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Music Video Directors Who Jumped to the Big Screen

Movies, Television | By The Top 13 on April 26, 2010

While MTV is widely credited with revolutionizing the music industry, another byproduct of the network's launch was the creation of a new medium in which aspiring directors could cut their teeth. Indeed, many of today's most successful and innovative film directors got their start helming videos for MTV. Accordingly, we present the Top 13 Music Video Directors Who Jumped to the Big Screen. We ranked this list mostly based on each director's filmography, but we also took into account, to a lesser extent, their work in the music video genre.

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David Fincher

1

David Fincher

With an Academy Award nomination for Best Director for his most recent film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, as well as fantastic cult movies such as Seven, Fight Club, and Zodiac, Fincher is the most accomplished and critically acclaimed director on this Top 13. But before he became one of Hollywood's most bankable directors, Fincher made more than 50 music videos, including for early MTV favorites Loverboy and Paula Addul, and, later, Madonna and Michael Jackson.

Spike Jonze

2

Spike Jonze

Jonze, who received an Oscar nomination for directing Being John Malkovich, is considered a visionary for his wildly creative filmography, which also includes Adaptation and last year's Where the Wild Things Are. Not surprisingly, Jonze is also one of the most innovative music video directors. His videos for Weezer's "Buddy Holly," Beastie Boys' "Sabotage," and Fatboy Slim's "Praise You" and "Weapon of Choice," the latter of which also earned Jonze a Grammy Award, are among the most acclaimed in MTV's history. Jonze continues to work in the music video genre, most recently directing the new LCD Soundsystem video for "Drunk Girls."

Michel Gondry

3

Michel Gondry

The only Academy Award winner on this Top 13, Gondry picked up his Best Original Screenplay statute for writing (along with Charlie Kaufman) the wonderfully inventive Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which he also directed. Though none of his three other features approached the brilliance of that film, Gondry hasn't had a real misstep, either, and he's currently directing the big budget superhero flick Green Hornet. Gondry has directed some of the most imaginative videos to air on MTV, including numerous collaborations with Bjork, as well as with Beck and the White Stripes.

Gore Verbinski

4

Gore Verbinski

Verbinski has made some of the most commercially successful and entertaining films of the past decade, including The Ring and the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, as well as The Weather Man, an underrated box office bomb. Currently filming a remake of the board game adaptation Clue, Verbinski has helmed a number of innovative videos, mostly for off-the-beaten path punk and metal bands such as Bad Religion, Monster Magnet, and NOFX.

Marc Webb

5

Marc Webb

Though he has only one full-length feature under his belt - last year's critically acclaimed and surprise box office smash (500) Days of Summer - Webb nevertheless ranks highly on this Top 13 for the vision he showed with his Golden Globe nominated debut and the extremely high expectations that now rest squarely on his shoulders. Webb was recently tabbed to helm the Spider-Man franchise reboot. As a music video director, he's helmed videos for MTV favorites like Good Charlotte, Evanescence, Fergie, and Green Day.

Jonathan Glazer

6

Jonathan Glazer

Though Glazer has only directed two feature length films, his debut alone - the fantastic gangster picture Sexy Beast - would earn him a spot on this Top 13. Glazer's follow-up Birth received mixed reviews, but is now rightfully considered an overlooked gem. As a video director, Glazer helmed the inventive clip for Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity," which received ten Video Music Award nominations, as well as videos for bands such as Radiohead and Massive Attack. Last year, he directed the acclaimed video for The Dead Weather's "Treat Me Like Your Mother."

F. Gary Gray

7

F. Gary Gray

Gray's filmography includes a number of serious missteps including Be Cool and Law Abiding Citizen. But when this New York native gets it right, he really gets it right. Highlights include the hysterical Friday and thrillers The Negotiator and The Italian Job. Gray got his start directing classic hip hop videos for Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, OutKast, and TLC. He's currently filming The Brazilian Job, the sequel to the The Italian Job.

Michael Bay

8

Michael Bay

We don't think Bay has a single great movie in his lengthy filmography, but there's no denying that his brand of schlocky big budget pictures brings in the crowds. Action films such as The Rock, Bad Boys, and Armageddon all cleaned up at the box office. Bay, who's currently working on the third installment of his blockbuster Transformers franchise, helmed videos early in his career for artists such as Meat Loaf, Tina Turner, Richard Marx, and Divinyls.

