They might just last a few minutes, but they're anything but simple behind-the-scenes. From the special effects to the private planes and A-list cameos, these musicians raked up the big bucks for their music videos.
30. Kanye West: “Stronger” (2007)
It's no surprise Yeezy would start the list off with one of his most popular hits, Stronger. The 2007 hit song was a crowd-pleaser, to say the least. But it also cost the rapper a solid $1.2 million, according to sources.
According to the music video director Hype Williams, the video was inspired by the classic anime Akira and was filmed in Tokyo, Japan. West is known for his love of the Japanese graphic novel, so Stronger is another ode to the legendary sci-fi film.
29. Britney Spears: “Work B*tch” (2013)
The Princess of Pop, Britney Spears, is known for her memorable music videos over the past two decades. Remember, the music video for Oops!… I Did It Again? Even though it didn't cost as much as her 2013 music video for Work B*tch did, it, too, made waves online.
According to multiple sources, Work B*tch cost a whopping $1.2 million to make. The director behind the video, Ben Mor, described the video as "one of the more ambitious Britney videos," with a "few varied locations." From the desert to a nightclub, a beautiful outdoor pool, and all the outfit changes, 1.2 mil checks out.
28. The Fugees: “Ready or Not” (1996)
Ready or Not comes from the Fugees second studio album, The Score, in 1996. The hot song took over the charts in Iceland and the U.K. Eventually, it became certified Platinum in the U.K. and the U.S., so of course, the group needed a sick video to accompany the song. But what made it so expensive?
The music video cost $1.3 million to make in 1996, according to Vibe. The hip-hop video broke the bank, including helicopters, explosions, car chase scenes, and sharks in their video. Yup. Pras Michel told Vibe, "People want to see drama, man. You figure: A kid pays sixteen dollars for your CD. Let him see a good video." Let him!
27. MC Hammer: “Here Comes the Hammer” (1991)
One of the biggest rappers in the '80s and '90s, MC Hammer, was known for his memorable dance moves and expensive music videos. The artist dropped Here Comes the Hammer off of his 1990 album, Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em, and was eventually nominated for a Grammy award.
The music video cost $1.3 million to make, which at the time made it one of the most expensive videos ever made per Walyou. The video displays Hammer and his crew of dancers being chased around a haunted house, with some dope special effects making the 9-minute music video worth its price tag.
26. Madonna: “Give Me All Your Luvin’”(2012)
Hold on, because Madonna is going to be making an appearance multiple times on this list. But would we expect anything else from the Queen of Pop? The hit song, Give Me All Your Luvin', featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., dropped in 2012 and became known for its catchy chorus and iconic trio.
According to multiple sources, the video was directed by Megaforce and cost the team $1.5 million to produce. The video was shot in New York and finished in Paris, where Megaforce told 20 minutes, the set was surrounded by security guards and that the process was a whole "different universe" for them. We can only imagine!
25. Blackstreet: “Girlfriend/Boyfriend” (1999)
The R&B group Blackstreet released some top hits during the '90s, so when the No Diggity singers teamed up with Janet Jackson on Girlfriend/Boyfriend, everyone thought the song would be an absolute hit. With Janet Jackson on top of the world in the '90s, how could it not!
However, the song only reached to #47 on the Billboard charts, despite its $1.5 million music video. That's no small chunk of change for a song that didn't hit as well as expected to be... Oh, and did we mention Ja Rule and Eve were featured on the track?
24. Guns N’ Roses: "November Rain" (1992)
November Rain from Guns N' Roses peaked at number three on the Billboard charts upon its release in 1992. So naturally, the hit song needed a hit music video for Axl Rose, Slash, and the band - which according to Walyou, cost $1.5 million to make. NBD.
Inspired by Del James's short story Without You, the music video switches back and forth from Slash getting married in a disastrous wedding setting to a funeral home at the same church - and a live performance at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles. All those sets must have cost a fortune! (Well, $1.5 mil, to be exact).
23. TLC: “Unpretty” (1999)
TLC was the go-to girl group of the '90s. From their top-performing songs, iconic outfits, and expensive music videos, Unpretty made the cut with a $1.6 million budget, according to Walyou. Unpretty reached the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked for three weeks and eventually was nominated for Song of the Year at the Grammys.
