Robot men who swear they're human. Cheshire cats in a warped Wonderland. Kids who shoot radiation from their eyes and men who can blast it from their hands. You'd think this was all the DNA of some sci-fi blockbuster, but all of these bizarre phenomena actually happen in music videos.
While Rick Springfield's assumption that we'd go all Star Trek by last year was terrible foresight, some may have been able to glimpse the future from the Next Generation days of the '80s and '90s. There are eerie echoes of what was once fiction turning into science. Even if none of these bands were endowed with extraordinary prophetic powers transmitted by alien machinery, some inventions that were considered more fiction than science decades ago when some of these videos were on MTV (and MTV actually played music) — 3-D printed spacecraft, suspended animation cells — are being prototyped by NASA.
Whatever planet they come from, all of these videos are micro-movies in and of themselves. They were conceived and brought to life outside of film soundtracks even if some were later revamped by Hollywood. Bjork brought her own twisted vision to the screen way before it hit Sucker Punch. That video game thriller was all Iron Maiden. Just about everything Lordi does is theatrical. Many of these concepts that were light-years ahead of their time also seem to be, at least in retrospect, portals to what is now the present but what was then the future. We can only wonder if some of the more newly spawned videos will someday mirror technology or phenomena we can hardly even fathom in 2017.
Get ready to strap yourself into a time-traveling spaceship and defy the laws of physics with these 32 sci-fi videos that will blow your mind if they don't mind-control you first.
Angie Aparo – "Spaceship"
Imagine you're riding an elevator on which every stop is a different reality that may or may not involve clones and spacemen. Or snowboarding on the dusty slopes of Mars. Or a mall you only walk in from upright until you realize you're upside-down before you get off on another level. The flashing lights should have told you that.
Rob Zombie – "Superbeast"
Speeding through a neon desert on your motorbike is weird enough, but enter the spidery robots and photo-negative flashes of an alternate reality and you'll wonder what plane you even exist on. This is all amped to a power of ten by supercharged lightning storms and Rorschach blots of Zombie with his infernal eyes sucking in your soul.
Daft Punk – "Robot Rock"
Many science fiction themes are metaphoric, but with robots taking center stage with their guitars, this mostly instrumental song that jams to the endlessly repeating, computerized words "robot rock" is about as literal is it gets in both lyrics and video. The space-age sound effects that could have come out of a classic science fiction film are also beyond awesome.
Peter Gabriel – "Shock the Monkey"
Whether Gabriel is attempting a warped version of Maslow in this video is debatable, but the alt version of him is an alien tribesman who is totally cool meditating in a ring of fire until they merge. You also get random eyefuls of the magnified face of a spider monkey. Disclaimer: no monkeys were actually shocked in the making of this video.
Dream Theater – "Enigma Machine"
The "enigma machine" a cloning contraption dreamed up by a mad scientist who keeps organs floating in formaldehyde. He also preserves human bodies in bathtubs for further experimentation. Things in jars aside, Dream Theater filmed this video in collaboration with Ballet Deviare, and the dancers' robotic movements and insane precision are unreal.
Devo – "Beautiful World"
What if all you, or your masked doppelganger in this case, had to do was press a few buttons and pull a joystick to control the world on TV? You'll see everything from flying car prototypes to people taking off on jetpacks, but the overriding irony of the words "beautiful world" eerily repeating as an atomic bomb goes off is nothing less than disturbing.
Megadeth – "Dystopia"
Welcome to a future where skull-headed cyborgs blast people's heads off or shred their faces, and somewhere underground, humans that have lost any semblance of humanity are designing more by hologram. They even wire a kid to a computer to use him as a weapon (Stranger Things, anyone?). The apocalyptic animation towards the end is just sick.
The Birthday Massacre – "Looking Glass"
Are we all really automatons? The Birthday Massacre explores that concept with a classroom full of students in numbered plastic masks that look like a cross of Sailor Moon and Mickey Mouse. This so-called utopia literally starts to crack when the masks do, and the black blood streaming down their vacant eyes is no less than terrifying.
