Today at ScreenCrush we celebrate the glorious and tragically lost art of the movie tie-in music video. Now almost completely extinct, the ’80s and ’90s were a magical time full of music videos connected to movies. They often extending their films’ plots by featuring fictional characters alongside the musicians singing their theme songs. A couple music videos even qualify as sequels to their movies. (Before there was Short Circuit 2 there was the video for “Who’s Johnny,” which puts the lead characters on trial (at least the ones who showed up for the shoot, one was represented by a cardboard cutout). Here are a selection of the funniest, weirdest, strangest examples:
From Ghostbusters (1984)
The video for the immortal Ghostbusters theme song features cameos from actors who aren’t even in the film, including Chevy Chase, Danny DeVito, and John Candy. Ray Parker Jr.’s appearance is odd because it suggests he ain’t afraid of no ghost because he is a ghost; in the video he plays a spirit haunting a small house and chasing the woman lives there. The main Ghostbusters cast does appear during the final refrain, dancing and lip syncing with Parker in the middle of New York City.
2. “The Goonies R Good Enough”
From The Goonies (1985)
The early scenes of this video look more like they’re a tie-in with WrestleMania than The Goonies, with Cyndi Lauper working at a gas station exclusively operated and frequented by pro wrestlers like Roddy Piper and the Iron Sheik. A less-than-seamless transition then sends Cyndi off on an adventure with the cast of The Goonies. This video famously ended on a cliffhanger, with our intrepid hero threatened by wrestler pirates and breaking the fourth wall to beg Steven Spielberg for help. Until today, I had never even seen the second part; as a kid I wasn’t even sure there was a continuation. But the second part did exist, with Cyndi taken prisoner by the pi-restlers and the Goonies lip syncing their theme song.
3. “Princes of the Universe”
From Highlander (1986)
Most of the video for this underrated Queen gem takes place on the rooftop of New York City’s Silvercup Studios, which is also the setting of Highlander’s key sword fight. At one point, Mr Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert, appears to walk right out of movie footage and into the middle of the Silvercup rooftop concert. Later, Lambert gets into a sword fight with Freddie Mercury. Fingers crossed this scene appears in the upcoming Queen biopic.
4. “Who’s Johnny”
From Short Circuit (1986)
The Johnny of the title of this song turns out to be Johnny 5, the robot from Short Circuit, and this video is actually a kind of sequel to the film with Johnny 5 on trial. (Footage from the film is played in the context of it being used as evidence in the trial.) Ally Sheedy appears in character, but I guess Steve Gutenberg had better things to do; he only shows up in cardboard cutout form. Johnny 5 must have asked for an outrageous price to appear; he’s only seen as a disembodied hand and arm making mischief in the courtroom.
5. “Howard the Duck”
From Howard the Duck (1986)
Thomas Dolby wrote this song, performed by Lea Thompson in character as Howard’s main squeeze Beverly. Howard appears in the video as himself. Truly, we were blinded by science.
6. “City of Crime”
From Dragnet (1987)
For incontrovertible proof that movies were better 30 years ago, behold the music video for the film version of Dragnet, in which Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks act out a story while dancing and rapping extremely badly. If this doesn’t make you want to watch Dragnet, well, you’re an extremely rational person I guess.
7. “On Our Own”
From Ghostbusters II (1989)
Bobby Brown essentially copied the Ray Parker Jr. formula for his video tied to Ghostbusters II: Appearances from the movie’s stars (like Rick Moranis), additional celebrity cameos (including Donald Trump), and clips from the film. The actual Ghostbusters don’t appear in this one as they had in Parker’s video, reportedly because their part was too hot to handle and too cold to hold.
8. “You Could Be Mine”
From Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Don’t ask me why Skynet sent a Schwarzenegger death both back in time to a Guns N’ Roses concert. But they did. And in this video, he prowls through the crowd while Axl Rose and his crew rock out onstage. Later, as GNR leaves the gig, the T-800 is waiting and sizes each member of the band up, deeming Axl a “waste of ammo.” Way harsh, Terminator.