Although the Waterfalls video was technologically more advanced, Unpretty still made it as one of the priciest music videos ever made. The clip follows the women who are unhappy with their bodies and head to a plastic surgeon while sitting on floating yoga pods amongst a field of purple flowers. A lot to digest, we know.
22. Ayumi Hamasaki: “Green” (2008)
Ayumi Hamasaki is a Japanese singer, songwriter, actress, model, and everything in between! So with that in mind, it's no surprise her music videos are costing $1.6 million to make, per Walyou. In addition to Green, her other hit songs, Fairyland and My Name's Women cost $2 million to make.
So it seems like she is running the Japanese pop scene with her talent and wildly expensive music videos. Green reached number one in Japan and saw the singer in multiple settings, from performing on stage, singing, and dancing to wandering through the city in a number of costumes.
21. George Michael: “Freeek!” (2002)
Talk about dope special effects. George Michael might as well have spent the millions here on a time machine to film Freeek, considering how pricey this music video was! The unusual yet sexually explicit music video cost $2 million to produce, according to Walyou.
The 2002 single was a major hit in Europe and needed a major video to market it! The futuristic yet fiery George Michael music video features the artist decked out in leather and bondage gear as he transports to the future and dances with some extraterrestrial creatures!
20. Missy Elliott: “She’s a B*tch” (1999)
Coming in at $2 million, per Walyou, is Missy Elliot's track, She's a B*tch. The artist put her heart and soul into this futuristic music video, where Hype Williams directed and used a set entirely made from electroluminescent lighting, giving it that extra something-something.
Similar but utterly different to George Michael's aesthetic, Missy Elliott and her dancers are also dripping in bondage-type leather to tie in the futuristic theme of her clip. The production team used an array of special effects and different sets and saw Missy being raised from underwater on a hydraulic "M."
19. Michael Jackson: “Remember the Time” (1992)
Marketed as a "short film" from director John Singleton, Michael Jackson's nine-minute music video to Remember the Time is nothing short of memorable. The innovative computer graphics and overwhelming cast all contribute to the whopping $2 million it costs to produce, per Walyou.
The video included special cameos from some of Hollywood's finest: Eddie Murphy, Iman, Tommy Lister, and Magic Johnson, which probably cost a pretty penny. The video didn't cut any funding corners, set in an Ancient Egyptian setting, featuring lion clubs and ostrich feather fans while Jackson is dripping in a gold chest plate.
18. Will Smith: “Miami” (1999)
Although the music video for Miami starts with Will Smith in Philly, he is quickly transported to Miami on a private plane that lands him at an exclusive party in Miami! Smith is known for his high-end tastes, which might contribute to the high-value project.
According to multiple sources, Miami cost a whopping $2 million to produce! The various beach locations, private planes, expensive cars, and tons of extras definitely racked up in cost pretty quickly. However, the computer morphing from scene to scene is what truly cost this 1998 video the big bucks.
17. Backstreet Boys: “Larger Than Life” (1999)
There are quite a few futuristic-inspired music videos that have made this list-which makes sense; it definitely costs millions to get to the future. One of the OG boybands, The Backstreet Boys, joined in on this futuristic hype with their popular 1999 song, Larger Than Life, where they spent a nice chunk on change.
The $2.1 million spent on the video, according to Insider, all contributed to the outer space vibe. Director Joseph Kahn and the boyband teamed up to create a video piled in with special effects, robotic-like costumes, and cryogenic chambers. Brian Littrell was filmed doing backflips on a flying surfboard, costing $90K. Yup.
16. Michael Jackson: “Bad” (1987)
Michael Jackson quickly became known for his lengthy and outrageously expensive productions when it came down to music videos - and it was no different for the hit song Bad. The King of Pop released the 18-minute short film in 1987, and it cost a hefty $2.2 million to make, according to Insider.
So what gave this short film such a massive price tag? Jackson called on novelist Richard Price and director Martin Scorsese to create this West Side Story-esque clip, which took six weeks to shoot. Jackson plays a leather-wearing "bad boy" as he and his crew dance around the Brooklyn subway. And $2.2 mil later, here we are.
