Most expensive music videos of all time

If you asked a bunch of random strangers to name the most expensive music video of all time, at least a few would certainly say “Thriller” — and it was when it was made in 1983. According to Rolling Stone, Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking 14-minute masterpiece was produced on a budget of $500,000. While a half-million bucks for a music video was unprecedented at the time, it pales in comparison to the big-budget productions that followed.

5. Bedtime Story – Madonna ($5 million)

When the Los Angeles Times reported on Madonna’s “Bedtime Story” in 1995, it called it a “$2 million-plus affair.” As it turned out, even that hefty price guesstimate was insufficient by more than half. Forbes reported years later that the video cost $5 million, a fact backed up by Statista.

Like so many of Madonna’s biggest videos, much of the budget was spent on impressive visuals and digital effects that took weeks to perfect in post-production, according to Business Insider. Madonna didn’t skimp on PR, either. She spent big money to debut the video on the big screen in New York and L.A. before releasing it to the masses on cable.

4. Express Yourself – Madonna ($5 million)

In reference to Madonna, Rolling Stone referred to “Express Yourself” as “her most ambitious use of the video form.” It showed in the video’s price tag. The mini-movie cost $5 million to make, thanks to a sprawling and expensive cast, an equally expensive director and a complex and highly artistic set.

It was the most expensive music video ever made at the time, according to Rolling Stone, and when adjusted for inflation, it would be second only to one other music video as the most expensive in history.

3. Die Another Day – Madonna ($6.1 million)

Business Insider, Forbes, and Statista all agree that the video for Madonna’s James Bond movie song cost $6.1 million to make. There’s also an agreeance that the bulk of the budget was dedicated to the impressive Madonna vs. Madonna CGI fight sequences, which mirrored the action scenes from the “Die Another Day” movie. It remains Madonna’s most expensive video ever.

2. Work Bi**h – Britney Spears ($6.5 million)

When Britney Spears released the video for the first single on her eighth album, outlets like Business Insider and VH1 were reporting its budget to be $6.5 million, making it the No. 2 most expensive music video of all time. That fact raised eyebrows, considering the single had underperformed.

VH1 estimated a few expenses for the video, albeit cheekily, including $100,000 on wardrobe and more than $300,000 on hammerhead sharks and shark-related transportation. The video’s director, Ben Mor, emphatically denied that it cost so much in published reports. But he never offered an alternative dollar amount and without an official refutation, $6.5 million has stuck.

1. Scream – Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson ($7 million)

More than a quarter-century later, “Scream” still holds the Guinness World Record for the most expensive music video ever made. According to Business Insider, “Scream” tipped the financial scales with a 13-piece set, a $65,000 CGI spaceship and $175,000 spent on lighting alone.

In the end, it was worth it. Sixty-four million people tuned in to watch, according to Forbes, and the production went on to win a Grammy and an MTV Video Music Award.


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