9. “Ninja Rap”
From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)
Have you ever seen a turtle get down? If not, you clearly never saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, in which the entire plot pauses at one point while the Ninja Turtles stop, collaborate, and listen to a Vanilla Ice concert, which they join in progress after a fight spills into a dance club where Ice just so happens to be performing. “Go ninja go!” Ice cheers at least 8,000,000 times over the course of the song.
10. “Addams Groove”
From The Addams Family (1991)
For you trivia buffs out there, if someone ever asks you “Who decapitated MC Hammer?” the answer is Wednesday Addams (with an assist from Pugsley) in the “Addams Grove” music video. This clip was not messing around.
11. “Addams Family (Whoomp!)”
From Addams Family Values (1993)
Wednesday and Pugsley provided similar (if slightly less murderous) cameos in the music video from the Addams Family sequel. No MC Hammer this time (possibly because he had been killed by two goth children several years earlier); instead, Tag Team provided a remixed version of their big hit “Whoomp! (There It Is)” with Addams-related lyrics. If you ever wanted to see Christina Ricci say “Kick it!” and then do hip-hop dancing, this is your chance.
12. “Big Gun”
From Last Action Hero (1993)
Remember that T2 music video where Arnold wandered through a Guns N’ Roses concert? Schwarzenegger repeated almost the exact same concept for Last Action Hero two years later, walking through the crowd of an AC/DC show for this song from its soundtrack. Don’t ask me why no one seems to notice Arnold on stage, or how he suddenly transforms into a schoolboy outfit. Presumably there’s a Last Action Hero deleted scene that explains all this. Arnold’s character, Jack Slater, even delivers a one-liner: “Now that’s what I call action!”
13. “Gangster’s Paradise”
From Dangerous Minds (1995)
Dangerous Minds was about Michelle Pfeiffer as a former Marine who becomes a teacher in a tough inner-city school. In the music video, she essentially reprises her role (although she doesn’t do much other than sit with her arms folded in a leather jacket, essentially recreating the pose she struck on the film’s poster) while Coolio raps about life on the street.
14. “Men in Black”
From Men in Black (1997)
Maybe it’s arguable whether Will Smith is in character as his Men in Black character here, as his character was a New York City cop turned alien fighter, and doesn’t do much singing in the actual movie. (The aliens in the film don’t do much dancing or backup singing either.) But you’ve got Smith in costume, rapping about the plot of the film, on the sets from the film, and then chasing an alien and zapping the audience with one of the Men in Black brainwashing gadgets. So I say it counts.
15. “Come With Me”
From Godzilla (1998)
This epic of awfulness features a full six minutes of Puff Daddy enduring a Godzilla attack on New York City. The movie, one of the ’90s most notorious bombs, was bad enough. Making Diddy the hero in the battle against Godzilla, and having him ride explosion shockwaves, out-of-control elevators, and transform into a freaking flock of birds, should be illegal. I am very sorry, Mr. Combs. I will not come with you.
16. “Wild Wild West”
From Wild Wild West (1999)
Lightning did not strike twice for Will Smith when he tried to recreate the Men in Black phenomenon two years later on Wild Wild West. This time the song was a hit, but the movie was a disaster. After the song goes on for a wicky-wild-while, everything stops and the video turns into a scene from the movie, with Smith as James West, attempting to rescue Salma Hayek’s Rita from the clutches of the evil Dr. Loveless. Once the day is saved it’s back to the dancing.
17. “Lose Yourself”
From 8 Mile (2002)
Two factors contributed to the decline of these videos in the 2000s: They started to feel like a cliche and the music video industry as a whole began to contract as MTV began to play fewer and fewer videos. There was less money for the lavish sorts of clips that feature movie stars and big sets and even special effects in some cases. One of the final big examples was from 8 Mile, which blended Eminem rapping his character’s signature song and clips from the fictionalized biopic. There haven’t been too many videos like this since. I keep waiting for someone to bring this back. I feel like with the right movie and the right song, this would explode online.