Welcome to our list of the best animated music videos of all time. Music videos are made to promote an artist or song, and to give them extra air time in order to increase sales and awareness. And due to the current global situation, many artists have chosen to use an animated format to accompany their recent releases. After all, you don't need to social distance in an animation, and production is much less of a headache in the time of a pandemic.
The MTV Generation was audience to the creation of many animated music videos, however as technology became more accessible and platforms for showing media grew, the possibilities for animation in music videos increased even further. Our list includes a diverse range of animation styles. Actually, not all of them are strictly 'animation' (in the cartoon sense) – there's also 3D, lo-fi, hand-drawn, pixel art and so on. Oh, and they are presented in no particular order.
If this inspires you to make your own short film, you might want to check out our tips for how to make an animated video and our guide to Disney's 12 principles of animation. Looking for further inspiration? Try our pick of top 3D art and pixel art.
01. Dua Lipa – Hallucinate
- Released: 2021
- Directed by: Lisha Tan
Dua Lipa loves her animated music videos, as her extensive animation output proves. She explores a wealth of styles, all of which are worth checking out, but we especially enjoy this psychedelic offering – Hallucinate. It's an immersion in a cartoon reimagining of '70s dance culture, full of rainbows and trippy imagery. In short, it's lots of fun.
02. Stormzy – Superheroes
- Released: 2020
- Directed by: Taz Tron Delix
An animated video we had to include is this beauty from Stormzy in 2020. Superheroes is a celebration of the real-life heroes living among us, with a focus on the Black community. Stormzy is a superhero who empowers a young boy to look around him and soak up the power of everyday heroes, leading him to become full of superhero power. It's a stunning animation with a gorgeous colour palette and profound message.
03. Rainbow Kitten Surprise – It's Called: Freefall
- Released: 2019
- Directed by: Anthony Francisco Schepperd
Don't be fooled by the band name or the bright colours in the thumbnail for this animated music video: it isn't remotely adorable and doesn't feature a single Rainbow Kitten Surprise (boo). It is, however, a fab little animated short that fits perfectly with the song. Both animated and directed by Anthony Francisco Schepperd, it starts dark, with the build-up to an execution, before going full psychedelic freak-out towards the end.
04. Daphne & Celeste – 晴れた日 (Sunny Day) Japanese version
- Released: 2019
- Directed by: Dan Hett
The return of Daphne & Celeste – best known for catchy, bratty singles like Ooh Stick You! and U.G.L.Y., and for getting bottled by a furious crowd at the 2000 Reading Festival – has been one of our favourite pop things of recent years. Orchestrated by ace producer Max Tundra, it's resulted in one gloriously bonkers album - Daphne & Celeste Save the World, released last year – and most recently this video, directed by Dan Hett. It's a re-recording of one of the best tracks off the album, Sunny Day, in Japanese, so naturally the video recreates the duo as anime characters and puts them in an imaginary – and excellent-looking – arcade dancing game. And why not?
05. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Blood and Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons – Movement II, Too the Moon
- Released: 2019
- Directed by: Rich Ragsdale
The combination of Primus' Les Claypool and Sean Lennon, son of John, in a psychedelic prog rock band is a pretty intriguing prospect from the get-go. And this video for The Claypool Lennon Delirium, directed by Rich Ragsdale, seals the deal for us.
The song sounds a lot like the Beatles might have if they'd manage to stick around until the early 1970's, and the looks seem heavily inspired by Terry Gilliam's animations for Monty Python's Flying Circus, all rough-and-ready cutouts with plenty of surrealism. Fab.
06. John Grant – He's Got His Mother's Hips
- Released: 2018
- Directed by: Casey Redmond and Ewan Jones Morris
Iceland-based singer-songwriter John Grant can generally be relied upon to deliver a great tune, and He's Got His Mother's Hips is a top example: a thumping slab of wry electroclash, complete with a dazzling animated video.
It's the work of Cardiff-based animators Casey and Ewan, who roped in another 11 animators to deliver the goods, each in their own particular fashions. The end result is a bewildering, lightning-paced mash-up, depicting Grant in all manner of cartoon styles; it's often reminiscent of Peter Gabriel's classic Sledgehammer video (see page 3 of this post), and none the worse for that.
07. Aphex Twin – T69 Collapse
- Released: 2018
- Directed by: Nicky Smith (Weirdcore)
Watch with caution (see below)!
New stuff from Richard D. James isn't quite the major event that it was before he reappeared after an eight-year absence in 2014, with Syro. However, his 2018 EP, Collapse, managed to grab its fair share of attention, partly thanks to a poster campaign that saw Aphex Twin logo posters appearing in cities around the world, but also because of this video for the title track, T69 Collapse.
Created by James' regular visual collaborator, Weirdcore, it's an hallucinogenic trip that starts off weird and glitchy and quickly ups the complexity and intensity. T69 Collapse was originally scheduled to appear on Adult Swim, but its broadcast was cancelled after it failed the Harding test for photosensitive epilepsy.
08. Rick and Morty x Run the Jewels - Oh Mama
- Released: 2018
- Directed by: Juan Meza-León
There's nothing quite so lovely as getting an unexpected little slice of Rick and Morty, and having it in the form of a Run the Jewels video is a splendid bonus.
Directed by Juan Meza-León – who as well as working as a storyboard artist on the show, was the director for three of the best episodes in its third season – it's a typically dark and brutal mini-Rickventure that'll take good few watches for you to unpick exactly what's going on.
09. Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do (Lyric Video)
- Released: 2017
- Directed by: ODD
Taylor Swift marked the start of her musical return with this animated video created by ODD. In terms of its style, it seems influenced by thriller and horror movie title sequences – is there a hint of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang about it, or is that just us? Featuring images of snakes that were all over Swift's social media profiles at the time, this video continues the long tradition of listeners indulging in rampant speculation as to who the pop phenomenon is referring to.
10. The Killers – Miss Atomic Bomb
- Released: 2012
- Directed by: Warren Fu
Director Warren Fu had previously worked with the band on their video for single Runaways, and returned to take charge of this, their second single. Effortlessly fusing the media of animation and stunning live action shots, this animated music video brings a heartbreaking love story to life.
Josh Goldstein worked as the producer, with Jeff Pantaleo as executive producer and Shawn Kim as director of photography. Titmouse Studio was responsible for the exceptional animation.
11. Tame Impala – Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
You could say that the inspiration for this animated music video lies somewhere between Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer and The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. The amount of work that's clearly gone into it makes it a true work of art.
Directors Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling have a creative chemistry that always produces the best results, whether it's applied to set design, window displays, Christmas cards or TV idents. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards is an absolute delight.
12. Home and Dry – Ghosts Are Dancing
- Released: 2012
- Directed by: Maxime Causeret and Gilles Deschaud
This video for Parisian art-rock band Home and Dry is a personal project made mostly using Houdini. The dramatic effect was created by filming a motion capture of the band's lead singer Laure Laffererie's face with two cameras. The effect was then created in 2D using motion vector and 3D lighting.
Sadly, it doesn't look like the band have put out new music since 2012, but we think this video is still worth a watch.
13. Steven Wilson – The Raven That Refused To Sing
- Released: 2013
- Directed by: Jessica Cope and Simon Cartright
Clearly inspired by the work of Russian animator Yuriy Norshteyn (best known for the incredible Tale of Tales) the intense atmosphere of this imaginative and thought-provoking short brings the haunting story of the song to evocative life. The stark and simplistic animation style – based largely on the gentle movements of hand-cut paper models – fits the mood perfectly.
14. The Kleenrz – Sandman
- Released: 2012
- Directed by: Jason Brown and Aya Yamasaki
Combining children's television-style cartoon characters with live action, this music video follows the Sandman as he works with his two helper umbrella girls, and reveals what goes on inside the big bag he carries. The action cleverly synchronises with lyrics by The Kleenrz, a collaboration by LA rappers Self Jupiter and Kenny.
The beauty of this approach is that it gets you to listen carefully to the lyrics. This is something that can be difficult to achieve with music videos, as often the action distracts from the song itself.
15. Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
US husband and wife duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have directed music videos for the likes of R.E.M. and Paula Abdul, as well as Little Miss Sunshine. They paid homage to silent film director Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon for this animated video, which is possibly one of the greatest music videos ever made.
16. Daft Punk – One More Time
- Released: 2000
- Directed by: Kazuhisa Takenouchi
The Daft Punk videos are pretty special. And they've even inspired a film by the same director, Kazuhisa Takenouchi. The 2003 anime film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem is a continuation of the stories told in Daft Punk videos One More Time; Aerodynamic; Digital Love; and Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
17. The Cribs – Mirror Kissers
- Released: 2006
- Produced by: Diamond Dogs
UK music video directors Diamond Dogs (Olly Williams and Philip Sansom) have directed for the likes of The Hoosiers, Jack Peñate and Maximo Park, and have a very distinct style. The video for Mirror Kissers was shot on a plain white background, then around 2,740 frames were printed, photocopied and manipulated before being edited back together to produce this fascinating video.
The concept works very well – it's stylistically spot on. It's not your typical music video as it's laced with blemishes and is rather ugly, all of which actually complements the track it's supporting.
18. Gorillaz – El Mañana
- Released: 2006
- Directed by: Pete Candeland
Pete Candeland boasts a huge repertoire of well-known pieces: the BBC's 2008 and 2012 Olympic marketing campaign, the Beatle's RockBand promos, plus numerous music videos for Gorillaz. You couldn't compile a list of animated music videos and not include Gorillaz, a band that was seemingly created for this format.
19. Los Campesinos! – You! Me! Dancing!
- Released: 2007
- Produced by: Monkmus
American animator Monkmus has created an array of music videos for the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, Mogwai and Death Cab for Cutie. This effort for Los Campesinos! stands out for its depiction of a party (with contrast to the bands other video about war). The naive style of the illustration is reminiscent of the tail end of the infamous Dumbo scene with the racing elephants.
20. London Grammar – Hey Now
- Released: 2014
- Directed by: Chris Ullens
Chris Ullen's stunningly atmospheric video for London Grammar's Hey Now perfectly reflects the song. For this work Ullen collaborated with string artist Sebastien Preschoux.
In the video, balls of string and light dance amongst trees as a forest comes alive in a night time setting.
21. REM – Man Sized Wreath
- Released: 2008
- Directed by: CRUSH inc.
Toronto-based CRUSH inc. teamed up with REM to produce this very effective effort. CRUSH inc. have notably worked with IKEA, Budweiser and Nintendo.
The many different styles in this video – from low-fi techniques, to 3D modelling via pixelated video games graphics – are intriguing. Normally, this really wouldn't work well together – but strangely enough, here it really does.
Next page: Basement Jaxx, Coldplay, The Shins, and more!