Back when dinosaurs roamed the land and we had to walk seven miles through a snowstorm to and from school (uphill both ways, naturally), MTV still played music videos—and people were still interested in them! Even celebrities agreed to be in them, and sometimes the video was so good that its unknown stars became famous themselves.
But as the amount of videos that generate buzz and lure famous faces into making cameo appearances steadily decreases, I fear that The Hills and the rest of MTV’s faux-reality TV shows just might’ve killed the music video star. Luckily, we have the technology to re-watch these videos and reminisce about all the surprise celebrity (or soon-to-be celebrity) guests who popped up.
1. Fatboy Slim, “Weapon of Choice”
Christopher Walken already had somewhat of a cult following before he pranced and flew through the air for Fatboy Slim. This video, combined with his “More cowbell!” skit on Saturday Night Live, introduced his stone-faced visage to a whole new generation.
2. “Dancing in the Dark,” Bruce Springsteen
It’s impossible to watch this video and not start to emulate the Boss’s dance moves. His passionate arm pumping and swiveling hips are so alluring, even Courteney Cox is powerless to resist.
3. “We Are All Made of Stars,” Moby
Considering this video is made up of “stars” like Ron Jeremy, Kato Kaelin, Corey Feldman, and Gary Coleman, being asked to make an appearance might be considered an insult. Regardless, it’s nice to see that these C-listers can still poke fun at themselves and earn a paycheck.
4. “Touch My Body,” Mariah Carey
This 2008 video was the first one I’d been excited about in a long time, namely because it guest stars one of my favorite celebs, Jack McBrayer, of 30 Rock fame. McBrayer easily steals every scene, though Mariah does put up a valiant effort to compete by wearing the smallest scraps of clothing ever made.
5. “Say It Isn’t So,” Bon Jovi
Gladiator fights, Emilio Estevez in a Western duel, a massive food fight, Claudia Schiffer setting Matt LeBlanc’s room on fire, and the Terminator watching the chaos from his motorcycle—they just don’t make videos like they used to.
6. “I Want Love,” Elton John
Maybe it’s because Robert Downey Jr.’s problems with addiction and dependency are so well known, but his vulnerability is actually believable when he lip syncs Elton’s heartfelt pleas for love—even when he looks about two seconds away from breaking into laughter from the lyrical cheesefest.
7. “Tribute,” Tenacious D
For only being a tribute to the greatest song in the world, this song and its video are pretty great in their own right. After all, when Dave Grohl shows up as a fiery, horned demon and demands perfection, how can you deliver any less? Look out for Ben Stiller getting momentarily harassed by Jack Black near the end.
8. “Into the Great Wide Open,” Tom Petty
This was made during Johnny Depp’s smoking hot Gilbert Grape days, back before he donned the false teeth and ratty pirate’s hair (and somehow remained just as hot). Fortunately for us, his career didn’t go the way of the rebellious rocker in the video.
9. “Freedom,” George Michael
George Michael’s “Freedom” might win the prize for the most supermodels staring in a music video: Cindy Crawford, Tatjana Patitz, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Linda Evangelista.
10. “Walking on Broken Glass,” Annie Lennox
Breaking up really can make you feel like you’re walking on broken glass, but if my ex-beau looked as semi-creepy as the goatee-ed, pale, and long-haired John Malkovich does in this video, I might not feel so upset about the loss. You can do better, Annie!
Watching these videos makes me realize how celebrity appearances can make a good music video great. Unfortunately, the trend these days seems to be stars attempting to make music of their own, usually unsuccessfully. Maybe if they let musicians stick to songs and continued being the faces accompanying the music instead, MTV wouldn’t be a desert for decent new music videos and we wouldn’t have to live with the knowledge that somewhere out there, someone’s being forced to watch Heidi from The Hills’ new music video for lack of anything better.