Justin Timberlake debuted his new single, “Filthy,” this past weekend, accompanied by a music video for the track. The response to the single has been rather divisive, but the video, which is better than the song, had me reflecting on his past work. What better time than to take a look back at Timberlake’s career and see how his music videos stack up against the test of time. Without further adieu, check out how I rank Timberlake’s videos from his solo career below. Please note that this ranking is based on the music videos themselves, not just the songs, and I chose not to include videos that feature Timberlake’s collaborations, such as his videos with The Lonely Island, for this ranking.
16. Not a Bad Thing (2014) – Directed by Dennis Liu
Is this video for real? The video for “Not a Bad Thing” chronicles two documentarians’ search for a couple who got engaged to a Justin Timberlake song on the train. Seriously? What about that makes them exceptional to any other proposal out there? In what seems like a PR team’s desperate attempt to create something “viral,” the well-meaning video totally misses the mark. It’s no wonder there isn’t a second part.
15. What Goes Around… Comes Around (2007) – Directed by Samuel Bayer
Taking the opus of the FutureSex/LoveSounds and essentially turning it into a short film, Timberlake stars opposite Scarlett Johansson in the nine minute video. This isn’t Justin’s first video to have an apparent narrative attached, but this is the first time it’s presented in a long and scripted format. Written by The Notebook’s Nick Cassavetes, prepare for the most contrived and ridiculous tale of karma. Even the higher production value and having a star like Johansson couldn’t save this video from its tragically disappointing ending and the message it imparts.
14. Señorita (2003) – Directed by Paul Hunter
Performing with his live band alongside co-producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, Justin croons and woos in a cantina for his “Senorita” video. The stereotypical macho-centric video is far from Justin’s best but definitely not his worst.
13. Like I Love You (2002) – Directed by Bucky Chrome
Justin’s first single and video of from his solo album Justified is rather forgettable. With an appearance by Pharrell and choreography that is distinctly of the 00’s, it’s still a fun video and one that showcases the kind of image Timberlake established at the start of his solo career.
12. LoveStoned/ I Think That She Knows (Interlude) (2007) – Directed by Robert Hales
Realized in digitized music bars for the “LoveStoned” section, there isn’t much to say about this video other than it relies on the quality of the song. What stops me from completely disregarding it is the interlude “I Think That She Knows.” Maybe it’s my immense soft spot for all of Timberlake’s interludes… The latter portion of the video is understated and isolated like this part of the song, and although cold in its surroundings, it allows the tenderness of Timberlake’s vocals and overall presence to shine.
11. Tunnel Vision (2013) – Directed by Jonathan Craven, Simon McLoughlin, Jeff Nicholas
The first question that comes to mind is why were three people needed to direct this? Other than that, “Tunnel Vision” is an example of why Justin’s best videos involve minimalism. A little more arty but no less sexual, Timberlake shares the video with Timbaland and a group of topless female dancers. Normally, I would dismiss this type of video with an eye roll, but the style and editing of the video aesthetically works very well, even if the concept becomes tired well before it ends.
10. Rock Your Body (2003) – Directed by Francis Lawrence
Destined to be gym staple for the next decade, “Rock Your Body’s” video delivers on what we all really wanted: Justin Timberlake dancing in a box of lights. The fun, colorful video has a multitude of Justins at the end, the kind of trick that totally dates this video back to the early 2000s.
9. Take Back the Night (2013) – Directed by Jonathan Craven, Darren Craig, Jeff Nicholas
For the first time incorporating Timberlake’s concert footage into an official video, “Take Back the Night” is fun and infectious, in total sync with the song and its performer.
8. SexyBack (2006) – Directed by Michael Haussman
Timberlake ushers us into the FutureSex/LoveSounds era with the James Bond esque video for “SexyBack.” It’s silly, sexy and exciting: all things that tie into the track’s theme.
7. TKO (2013) – Directed by Ryan Reichenfeld
The videos that set out to say something more tend to be the better ones. In juxtaposition to the video for “What Goes Around… Comes Around,” we see Timberlake on the other side of karma, being dragged down a dirt road by actress Riley Keough who stars opposite him in the video. The narrative is a little more abstract than expected when compared to Timberlake’s past videos, but the cinematic quality of the shots make for a spellbinding video.
6. Filthy (2018) – Directed by Mark Romanek
After watching a half dozen Black Mirror episodes, Justin Timberlake’s latest video doesn’t seem as strange as it normally would. While the single itself is not a runaway hit, the video does the rare thing where it elevates the song, and directed by Mark Romanek, it does enough to pack a little punch to the song.
5. Suit & Tie (2013) – Directed by David Fincher
Here’s another case of when the video is better than the song. Director David Fincher’s sleek visuals and editing style is at play for Timberlake’s big return to music in 2013. After a six year hiatus, Timberlake returns with Suit & Tie bringing along Jay Z as a prominent feature on the track. The video showcases a grownup Timberlake, suited up with a new kind of confidence. It’s a good look for the artist and worked as a taste of what was to come with The 20/20 Experience.
4. Can’t Stop the Feeling! (2016) – Directed by Mark Romanek
No matter how annoying this overplayed song is; this is hands down the most delightful Justin Timberlake video. This montage of everyday people amongst the bright tones of sunny LA is a stark difference from Timberlake’s usual thing.
3. Cry Me A River (2002) – Directed by Francis Lawrence
I was watching TRL when Justin was a guest and debuted this video. Everyone was stunned by the Britney Spears lookalike in the video and the fact that he was implying that she had cheated him. What Like I Love You didn’t quite do for Timberlake, Cry Me A River was the video that helped catapult the singer into solo pop stardom officially. The choreography is restrained with Matrix-like tiptoeing around a mystery person’s home. It all fits together to become one of the most iconic videos of the 21st Century.
2. Let Me Talk To You/My Love (2006) – Directed by Paul Hunter
Stylish, minimal and kinetic in its choreography, this video is Justin Timberlake at his finest. The funky intro and black and white art direction let us focus on the performers. It all makes for an arresting video that is totally in vibe with what FutureSex/LoveSounds is all about.
1. Mirrors (2013) – Directed by Floria Sigismondi
The best of his videos by a landslide, “Mirrors” is one of Timberlake’s short film music videos that weaves together a whimsical cross generational tale. Directed by Floria Sigismondi, she taps into the emotion of the song with scenes that symbolize the joy and heartbreak of love and the connection that love can forge deeply between two individuals. When Timberlake finally arrives for the interlude, filmed in a room of mirrors, the artful choreography ties the whole video together in sheer elegance.
Which Justin Timberlake video tops your list?