The 10 most viewed Metallica videos on YouTube

A 2023 Metallica promo shot superimposed with the YouTube logo
(Image credit: Tim Saccenti | YouTube)

Almost two years after YouTube launched its now world-dominating video streaming platform in 2005, Metallica began curating their official channel. Now, after 16 years, the band have posted an incredible 1800 pieces of content, including official videos, live shots and assorted footage, and have amassed over 9.5 million subscribers and 5 billion views in total. Not bad going for a band who were so anti-video, it took them four albums before deciding to release their first promo. 

Here, then, are Metallica's 10 most viewed clips according to YouTube.

Metal Hammer line break

10. The Unforgiven II

Directed by Matt Mahurin, the video for The Unforgiven II echoes the abstract story of struggle as portrayed in The Unforgiven (also helmed by Mahurin). Filmed in 1997 shortly after the release of their seventh studio album Reload, this beautifully shot, abstract video is dimly lit and interwoven with clips of a young man whose hand is stuck in a wall and is eventually freed. To date, it's been viewed 57 million times.

9. Turn the Page

The video for the band's cover of Bob Seger's 1973 single – a song about the trials and tribulations of life in the touring band – could have easily been phoned in, using camcorder footage of the four-piece mooching around in airports and hotel lobbies. Director Jonas Åkerlund, the former Bathory drummer who has worked with the Prodigy, Rammstein and Beyoncé, threw a curve ball when he filmed a story starring adult star Ginger Lynn, who portrays a single mother and sex worker. The video attracted criticism for its disturbing scenes of sexual assault, but Lynn told that she's proud of her performance in the video. "I went in and I sat down with the director, and he told me a story that it just touched me so deeply. I wanted that role more than anything I’d ever wanted. If I had to say there was something that I’m the most proud of that I’ve done in my mainstream career, I’m going to put Turn The Page right up there.” The video has been viewed 60 million times. 

8. Seek and Destroy 

For Metallica fans who've wondered what it would be like to see the band play a Kill 'Em All classic in skull masks and bad wigs had their wishes granted when the band filmed their Halloween 2009 show at Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City. This fun performance – complete with with black beach balls being hoofed into the crowd with all the power of hardened Championship defenders – forms part of their concert film Quebec Magnetic, which was released three years later through the band's own Blackened Recordings label. This video has been watched 62 million times. 

7. Sad But True

By the time Sad But True was released as a single, the band's epic tour in support of The Black Album was in full swing, meaning their exhaustive travel schedule left little time to film arty promos with a lofty premise. Enter Sandman video director Wayne Isham was called upon to capture the band at full flight during their two-night stint at  San Diego's Sports Arena in January 1992. The video, which premiered in October of that year, has been viewed 73.8 million times.

6. Enter Sandman (Live in Mexico City)

The first of two Enter Sandman videos in this list was filmed live in June 2009 in front of 150,000 fans during three nights at Foro Sol in Mexico City. This high-energy performance is included in their World Magnetic concert film Orgullo, Pasión, y Gloria: Tres Noches en la Ciudad de México.

5. The Unforgiven

For their follow-up video to Enter Sandman, Metallica enlisted the services of director and photographer Matt Mahurin to create a bleak, almost Sisyphean tale of a young boy's life dedicated to carving a window into the wall of a windowless room, before he grows old and eventually dies. There are two versions of The Unforgiven video, one of which is a 11-minute theatrical cut and includes other similarly bleak scenes which bolster the story. The shorter version has been viewed 110 million times.

4. Whiskey in the Jar

This homage to Thin Lizzy's traditional Irish song featured on the Metallica 1999 covers compilation Garage Inc. and was released the day before St. Patrick's Day. The video – a house party which descends into drunken chaos, vomiting and pillow fights – was filmed in New York and directed by  Jonas Åkerlund, the man responsible for their Turn the Page promo. To date, Whiskey in the Jar has notched up 122 million views and is probably a favourite among the goose down fetish community.

3. One

Despite resisting the idea of making a video for several years, Metallica delivered the bleakest music promo ever in early 1989 for their single One. The video features black and white footage of the band playing in a Long Beach warehouse, and is finished with a cold, blue hue. It's interspersed with clips from the 1971 film Johnny Got His Gun, a film based on Dalton Trumbo's 1939 anti-war novel of the same name. The film – which Metallica bought the rights for in order to use and not pay further royalties – tells the story of a hapless WW1 infantryman Joe Bonham, who is horrifically maimed by a shell and wakes up in a hospital bed to discover he's lost his limbs, his face and his senses and is effectively trapped in his own body. He uses Morse Code to communicate to doctors, nurses and visiting soldiers that he wishes to die, but is cruelly denied his pleas. The video was released as two versions: a 'jamming' version which features the band performing the song and the full version featuring the film clips which makes for genuinely harrowing viewing. The video has been viewed 281 million times.

2. Enter Sandman

Filmed in Los Angeles shortly after wrapping up work on their self-titled fifth album, Wayne Isham directed the band's second-ever promo video which has been viewed 580 million times so far. In keeping with the themes of a a child's reluctance to fall asleep in case they have nightmares, Enter Sandman features a strobe-lit performance from the band interwoven with fear-inducing scenarios including falling from great heights, being smothered with snakes and a truck smashing into a bed. The veteran actor R.G. Armstrong – who appeared in films such as Predator and, curiously, Wim Wenders' 1982 neo-noir thriller Hammett – makes an appearance as a grandfather figure who oversees his grandchild saying their prayers before bedtime. The actor's excessively wrinkled features would later appear on the band's tour t-shirts.

1. Nothing Else Matters

Clocking in with a staggering 1.2 billion views is the Adam Dubin-directed promo for Nothing Else Matters. An intimate look at the band recording the power ballad at North Hollywood's One on One studio in 1991, this sixth minute video is essential a lovingly re-edited collection of slow-motion clips taken from the eminently watchable four-hour documentary A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, which was released the following year.

Simon Young

Born in 1976 in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Simon Young has been a music journalist for over twenty years. His fanzine, Hit A Guy With Glasses, enjoyed a one-issue run before he secured a job at Kerrang! in 1999. His writing has also appeared in Classic RockMetal HammerProg, and Planet Rock. His first book, So Much For The 30 Year Plan: Therapy? — The Authorised Biography is available via Jawbone Press.