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Best Prince Videos: 25 Classics That Got The Look
©The Prince Estate. Photo by Jeff Katz
List & Guides

Best Prince Videos: 25 Classics That Got The Look

The best Prince videos straddle superhuman live performances and high-concept pieces that shone a light on their creator’s unique worldview.

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Prince’s status as one of the greatest musicians of all time has long been assured. That he was a songwriter and producer to match cannot be disputed. In the 80s, he and his paisley cohort changed the game for fashion with a visual flair that bled into his music videos. The best Prince videos didn’t just give fans something to watch; from live performances that seemed to go beyond human capabilities to conceptual works that wove together the wider themes of his art, they created a unique world that set Prince apart as a visionary artist without peer.

Our 25 best Prince videos offer a glimpse into that world.

25: I Wanna Be Your Lover (1979)

In stark contrast to the refined performances of later years, Prince’s first promo video is an endearingly rough-around-the-edges clip with aims to prove the Minneapolis genius was his own boss. An array of Princes provide backing on guitar, keyboards, drums and bass, while the flamboyant frontman Prince cuts a Jagger-like figure in a low-cut leopard-print top and tight, tight denims (which may suggest how he hit those high notes…).

24: The One (1998)

Directed by Prince’s first wife, New Power Generation dancer Mayte Garcia, the video for The One – a song credited to The NPG – found the pair connecting through their art at a time when their marriage was beginning to show signs of strain. Bookended by dramatic sequences in which Prince does his best Charlie Chaplin, and with guest actress Rita Moreno, the central message is that Prince, even when surrounded by a harem of women, would always remain faithful to his queen.

23: Chocolate Box (2009)

A highlight among MPLSound’s retro-futurist grooves, Chocolate Box is a suitably sci-fi entry among the best Prince videos, with a metallic hot air balloon projecting a Big Brother-like Prince as he serenades a couple’s rooftop chase. A collision between the two ends up transporting them to an animated version of the Lotusflw3r album cover. Somehow, its’s less weird than that makes it sound…

22: Dirty Mind (1980)

That tension-building synth throb, the taut rhythm guitar, the outrageously catchy keyboard stabs… anticipation is high by the time a trenchcoat-clad, bikini-brief-flashing Prince reveals his lustful thoughts on camera, with a nonchalant expression that suggests there’s really no need to be so shocked. This is cult-level Prince with nothing to lose, proving that – new wave, funk, whatever; it doesn’t matter – he could smash genre barriers as easily as he was smashing sexual ones.

21: Batdance (1989)

While recording the Batman soundtrack, Prince developed a new alter ego: Gemini. Half-Batman, half-Joker (or, in the Partyman video, half-Prince, half-Joker), he runs amok in a Batcave, amid Batman, Joker and Vicki Vale lookalikes, while Prince himself is off to the side, seemingly controlling (or battling to) the mayhem unfolding before him. Prince wrote most of the Batman soundtrack’s songs from the points of view of the film’s main characters; this video brings those fractured psyches to the fore.

20: The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (1995)

Thanks to a promotional assault that pulled out all the stops (and the small matter of it being an irresistible classic), The Most Beautiful Girl In The World scored Prince his first UK No.1 single. Asking female fans to send in videos and photos of themselves as part of a worldwide hunt was a masterstroke (“Eligible bachelor seeks the most beautiful girl in the world to spend the holidays with,” ran an ad placed in magazines), with seven of over 50,000 applicants being given spots in a video that celebrates an array of femininity.

19: Thieves In The Temple (1990)

As a set piece in the Graffiti Bridge movie, Thieves In The Temple was intercut with more footage of Morris Day and Jerome Benton’s nefarious abduction of lead female, Aura. This single edit, however, earns its place among the best Prince videos thanks to focusing more on Prince’s back-alley dancing – unmistakable shades of which would turn up in Michael Jackson’s extended video for Black Or White.

18: Endorphinmachine (1994)

If The Revolution specialised in taut, wiry funk, The New Power Generation served up rock-solid grooves with swing – particularly in their 1994 incarnation. Filmed at Paisley Park for broadcast on the UK’s Top Of The Pops, this live performance of a The Gold Experience highlight is propelled by Michael Bland’s thunderous drumming and Prince’s coruscating riffage, delivered on his symbol-shaped gold guitar – arguably the closest he got to garage rock.