Icon For Hire – "Off With Her Head"
This is basically the creepy sci-fi version of Alice in Wonderland, with floating birdcages, a robotic Red Queen and spidery robots that look suspiciously like a new breed of facehugger. It also seems Alice has gone through the rabbit hole to a realm of either killer radiation or barren wastelands of eternal night that could be anywhere but Earth.
David Bowie – "Blackstar"
This haunting track from Bowie’s swan song album Lazarus is illustrated by a dream vision of ancient rituals on an alien planet. Think a bejeweled skull that performs mind control, twitching scarecrows and something that could be a dancing Cthulhu. Bowie himself, blindfolded with eerie black buttons where his eyes should be, will send shockwaves through you.
Genesis – "Land of Confusion"
Dinosaurs in bowties, ventriloquist dummies dreaming, creatures of indeterminate species that could have only slithered in the primordial ooze of a prehistoric planet, the entire band morphed into dummy form with steampunk sunglasses ... where does it end? Oh, and if all that isn't enough nightmare fodder, there's an entire forest of mannequin heads to freak you out.
Lordi – "Forsaken Fashion Dolls"
Reason 9342589785 not to collect creepy dolls: they really are alive, if those eyes that eerily dart back and forth have anything to say about it. They will also literally risk life and plastic limb to escape the eternal tea party you've invited them to, even if said limbs fall off their joints as they desperately claw their way across the floor.
Bjork – "Army of Me"
From dragonflies the size of birds to a gorilla dentist (as if going to the dentist wasn't already scary enough), the original "Army of Me" video is exponentially weirder than the Sucker Punch version. Extra points for Bjork's killer truck -- its engine is a gaping human mouth that breathes ectoplasmic green fumes and eats enormous diamonds.
Jamiroquai – "Automaton"
When a music video blasts off with a nuclear apocalypse, you know it has to be explosive. This dystopian vision of the future imagines cyborg-people roaming an Earth with a landscape more like Mars where Madame Tussaud's is now a wax planetarium. You're going to wish robotic spiked helmets that flash their own neon light show were a thing.
Iron Maiden – "Speed of Light"
This is for anyone who's ever wanted to know what it's like to exist in a video game. Imagine being an electric skeleton shooting through a digital chasm, growing less pixelated and more CGI as you level up. Bones gain flesh by navigating an arcade's worth of intergalactic video games that range from Pac-Man to Mortal Kombat. Awesome.
Mastodon – "Asleep in the Deep"
Cats don't just have nine lives. They also exist in alternate dimensions where they dance with alien things that look half-feline and half-Ewok. As if that isn't creepy enough, imagine your furball plunging through a rabbit hole into an anti-Wonderland where electric ghosts swirl around a hookah-smoking frog and a three-faced thing of indeterminate species reigns supreme.
Rick Springfield – "Human Touch"
Captain Rick and his spaceship crew emerge from suspended animation in a video where he keeps repeating that we all need the human touch — even those of us with three eyes and insectile mouthparts. What will really blow your mind is that the ship's computer says this whole Star Trek spectacle was supposed to have happened in 2016.
Perturbator – "Sentient"
You've never seen pixel art or animation on this level before, especially when it involves a neon city (not unlike Blade Runner) and androids in sunglasses. Except the androids of Nocturne City have fake I.D.s programmed for brainwashing by a robotic cult. Their skeletal Grim Reaper prophet wouldn't be out of place in your Halloween display.
Orgy – "Fiction (Dreams in Digital)"
Suspended animation may still be a thing of science fiction, but scenes like Orgy's computerized world that would have seemed no more than a figment of sci-fi imagination when it first emerged in 2001 becomes eerily relevant as NASA starts experimenting with cryogenics for future deep space missions. At least the android part is something we won't have to worry about. Yet.
