It's hard to remember a music video quite like "This Is America" ever existing before: a mixture of dazzling design and camerawork; innovative staging and choreography; and absolutely gut-punching shock and violence. For a clip that essentially takes place on one single set, its scope is spellbinding -- though despite how much is going on in any frame of the video, it's virtually impossible to take your eyes off the star otherwise known as Donald Glover, who gives complete physical commitment to a performance as complex and demanding as any he's ever given. That "This Is America" happened at all feels important, that it became the most talked-about, analyzed, and even (not unfairly) criticized music video in recent memory makes it essential. -- A.U.
13. Nicki Minaj, "Anaconda" (dir. Colin Tilley, 2014)
Look, if you're gonna take another swipe at "Baby Got Back," you gotta commit to going all the way with it. Luckily no one ever accused Nicki Minaj of being a half-stepper, and she did what it took to honor Sir Mix-a-Lot's lasting legacy with music video's ultimate totem of twerking, as booty-centric a display as you're likely ever to see on video without having to click a disclaimer first. The whole thing is obviously iconic, but the most unforgettable part remains Nicki dancing solo for Young Money labelmate Drake -- then walking away with a hairflip, leaving him to contemplate how he's possibly going to live the rest of his life from here. -- A.U.
12. Tyler, the Creator, "Yonkers" (dir. Wolf Haley, 2011)
Tyler, the Creator had a vision: “‘I’m sitting on a chair rapping, I’m playing with a bug, I eat it, I throw it up, my eyes go black, and I hang myself.’ That was his treatment,” explained director Anthony Mandler (Beyoncé’s “Get Me Bodied,” Rihanna’s “Man Down”) in a 2011 interview. Mandler, along with director of photography Luis “Panch” Perez, gave Tyler the guidance and equipment he needed to self-direct the black-and-white, tilt-shifted video for “Yonkers." In the breakout clip, Tyler does exactly what he outlined: He sits in a chair, lets a giant cockroach crawl over his hands, appears to take a bite, pukes, blacks out his eyes, and hangs himself. Effective enough to make stomachs the world over turn -- and earn Tyler one of the all-time least-likely nods for a Video of the Year VMA. -- C.W.
11. Lana Del Rey, "National Anthem" (dir. Anthony Mandler, 2012)
All of Lana Del Rey’s music videos are cinematic -- it’s kind of her thing -- but “National Anthem” has a movie-quality plot to boot. Del Rey stars first as Marilyn Monroe in a reimagined staging of the icon’s 1962 performance of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," then as Jackie Kennedy alongside A$AP Rocky’s suave, handsy JFK. Through Del Rey’s eyes, we see familial scenes unfold between one of the most fascinating couples in American history, culminating in a re-enactment of the Kennedy assassination. When Del Rey’s castle crumbles, you feel it in your chest, too, and her monologue at the end never fails to bring chills. -- G.G.
10. Sia, "Chandelier" (dir. Sia & Daniel Askill)