings. Directed by An American Werewolf In London’s John Landis, it’s become a pop culture phenomenon and its release on VHS in the early 80s established it as the bestselling video tape of all time.
1 Take On Me – a-ha
Much imitated, but never bettered, Steve Barron’s video for a-ha’s 1985 single has notched up over ONE BILLION views on YouTube. Filmed at what was then Kim’s Café on the corner of Wandsworth Road and Pensbury Place in London, it starred actor Bunty Bailey as the girl who finds herself pulled inside a romance comic and wooed by lead singer Morten Harket.
Did you enjoy our list of the best 80s pop videos? What’s your favourite? Tell us in the comments section below.