Since the dawn of the music video, musicians have sought to push the envelope. Michael Jackson made “Thriller,” The Cars made “You Might Think,” and the Backstreet Boys made “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” But parallel to the ramping up of grandeur and spectacle in music videos, we’ve seen a parallel arms race… of sexiness. So we’re commemorating not the most groundbreaking or expensive videos ever made, but the flat-out hottest, sexiest, doing-the-damn-thing-est videos ever made. You’re welcome.
50. Bruce Springsteen, “Dancing in the Dark” (1984)
Springsteen went from nerdy savior of rock-and-roll to full-blown megastar and hunky teen idol with this first video from 1984’s Born In The USA. Everyone remembers Courteney Cox’s breakthrough performance as “extra #84,206” in this Brian De Palma-directed video, which manages to feel gargantuan and intimate at the same time. The dancing is endearingly goofy, but the sincerity (and tight t-shirts) are for real. — Brian Fairbanks
49. Aerosmith, “Cryin'” (1993)
A timeless tale of an “good girl” on a “bad girl” tear, “Cryin'” has any number of bad-girl sexy moments from Alicia Silverstone, including (but not limited to) punching a guy in the face and stealing his car, getting a terrible, impulsive tattoo, and jump-kicking Sawyer from Lost in the face after he steals her purse. A perfectly ’90s mini-movie, so hot it made a movie star out of Silverstone. — B.F.
48. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Into the Great Wide Open” (1991)
Another classic “road to ruin” video, this one from Tom Petty’s “Mad Hatter” period, “Into the Great Wide Open” features the indisputably sexy Johnny Depp channeling his real-life experience as an L.A. rocker-wannabe. Given that Depp has, in recent years, been trying to actively turn into Keith Richards, this video now seems eerily prescient, but at the time, everyone was just concerned with watching that obscenely good-looking guy play guitar and tracking the barrage of fun cameos, including by Terence Trent D’Arby, Faye Dunaway, Chynna Phillips of Wilson Phillips, and Matt LeBlanc. — B.F.
47. Jennifer Lopez, “I’m Glad” (2003)
This Jennifer Beals/Jennifer Lopez hybrid proves to be music-video alchemy. J. Lo’s third single may be long forgotten by top-forty radio, but it’s hard to forget the video, which features choreography by Jeffrey Hornaday (reprising his work from Flashdance), and of course, Lopez’s exhaustingly sexy dance moves. — B.F.
46. Van Halen, “Hot for Teacher” (1984)
Geeky boy unwound by hot female authority figure? Check. High-school boredom alleviated by spontaneous mob mentality? Check. “Hot for Teacher” remains a classic of ’80s cheese with a few surprisingly inventive scenes, like the long library-table strut, and the epilogue that tells us, in brilliant ’80s-movie fashion, what everyone “went on” to do later. Also, um, a stripping teacher. — B.F.
45. U2, “All I Want is You” (1989)
Possibly the most romantic video on this list, this rarely seen but essential early-MTV staple features a climax (not the sexual kind, unfortunately) in which a little person working as a circus freak appears to kill himself over his impossible love for a trapeze artist. It’s a tragic love story elevated by the beautiful visuals and music. — B.F.
44. The Weeknd, “What You Need” (2011)
Hotel room. Hot ladies. Shirtless dude. Girls kissing. Ennui. The perfect recipe for sexy. And, controversial to boot: The Weeknd asked director Cole Walliser to remove the video, but it’s still making the rounds, and it’s easy to see why. — Alex Heigl
43. N.E.R.D., “Lapdance” (2001)
Pharrell’s always had a gangly sexiness about him, and though N.E.R.D. never really took off to the degree the Neptunes did, “Lapdance” remains a sordid, kind of sticky pleasure. The video looks like a Terry Richardson shoot come to life: stark, seamy, and sexy as hell. — A.H.
42. Björk, “Pagan Poetry” (2001)
Björk’s personal brand of abstract sexuality is slathered all over this video. We’re also big fans of “All Is Full of Love” and “It’s Oh So Quiet,” each one showcasing the ultimate in lovelorn, weird-girl hotness. — B.F.
41. MSTRKRFT, “Easy Love” (2006)
MSTRKRFT’s video for “Easy Love” is sure to color your next trip to Jamba Juice in erotic overtones. It’s a clever half-ironic take on videos that employ the sexy buttoned-up-secretary cliché, the straw-between-the-lips closeup and the superfluous use of allegedly alluring fluids. And yet, even with its winking air, we’re still turned on. — B.F.
40. Justin Timberlake, “What Goes Around . . . Comes Around” (2007)
An epically pretentious production, but Justin and Scarlett seducing each other has got to count for something. Directed by the same guy who did “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and co-written with Nick Cassavetes, this is actually more a short film in the vein of old Michael Jackson videos with big-name directors like Martin Scorsese. — B.F.
