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Film

The 10 best music videos directed by David Lynch

@Russellisation

“I’m not a musician, but I play music. So it’s a strange thing.” – David Lynch

Music has long played an integral role in the films of David Lynch, be it the soundtrack that the auteur himself helps to compose or the carefully curated choices he makes for the likes of Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. There are certainly a group of bands and songwriters he trusts, often using the work of Roy Orbison, Julee Cruise and the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. 

Often using a contorted version of his own voice for the music he composes, David Lynch is an expressive creative both in front of the camera and behind the microphone, revealing his musical passions in an interview with The Guardian. Speaking about his confidence as a singer, Lynch told the publication, “I’m not really a singer, but my voice is treated like any other instrument; you can tweak it and manipulate it in so many ways these days. I was nervous about recording, but felt comfortable in the studio”. 

Keen on including several innovative musical moments in his own feature films, Lynch has also been known to direct short music videos for himself as well as bands across the world. Such artists include Interpol, Nine Inch Nails, Ariana Delawari, Moby and Chris Isaak, with Lynch lending his surreal idiosyncratic hand to the making of such videos time and time again. Let’s take a look at ten of his very best.

The 10 best music videos directed by David Lynch:

10. ‘I Have a Radio’ – David Lynch (2011)

Helming the artistic direction for his own strange 2011 experiment, Lynch brought a familiar monochrome darkness to his industrial song ‘I Have a Radio’ that involves the filmmaker saying the titular words over and over again throughout the song. 

Starting off in the ‘David Lynch Theatre’, a setting that looks a lot like the ethereal nightmare of Twin Peaks, the video then proceeds to transform into rudimentary animation. Featuring just two crude drawings swaying their arms throughout the whole of the six-minute video, Lynch’s effort here is simple, yet effective, creating a hypnotic trance-like short film that is sure to haunt anyone who watches it.

9. ‘Lion of Panjshir’ – Ariana Delawari (2010)

Reminiscent of the director’s other works such as Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks, his directorial role on ‘Lion of Panjshir’ for Ariana Delawari remains close to what Lynch already knows and loves. 

Transitioning from style to style, the song itself flicks between genres and tones, narrated by David Lynch who helps to transition between moments by saying such phrases as “don’t fight the love”. Pictured in front of red velvet curtains, a recurring visual motif for David Lynch, the director brings attention to the nature of Ariana Delawari’s performance itself in the remarkable music video.

8. ‘Shot in the Back of the Head’ – Moby (2009)

One of the most influential artists of the 1990s, Moby released the likes of songs such as ‘Porcelain’, ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?’ and ‘Flower’ to great critical and commercial success at the end of the 20th century.

Working with David Lynch in 2009, the iconic filmmaker created a piece of animated monochrome surrealism, featuring the landscape of a city obscured by messy black lines and general noise. Effective in its delivery, the video is a haunting short that reflects something of a romantic dream as what seems to be a young man and woman navigating the strange world of their own minds.

7. ‘Thank You, Judge’ – BlueBob (1999)

Featuring a whole host of famous David Lynch icons including those iconic red velvet curtains, the music video for ‘Thank You, Judge’ by BlueBob matches the song’s eccentricity with several of its own moments of surrealism.

Starring the likes of David Lynch, John Neff, Naomi Watts and Eli Roth, this live-action music video tells the story of a bitter breakup in a courtroom and the resulting aftermath that sees the couple divide their possessions. The last thing you’d want coming in between you and your loved one during a breakup is the madness of Lynch, with the video demonstrating just why this is the case, showing strange prosthetics and bizarre moments of dialouge.

6. ‘Longing: Togireta Melody’ – X Japan (1995)

Japanese culture and David Lynch are, in many ways, a match made in heaven with the director’s iconic series, Twin Peaks finding manic support from the country during its run in the 1990s. 

The filmmaker worked with the Japanese band X Japan in 1995 to bring their romantic song ‘Longing: Togireta Melody’ to life, and whilst the full version of the video cannot be located, a YouTube video gives us some insight into the direction of this bizarre music video. Using desolate landscapes, fog and melodramatic visuals, Lynch creates a sense of longing love throughout the video, well-reflecting the song’s sentiment. 

5. ‘A Real Indication’ – Thought Gang (1992)

Dark, orchestral and grungy, the sounds of Thought Gang feel as if they have been plucked directly from the world of David Lynch himself, reflecting the mood of Eraserhead, Inland Empire and Twin Peaks.

The video itself involves a criminal who has been let free from prison and is announcing his shock and surprise at freedom in a strange spoken-word verse. Often ranting directly to the camera, albeit slightly off-centre, or in manic delivery, the video itself is rather simple whilst containing all of Lynch’s signature notes of style, including monochrome photography and floating, dreamlike camerawork. 

4. ‘Wicked Game’ – Chris Isaak (1990)

Used as part of his 1990 film Wild at Heart starring Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover and Harry Dean Stanton, ‘Wicked Game’ by Chris Isaak has become a song synonymous with David Lynch’s classic. 

Entwining footage of the band’s performance of the song alongside several sequences from the film, Lynch creates a sensual music video that is the most traditional of any on this list. Focusing on the hypnotic performance of Chris Isaak and his band, Lynch uses footage from his own film sparingly, with the shadowed imagery of the performers well representing Wild at Heart’s dark romance. 

3. ‘Crazy Clown Time’ – David Lynch (2012)

Another one of Lynch’s own videos for his self-made music, the video for ‘Crazy Clown Time’ is an insane ride into the mind of a true creative, embracing true madness in the most Lynchian way possible. 

Featuring several naked women as well as bodily fluids and various moments of shouting, the video for ‘Crazy Clown Time’ is underlined by Lynch’s own vocals that repeat “It’s crazy clown time” constantly whilst describing the bizarre realities of the video itself. Describing a man who lights his hair on fire whilst constantly reminding the viewer of what each and every character is wearing, this is a chaotic view into the mind of David Lynch.

2. ‘Came Back Haunted’ – Nine Inch Nails (2013)

Appearing in the return of Lynch’s Twin Peaks series in 2017, Nine Inch Nails had worked with the director before on a music video for their track ‘Came Back Haunted’ released in 2013.

With strobing flashing lights and colours, the video itself is a jarring watch in which the camera moves erratically whilst showing strange images of parasitic-looking creatures alongside the members of the band. A shuddering nightmare, Lynch does well to create a video that well reflects the chaos of the song itself, with bizarre visuals that induce a feeling of true discomfort. 

1. ‘I Touch a Red Button’ – Interpol (2011)

From Manhattan, New York, Interpol are a rock band that often flirt with the borders of surrealism, seen in the likes of songs such as ‘Obstacle 1’, ‘Evil’, ‘Rest My Chemistry’ and ‘Slow Hands’. 

David Lynch’s video for the impressive song ‘I Touch a Red Button’ is certainly one of his most creatives, utilising a dark, hand-drawn animation to show a creepy figure repeatedly slapping a red button. Becoming increasingly frantic as the song goes on, Lynch’s intriguing visuals work well to reflect the uncomfortable, yearning nature of the song with the video’s terrifying main figure becoming an effective vehicle for such chaos.