The 35 Best Videos of the Last 35 Years

SPIN launched in the peak MTV era, when an innovative — or even just salacious — music video could make or break an artist. Thirty five years later, YouTube is an obligatory part of any promotional push, but no one’s counting on a mind-blowing clip to sell a record. (The views do often matter — just not always the creativity.)

A sizable chunk of the best videos came out during the ‘90s alternative bloom, when directors like Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Hype Williams experimented with the style and substance of this malleable medium. But the format hasn’t died with MTV: artists like Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar and Miley Cyrus all made this list for a reason — and it wasn’t to meet a decade quota.

35. Guns N Roses – “November Rain”

Nine minutes and 16 seconds of pure theater. A song that should be considered the second coming of “Stairway to Heaven” was paired with a short film about Axl Rose marrying and then mourning his wife (played by supermodel Stephanie Seymour). Nearly 30 years later, does anyone know how she died? Perhaps it was during the most dramatic rainstorm in music video history, which was overshadowed by Slash’s guitar playing. – Jason Stahl

34. DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – “Summertime”

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air takes us on a tour of Philadelphia in the “Summertime” video, which features one hell of a cookout. You know you wanted to be there! Whether it was for the fly honeys, family reunion, nostalgia or just to be a part of the happiest group of people in the city of brotherly love (who were actual friends and family of Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff). – J.S.

33. Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game” 

Herb Ritts directed this ultra-sexy black-and-white video featuring Chris Isaac and supermodel Helena Christensen, both mostly discretely shirtless and sandy — frolicking, touching and splashing around on a beach. Undeniably one of the most sensual videos of all time, it took home MTV’s 1991 awards for Best Male Video, Best Cinematography and Best Video From a Film. – Liza Lentini

Janet Jackson – “Nasty”

Listen up, all you nasty boys: Ms. Jackson makes all of her dance moves look effortless and flawless. It helps when the choreography is directed by Paula Abdul, who, by the way, makes an appearance at the 3:24 mark. But we’re not quite sure who decided to dress those Chicago Bears-looking fans in perv raincoats at the end. – J.S.