Green Day’s 15 best music videos, ranked in order of greatness
Green Day have come a long way from the dingy confines of Berkeley’s 924 Gilman Street. The trio have gone from bratty pop-punks singing about masturbation to one of the biggest bands on the planet, capable of writing grand concept albums, genre-spanning multi-part suites and three-minute pogo anthems alike.
Along the way they’ve also developed a theatrical flair that few other bands can match. Whether they’re playing live at the biggest venues the world has to offer, morphing their work into a Broadway spectacular or cranking out music videos that are alternately hilarious, politicised, emotional or visually stunning, they know how to create a feast for the senses.
Here, then, is our rundown of Green Day’s 15 best videos. Get your bouncing shoes on…
15. 21st Century Breakdown (2009)
The title-track of the band’s second rock opera mined frontman Billie Joe Armstrong past for inspiration and the video reflects the lyrics. ‘Born into Nixon, I was raised in hell,’ he sings, as an animated Richard Nixon flings an infant Billie Joe into an unforgiving world. The vid is almost entirely a visually striking black and white animation, as graffiti versions of the band, politicians and the thematic punk lovers of the concept album play out a story of love and paranoia in a post-Bush America.
14. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) (1997)
Sometimes a video doesn’t have to be visually stunning to have an emotional impact. An acoustic ballad about an old girlfriend who moved to Ecuador, Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) was a major musical departure at the time and the accompanying clip was simple but effective. Billie Joe sits alone in a bedroom with an acoustic guitar, while pull-in photography intercuts a series of people going about everyday life and staring into the middle-distance. It might not sound like much, but it achieves that resonance with feelings of love, loss and life’s turning points neatly caught by director Mark Kohr.
13. Bang Bang (2016)
The song’s gun violence themes are represented by an armed robbery perpetrated by a trio of criminals in stylised Green Day masks, while the blistering punk delivery is perfectly suited to the chaotic house party show the real band are playing. There’s an incredible sense of energy packed into the whole video, which was directed by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong (who also makes a brief cameo appearance).
12. Redundant (1998)
When Billie Joe found his marriage had hit something of a rocky patch, he reflected on the way relationships can find themselves stuck in a series of repetitive ruts. Borrowing from this and Polish director Zbigniew Rybczyński’s short film Tango, the video makes a choreographed ballet of everyday mundane tasks. As the band play in a family home, various people repeat their activities in a single fixed sequence. The cinematography is as clever as the concept, and it’s meticulously executed.
11. Nice Guys Finish Last (1998)
This was another great video from ’97 album Nimrod that equates stadium-sized punk rock with an American football game. It comes complete with cheesy sports jock commentary, ankle twists, fans tackling the band, a pep talk at half-time and beery locker room celebrations. Touchdown!
10. Holiday (2005)
The moody Boulevard Of Broken Dreams scooped all the MTV Awards, but the first part of the linked two-video series was a far livelier, more celebratory affair. Holiday sees Green Day cruising Las Vegas in the same Mercury Monterey convertible that starts the Boulevard… sequence. In the bar scene, the band members play multiple roles including drunken priests and prostitutes, with it all ending in a dance number. Holiday was the crazy night before to Boulevard…’s comedown.
9. Walking Contradiction (1996)
This was definitely on the less-serious side of the music video spectrum, and helped set the scene for buffoonery-laden pop-punk followers like blink-182 and Sum 41. The three members go about their business, oblivious to the chaos they unleash around them in the form of accidents, crashes and explosions. Hilarity ensues, naturally.
8. Brain Stew / Jaded (1995)
As well as that monumental AC/DC-styled riff, the double-whammy of Brain Stew / Jaded also came with one of Green Day’s most visually striking videos. Towing the band through a rubbish dump on a sofa might not be the most obvious treatment of a song about crippling insomnia, but the sepia-toned footage looks beautiful, even when it cuts to writhing mealworms. When Brain Stew segues into the frantic Jaded, the visuals also shift to a Technicolor thrash-out in the studio.
7. Stray Heart (2012)
Stray Heart was the only single and video to be released from ¡Dos!, the garage rock-flavoured filling in 2012’s ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tré! trilogy. The vid takes the title literally, as a man with a hole where his heart should be pursues the wayward pulmonary organ all over town. It doesn’t feature the band members at all, but is funny, slightly gruesome and definitely inventive.
6. Wake Me Up When September Ends (2005)
The song was written about the death of Billie Joe’s father when the singer was just a child, but when director Samuel Bayer pitched a treatment centred around the Iraq War, the frontman agreed that the theme of loss still felt right. It plays like a mini-movie, following a couple who row when the boyfriend enlists. He’s later killed in action, leaving the girlfriend in mourning as the video skilfully weaves the political and the personal into a single moving epic.
5. Warning (2000)
You know all those things you were warned not to do? Like running with scissors, bombing at the swimming pool, taking sweets from strangers and… umm, eating raw meat? Yeah, well the guy in this video does them all, and he’s alright. Probably. There’s nothing complicated here, but it is funny and ever-so-slightly gross. And we don’t really need to tell you not to try these things at home, do we?
4. Jesus Of Suburbia (2005)
If Wake Me Up When September Ends was Green Day’s movie debut, Jesus Of Suburbia was their Oscar contender. The video is pretty much a straight visual representation of the song but, given that said song was a nine-minute, five-part epic, that was ambitious enough in itself. One version of the video was actually longer, with extra plot and dialogue, but even the six-and-a-half minute edit packed in more than the average music video.
3. Geek Stink Breath (1995)
Geek Stink Breath is not a pretty song. ‘A slow progression, killing my complexion / And it’s rotting out my teeth,’ sings Billie Joe on this ode to methamphetamine. Fittingly, the video they shot to go with it is also less than pretty. It features graphic footage of one of the band’s friends having a tooth pulled – not recommended for the squeamish.
2. American Idiot (2004)
American Idiot was a pivotal album for Green Day, and this was the moment it all kicked off. Again, it’s a simple concept executed flawlessly. Essentially it’s just the band playing, but those speeded up and slow motion sequences add a Matrix-style sense of unreality, while the wave of green goo from the melting stars and stripes provided an iconic image.
1. Basket Case (1994)
This was only Green Day’s third video (after Longview and Welcome To Paradise) but, even a quarter of a century on, it’s never been bettered. It was shot in an actual abandoned mental institution in Santa Clara, California and visually references the films One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Brazil. The masked fellow inmates are seriously creepy and the whole thing was apparently shot in black and white, with the colour added later to add to the surrealism.
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