Not so very long ago, we were discussing famous movie directors who cut their teeth on MTV, but actors have an even more storied history of popping up in random music videos. Here’s a batch of my favourites (sorry James Van der Beek, as much as I appreciate rainbow lasers, this post is for A-listers only):
Make Some Noise, Beastie Boys
When Adam Yauch was too sick to appear in this video, a whole slew of celebrities lined up to help out their favourite MCs. Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Elijah Wood stand in for the Boys, but you’ll need all your fingers and all your toes to count the celebrity cameos on this video. Rashida Jones, Jason Schwartzman, Will Arnett, and Will Ferrell with his cowbell all make appearances, but blink and you’ll miss em! For an extended (like 30 minute) version with Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Adam Scott, Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Dan Aykroyd and more, follow this link.
I Really Like You, Carly Rae Jepson
I would never have heard this song if not for the fact that Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks!) stars in the video, solidifying our already niggling suspicion that Hanks is pretty much the most interesting human being ever. How on earth did they land such a huge star? “I literally had a beer in my hand and I said, ‘Yeah sure I’ll do it,'” – it was as easy as that. This will absolutely put a little joy in your heart, and be sure to stay right to the end when he joins in the inevitable choreography: it’s fucking worth it.
Weapon of Choice, Fatboy Slim
Predictable but absolutely necessary inclusion to the list. This video reinvigorated Christopher Walken, turned him into an icon for a whole other generation, and turned a stale music video industry on its ear.
Giving Up the Gun, Vampire Weekend
They brought out the big guns for this video: Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a drunken tennis player (“Well, that’s the only way anyone’s going to beat me, if I’m that wasted,” Gyllenhaal joked. “They call me, like, the John McEnroe of action films”) showing some major leg – and shout to RZA while we’re at it. “They’re all really cool guys … and the Jonas Brothers, the RZA and Lil Jon, we all usually chill anyway. Actually, we were up in San Francisco, and I was like, ’You guys, do you want to come down with me?’ And Lil Jon was like, ’I’m busy,’ and I was like, ’Come on, man, get in the car!’ So we all chilled out, listened to the whole album, and the RZA was dope. He was great. He sat shotgun, because that’s where he likes to sit usually. … We all hang out because we’re all really good friends.”
So Gorillaz, who are animated, naturally, get into a car chase with Bruce Willis, who is not. Some things are too strange to be made up.
I Want Love, Elton John
It makes sense that the rocket man would tap iron man for a little help once in a while – and before he donned that Marvel suit, Robert Downey Junior had some time on his hands.
Crossfire, Brandon Flowers
Charlize Theron is everyone’s favourite badass heroine, so I suppose this video was probably stolen right from the director’s wet dream.
What Goes Around Comes Around, Justin Timberlake
A huge hit deserves a huge star, so Scarlett Johansson gets cast as the cheating whore who gets what she deserves: a fiery death. Kind of harsh, isn’t it? Brought to you by the same director who did Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit.
Recognize the sherriff of Sharktown? It’s none other than Jeremy Renner in eyeliner and a cowboy hat, that’s who!
Anybody Seen My Baby, The Rolling Stones
Need someobody who’s “more than beautiful?” You can’t do better than Angelina Jolie. Angelina was married at the time (to Jonny Lee Miller) but that didn’t stop her and Mick from hooking up, or from Jagger’s obsessing over her for two whole years.
Mumford & Sons, Hopeless Wanderer
Mumford and his sons prove they DO have a sense of humour about themselves with this spoof video starring Ed Helms, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis,and Will Forte. The video’s a lot of fun, and these guys sing a lot more earnestly than the real sons ever dared to.
Elastic Heart, Sia
This one may push the bounds of A-list, but how can we not talk about hot mess Shia Leboeuf bringing us yet another chapter in the dude’s book of dubious experimentation? I mean, haven’t you ever wanted to watch a 28 year old mentally unstable man beat on a little girl in a cage match?
Honourable mentions: Daniel Radcliffe in Slow Club’s Beginners; Aubrey Plaza in Father John Misty’s Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings; Olivia Wilde in Dashboard Confessional’s Stolen; Rupert Grint in Ed Sheeran’s Lego House; Helena Bonham Carter in Rufus Wainwright’s Out of the Game; Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone in Aerosmith’s Crazy; Courtney Cox in Bruce Springstein’s Dancing in the Dark (or Counting Crows’ Long December); Christina Hendricks in Broken Bells’ The Ghost Inside; Keanu Reeves in Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush; Macaulay Culkin in Michael Jackson’s Black or White; Zach Galifianakis in Kanye West’s Can’t Tell Me Nothin.