It’s no secret that several well-known filmmakers have directed music videos — from Hollywood veterans such as Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee who were both invited to direct Michael Jackson, to potential newcomers such as Gia Coppola, who made her directorial debut with Palo Alto in 2013 and has worked on two music videos for the singer Carly Rae Jepsen. There is also Jonah Hill, who made his directorial debut with Mid90s last year, and recently worked on the latest music video from the band Vampire Weekend. Thus, it seems fair that the music industry lends its references to cinematographic works.
In this list, I do an overview of the music videos released in the last five years that were inspired by films. From terror to comedy, they make tributes capable of appeasing all cinephiles.
1. Fancy (2014) – Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX directed by Director X
Based on Clueless (1995) directed by Amy Heckerling
Rapper Iggy Azalea becomes Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) in partnership with Charli XCX, who turns into Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy), while re-creating memorable scenes from the film Clueless for the music video of “Fancy”.
The references are present in the first few seconds, in which the typology used to display the name of the song, and its main star, is the same used in the opening title of the film.
Hence, we see costumes and objects identical to the originals used in the film (including the clothing-matching software), scenes that mimic the school debate, the car incident, and the long walks through the halls during the exchange of classes.
2. Hey Mama (2015) – David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack directed by Hannah Lux Davis
Based on Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) directed by George Miller
It’s bringing the electronic beat into the middle of the desert that David Guetta, his guest musicians and a dancers team recreate the post-apocalyptic concept of Mad Max: Fury Road — from the storm in the sky to the race of creative cars with flags dancing in the wind.
3. Voodoo In My Blood (2016) – Massive Attack ft. Young Fathers directed by Ringan Ledwidge
Based on Phantasm (1979) directed by Don Coscarelli; Possession (1981) directed by Andrzej Żuławski
Starring Rosamund Pike as a young woman who walks alone in the corridors of a subway station until she comes across a mysterious floating sphere, the video of the song “Voodoo In My Blood” refers to two classic horror films — the ball released by Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), from Phantasm, and the character Ana (Isabelle Adjani), from Possession, who experience the bizarre scene in the subway.
In addition to honoring the films, the video also serves as tribute to the actor who played the Tall Man and director of Possession, as they both passed away in the first months of release of the video.
4. Now or Never (2017) – Halsey directed by Sing J Lee & Halsey
Based on Romeo + Juliet (1996) directed by Baz Luhrmann
Despite offering an alternate ending for the passionate couple of Shakespeare’s classic play, Halsey draws heavily on Baz Luhrmann’s aesthetic masterpiece in her directorial debut for “Now or Never”. In her own words about it: “On its own, the song is about two impatient young lovers, but in the context of the Hopeless Fountain Kingdom universe, the stakes are much higher for these two star-crossed lovers.”
The video begins with a man in the role of a mediator of two conflicting gangs, very similar to that of Father Laurence (Pete Postlethwaite) in the film. Behind the mediator, there is an altar that clearly refers to Luhrmann’s iconic altar with neon crosses.
Apart from the family crests, the two rival gangs are identified by their clothes — Halsey appears wearing a Hawaiian print shirt, identical to that used by Romeo (Leonardo Dicaprio) during the film, while her lover appears wearing a pair of angel wings, such as those Juliet (Claire Danes) wore at the ball.
I believe this production would be perfect, were it not for the lack of tribute to the Luhrmann’s majestic aquarium scene. Perhaps, it’s reserved for another music video of the singer. Who knows?
5. Personal (2017) – The Vamps ft. Maggie Lindemann directed by Frank Borin
Based on La La Land (2016) directed by Damien Chazelle
With their lead singer, Bradley Simpson, as Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) and Maggie Lindemann as Mia Dolan, the British pop rock band honors La La Land by re-creating the film’s final scene — If you watched the film, you know exactly which scene I’m talking about. To say more than that would be too painful.
6. 1999 (2018) – Charli XCX ft. Troye Sivan directed by Ryan Staake & Charli XCX
Based on Titanic (1997) directed by James Cameron; American Beauty (1999) directed by Sam Mendes; The Matrix (1999) directed by Lana & Lilly Wachowski, and The Blair Witch Project (1999) directed by Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez
Charli XCX returns to express her cinephile side (this time, also as director), in partnership with Troye Sivan for the music video of “1999”. As the name of the song already indicates, the duo recreates scenes from three films that marked the end of the 90s — as Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), from Titanic, standing at the bow of the ship as the wind blows through their hair, and as Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), from The Matrix, dodging bullets in slow motion.
Charli also appears alone, as Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), from American Beauty, surrounded by red roses, and briefly as Heather (Heather Donahue), from The Blair Witch Project, wearing a beanie, with frightened eyes fixed on the camera.
7. Lost In Japan (2018) – Shawn Mendes ft. Zedd directed by Jay Martin
Based on Lost in Translation (2003) directed by Sofia Coppola
Being myself a fan of Sofia Coppola, I freaked out when the music video for “Lost in Japan” by Shawn Mendes was released. In it, the singer worked with the actress Alisha Boe in practically a remake of the film Lost in Translation (even the title of the song seems to serve as reference for the title of the film!).
Assuming the role of Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), Mendes and Boe recreate all the best scenes of the film. From the awkwardness caused by the height difference in the elevator, the recording of the alcohol campaign, and the unforgettable karaoke scene, to even the smallest details, such as Harris’ shaving scene and Charlotte in solitude watching the misunderstood city by the windows of the hotel — it’s all there!
Watching this video is like opening an album of old photos, where you can remember all your best moments at once. And it’s impossible to control the urge to stop whatever you’re doing and go watch the original film one more time.
8. thank u, next – Ariana Grande – directed by Hannah Lux Davis
Based on Mean Girls (2004) directed by Mark Waters; Bring It On (2000) directed by Peyton Reed; 13 Going on 30 (2004) directed by Gary Winick, and Legally Blonde (2001) directed by Robert Luketic
Ariana Grande’s video stands out from the rest since, in addition to re-creating iconic scenes from four adorable films — the Jingle Bell Rock dancing scene, from Mean Girls, the toothbrushing/flirting scene, from Bring It On, the tear poured under dollhouse, from 13 Going on 30, and of course, the bend-and-snap scene, from Legally Blonde — it also contains cameos of actors who participated in the original cast of two of the honored productions.
Jonathan Bennett and Stefanie Drummond, both from Mean Girls, return to respectively playing Aaron Samuels, the boyfriend cheat on by Regina George (Rachel McAdams) every Thursday in the projection room above the auditorium, and Bethany Byrd, the girl who was punch in the face by the queen bee and described the experience as “awesome”. Representing the cast of Legally Blonde, Jennifer Coolidge returns to play the character Paulette, the nail technician in love with the delivery guy.
Apart from professional actors, the video features celebrities invited by the singer, including Kris Jenner who plays the “cool mom”, character played by Amy Poehler from Mean Girls.
Pop culture has never been so intertwined!