39. Poison, “Fallen Angel” (1988)
This is the story of a nice, small-town girl who gets sucked up and spat out by the Hollywood star system. Bret Michaels seems to rail against this classic tale in the song, but the video glorifies it anyway. We remain unsure if this is meta or just kind of dumb, but either way, it’s sexy. In the end, she kicks the pervy producer in the balls, changes back into her original outfit and rides off into the sunset with Bret, destined to be dumped in time for the first season of Rock of Love. — B.F.
38. Katy Perry, “I Kissed a Girl” (2008)
I know, I know. She’s the worst. But journey back to 2008 and remember what this seductively thumping jam felt like to hear and see the first time. It remains, despite Perry’s best efforts to become the cartoon character her music always hinted at, a candy-coated, sexy guilty pleasure. — A.H.
37. B-52s, “Love Shack” (1989)
If a better time was ever had in a music video, we don’t know when it was. The unrestrained exuberance seen here is not something often found on MTV. Campy sexual energy made groovy by way of pure, delightful geeking out. — B.F.
36. David Bowie, “Boys Keep Swinging” (1979)
“When you’re a boy, other boys check you out.” That troublesome little line convinced RCA not to release Bowie’s ’79 single in the U.S., and was censored by NBC when he performed the song on Saturday Night Live. But the video is well remembered for other, more important reasons. As one YouTube commenter put it, “[Bowie’s] the only guy I know that can look good in a dress.” — B.F.
35. Rick James, “Give It to Me Baby” (1991)
Let’s be honest: Rick James is terrifying. But once this video gets going, you’ll see why we had to include it. This sort of shamelessness deserves recognition. — B.F.
34. Nikka Costa, “Like a Feather” (2001)
This girl should have been huge. With her sultry, sex-kitten delivery and monster stage presence, Costa rode “Like a Feather”‘s indestructible groove into the spotlight. Unable to capitalize on it, she never quite reached the success this single hinted at, but its video, a virtual textbook on how to dominate a stage, will remain her longest-lasting legacy. — A.H.
33. J. Geils Band, “Centerfold” (1980)
We’re embarrassed to say this cheesy video was one of the reasons we turned on MTV late at night. Peter Wolf’s homeroom girls are actually random dancers from a studio in the same building where the shoot took place, and no, MTV’s original VJ Martha Quinn was not, as was long rumored, among them. But we’d be honored to have any of these centerfolds as our angel. — B.F.
32. Blondie, “Hangin’ on the Telephone” (1978)
For all of Debbie Harry’s doll-like beauty, she could tear it up onstage with the best of them. That combination of picture- (and statue-) esque beauty and punk-rock intensity makes this clip a prime example of what made Blondie (and Harry) just so damn irresistible. — A.H.
31. The Police, “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” (1980)
Sting once said that this song is based on a true story from his earlier career as a teacher, alleging (quite plausibly) that his students sometimes developed crushes on him. While it’s a a great play on the dicey nature of student-teacher attraction; Sting’s wholesomeness keeps it from going too squirmy. — B.F.
30. Mariah Carey, “Honey” (1997)
Something of a re-birth for Carey, “Honey” pushed her more towards hip-hop and away from syrupy ballads. It also pointed the needle in a much sexier direction than her previous work, and the now-iconic James Bond-themed video portrayed her at heights of seductiveness that she’d rarely scale again. — A.H.
29. The White Stripes, “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” (2001)
The White Stripes aren’t a particularly “sexy” band — one might have expected something on the order of their psychedelic video for “Seven Nation Army” for this clip. But Sofia Coppola said, “Nuh-uh,” (I’m paraphrasing), and elected to shoot Kate Moss just wildin’ out in a dark room. An effective artistic choice, in our humble opinion. — A.H.
28. Duran Duran, “Girls on Film” (1981)
Unabashedly weird and provocative, this clip was initially banned by the BBC and heavily edited by MTV before it aired. For their part, Duran Duran was aiming to have the video played at nightclubs and on pay-per-view channels like the Playboy channel, a goal perfectly in line with the group’s goal of being stylish, sexy, and just a little dangerous. — A.H.
27. TLC, “Red Light Special” (1995)
This song is actually about oral sex and menstruation, but don’t let that distract you from how smokin’ TLC were in their heyday. Directed by Matthew Rolston, this video is set in a brothel, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, always the hot tomboy of the group, plays the pimp with aplomb. Left Eye, who died in a car accident in 2002, was one of the first musicians to make safe-sex sexy — her condom eyeglasses were her trademark and, natch, a source of controversy. — B.F.
