The best music videos help to bring a song to life in ways that we couldn’t imagine from merely listening to it. They can add new meanings to songs and help us understand the lyrics in a greater context. Some music videos are made on tiny budgets, but the ten below cost several million dollars to create.
Busta Rhymes co-directed the music video for “What’s It Gonna Be?!” alongside Hype Williams. The video first aired in March of 1999 and was made on a budget of $2.4 million, which would be about $4.2 million nowadays.
The song and music video featured guest vocals from Janet Jackson, with the video winning no less than four VMA trophies. The video, which features a lot of sexual imagery, shows Jackson in a dominatrix outfit, while Busta Rhymes is dressed up as a knight.
MC Hammer’s music video for “2 Legit 2 Quit” was directed by Rupert Wainwright, who also directed Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em: The Movie. The video first aired in November of 1991 and was made for $2.5 million ($4.4 million nowadays).
The music video ran for nearly 15 minutes and featured several major athletes in cameo roles like José Canseco, Wayne Gretzky, Roger Clemens, Ronnie Lott, and even the cheerleaders of the Dallas Cowboys. The 1991 Atlanta Falcons team got nicknamed the ‘2 Legit 2 Quit Falcon’ after appearing in the video.
“Bad” first aired in August of 1987, the music video for this song was made for $2.2 million, which would be equivalent to around $4.8 million in modern-day money.
This music video was directed by none other than Academy Award winner, Martin Scorsese. It also featured Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes in one of his first ever on-screen roles. It was inspired by the 1961 movie, West Side Story.
A classic song of the early 2000s, “Cartoon Heroes”, was written and recorded by Scandinavian dance-pop band Aqua. The music video for this song cost $3.5 million, equivalent to $5.2 million nowadays, and the video was directed by Thomas Masin.
The music video for Cartoon Heroes shows the band as space-faring superheroes being summoned to save the world from a one-eyed sea monster. It shows a battle beneath the ocean between the members of Aqua and the monster, culminating in a victory for the group.
California rockers Guns N’ Roses make it onto this list with their music video for “Estranged”. Released in December of 1993, this video cost $5 million to make, which would be about $6.9 million nowadays. It was directed by Andy Morahan, who has directed dozens of other music videos.
The video is part of a trilogy of videos, with Don’t Cry and November Rain forming the first two installments. Together, these videos form one long story that was written by Del James, a close friend of Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose.
Michael Jackson’s iconic song, “Black or White”, was one of his most successful hits and also come with a $4 million music video. That would be the same at about $7.3 million in modern money. The video first aired in November of 1991.
This video was directed by John Landis, the man responsible for movies like Three Amigos and The Blues Brothers. When it was released, it gave Fox their highest ever Nielsen rating at the time. The video featured Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin, who formed a close friendship with Jackson.
Madonna strikes again, and Mark Romanek was back in the directing chair for her “Bedtime Story” music video. Costing $5 million to make, which would be about $8.2 million in today’s money, this music video first aired in March of 1995.
The video took just six days to film and featured a surrealistic vibe. It shows various dream-like scenes, including one in which Madonna gives birth to a small flock of doves and another in which Madonna is bathing in a pool of skulls.
Madonna has several inclusions on the most expensive music video list. Her video for “Die Another Day”, directed by Traktor, was first aired in October of 2002 and cost $6.1 million at the time, which would be about $8.5 million nowadays.
“Die Another Day” was the theme song for the James Bond movie of the same name. Madonna wrote a handwritten letter to the directing team Traktor to request that they shoot the video. It featured no footage from the movie but still followed a Bond-like plot with action scenes and gunplay.
Madonna’s music video for “Express Yourself” first aired in May of 1989 and was made on a big budget of $5 million, which would be the equivalent of over $10 million in modern money. The video, interestingly, was directed by David Fincher, who has also directed huge movies like The Social Network.
When it was first released, this music video was aired every single hour on MTV for three weeks straight. It shows Madonna singing in a smoky, industrial environment and was inspired by the Fritz Lang movie, Metropolis.
“Scream,” the lead single from Michael Jackson’s ninth album, “HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I,” featured a duet from the King of Pop and his sister Janet. Mark Romanek directed the video.
The music video was first aired in June of 1995 and cost $7 million at the time, which would equate to over $11.5 million in today’s money. The video shows Michael and Janet in a black and white setting on a spaceship. The pair yells and makes rude gestures at the camera as a way of fighting back against media criticism.