Aerosmith – "Hole in My Soul"
Guy meets girl, guy gets teased, guy retreats to science lab and uses cloning technology to program a girlfriend on his computer and transmit her into a giant glass tube. Steven Tyler even appears on a Frankenstein-ish chair. For anyone who's ever been bullied for being a science geek or any kind of geek, this is for you.
Gojira – "The Shooting Star"
From the same band that conjured whales flying through the void of the cosmos comes this pure sci-fi Discordia. On a dark planet orbiting a dying star, an all-seeing eye penetrates through everyone and everything, watching faceless cloaked figures who search for disembodied faces floating somewhere in space. You will legit start to wonder what universe you exist in.
Incubus – "Stellar"
This far-our journey starts within a computer program not unlike the virtual reality of The Matrix and just keeps getting weirder from there. Unless you don't think there's anything abnormal about being probed through a glass tube outside the atmosphere. Also, those 3D-printed satellites that were just imagination back when MTV actually played music are now for real.
M83 – "Reunion"
If the little mind-manipulating girl with the electric nodes attached to her head doesn't remind you of Eleven, there are still much stranger things in this video, like the supernatural band of kids who shoot a mysterious bluish light from their eyes. How a third-grader who can't weigh more than 80 pounds levitates an SUV defies logic, but this is science fiction.
Styx – "Mr. Roboto"
His heart is human, his blood is boiling, his brain IBM. Mr. Roboto has a secret, and it obviously has something to do with that grotesque caricature of a human face forged in metal. The flashing lights embedded in his forehead don't exactly help. Man or machine? You decide what the man behind the mask is really hiding under his skin.
Powerman 5000 – "When Worlds Collide"
Even Vader would probably be terrified of the alien tyrant who rules the warped society in this video, where women lounge at his feet watching his minions torture a human captive for entertainment. Except the weapons are even cooler than Star Wars because said human can vaporize anything with a hand that shoots beams of explosive radiation.
Autechre – "Second Bad Vilbel"
Whatever that creature with the oddly elongated head and the spidery fingers is, it's definitely not human. Neither is that robot which could impale you with multiple jaws and appendages whose function is probably better left unsaid. You wouldn't expect to either of these monstrosities anywhere outside Dr. Frankenstein's lab of horrors, but they just ruined your beach vacation.
Coheed and Cambria – "Welcome Home"
What if you could just gaze into a picture frame and the blank canvas would melt into a series of terrifying scenes from a demonic encounter in a haunted house to something that looks like the long-lost twin of the Eye of Sauron. Expect no less from a band who actually write their own series of sci-fi comics.
Static X – "Push It"
How about an evil robot running an underground lab that conducts unspeakable experiments involving things in jars? In a sick turn of events, he becomes his own test subject by spinning around at warp speed on some strange contraption until his artificial flesh is stripped away and he emerges as metal as this song.
The Smashing Pumpkins – "Tonight, Tonight"
This steampunk adventure to the moon in a dirigible takes its cue from Georges Melies' A Trip to the Moon ... except it's much trippier with a moon that grimaces and psychedelic moon men crawling around a creepy grotto. Just watch out for random people riding shooting stars. And yes, I have had the poster on my wall since 1997.
Dark Moor – "Imperial Earth"
Not that the machine-gun carnage of little green men would be exactly what happens if we do ever attempt to colonize another planet that has intelligent life, but it could be a prophecy. The special effects in this video are insane, from fiery orbs to holograms to the ominous fleet of starships closing in on an alien world.
Jack Conte – "Pedals"
If this isn't the most downright bizarre thing you've seen on YouTube this year … all right, so there are a lot of bizarre things to watch on YouTube, but a talking head made of wires and creepy humanoid latex features has got to be one of the weirdest. Factor in the robotic spiders dancing to the rhythm of its robotic voice and you've got the future.
Rick Springfield - "Bop 'Til You Drop"
Directed by David Fincher as a kind of aesthetic warm-up to his first feature, Alien3 (1992). Entertain the alien warlord or get blasted!