Music and film have gone hand in hand practically since the beginning of the film era. With the expansion of music videos, musicians have had the opportunity to create thoughtful, and sometimes controversial, short films to accompany their music. These music videos can relay a message stronger than the song itself because let's face it, we can sometimes hear even more with our eyes.
However, sometimes these videos have imagery that is so strong, or even offensive, that it lands it on this list of the most controversial music videos. These videos may contain language, imagery, themes, or events that might ruffle some feathers, but that is the tune these artists were going for. We are meant to think and perhaps walk away with a message. Either that or the shock value alone is enough to keep it in our memory for a while.
Warning: These videos aren't your typical dance videos, so exercise some caution if you're easily offended.
14. M.I.A. - "Born Free"
Offenses: Drug use, gun violence, police brutality, nudity, sexuality, gore
M.I.A. is no stranger to controversy as quite a few of her music videos have caused conversations. For this song, she used this platform to make a statement about inequality and genocide... by using redheads.
13. Nirvana - "Heart Shaped Box"
Offenses: Religious imagery, racism, nudity
"Heart Shaped Box" includes images such as a Santa Claus Jesus, child versions of Ku Klux Klan wizards, lynched fetuses, and much more. It's definitely an art piece that invokes a deeper purpose and if you've ever read Kurt Cobain's journals, you know that was just a typical day for him.
12. Michael Jackson - "Black or White"
Offenses: Violence, racism, sexuality, crime
Although the main video is nothing to really complain about, it was the famous "panther scene" that followed the video that caused a huge stir in the media and among fans. It's hard to believe a video like this would get banned today, but back in 1991 it was definitely considered to be out of character.
11. Pearl Jam - "Jeremy"
Offenses: Language, murder, abuse, gun violence, religious imagery
Released in 1991, "Jeremy" came quite a few years before the massive influx of school shootings in the United States. However, the theme of gun violence and school shootings was strong and jarred a good number of people when the video hit the airwaves.
10. Korn - "Thoughtless"
Offenses: Violence, language, graphic imagery, bullying
Korn has always pushed the limits with their music videos, but "Thoughtless" put an insight to the severity of bullying in America's schools. Not to mention seeing Aaron Paul literally get sick of it.
9. Sir Mix-A-Lot - "Baby Got Back"
Offenses: Language, sexuality, innuendo, graphic imagery
Oh my God, Becky. As catchy as the song is, Sir Mix-A-Lot definitely rubbed a lot of people the wrong way when he released this innuendo filled video back in 1992.
8. Marilyn Manson - "Coma White"
Offenses: Religious imagery, language, historical imagery, gun violence
Released in September 1999, the world was still reeling from the Columbine High School shooting. A shooting that many politicians and higher up citizens were blaming Marilyn Manson for. His response, shortly after the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr, was to re-enact the assassination of John F. Kennedy in a way only Manson knows how. Ouch.
7. Sigur Ros - "Viorar Vel Til Loftarasa"
Offenses: Violence, shaming, abuse
This seven-minute video highlights the struggles a young, homosexual boy has with his father. As he's seen playing with dolls and kissing a fellow male classmate, the shaming he is subjected to is pretty painful to watch. Especially since the video is in slow motion.
6. Eminem (feat. Dido) - "Stan"
Offenses: Language, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, murder, suicide
This offering from Eminem features a young fan named Stan. A fan whose obsession with his rap idol leads to violence, insanity, and murder. It's a bit scary in the sense of the concept of a "superfan" that a lot of celebrities encounter at some point. It also features scenes that are edited for TV, so thank goodness for the internet.
5. Nas (feat. Puff Daddy) - "Hate Me Now"
Offenses: Language, religious imagery, sexuality, nudity
Nas claims that the imagery of this video was to bring awareness to the social "crucifixion" many face for their beliefs and art, but it was taken the wrong way back in 1997. Depicting himself as Jesus Christ, he is seen being crucified and depicting the event as said in the Bible.
4. Marilyn Manson - "(s)AINT"
Offenses: Self mutilation, drug use, sexuality, religious imagery, nudity, language
Forgive me for having two Manson videos on this list, but this one is like watching a demented porn. Manson upped the ante in 2003 with this release which depicts him cutting himself with a razor, snorting cocaine off the Bible, masturbating, and having BDSM sex with graphic nudity. It was so offensive that his record label initially refused to air it in the United States.
3. Nine Inch Nails - "Closer"
Offenses: Language, religious imagery, nudity, sexuality, graphic imagery
NIN frontman Trent Reznor and director Mark Romanek created this video back in 1994 which includes S&M bondage, a monkey on a crucifix, a decapitated pig head, levitation, and much more. However, any fan of NIN knows that "Closer" wasn't even the worst of it. If you're brave enough, go ahead and Google the video for "Happiness in Slavery." Now that is something you won't forget for a while.
2. Madonna - "Like a Prayer"
Offenses: Religious imagery, violence, sexuality
Needless to say, back in the 80s this was a pretty big controversy. Madonna not only depicted a sexual relationship with an African-American Jesus, inside of a church, but she is seen dancing in front of a field of burning crosses. The Pope even barred Madonna from entering Italy because of it. Religious leaders also called for a boycott of Pepsi because Madonna was a spokeswoman for the product.
1. Prodigy - "Smack My Bitch Up"
Offenses: Language, nudity, drug use, alcohol abuse, graphic imagery, violence, prostitution, theft
In other words, what doesn't this video contain? Back in 2002, MTV2 named this the most controversial music video of all time and there is no way to deny why. This video depicts everything from drug use to violence to car theft to graphic sexuality. The video received criticism for misogyny, drug abuse, and for promoting domestic violence stereotypes.