Music videos themselves are really just short films, so it only makes sense that many of the art form’s finest works would pay homage to their feature-length counterparts on the silver screen.
We don’t mean soundtrack-featured music videos that include clips from the films they’re in, though. Rather, we’re talking about the videos that give a sly nod to a filmic inspiration, or even follow the exact same blueprint as a cinematic classic.
These Hollywood-hued music videos not only do justice to their subject matter, but serve as helpful time-savers: when you don’t have a spare two hours, simply watch these instead.
Kanye West, “Fade” (2016)
Jennifer Beals was the hottest of the hot in 1983’s Flashdance, and her iconic look and enviable moves still got it going on nearly 35 years later. Case in point: Kanye West’s sexy, animalistic (quite literally in that unforgettable finale) take on the dance drama, this time starring the jaw-dropping Teyana Taylor. You can bet Irene Cara still gets that feeling watching this unforgettable video. (Sorry, J. Lo, we didn’t forget about you. You paid a damn fine tribute with “I’m Glad,” too.)
Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next” (2018)
Grande calls on actors Jonathan Bennett, Stefanie Drummond, Jennifer Coolidge, plus pals like Troye Sivan and Colleen Ballinger, to recreate scenes from the iconic 2000s movies Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, Bring It On and 13 Going On 30.
Director Hype Williams gave Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome the hip-hop treatment for this iconic West Coast team-up, and it became one of the most famous videos of the ’90s. Complete with desert chases, over-the-top outfits, and that steel globe of death, the clip captured the essence of the 1985 camp classic, with some new flair. Just imagine what Hype could still do with an MTV version of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Foo Fighters, “Everlong” (1997)
The Foo Fighters are true music video geniuses, even when the song doesn’t quite match the visuals. Actually, that’s when they’re at their best: “Everlong” is one of the band’s most beautiful and romantic songs, and they (and pop-surrealist director Michel Gondry) went and made a gloriously bizarre, Evil Dead-inspired music video for it that’s goddamn perfect in every way.
Beastie Boys, “Body Movin’” (1998)
If there was one ’90s group who seemed to have even more fun making videos than the Foos, it was the Beastie Boys. Whether they were making their own brilliant short films (like 1994’s peerless “Sabotage”) or doing their own mini-version of cult classics like 1968’s French-Italian thriller Danger: Diabolik — as they did with 1998’s “Body Movin'” — their videos were among the most reliably thrilling of MTV’s second decade. Featuring decapitation, wigs, and a recipe for a dynamite-looking meat sauce: “Body Movin” was particularly emblematic of the Beasties’ always-tasty cultural stir-fry.
Madonna, “Material Girl” (1985)
Madonna and Marilyn Monroe are two of pop culture’s all-time biggest sex symbols, so it made sense that Madge’s tribute to 1953’s Gentleman Prefer Blondes — guest-starring Keith Carradine of Nashville and Dexter as the pop star’s love interest — was a match made in music video heaven.
Paula Abdul, “Rush Rush” (1991)
What if instead of James Dean and Natalie Wood, the 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause starred Keanu Reaves and Paula Abdul? On paper that sounds terrible, but perhaps due to the moony-eyed chemistry of young Paula and Keanu, this 1991 shot-for-shot callback to the timeless teen film actually kinda worked.
Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight” (1996)
Yes, there was a time when wrestler and PAWS Chicago magazine cover man Billy Corgan was front and center for this brilliant, gorgeous, rock and roll send-up of the groundbreaking 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon. The “Tonight, Tonight” video was so sweeping that it rolled right through the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, winning six Moonmen, including Video of the Year.
Jay-Z feat. Blackstreet, “The City is Mine” (1997)
Spoiler alert: Shawn Carter was Keyser Soze — er, Jay Z — the whole time.
Miles Fisher, “This Must Be The Place” (2009)
Fisher goes two-for-two here, not only successfully covering the Talking Heads masterful “This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” but also doing a bang-up job playing dress-up as American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman. Fisher, who is no stranger to clever music video send-ups (see his Saved By the Bell-meets-Final Destination spoof), gives Christian Bale a run for his psychopathic yuppie money.
Marilyn Manson, “Dope Hat” (1995)
As beloved as Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is, there’s no denying that a lot of it plays out like a terrifying fever dream. Marilyn Manson took every bit of the ’70s film’s most nightmarish elements (surprise, surprise) and made them even more bizarre and unsettling, with his own visual adaptation of the Roald Dahl tale. Oompa loompas and all, of course.
Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX, “Fancy” (2014)
Azalea takes on the role of Bev Hills socialite Cher Horowitz, while Charli plays Tai Frasier, in this homage to 1995’s Clueless.