Going through the list of the 30 most expensive videos ever will teach you a few things, among them is that Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Madonna loved spending money on big productions, and that it’s quite rare to see someone go all out on a music video in today’s musical era.
30. The Fugees, Read or Not: Ready or Not aired for the first time on August 29, 1996. The song was a minor hit in the USA, but a massive hit in Europe, including no.1 in the UK. The music video is considered to be a precursor in big budget hip-hip music videos, costing $1.3 million to make at the time, which is $1.9 million in 2017 money.
29. The Sisters of Mercy, Dominion: One of the lesser known songs on this list, Dominion peaked at #13 on the UK Singles chart, coming out in February 1988. The impressive video which today would have been CGI’d instead of being filmed on location cost $1 million to make, just over $2 million when adjusted for inflation.
28. Blackstreet & Janet Jackson, Girlfriend/Boyfriend: Despite the impressive list of collaborators which included Ja Rule and Eve, this song never got past #47 on the Billboard charts and #11 in the UK. Released on March 23, 1999, it cost $1.5 million to make, which is over $2.1 million in 2017 money.
27. TLC, Unpretty: The second single from TLC’s FanMail album, it was a number one hit in the USA and reached #6 in the UK, also going platinum in Australia. It came out in 1999 and cost $1.6 million to make, which is $2.3 million when adjusted for inflation.
26. Duran Duran, The Wild Boys: The second oldest song on the list, it is mostly known as Wild Boys, reaching #2 both in the USA and the UK. The Video won best video in the 1985 Brits, costing over $1 million to make, which is over $2.3 million in 2017.
25. Janet Jackson w/Nelly, Call on Me: A 2006 collaboration between Janet Jackson and Nelly, which really didn’t leave a massive mark on the major charts, reaching #25 on the Billboard and #18 in the UK. The video, directed by Hype Williams, was inspired by Aesop’s Fables, and cost $1 million to make, over $2.3 million when adjusted for inflation.
24. MC Hammer, Here Comes the Hammer: One of the lesser known MC Hammer hits from his massive ‘Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ’em’ album, it reached only #54 in the USA after 3 top 10 singles including U Can’t Touch This. The video cost $1.3 million to make in 1991, which is just under $2.4 million these days.
23. Ayumi Hamasaki, Green: One of three consecutive entries by the Japanese singer, Green by Hamasaki reached #1 in Japan (no surprise there) and cost $1.6 million to make, which is $2.45 million when adjusted for inflation. The video came out in 2008.
22. Ayumi Hamasaki, Fairyland: Coming out in 2005, Fairyland was shot in Hawaii, which helped bump up the costs, reaching $2 million, which is $2.45 million when adjusted for inflation. It sold over 317,000 copies in Japan that year.
21. Ayumi Hamasaki, My Name’s Women: Four months earlier she released My Name’s Women, which was her biggest hit in 2005, selling 350,000 copies, with the video costing the same: $2 million, which is $2.45 million when adjusted for inflation.
20. George Michael, Freeek!: A very futuristic and unsurprisingly, sexually explicit video by Michael, this 2002 single was a big hit across Europe, including reaching #1 in Italy, Portugal and Spain, while getting to #7 in the UK. It cost $2 million to make, which is over $2.5 million in 2017 money.
19. Guns N’ Roses, November Rain: An epic video for an epic song, which is more like a short movie than a video for a song. Released in 1992, November Rain cost $1.5 million to make, which is just under $2.6 million in today’s money. The song went #3 in the USA and #4 in the UK.
18. Michael Jackson, Thriller: At the time (1983, Thriller was the most expensive video ever made. Directed by John Landis, it cost $1 million, which is $2.6 million when adjusted for inflation. One of the most influential music videos of all-time, it’s still considered a landmark in delivering a song through a story, and might be Jackson’s crowning achievement cinematically.
17. Missy Elliott, She’s a Bitch: Another Hype Williams video, this one coming out in 1999 and costing $2 million, which is $2.87 million in 2017 money. The most memorable moment from this video was Elliott and her dances being raised from underwater by a huge M. It was #90 on the billboard chart.
16. Backstreet Boys, Larger Than Life: Another big international hit for the Backstreet Boys in 1999, it cost a massive $2.1 million to make at the time, which is $3.1 million in today’s money. Like many other videos on this list, the big budgets manifested in a futuristic, sci-fi look. It made #25 in the USA and #5 in the UK.
