The 10 Most Important Madonna Music Videos

Nothing really matters—except these iconic videos.

Since the beginning of her career, Madonna has used her music videos to spark conversations about feminism, sexuality, religion, fashion, and dance. Although some of those conversations created controversy and resulted in censorship, the pop icon’s work continues to inspire artists today. These ten videos not only moved viewers to explore the themes represented in them, they also moved the needle on how music videos are created.

  1. “Vogue” (1990)

    “In early 1990, Madonna mined ’House Ball’ culture (especially the moves of dancers/choreographers Jose Gutierrez Xtravaganza and Luis Xtravaganza) and struck gold when she created ’Vogue,’ a song, and video that would set trends in pop/house music for the rest of the decade.” —Bryan Van Gorder

  2. “Human Nature” (1995)

    ” ’Human Nature’ is the original ’Unapologetic Bitch. When Madonna got backlash from prudes who didn’t like her exploring sexuality in her art, she was like, ’sSrry not sorry.’ Sex isn’t taboo it is human nature. And in the S&M-inspired music video, Madonna is politely reminding her critics that she isn’t one to be restrained or tied to anyone’s expectations but her own.” —Lamar Dawson

  3. “Bedtime Story” (1995)

    “Surreal visuals, CGI geometric shapes, and piercing lyrics about the limitations of language? Check. ’Bedtime Story’ views like an art house short with layered imagery and Madonna’s signature brand of bizarre. Gaga had to learn it from somewhere.” —Jesse Steinbach

  4. “Cherish” (1989)

    “After back-to-back big budget music videos for ’Like A Prayer’ and ’Express Yourself,’ Madonna kept it simple for ’Cherish,’ by spending a day at the beach with some hot mermen. Madonna picked photographer Herb Ritts to direct the video, his first, but he would go on to helm other iconic videos in the ’90s including Chris Isaac’s ’Wicked Game,’ and Janet’s ’Love Will Never Do Without You.’ ” —Chris Rudolph

  5. “Frozen” (1998)

    “The desolate, frozen desert landscape is tonally perfect for this medieval-sounding song. It’s also spooky-cool with Madonna portraying a slightly nightmarish mystic-witch character, her black dress billowing in the wind as she hovers and transforms into a pool of liquid, a Doberman, and a flock of crows. I love it because you can read into it what you like.” —Matthew Breen

  6. “Open Your Heart” (1986)

    “This one is important both for all the visual references (beginning with the oversized art deco painting by Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, the show Cabaret), but also for the surreal weirdness of it. The song is sweet, but the setting is ostensibly seedy (and also art deco gorgeous). It’s obviously L.A. (palm trees, telephone wires), but the peepshow proprietor is an old Italian gentleman. Some of the clients seem super queer (a butch woman, and twin-lover sailors?). She’s an exotic dancer, but she ends the video dancing with a cute 9-ish-year-old boy. Her son? Unexplained.” —MB

  7. “What It Feels Like For A Girl” (2001)

    “Directed by then-husband Guy Ritchie, this Madge video sticks out for me because it’s one of the last videos I remember being banned on TV—though it was by no means Madonna’s first, following in the infamous steps of ’Justify My Love’ and ’Erotica.’ Tame by today’s standards, the song and the video’s depiction of a woman who’s just had enough still feels particularly relevant.” —Les Brathwaite

  8. “Justify My Love” (1990)

    “As the staff baby, I feel compelled to confess that I wasn’t even born when this video dropped, but this Madonna gem is important to me for so many reasons. On an industry level, the super-sexy vid caused an immense controversy, so much so that it was banned from MTV and other TV networks. On a purely shallow level, it’s hot AF—and bi AF. I stan.” —Samantha Manzella

  9. “Like a Prayer” (1989)

    “Burning crosses, singing choirs—Madonna literally took us to church in the video for the title track off of her 1989 album, but not everyone was pleased with the results. Pepsi, who was set to sponsor her next world tour, cut ties with the singer, even Pope John Paul II called for people to boycott. In the years since, ’Like A Prayer’ has consistently been referred to as one of the greatest music videos ever, including in 2006 when viewers voted it as the ’Most Groundbreaking Music Video of All Time’ in honor of MTV’s 25th anniversary.” —CR

  10. “Hung Up” (2005)

    “By all rights, ’Hung Up’ should have been a disaster. After original director David LaChapelle was dismissed over creative differences, Johan Renck took over and had to work fast. To make matters worse, Madonna fell from a horse, cracking three ribs and breaking her collarbone and hand a few weeks before shooting. Renck told MTV Madge fought through the pain like a ’trooper.’ Madonna called the video, one of her best, ’a tribute to dance—and John Travolta,’ and it draws upon various styles of dance and movement, including krumping, breakdancing, and even parkour.” —Jeff Taylor

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