Watch the best music videos shot in New York City

We’ve culled Gotham’s best music videos to mark the Museum of the Moving Image’s big exhibition on MTV’s onetime bread and butter.

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We live in an incredibly photogenic city. So it’s no surprise that, as with films and, you know, photographs, New York has served as the backdrop for some of the most iconic, best music videos—many of which are on view at the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Spectacle: The Music Video” (36-01 35th Ave at 37th St, Astoria, Queens; 718-777-6888, movingimage.us; $12, seniors and students $9, children 3–12 $6, members and children under 3 free; Fri 4–8pm free; through Jun 16), an interactive look at 35 years (and 300 prime examples) of tune-fueled shorts.

Michael Jackson, “Bad” (1987)

The King of Pop’s inescapable hit yielded this 18-minute opus by Martin Scorsese. In it, a prep-school kid (played by MJ, natch) returns to his punky NYC roots and (in a choreographic nod to West Side Story) dances alongside thugs in Brooklyn’s Hoyt–Schermerhorn subway station.—Marley Lynch

Public Enemy, “Fight the Power” (1989)

This civil-rights entreaty—written for Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and directed by the Brooklyn filmmaker—shows a larger-than-life political rally in vibrant Bed-Stuy. Besides helping push hip-hop into the mainstream, the video called for radical action with its depiction of denizens busting a move while protesting inner-city injustices and racial violence.—Marley Lynch

Dinosaur Jr., “Feel the Pain” (1994)

Was Spike Jonze on a roll in 1994 or what? In that year alone, the future Adaptation director churned out 12 music videos, including classics for Beastie Boys (“Sabotage”) and Weezer (“Buddy Holly”). We’re just as partial to this one, wherein a yuppied-up J Mascis treats Manhattan as a giant golf course, recklessly racing around on a golf cart and beating the shit out of suits in Central Park, all en route to a rooftop green.—Tim Lowery

Daft Punk, “Da Funk” (1997)

Jonze again. In this one, a polite dog-man with a broken leg (who apparently has to carry a boom box blasting this cut by the French electro kings?) limps around his new nabe and runs into an old crush. It’s a fantastic blend of weirdness, humor and melancholy, a mix we’d later come to expect from the director on the big screen.—Tim Lowery 

Black Star, “Definition” (1998)

Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek cruise along Flatbush Avenue in a dollar cab dubbed Black Star—named, like the group, after Marcus Garvey’s African-American–owned and–operated shipping company. There’s a call for togetherness in the face of the violence that claimed Biggie (look for his likeness), but the video is never naive—a pan to a bodega sign reminds the viewer of WIC and food stamps—and is even funny: The music halts when a cop pulls the van over. “Are you deaf?” he says. “No, he’s Hi-Tek,” says Mos. “And he’s Def,” adds Kweli.—Jonathan Shannon 

The White Stripes, “The Hardest Button to Button” (2003)

Visual trickster Michel Gondry had already flaunted his stop-motion chops in the Stripes’ “Fell in Love with a Girl” (you know—the one where Jack and Meg are LEGO-ified). This time around, he captures the duo (in live-action mode) rocking out on the Upper West Side and in the 33rd Street PATH station as instruments pop out in front of them during each stomp in the song—a dizzyingly cool effect.—Tim Lowery

Beastie Boys, “An Open Letter to NYC” (2004)

Hurtling subway cars, Lady Liberty, Grand Central… This ode to the trio’s hometown is a visual roll call of classic Gotham imagery and, as with much of its full-length tribute to post-9/11 NYC, To the 5 Boroughs, gives a big, sloppy kiss to the city.—Marley Lynch

Jay-Z with Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind” (2009)

This clip for the squillion-selling single shows Brooklyn emperor Jay-Z sporting a Yankees vest and spitting rhymes about local legends, while fellow NYC native Keys pounds the piano in Times Square. It’s iconic–New York overload (lights! skyscrapers!). It’s also awesome.—Marley Lynch

The Stepkids, “Legend in My Own Mind” (2011)

A bespectacled white dude (comedian Kurt Braunohler) walks around NYC in a Mets jacket and lots of bling, hoisting a ghetto blaster. Silly stuff, for sure. But Tom Scharpling’s vid, with its mix of slo-mo, sun-drenched  shots and mellow retro-soul sounds, also boasts a weird sort of beauty.—Tim Lowery



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