15. Michael Jackson, Remember the Time: Jackson’s 2nd single from ‘Dangerous’, this 1992 song cost $2 million to make, which is $3.4 million in today’s money. It features some groundbreaking computer graphics in an Egyptian setting, with plenty of movie stars making appearances. It was a #3 hit in both the US and the UK.
14. Janet Jackson, Doesn’t Really Matter: Doesn’t Really Matter was a song from the Nutty Professor II soundtrack, costing $2.5 million to make, which is $3.4 million in today’s money. The 2000 single was a #1 hit in the United States and peaked at #5 in the UK.
13. Celine Dion, It’s All Coming Back to me Now: This 1996 mega hit for Dion (#2 in the US, #3 in the UK) cost $2.3 million to make, which is over $3.5 million when adjusted for inflation. The video shows Dion haunted by her dead lover’s image, and had a short (6 minutes) and long (7:44 minutes) version.
12. Mariah Carey, Heartbreaker: Heartbreaker was Carey’s 14th single to reach #1 in the United States, featuring animation, a bit of movie stars and her in a double role, fighting herself. Directed by Brett Ratner, is cost $2.5 million to make in 1999, which is over $3.5 million in 2017.
11. Puff Daddy, Victory: Featuring Biggie and Busta Rhymes, mostly known for its samples of the music from Rocky, sold over 700,000 copies in the United States, making it to #19 on the charts. The video, a homage to the Running Man, cost $2.7 million to make at the time (1998), which is $3.9 million in today’s money.
10. Gwen Stefani, Make Me Like You: This 2016 single by the No Doubt lead is the most recent video on the list. It didn’t really leave a mark anywhere, not cracking the top 100 in the UK and peaking at #54 in the USA. A collaboration with Target, it cost $4 million to make.
9. Busta Rhymes & Janet Jackson, What It’s Gonna Be: Directed by Hype Williams and Rhymes himself, the video was filled with special effects in a way which was quite rare to see back in 1999. It cost $2.4 million to make, which is over $4 million when adjusted for inflation. The song reached #3 in the US and #6 in the UK.
8. MC Hammer, 2 Legit 2 Quit: The first single in Hammer’s fourth album, 2 Legit 2 Quit came out in 1991, costing $2.5 million to make, which is over $4.2 million in today’s money. The video was over 15 minutes long, and includes a long list of guest stars and sports cameo appearances.
7. Michael Jackson, Bad: When Bad came out in 1987, it was the most expensive video ever made at the time, costing $2.2 million, over $4.6 million in 2017 money. Another timeless MJ hit which riffed a bit on West Side Story, it was a #1 hit in the US and #3 in the UK.
6. Guns N’ Roses, Estranged: Estranged completed GNR video trilogy that included Don’t Cry and November Rain, costing $4 million to make in 1993, which is $6.6 million in today’s money. Not a very memorable song besides the cost of the video, it didn’t even chart in the UK, and peaked on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart at #6.
5. Michael Jackson, Black or White: Jackson’s first single from his Dangerous album and directed by John Landis, it was a #1 hit almost everywhere in the world. The video relied on computer graphics, and premiered in 27 countries simultaneously, drawing a worldwide audience of 500 million. It cost $4 million to make in 1991, which is over $7 million in today’s money. At the time it was the most expensive ever made.
4. Madonna, Bedtime Story: Bedtime Story is permanently in display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; that’s how much critics loved it. The 1995 video cost $5 million to make, which is $7.8 million in today’s money, and at the time was the most expensive ever. The song itself charted at #42 in the USA and #4 in the UK.
3. Madonna, Die Another Day: Making a video for a James Bond film makes it easy to hike up the budget. Die Another Day came out in 2002 and cost $6.1 million to make, which is $8.1 million in 2017 money. The song reached #8 in the USA and #3 in the UK.
2. Madonna, Express Yourself: The second single from Like a Prayer, Express Yourself was directed by David Fincher in 1989, and at a $5 million budget ($9.6 million when adjusted for inflation), it was the most expensive music video made at the time. A powerful female-power statement, it’s still regarded as one of the most influential music videos ever made.
1. Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson, Scream: An overly ambitious creation in black & white that came out a few months after Madonna’s Bedtime Story and broke its budget record, Scream cost $7 million to make in 1995, which is over $11 million in today’s money. The leadoff single from MJ’s History album, it went to #5 in the USA and #3 in the UK.