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'90s Music Videos That Defined Our Childhoods

Photograph by Getty Images

From slap bracelets to Girbaud jeans to "Beavis and Butt-head," the '90s had it goin' on. But if there's an easy way to show our kids what growing up in that decade was like, we would probably plop them in front of our favorite music videos (when they're old enough).

Simple, more experimental videos of the '80s were replaced by mini motion pictures filled with over-the-top dance routines, cool special effects, iconic outfits and lots and lots of extras. Videos in the '90s helped us really understand what the musical artist was all about. Whether they were rowdy, sexy or just downright straight out of Doucheville, they were a reflection of that sweet '90s culture in which we grew up.

Here are 7 unforgettable music videos of the decade that remind us of how clutch things were when we were kids.

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1. LFO "Summer Girls"

What were teenagers doing in the '90s? According to this video, they were pal-ing around with their friends at the Pier and making Zoolander faces while crouching. Lots and lots of crouching. Actual sitting and standing was a thing of the '80s, apparently. This video speaks to us because it gives us that '90s cheese that we both loathed and loved. The high school fashion with the frosted tips and ribbed crew neck T-shirts really takes you back, and you can almost smell the Drakkar Noir. Even though the lyrics of this song is just a string of unrelated statements, don't tell me you don't still smile inside when they say, "You like Fun Dip and Cherry Coke." Yes, yes we do.

2. Right Said Fred "I'm Too Sexy"

We want to say that this video illustrates the '90s obsession with super models and fashion—and maybe that's in there, but more than anything, it shows us that perhaps lots of flexing and awkward dance moves can actually cancel out "sexy." This video can be summed up in 3 Ms: Mesh, Muscle Shirts and Milan. Whatever you thought or continue to think of this video, it doesn't change the song's status as a favorite go-to karaoke song for dads everywhere.

3. Freak Nasty "Da Dip"

Some could argue that this song was the '90s "Whip/Nae Nae"; and the video was a memorable, energetic and brightly-colored tutorial of the accompanying dance, Da Dip. But hold up! Whattup, CGI! The dancing tie-dye looking blob bouncing and changing shape to the beat and the Terminator 2-inspired liquid metal dancer showed us that videos were about bringing something new and fresh. This video is an awesome reminder of how far we've come with special effects.

4. N'Sync "It's Tearin' Up My Heart"

Never again have we seen such high intensity dance routines from a boy band. Sure, we were all younger then, but just watching this video has us winded. The effort in this video is full on, from the dancing to the wardrobe changes to portraying how well these fellas really got along (they hold punching bags for each other!). Watching this video today you still can't decide if you're team J.C. or J.T. But they all look pretty good in those white unbuttoned button-downs laid over white tank tops—the classic '90s boy band uniform. Watching this video, it's pretty clear that 1D has nothing on N'Sync.

5. Beastie Boys "Sabotage"

The Beastie Boys and Spike Jonze joined forces and crazy talent to create this iconic '90s music video. Shot in the style of the '70s cop drama, this video was just one of several groundbreaking videos to hit the scene and show us the creative genius of its director, Spike Jonze. Jam-packed with action, car chases and mustaches, this video made us love the Beastie Boys and this rad song even more than we did before. Big production videos such as this one turned heads and helped propel the careers of music video directors into major motion picture directing.

6. Missy Elliott "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)"

Officially bringing the fisheye lens to hip hop and R & B videos for years to come, Missy Elliott changed everything up with her persona, her creativity and her sick beats. This was one of the most talked about videos of the decade. And it had us never looking at a garbage bag the same way again.

7. MC Hammer "You Can't Touch This"

This entire video pays homage to some of the '90s most prized possessions: Hammer Pants, The Running Man, lycra shorts and teased bangs. All of us at some point in the '90s had a sweet relationship with one of those things. Add the shifty camera work and colored-in black and white effects, and this video became a visual '90s gem.

8. Britney Spears "Hit Me Baby One More Time"

One of the most famous videos of all time and a sort of naughty school girl prequel to High School Musical, "Hit Me Baby One More Time" reminds us how much we still appreciated proper jazz dancing—so much so that we needed to see slow motion leaps and back flips into splits all throughout the video. This video is a '90s treasure for so many reasons: It introduced one of the most popular entertainers of our time, it takes us back to our (somewhat) innocent high school memories, and two words: stacked heels.

8. Sisqo "Thong Song"

Being played like crazy on MTV in the late '90s, this video had us all singing the word "thong" more than we could ever predict we would. The song and the video had an ability to make us wanna dance and cringe at the same time. The video crescendos in a scene where Sisqo is giving it his all in a really powerful performance on stage. The pyrotechnics, the black lights, the string orchestra accompanying Sisqo's stage gyrations and the bikini-clad dancers in the audience below make it very clear that the '90s was not holding back, but it was taking things (which included objectifying women) to the next level.

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9. Nirvana "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

This song has often been referred to as an anthem for an apathetic generation, more specifically teens in the '90s. This video made us all want to date guys that looked like Kurt Cobain. It also made us want to wear layered shirts, show our frustration with the mainstream by wearing combat boots and quoting "Reality Bites," and mosh (or pretending to mosh without acquiring bruises or lacerations). Oh dismal pep rally and dancing janitor, you're forever etched into our '90s hearts.

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