Missy Elliott’s breakout music video was 1997’s “The Rain,” directed by Hype Williams. Not only did it introduce her to the world, but it also introduced hip hop to a whole new era of visually stunning, highly creative, and memorable music videos. Her entire career so far has been full of these inventive and unforgettable clips, which are still awe-inspiring in 2015 — and still make viewers incredibly envious of her dance moves. Here’s a ranking of her top 15 videos — though, let’s be honest, the order is entirely subjective, because everything Missy Elliott does is perfect.
15. “All N My Grill” (1999), dir. Hype Williams
Missy Elliott started off on such a high note with “The Rain” that for a while in the late ’90s it seemed as if she couldn’t figure out how to top it. None of the videos from that period are bad — Missy couldn’t make a bad video if she tried — but they feel a little… lesser in comparison to the rest of her videography. “All N My Grill” is a fun watch, and I love the street sequences, but it’s not as memorable as it could have been.
14. “I’m Really Hot” (2004), dir. Bryan Barber
With some loose inspiration from the Kill Bill movies, “I’m Really Hot” is nowhere near Missy’s best. Still, the outdoor dance sequences, the face paint, and those fierce white jackets are enough to redeem it.
13. “Hot Boyz” (1999), dir. Hype Williams
“Hot Boyz” is a very “music video” music video, meaning it involves arena-like performances, Nas rapping to the camera while inexplicably sitting on a motorcycle, and a ton of pyrotechnics. But it’s still a great video (and an even better song), especially when it comes to Missy and Eve’s outfits.
12. “Take Away” (2001), dir. Dave Meyers
It feels wrong to rank “Take Away” this low, because it’s such a good and important song to Missy, one that she dedicated to Aaliyah. Still, the music video is relatively bland, especially toward the beginning. Thankfully, it improves when it transitions to “4 My People” and picks up the pace.
11. “Beep Me 911” (1998), dir. Earle Sebastian
Set in a large dollhouse — Missy herself, in her gold outfit and stilted dance moves, resembles a doll — “Beep Me 911” is jarringly, stunningly colorful: bright pinks, greens, and oranges overtake the screen. While it’s certainly nice to look at it, and the doll theme pays off as it progresses, it still feels less inspired than the majority of Missy’s videos.
10. “Pass That Dutch” (2003), dir. Dave Meyers
After a lengthy intro, a tribute to such fallen peers as, again, Aaliyah, “Pass That Dutch” kicks off with one of Missy’s signature moves: a dance sequence — Riverdance, even! — set in the outdoors, this time in a corn field. Shot to invoke a retro, 8MM feel, this is one of Missy’s most underrated videos. Not only do we get some great misandry, with a car full of women literally eating a guy who bothers them, but there are also numerous film references: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, King Kong (it’s notable that she takes control of this common insult, turning it into a powerful visual of Missy on top of everything), and even Drumline.
9. “One Minute Man” (2001), dir. Dave Meyers
The video for “One Minute Man” is mostly remembered for the bit where a headless Missy dances while her head sings the lyrics. It’s both an unsettling and a cool visual — Meyers includes lots of these in his Missy videos. But “One Minute Man” is great because it succeeds in capturing the humor of the song, especially with Ludacris’ appearance at the Get Ur Freak On Hotel.
8. “Sock It 2 Me” (1998), dir. Hype Williams
“Sock It 2 Me” clearly borrows from Mega Man video games, resulting in a delightfully fun video that features Missy Elliott and Lil Kim running from harm while decked out in Mega Man costumes. Later, they’re rescued by Da Brat.
7. “We Run This” (2006), dir. Dave Meyers
A marching band! That’s basically the best part of “We Run This”: an opening featuring Missy leading a dancing marching band, all outfitted in gold uniforms. The infectious song’s video goes heavy on the gymnastics (she tore her Achilles tendon while shooting it) because of its association with the movie Stick It, but it also seamlessly incorporates a stick-figure Missy and trippy visuals (her earring turning into bugs, for one), and switches between color and black and white.
6. “She’s a Bitch” (1999), dir. Hype Williams
Perhaps the darkest music video on this list, “She’s a Bitch” has Hype Williams written all over it. There are elaborate cube set pieces, unforgettable outfits (the leather cowboy getup is my favorite), and dark clouds forming above. Missy’s anger in the song — which is simultaneously about being called a bitch by detractors and also trying to reclaim the word as a powerful statement — is visible throughout the video, in a way that only enhances its impact.
5. “Lose Control” (2005), dir. Dave Meyers
It’s no surprise that “Lose Control” was the most-played music video on BET and MTV2 in 2005. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the song itself — which is about music making you lose control, so it’s impossible to not dance while listening to it — and relies heavily on dance sequences in numerous environments. The best moments? Missy rising out of the sand to dance in the desert and Ciara (and her coven) dancing while stuck to a wall. Just when you think it can’t get better, it switches to “On & On,” featuring Missy levitating/dancing with Tommy Lee.
4. “Get Ur Freak On” (2001), dir. Dave Meyers
This cameo-filled video (Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Eve, and others) might be more notable for the song than the actual visuals (though who can forget that stretched-out neck trick?), but it’s still one of Elliott’s absolute bests. There are some great dance sequences, amazing outfits (denim on denim, even!), Missy swinging from a chandelier, and a fun coda to top it all off.
3. “Work It” (2002), dir. Dave Meyers
Easily one of the most memorable hip-hop videos ever, “Work It” was inescapable in 2002-03, winning Video of the Year at the MTV Movie Awards. Everything about “Work It” is perfect, from the creepy bee opening (filmed with live bees) to the choreographed beauty salon dance, abandoned playground sequence (with Alyson Stoner), and great dunce–cap gag.
(Also, this video of an older Alyson Stoner paying tribute to the “Work It” video is wonderful.)
2. “Gossip Folks” (2003), dir. Dave Meyers
If we’re going for personal favorites, “Gossip Folks” is my #1, based solely on the fact that I wish my school uniforms had been ADIDAS tracksuits and that there were regularly dance breaks in the hallway. Like “She’s a Bitch,” “Gossip Folks” shows that Missy is at her best when she just doesn’t give a fuck. In this video, she takes on the rumors and haters that surrounded her in the early ’00s by comparing the hip-hop world to high school — and rightfully coming out on top.
1. “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” (1997), dir. Hype Williams
If Missy Elliott is the queen of hip hop, then Hype Williams is the king of hip-hop music videos. Though Missy generally collaborates with Dave Meyers, her first and most popular video was directed by Williams. It’s impossible to forget those images of her in an inflated trash bag, or sitting on a bright green hill. “The Rain,” featuring cameos from Puff Daddy and Da Brat, and effectively introducing her to the world, remains one of the most revolutionary videos of all time — and one that will never be topped.