Antoine Fuqua

9

Antoine Fuqua

As director of the terrific police drama film Training Day, Fuqua guided Denzel Washington to an Academy Award winning performance. And while most of his other relatively big budget films - like Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, and, most recently, Brooklyn's Finest have all received mixed reviewed, Fuqua is consistently praised for his fast-paced, stylish work. That approach no doubt draws from his experience making music videos for R&B legends such as Prince and Stevie Wonder. Fuqua is currently preparing to direct the crime thriller Consent to Kill.

Mark Romanek

10

Mark Romanek

Though Romanek's directorial debut, Static was actually released prior to his music video career, that movie largely went unnoticed. His follow-up, the psychological thriller One Hour Photo, came 17 years later and received rave reviews. In between, Romanek directed some of the most iconic videos ever to air on MTV, including for Johnny Cash's "Hurt," Janet Jackson's "Got 'til It's Gone," and Michael and Janet Jackson's "Scream," each of which earned the director a Grammy. He's currently filming Never Let Me Go, a thriller starring Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan.

McG

11

McG

The director originally named Joseph McGinty Nichol is pretty much a media empire unto himself. In addition to helming the two blockbuster Charlie's Angels films, We Are Marshall, and Terminator Salvation, he was executive producer of The O.C. and other television shows. But McG got his start in the music business, producing Sugar Ray's first album and directing more than 50 music videos, including ubiquitous clips for Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, and The Offspring.

Tarsem Singh

12

Tarsem Singh

Known simply as "Tarsem," this Indian director broke through with his video for R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion," which won a Grammy Award and six MTV awards, including for Video of the Year and Best Direction. Tarsem - who also helmed videos for En Vogue and Deep Forest, among others - released his first full-length feature - the disturbingly breathtaking psychological thriller The Cell in 2000. The entirely unique The Fall followed in 2006 and Tarsem is now at work on Immortals, a historical fantasy picture starring Mickey Rourke, John Hurt, and Freida Pinto.

Mark Pellington

13

Mark Pellington

Pellington has delivered three solid feature films - the fascinating thrillers Arlington Road and The Mothman Prophecies and the criminally underrated Henry Poole Is Here. Prior to graduating to full-length films, Pellington directed some of the most memorable videos of the early 1990s, including Pearl Jam's "Jeremy," Alice in Chains' "Rooster," and U2's "One." He's currently working on a remake of Guillermo del Toro's The Orphanage.

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Comments Leave a comment

stillathreat ★★

I know he isn't very good, but shouldn't Brett Ratner make this list? What about the Little Miss Sunshine directors - didn't they make a lot of videos? I'm not sure they've had another movie, though.

7:38 AM   Apr 26, 2010

holmessss 

I wouldn't include McG on a top list of anything. He may be successful, but he's a complete hack. He should be punished for inflicting that All-Star video on the world alone(along with Smash Mouth). Tarsem would also not make my list. While the Cell and the Fall had a few interesting visuals, there were some seriously flawed aspects to both films. A poor man's Del Toro. Everyone else is great though. Also - Law Abiding Citizen was awesome.

7:39 AM   Apr 26, 2010

jason ★★

Sofia Coppola maybe should have made this, but she only directed 2 music videos - this seems to be more established video directors.

9:00 AM   Apr 26, 2010

jason ★★

who then transitioned to feature films that is.

9:00 AM   Apr 26, 2010

zircona1 

Good list, but Pellington didn't direct U2's "One", that was Anton Corbijn.

9:19 AM   Apr 26, 2010

TheTop13 

There were actually multiple videos for "One" - both Pellington and Corbjin made videos that aired on MTV.

9:22 AM   Apr 26, 2010

ajay ★★

I would also like to see the Little Miss Sunshine directors on here.

While it would be nice if McG was left off, he's at least better than Brett Ratner.

9:50 AM   Apr 26, 2010

oshoney 

top three are so good.

11:56 AM   Apr 26, 2010

PulpAffliction ★★

There's a SERIOUS dearth of Corbjin on this list.

Just sayin'.

11:45 AM   Apr 30, 2010

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