15. Celine Dion: “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (1996)
Singing icon Celine Dion made an expensive statement with her grandiose music video for It's All Coming Back to Me Now. The 1996 popular song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for a few weeks, and eventually, Nigel Dick directed the video over four days in the Czech Republic.
Per Insider, It's All Coming Back to Me Now cost a wild $2.3 million to put on. But for Celine Dion, why not? The video includes fire, motorcycles, ghosts, large hallways and staircases, and images of the Ploskovice Castle. In post-production, the team gave Dion's character and her deceased lover a rather daunting look.
14. Busta Rhymes: “What’s It Gonna Be?!” (1999)
Another Hype Williams-directed music video, What's It Gonna Be?!, comes in at $2.4 million per Insider. The Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson music video gave fans a little more special effects than they've seen the artists use previously - making it one of the most expensive music videos ever created.
The special effect heavy music video begins with a glass full of liquid falling to the ground as the liquid transforms into a gas, which transforms into Busta Rhymes in a silver metallic body suit. Okay, Busta. Jackson is doing her thing until we see her dancing in shiny rain that are actually 3D versions of the rapper.
13. Janet Jackson: “Doesn’t Really Matter” (2000)
This hot track comes from the 2000 film Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and off of Janet Jackson's iconic album All for You. Besides being adapted for the film - in which she also stars in - the song topped the Billboard charts and, of course, had a sick Joseph Kahn-directed music video to go along with it.
The video takes place in a futuristic city inspired by Tokyo, showing Jackson in an anime environment alongside AIBO, the first AI robot. Dope. According to multiple resources, the video cost $2.5 million due to the robots, levitating platforms, morphing clothes, futuristic Acura vehicles, outrageous clothing, and makeup design.
12. Mariah Carey: “Heartbreaker” (1999)
Mariah Carey's 1999 breakup song, Heartbreaker featuring Jay Z, cost a cool $2.5 million to make, according to Business Insider. The music video showcases Carey following her cheating boyfriend into the movie theater, ending up in a catfight - but why did that cost millions to make?
Well, to rent out the theater alone cost a nice $100,000. But the true expenses were all in the animation scenes, which covered all of Jay's parts. The rapper was unable to film a cameo in the video due to filming issues, but according to Mariah herself, "it really works," and they were able to get the shot - well, for two and a half mil.
11. MC Hammer: “2 Legit 2 Quit” (1991)
This 14-minute music video cost a whopping $2.5 million to produce, according to Business Insider - and we can understand why. Hammer's 2 Legit 2 Quit video was no small production as he recruited athletes from Roger Clemens to Jose Canseco to make cameos - as well as musician James Brown.
From traveling around the country to hiring a private jet to pick up Brown on his last day of jail in South Carolina... and bringing him to L.A. and Vegas (yup), this was not a cheap undertaking. According to director Rupert Wainwright, the 18-day shoot turned into 30 days, and it was "the hardest shoot" he ever did.
10. P. Diddy: “Victory” (1998)
Of course, Diddy was going to make it on here. According to Insider, Puff's music video for Victory cost $2.7 million to produce, which makes sense for the A-list artists and actors that appeared in the video. Victory features shots from Notorious B.I.G.'s One More Chance video and Busta Rhymes doing his thang.
It must have been no small cost to feature Dennis Hopper and Danny DeVito in the video, as well. Directed by Marcus Nispel, the video pays tribute to The Running Man action film and, in doing so, has a whole lot of pyrotechnics, an airplane, and a helicopter.
9. Limp Bizkit: "Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle)" (2000)
During the turn of the Millennium, in 2000, the rock band Limp Bizkit released Rollin' (Air Raid Vehicle) - with an ultra-expensive music video to follow. According to sources, the music video cost $3 million to produce, but it definitely checks out considering where it was filmed and who made a special appearance.
Filmed in September 2000 on top of the South Tower of the World Trade Center in NYC, it features Ben Stiller and Stephen Dorf, which could contribute to the millions dropped on the clip. The video captures the bandmates cruising around in a Bentley driving around Manhattan and was later awarded Best Rock Video by MTV.
8. Aqua: “Cartoon Heroes” (2000)
Most famously known for the hit song Barbie Girl, the Europop group dropped $3.5 million on their 2000 song Cartoon Heroes. The accompanying music video was definitely compelling as it featured the group being called upon from space after a newscaster warned a one-eyed sea monster was about to attack the world.