26. Sleigh Bells, “Comeback Kid” (2012)
One of the more obliquely sexy videos on this list, “Comeback Kid” certainly doesn’t tick off very many boxes on the sexy checklist, except for maybe the most important one: “Alexis Krauss.” — A.H.
25. Rihanna, “Umbrella” (2007)
Even if you’re sick of hearing this song, the video remains undeniably hot. Dancing en pointe is not something you see much of in music videos, and the mix of jazz-era stage work with MTV-era gyration is unexpectedly sexy. — B.F.
24. Sigur Ros, ” “Fjögur Píanó,” (2012)
Even though Shia LaBeouf appears to be endeavoring to make Vincent Gallo look clean with his appearance in this video, it’s actually a very intimate, beautifully composed series of images that ends up being more moving than a music video referred to by my coworkers as “Shia LaBeouf’s penis” has any right to be. — A.H.
23. Janet Jackson, “If” (1993)
Coordinated ’90s-era sex-dance numbers are the jam. I had no idea what was happening in this video when I was a kid, but my God did those midriff-baring ladies walk (and dance!) with a lot of what I later learned was a very arousing assertiveness. Jackson just owns it in this video — somehow even the jerky arm-dance in the middle is strangely sexy. — Alisa MacKay
22. OutKast, “The Way You Move” (2003)
OutKast always had such a goofy sense of playful sexiness, and this video is a textbook example of why, from Big Boi’s ludicrous suit, to the bevy of beautiful women working on cars, to… well, everything that Fonzworth Bentley does. Also, Sleepy Brown is present, and that man’s voice makes lions purr. — A.H.
21. t.A.t.U. “All The Things She Said” (2001)
Actually the highest-selling group in Russian history, t.A.t.U. are still probably most famous in the U.S for this gloriously campy (and, yes, jailbait-y) video. Schoolgirl uniforms, prison, and a controversy-stirring kiss. Though America’s brief love affair with the pair quickly faded, we’ll always have this video. — A.H.
20. Cyndi Lauper, “She Bop” (1984)
The song about female masturbation that helped usher in the now-ubiquitous “Parental Advisory” sticker, “She Bop” and its accompanying video were a classic example of coding. The vibrating motorcycle, the “self-service” gas station, Sigmund Freud, and Cyndi dancing with sunglasses and a cane (geddit?) were genius. The only misfire — surely demanded by MTV execs — was subbing in the tamer Beefcake magazine for Blueboy, the gay-porn mag that’s actually mentioned in the lyrics. — B.F.
19. Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass” (2011)
The “Nicki Minaj” character who appears in the rapper’s videos appears to be made out out of cotton candy, eyelashes, boobs, ass, a filthy mouth, a wonderful brain, and a totally in-charge vagina. Between the pink goo, veritable harem of attractive men and ladies, and the ice-motorcycle, this video just looks like so much sticky, neon-flavored fun. — A.M. 18.
Toni Braxton, “Un-break My Heart” (1996)
It is a scientific fact that both Toni Braxton and Tyson Beckford look good in black silk anything, including pajamas. Specifically, while doing tai chi in the front yard, playing Twister, or eating yogurt. The overblown tragic aspect of this video is really what gives this video some weight, though. I mean, can you even imagine boning somebody as hot as Tyson, to say nothing of losing him in the kind of car accident that only cartoon characters survive? — A.M.
17. Robert Palmer, “Addicted To Love” (1985)
An argument for the ages: is this Palmer’s sexiest video, or does that honor belong to “Simply Irresistible”? After much debate, we settled on this one — a monument to ’80s deadpan sexuality. The models, who appeared in three other Palmer videos, aren’t even trying to look like they’re playing the instruments. According to VH1’s Pop-Up Video, a musician was hired to teach them basic guitar-fingering techniques, but gave up after an hour. — B.F.
16. Christina Aguilera, “Dirrty” (2002)
It’s nice that, in an era when Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were pretending they weren’t fucking each other’s brains out, Christina Aguilera was taking the exact opposite route. There’s not an ounce of subtext when she says “I need that (ugh!) to get me off.” Also, chaps. — A.M.
15. Kylie Minogue, “I Just Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (2001)
Aside from the fact that everyone’s favorite diminutive Aussie just doesn’t seem to age, this video combines many sexy elements into one big sexy gestalt: the future, a woman driving a stick-shift, synchronized dancing, and that weird barely-there hooded dress-thing that Minogue is wearing,. Also, a hook so unfairly catchy, so teasingly playful and sexy, it (along with Minogue herself) haunt your dreams. — A.H.
14. Britney Spears, “I’m a Slave 4 U” (2001)
Say what you will about Ms. Spears, this 2001 video is permanently filed away in the dirty minds of straight men the world over. Intended to shift Spears’s image from girl-next-door to depraved, totally accessible sex symbol, it was an unarguable success on that front, if only for a while. — B.F.
