Jared Leto is like a handsome jar of Marmite. Whether he’s waving his Oscar around or running competitions for people to win a sleepover at his house, the actor-turned-musician-but-still-an-actor has always been one to split opinion. This goes for Thirty Seconds To Mars’ music videos, too; most are expansive, multi-faceted stories that go above and beyond the standard ‘blokes in black shirts playing in a room’ video clips. Are they complex meta-narratives too profound for the human mind or just a bag of old bollocks with lots of slow motion? Turns out they’re very short films – mostly directed by Jared Leto under the pseudonym Bartholomew Cubbins – that would look ace at the cinema. We watched the lot, picked the best 10 then ranked them in order of brilliance.
10. The Kill (Bury Me) (directed by Jared Leto, 2006)
While nobody can recreate the scrotum-shrinking horror of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Thirty Seconds To Mars pay homage without completely ripping it off. Nowhere near as mental and gritty as Slipknot’s Spit It Out tribute, Leto’s merry men opt for Hollywood sheen with The Kill (Bury Me); the typewriter shot, the captioned transitions, the ballroom scene and that bit with the bear-administered blowjob (sounds even less practical on paper, right?) all still work in the confines of Leto’s glossy reimagining. This is aided by that flickering, split screen menace he borrowed from Requiem For A Dream.
9. Closer To The Edge (directed by Jared Leto, 2010)
“Some people believe in God; I believe in music. Some people pray; I turn up the radio.” A young girl gives her two cents on this horrible little bastard we call life, amongst scores of other Thirty Seconds To Mars devotees. Sprinkled atop live footage from the band’s record-breaking Into The Wild tour, these testimonials could have fallen into the same trap as that ‘how my favourite band saved my life’ dross. But the fans aren’t talking about Thirty Seconds To Mars – they’re talking about music in general, and that’s what connects them to one another and, undeniably in this video’s case, the band; all three members ravenously feed from the audience’s enthusiasm, a far cry from the slightly self-obsessed behemoth some of us see them as today.
8. Kings And Queens (directed by Jared Leto, 2009)
The one with all the bikes.
7. Hurricane (directed by Jared Leto, 2010)
A lot of people reckon Jared has a Jesus complex, but in the Hurricane video, he does fall out of a fifty-floor building, like, twice – walking on water’s a doddle compared to that. Mind you, Jesus had a better haircut. Elsewhere, sticksman Shannon Leto gets stabbed (in slow motion), guitarist Tomo Miličević fights a gimp who looks like Bane (in slow motion) and Jared lovingly applies BDSM gear to a woman (in slow motion). If people moving slowly is your bag, then Hurricane is the video you.
### 6. Up In The Air (directed by Jared Leto, 2013)
A shit-load of zebras. Dita Von Teese. A little kid pulling off the best moves since A Night At The Roxbury (at 5:34 in the video. You’re welcome). Yeah, the (slow motion) paint fights are a bit Coldplay, but otherwise Up In The Air makes an interesting job of some of Thirty Seconds To Mars’ weaker studio output. The striking, instantaneously recognisable Damien Hirst artwork for Love, Lust Faith and Dreams pops in and out of shot, proving an obvious highlight; the snapshot, scattershot images of Cirque du Soleil gave us a glimpse of the upcoming stage show, too.
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5. Capricorn (A Brand New Name) (directed by Paul Fedor, 2002)
Thirty Seconds To Mars pray at the altar of Billy Corgan, channelling heavier Smashing Pumpkins and conjuring memories of Bullet With The Butterfly Wings’ grotty video. Director Paul Fedor refers to Capricorn as the apex of his career and it is a visually striking piece, a million or two miles away from what you’d expect from this band – it’s filthy but keeps that air of elegance intact, like the more serene moments in District 9 but without the aliens. Kids crawl through mud, SWAT teams hose the shit out of the digging kids – even this early in their career, it’s in glorious slow motion – and the band play in some sort of ditch. Jared’s face takes a rare backseat in this promo, no thanks to guitarist Solon Bixler, who whacked him in the head with his instrument. Maybe that’s why he left the band the following year…
4. City Of Angels (directed by Jared Leto, 2013)
Interviewing everyone from celebrities to celebrity impersonators (Marilyn Monroe just pips Michael Jackson here) to homeless people, Jared scoured the streets of Los Angeles to uncover the wheat, chaff and whatever else the City Of Angels holds. More a documentary soundtracked by Thirty Seconds To Mars rather than anything else, this short is a genuinely intriguing peek into the disparate LA experience. Kanye West talks about his Mum passing away; a man known only as Haywood dubs the place in question “the city of lost souls.” But there’s joy. Solidarity. A melting pot of eccentrics all under one banner. Sure, it could’ve done without the overbearingly earnest silhouette shots of the band – they do that a lot better and with much more subtlety later on in this list – but you can’t have everything, eh?
3. From Yesterday (directed by Jeff Seibenick, 2006)
Aside from allegedly being the first complete American music video to be filmed in China, From Yesterday further capitalised on the band’s success from The Kill and with good reason; one of Jared’s most emotive vocals comes from this track, the stunning fight scenes (in slow motion, obviously) and ensuing fucked-up shenanigans all contributing to From Yesterday’s visual pull. The sheer power of 400 static Chinese warriors; the horror of three women tied to the chopping block; the perverse, double-take moment when a grown man is caught breastfeeding. Betwixt the madness, a narrative is actually woven and, just to top it off, there’s a lovely fireworks display near the end.
2. A Beautiful Lie (directed by Jared Leto, 2008)
Shot within one of Greenland’s frosty pockets, A Beautiful Lie’s video is stunning on both a visual and emotional level. Vast panoramic scenic shots and (more) slow motion band shots resulted in months of delays, Leto refusing to give until his vision was realised. Doubling up as an appeal to act on global warming, the short also features an Inuit telling us how his livelihood has been torn apart by the detriment this Earth has suffered. The cinematography and message are equally stunning – proceeds went to the Natural Resources Defence Council, too – but we could have done with less shots of Jared’s smouldering poses, especially in a video holding this amount of gravitas. We get it, mate. You’ve got a strong jawline.
1. This Is War (directed by Edouard Salier, 2011)
“If we don’t end war, war will end us.” This H.G. Wells quote prefaces This Is War’s promo clip and yeah, we know – Thirty Seconds To Mars aren’t going to stop any wars. But the fact that someone with Jared Leto’s, ugh, celebrity status was willing to put their face on something as bold as this is testament to the man’s commitment; his singing silhouette, belting out lyrics against a blood orange sky, should have been irredeemably cheesy. But it’s just not. Again, the role of a soldier could have been done a disservice by a lesser actor, but Mr. Leto is basically Hurt Locker standard. The magnetic, airborne pyramid sucking in all the vehicles doesn’t really make sense and kind of feels like a Transformers flick, but even that adds to the surreal horror that This Is War conveys with some of its chilling, real-life footage. Whatever you think of Thirty Seconds To Mars, This Is War remains one of the most affecting rock videos of the 21st century.