The video saw the four singers waking up in space, putting on their suits, and jumping in their spaceship to head to Earth, where the sea monster was found lurking underwater. The three-and-a-half-million-dollar video must contribute to the outrageous special effects, costumes, and spaceship. Right?
7. Gwen Stefani: “Make Me Like You” (2016)
Gwen Stefani is always keeping us on our toes! The No Doubt singer can call her music video for Make Me Like You as one of the most expensive in the world, coming in at a nice $4 million, per multiple sources. The costly video was actually created live during the 2016 Grammy Awards. That's a first!
The video was shot in just one take, as Stefani wakes up from a car crash and heads from stage to stage, constantly changing outfits and breaking into dance with her posse behind her. Stefani later revealed she had "personally worked on it [the video] for about six days" to ensure everything would be perfect.
6. Michael Jackson: “Black or White” (1991)
Michael Jackson's 1991 hit Black or White cost a hefty $4 million to create, per Business Insider. Directed by John Landis, the expensive music video featured Jackson, Macaulay Culkin, Tyra Banks, as well as Native American dancers, and a ton of special effects, all contributing to that four mil.
The 11-minute music video broke television records at the time it premiered and experienced some backlash from critics later on. The breaking-edge special effects at the time, A-list celebrities, and black panther morphing into Jackson all contributed to the few million that was dropped on this project.
5. Guns N’ Roses: “Estranged” (1993)
Estranged was the third in a video trilogy of Guns N' Roses pricey music videos, one of which being November Rain. Directed by Andy Morahan, the music video captures Axl Rose post-separation in a storyline that is as powerfully moving as it is insanely expensive: $4 million, to be exact, per Insider.
The video shows the lead singer running from the SWAT team and eventually rescued by a team of dolphins, with occasional scenes showcasing the band's live shows. The pricey video accounts for the oil tanker Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft, using the U.S. Coast Gaurd chopper and rescue squad - plus special effects. Woah.
4. Madonna: “Bedtime Story” (1995)
Per Business Insider, Madonna's 1995 song, Bedtime Story, cost a whopping $5 million to produce. But hey, it's Madonna! The mesmerizing music video takes audiences on a journey like never before and, once completed, was premiered on the big screen in theaters in New York, Chicago, and LA.
So what made it cost five mil? Director Mark Romanek based the video around the song's feature line, "Let's get unconscious," referencing surrealist painting, plenty of Egyptian imagery, and spinning sunflowers. The short film took six days in total to film but went through weeks of editing to fine-tune the digital effects.
3. Madonna: “Express Yourself” (1989)
The Queen of Pop takes yet another spot for most expensive music videos of all time thanks to her hit track, Express Yourself, from her fourth album, Like a Prayer. The video was inspired by Fritz Lang's dystopian film Metropolis and directed by David Fincher, resulting in a $5 million project, per Insider.
According to the star, she had a lot of input in the video to perfect the imagery she imagined. The video saw Madonna in different costumes, with tons of extras, extravagant sets, and an excellent cinematographer in her corner. Madonna described the work as "kind of like making a little movie." An expensive little movie!
2. Madonna: “Die Another Day” (2002)
Surprise! Madonna not only takes the spot for number three and four on our music video countdown, but also steals the second spot with her music video for Die Another Day. According to Business Insider, the pricey production cost a hefty $6.1 million to produce!
The action-packed music video was inspired by the James Bond film, Die Another Day - and we can tell there were some serious special effects involved! The post-production special effects intensified a good Madonna fighting an evil Madonna and all in between!
1. Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson: “Scream” (1995)
And the world's most expensive music video goes to: brother and sister duo Janet and Michael Jackson's 1995 song, Scream. According to Business Insider, the video took $7 million to create! And the main reason for that, according to director Mark Romanek, was due to the tight deadlines they faced.
The video saw the siblings escape Earth and all the media in a spaceship (which cost $65,000 to computer generate). The 13-piece set included $175,000 in lighting, millions in visual effects, and another $2 million that didn't even make it on screen. $2 million also went to Jackson's security, perks, trailers, assistants, etc…