13. Kanye West, “Flashing Lights” (2009)
Can someone explain to me why slo-mo and revenge are both so fucking hot?! Kanye’s girl has been wronged, so, of course, she removes her (presumably expensive coat), burns it, walks to her car, kills Kanye with a shovel, then walks away. But the majority of the video is just her walking. In her fancy lingerie. All jiggly and tough and shit. It’s enough to give a grown woman a boner. — A.M.
12. Eric Prydz, “Call on Me” (2004)
Take Olivia Newton-John’s video for “Physical”, and amp it up for the new millenium. The world was scandalized by this video: no less an authority on sexiness than Tony Blair said, “The first time it came on, I nearly fell off my rowing machine.” Not bad for something crafted to reference the justly-forgotten 1985 John Travolta/Jamie Lee Curtis film Perfect. — A.H.
11. Lady Gaga, “Just Dance” (2009)
So many ubiquitous music video elements! Sunglasses! Geometric face make-up! Terry Richardson lighting! Leather driving gloves! This video looks like the kind of epic party you hope every party will be, where everybody is impossibly good-looking and they all get wasted and then bone each other. You know, the kind of party that doesn’t really happen, except maybe in proximity to Lady Gaga. — A.M.
10. Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie” (2006)
Not since “Baby Got Back” has one particular part of the anatomy been so thoroughly, um, celebrated. This video makes us want to move to South America so we can be around people who dance like this, dress like this and party like this at all times. — B.F.
9. D’Angelo, “How Does It Feel” (2000)
D’Angelo has been called a modern-day Prince (a claim Prince fans no doubt consider the highest form of treason), not just for his ridiculous talent and sexuality, but also because of his unabashed habit of fucking the camera with his eyes. In this clip, he fucks it with his whole body, but it’s the totally unchecked, frothy orgasm he whips himself into near the end that gets him a spot on this list. —B.F.
8. Beyonce, “Single Ladies” (2008)
There are so many ways to be sexy in videos. You can strip, you can be kind-of naked in a pile of other sexy kind-of naked people, or you can wear a leotard and just dance your goddamn ass off. Bey comes off as the ungodly fierce spiritual daughter of Tina Turner and Janet Jackson, and not only is it sexy, it’s also a little scary. Which is a great kind of sexy. — A.H.
7. Fiona Apple, “Criminal” (1996)
From the Tidal album, Apple has said this track is about “feeling bad for getting something so easily by using your sexuality.” We’re not going to lie: the line between sexy and creepy gets a little blurry here. Maybe it’s the way Apple — who The New Yorker once described as “an underfed Calvin Klein model” — glares into the searchlight with those heroin-chic eyes. — B.F.
6. Robyn, “Indestructible” (2011)
Two hot people making out. Naked. It’s nearly impossible to tell who we’re looking at, until slowly, it’s revealed that there are several different combinations of couples. There’s something really hot about that ambiguity: you’re not sure what body parts you’re even looking at, but you want to see them all so badly. — A.M.
5. Chris Isaak, “Wicked Game” (1989)
If you don’t remember this one, you’re too young to be watching many of the videos on this list. Directed by Herb Ritts, it features a topless Isaak and a topless-but-never-totally-exposed Helena Christensen wrapped in each other’s arms in teasing black-and-white. David Lynch directed an alternate, less-racy version comprised of scenes from his movie, Wild At Heart. — B.F.
4. Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing” (1982)
This pre-MTV gem comes complete with opening credits and a storyline that holds up better than many from the high-budget videos of the ’80s. Each time we see this, we think how tragic it was that we never got to see a video from Gaye’s “distinguished gray” period. — B.F.
3. Benny Benassi, “Satisfaction” (2002)
Yes, it’s incredibly stupid. Yes, it heinously objectifies women. But considering that it’s escaped its humble roots as a club jam and become “that video with the girls and the power tools,” we feel that its candy-colored, absurdly erotic splendor must be represented. — A.H.
2. Prince, “Little Red Corvette” (1983)
The split Prince does just before the two-minute mark just might be the sexiest nanosecond in the history of the world. And we have it on good authority that Prince is pointing at you. Yes, you. — B.F.
1. Madonna, “Justify My Love” (1990)
Banned by MTV and defended by Madonna on Nightline, “Justify My Love” eventually became the #1 video single of all time (at least pre-YouTube). And though we have no idea what a “video single” is, this clip probably best represents the ’80s Madonna: all melodrama and angst, rubbing and writhing on the floor in a fit of uncontrollable lust. It all seems a little silly until you notice you’re completely aroused. — B.F.