17: 7 (1992)

One of a number of videos that would later make up the 3 Chains O’ Gold VHS release, 7 wasn’t just central to the narrative Prince developed for the “Love Symbol” album (named after the unpronounceable glyph he would change his name to in 1993), it captured the unfolding of another story altogether. In portraying the seven deadly sins as previous incarnations of himself, Prince symbolically killed off his past, paving the way for not only a spiritual rebirth in the shape of his name change, but also a life in which he dedicated himself to Mayte “through all space and time”.

16: Black Sweat (2006)

Think of this one as a “brew-tea” call (2.37 – we hope that’s herbal!). Prince may have put his most salacious material behind him by the time he released Black Sweat, in 2006, but the song’s video, a simple black-and-white seduction between Prince and dancer Celestina Dekoba, brings back some of the humorous tricks he had deployed in the Kiss video. One of the best Prince videos of the 2000s, its restraint keeps it as sexually charged as anything he released in his envelope-pushing 80s.

15: Mountains (1986)

A black-and-white version of the Mountains video originally ran behind Under The Cherry Moon’s end credits, as if Prince’s character, Christopher Tracy, murdered at the film’s climax, had ascended to a heaven where The Revolution awaited him. Though he would lift two more singles from the Parade album, the Mountains video stands as one of the last testaments to Prince’s remarkable creative streak with the group.

14: U Got The Look (1987)

Filmed during a stop in Paris on the European Sign O’ The Times tour, the U Got The Look’s video merged seduction fantasies with live performances as Sheena Easton and Prince go toe-to-toe in the “World Series Of Love”. Who gets crowned champion? Depends on who’s keeping score, but the clip knocked it out of the park at the MTV Music Video Awards, winning in the Best Male Video and Best Stage Performance Video categories.

13: Girls & Boys (1986)

Moviegoers who wanted a sequel to Purple Rain were left scratching their heads when Prince’s next big-screen venture, Under The Cherry Moon, emerged as a black-and-white romcom set in the Jazz Age. Musical set piece Girls & Boys found Prince’s character, Christopher Tracy, showing an uptight group of rich folk how to party like it’s 1929; intercut with footage from a visiting Revolution (Under The Cherry Moon was shot on the French Riviera), the version used for single release captured the spirit of the movie at its most playful.

12: America (1985)

What do to when you’ve got a day off from filming your second feature film? Hire a local venue, stuff it full of fans and shoot a blistering live performance of your upcoming single. While some of the performance clips in our list of the best Prince videos are overdubbed with studio recordings, this is pure, uncut Prince And The (expanded) Revolution. The sheer confidence is one thing; the fact that these guys are basically just having fun while throwing down an old-school funk revue for the ages blows the mind. Oh, and after all that, Prince brings the song to a close on the drums. Why? Because he can.

11: Housequake (Live At Paisley Park) (1987)

Mulling over a Grammys loss to U2, Prince once asserted, “Wait a minute, I can play that kind of music, too… but you will not do Housequake.” They wouldn’t be able to dance to it like this, either. For years, the Sign O’ The Times movie offered the best example of Prince’s 1987 live shows, but footage captured at his New Year’s Eve show that same year – unseen until 2020 – finds him in full flamboyant flow in his newly opened Paisley Park complex. Doing the splits while throwing the mic stand between his legs? Shut up, already… Damn.

10: Face Down (1996)

Newly freed from Warner Bros, Prince – then going as the unpronounceable “Love Symbol” – released the triple-album celebration, Emancipation, in 1996. Face Down’s single release fell by the wayside when distributors EMI went under, leaving one of the best Prince videos of the 90s languishing in The Vault until 2018. With shots of “Prince” made up (face down, naturally) for viewing at a wake, or the live-and-well Artist Formerly Known As getting unruly on a therapist’s couch, the video’s attitude matched that of a playfully boastful song stuffed with assertions he can still take on all comers, no matter how they viewed his disruptive 90s career decisions – or how crazy they thought he’d become.

