Were you around when MTV debuted “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles? I was, and ironically that title rings true. When MTV played music videos, it was a glorious thing. Here are some of the best videos that helped define the 1980s.
1. Michael Jackson — Thriller (1983)
Without a doubt, one of the most monumental videos to hit the screen was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” It is a thirteen-minute video that tells a story, and we were hooked. I remember, at first, they only aired it at night because it was scary back then. I would sneak out of my room and quietly turn the TV on, anticipating seeing it, even though it scared me.
2. Peter Gabriel — Sledgehammer (1986)
“Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel was a fascinating video that used claymation, pixilation, and stop-motion animation to tell its story. Every frame of that video kept your attention.
3. Madonna — Open Your Heart (1986)
Madonna’s “Open Your Heart to Me” was one of many great music videos of the decade. It comes from her album, True Blue, which was a banger cover to cover. I was a huge fan of “Material Girl” and “Papa Don’t Preach.”
4. Def Leppard — Pour Some Sugar on Me (1988)
Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was one of the 80s best music videos. It encapsulates the theme of many hair band videos of them rocking out on stage.
5. ZZ Top — Legs (1984)
“Legs” by ZZ Top alternates between the classic trope of the unattractive girl in glasses becoming a heartthrob and ZZ Top playing fuzzy guitars. It was one of the most beloved videos of the decade.
6. Guns N’ Roses — Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988)
“Sweet Child O’Mine” had all the classic elements of a Guns N’ Roses video. The hair, the instruments, Slash destroying it on the guitar, and Axl singing and rocking back and forth with the microphone dancing.
7. Robert Palmer — Addicted to Love (1986)
Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” is an iconic video from the decade. It features Palmer surrounded by beautiful women with bright red lipstick playing instruments.
8. Bruce Springsteen — Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” is probably one of the most misunderstood songs ever. It’s hailed as some patriotic anthem. But if you listen to the lyrics, that’s not what it is. The actual meaning is protest and highlighting the suffering our veterans went through and what they dealt with in the war, along with the pain they experienced when they returned home.
9. Whitney Houston — How Will I Know (1985)
Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” is a colorful video of Whitney dancing around with 80s neon makeup and the big bow headband. It’s energy encapsulates the decade beautifully.
10. Whitesnake — Here I Go Again (1987)
“Here I Go Again,” by Whitesnake has the hair, the hot woman, and the rocking out on guitars. It was one of MTV’s top-voted videos of the 80s.
Of course, there are several others that made the 80s great, including “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” by Poison, and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics, are some of my favorites. What’s yours?
Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.