10 A-list Hollywood directors who have directed music videos

Images from the videos for Weezer’s Buddy Holly, Red Hot Chili Peppers Under The Bridge and Meat Loaf’s I’d Do Anything For Love
(Image credit: YouTube)

Music videos can be an artform in their own right, and IMDB is full of the credits to prove it. Plenty of big-name movie directors have stepped behind the camera to shoot promos for rock bands over the years – some using it as a launchpad for their own career, others taking a break from their day job to sprinkle a little big-screen magic onto the music world. Here are 10 Hollywood A-listers who have stepped behind the camera for a rock videos.

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David Fincher

David Fincher is certainly one example of a director who took the music video express to Hollywood. He co-founded the production company Propaganda Films in 1986 and shot numerous music videos, his most notable being the MTV Award-winning Express Yourself and Vogue for Madonna. Rockier fare included Janie’s Got A Gun by Aerosmith and Billy Idol’s Cradle Of Love. He also directed Nine Inch Nail’s Only in 2005 – some time after establishing his film-making credentials with the likes of Se7en and Fight Club.

Zack Snyder

He may be most famous as the man behind the rebooted Dawn Of The Dead, swords’n’togas epic 300 and DC’s infamous Batman-led ‘Snyderverse’, but Zach Snyder’s first directorial effort debut was the video for forgotten 80s shock rockers Lizzy Borden’s 1989 single Love Is A Crime. It was onwards and upwards after that, with clips for Soul Asylum (Somebody To Shove) and ZZ Top (World Of Swirl).

Michael Bay

Michael Bay movies have a reputation for being big, brash and noisy so it makes sense that he graduated from the worlds of both music videos and advertising. Starting at the end of the 80s he directed videos for the hair metal likes of Faster Pussycat, Slaughter and Britny Fox, as well as a string of singles from Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell II including the epic I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That). Subsequent movie endeavours included Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and the Transformers franchise.

Gore Verbinski

From NOFX to Pirates Of The Caribbean is quite the rollercoaster. Gore Verbinski played in a number of punk and rock bands himself, including the Daredevils alongside Brett Gurewitz (during the latter’s 90s hiatus from Bad Religion) and prolific drummer Josh Freese. At around the same time he directed a number of vids for Bad Religion, with other credits including L7’s Fast And Frightening and Monster Magnet’s gonzoid Negasonic Teenage Warhead. He made his feature film directorial debut with Mouse Hunt in 1997 and would go on to helm the Hollywood version of J-horror classic The Ring, as well as the first three Pirates movies.

Spike Jonze

Spike Jonze went from shooting street skating films to directing some of the most iconic music videos of the 90s, bringing a retro twist to the Happy Days-themed clip for Weezer’s Buddy Holly, the 70s cop show shenanigans of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage and the Hollywood musical extravaganza accompanying Bjork’s version of It’s Oh So Quiet. He then moved on to Hollywood, directing artsy hits like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation – as well as having the dubious honour of co-creating MTV’s Jackass.

Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma has a filmography of nearly 30 horror, crime and psychological thrillers to his name - including all-time classics like Carrie, Scarface and Wise Guys, not to mention the odd mainstream blockbuster like Mission: Impossible. Set against that he has precisely one music video to his name but it is at least a well-known one, for Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark. It’s a straight performance vid that also featured a young Courteney Cox’s first on-screen appearance, as a fan brought onstage to dance with The Boss.

Sam Raimi

The director of the Evil Dead movies and the 2000s Spider-Man trilogy starring Toby Maguire is another director with an impressive resume under the movies column and a single entry under music videos. Sam Raimi’s foray into music was a lot less prominent than De Palma’s Springsteen video though, as he inexplicably took the chair for Iggy Pop’s Cold Metal during the sinewy legend’s late-80s wilderness years. Cold Metal is not a terrible song but it’s hardly Iggy’s most iconic and the performance-based video is largely forgettable.

Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola started her career as an actress, appearing as an infant in dad Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (and being widely panned for her appearance in The Godfather Part III. She also appeared in a number of music videos including the Black Crowes' Sometimes Salvation and Sonic Youth's Mildred Pierce and directed others – alt-rock trio Walt Mink’s Shine in 1993 and The Flaming Lips’ This Here Giraffe in 1996. Her first feature film as director was The Virgin Suicides in 1999 and 2003’s Lost In Translation would become a critical and cult hit. She also continued to direct select music vids, including The White Stripes’ cover of I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself.

Gus Van Zant

Gus Van Zant mixed it up through the late 80s and 90s, making indie and arthouse films like Drugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho alongside music videos including a version of Creep by Stone Temple Pilots that ended up being shelved due to its drug and sexual references, and the gritty Under The Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For his part, Van Zant went on to more mainstream success after directing Good Will Hunting in 1997.

David Lynch

As you might expect for a filmmaker as unconventional as David Lynch, his music videos can also be a disorientating affair. Often, they’re for his own musical projects and experiments – such as the crude animations dancing their way through the minimalist I Have A Radio, or the surreal divorce drama of Thank You, Judge by his industrial-blues project BlueBOB. He has made videos for other artists as well though, including Interpol (I Touch A Red Button), Chris Isaak (Wicked Game) and Nine Inch Nails (Come Back Haunted).

Paul Travers has spent the best part of three decades writing about punk rock, heavy metal, and every associated sub-genre for the UK's biggest rock magazines, including Kerrang! and Metal Hammer