9: Automatic (1982)

The lesser-seen Automatic video was a bit of a fans-only thing until it gained a YouTube release in 2017. Developing, over eight minutes, from restrained performance piece to unashamed bondage fantasy, it found Prince in the unusual position of being left at the mercy of others. More suggestive than shocking, it nevertheless pushed boundaries about as far as they could go in the 80s without falling foul of the censors.

8: Partyman (1989)

The Partyman video finds Prince, once again as Gemini, the self-proclaimed “new king in town”, crashing a polite soiree with a bag of practical jokes and some casually funky dancing. He then seemingly wipes out his loyal subjects and scarpers before the cops can nab him. Guess that town needed an enema, too…

7: Gett Off (1991)

Not only one of the best Prince videos, but likely the most expensive, Gett Off’s $200,000 budget soared past the $1 million mark, making it one of Prince’s most ambitious productions. Seeking to recapture the fall-of-Rome vibes in maximalist 1979 biopic Caligula (in which A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell starred as the titular emperor), Prince turned the Paisley Park soundstage into a decadent playground. With “Diamond” and “Pearl” as his dancing foils, the “Big Dipper” reminds us that he really is a talented boy.

6: Baby I’m A Star (Live 1984)

For the full force of the Purple Rain-era live shows, Baby I’m A Star kills it every time. The dance moves and fake endings are James Brown in overdrive, but the frenetic funk is pure Prince And The Revolution. An exercise in controlled chaos, just check the way he commands the band at every stage, while Wendy Melvoin turns in a performance that stakes her claim to being one of the greatest rhythm guitarists in history.

5: 1999 (1982)

From set designer Roy Bennett’s evocative use of Venetian blinds to the futuristic nightclub lighting and that iconic purple lamé trenchcoat, the 1999 video marks the moment when the Prince aesthetic came together. Add the sultry pairing of Jill Jones and Lisa Coleman draping themselves over the latter’s keyboards, and you get the sense that this party may go way beyond the bounds of permissibility – in a good way. Comfortably settling among the best Prince videos of all time, the 1999 clip debuted on MTV in December 1982, beating Michael Jackson’s Beat It to TV screens by four months, making Prince the first black artist to gain exposure on the burgeoning cable channel and breaking down barriers for thousands more to follow.

4: Raspberry Beret (1985)

Loosely recreating the vibe of the Around The World In A Day album cover, Raspberry Beret’s utopian gathering, green-screen animations and flower-power stage setting served notice that, in Prince’s mind at least, Purple Rain was a thing of the past. Soaring to a new level in that iconic cloud suit, replete with dandy ruffles, Prince looked every inch the high priest of all things paisley, while his unexpected coughing fit – just when you think he might start singing – was a classic ruse to get fans talking. “I just did it to be sick, to do something no one else would do,” he later admitted.

3: When Doves Cry (1984)

Dig of you will the picture: Prince getting out of seemingly the hottest bath in history and then crawling across a flower-strewn floor. Intercut with scenes from the Purple Rain film, the When Doves Cry video underlines the psycho-sexual narrative that plays out in both the song and movie. Cut to a spooky cameo from a dove and an all-too-brief bit of choreography with The Revolution, and you have a clip that retains the mystique at the heart of the song, while immediately establishing itself as one of the best Prince videos of the era.

2: Kiss (1986)

As minimalist as the song itself, Kiss’ promo video makes the most out of its basic set up: just Prince, Wendy and actress Monique Mannen ruling our world for four minutes. Wendy and Prince have fun hamming it up for the cameras, while Prince’s face after the cut to Mannen’s “Yeah” (at the 1.32 mark) is priceless. What truly places the clip in the upper echelons of the best Prince videos, however, is his utterly gratuitous use of the splits for something as basic as getting up off the floor. And that asymmetrical crop top. Always the crop top.

1: Purple Rain (Live 1985)

It may not have anything in the way of a concept, nor much of Prince’s trademark dance moves, but this live version of Purple Rain, taken from Prince And The Revolution’s legendary 30 March 1985 show at the Syracuse Carrier Dome, tops our list of the best Prince videos for being the one that best captures the Prince experience in all its mid-80s pomp. Stretching the anthemic ballad over quarter of an hour, and with a guitar solo that threatens to tear the very fabric of time, Prince manages to create a truly communal experience, turning a soulless sports stadium into holy ground. This is what the purple reign was all about.

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