These Are the Most Banned Music Videos

Body Language - Queen

Did you know that Queen was literally the first act to have a video banned by MTV? The influential music broadcaster outright rejected the promo for 1982's Body Language.

Though not one of Queen's best-remembered songs today, the unusually dance-oriented track was one of their biggest hits in the US. Unfortunately, the video's overt sexuality was considered too much.

Like a Prayer - Madonna

As well as being the Queen of Pop, Madonna is also the queen of controversial music videos - and few caused as much of an uproar as Like a Prayer.

The 1989 video - which blends imagery of religion, sexuality and racially-motivated violence - was widely condemned, not least by the Catholic Church. Many TV stations worldwide refused to screen it.

Be Chrool to Your Scuel - Twisted Sister with Alice Cooper

Twisted Sister had already built a solid rep as 80s shock-rockers when they enlisted the godfather of the genre, Alice Cooper, for their 1986 single Be Chrool to Your Scuel.

MTV banned the video on grounds that it was too horrific, showing a high school overrun by teenage zombies (one of whom is future Beverly Hills 90210 star Luke Perry).

By the Time I Get to Arizona - Public Enemy

Never ones to shy away from getting political, Public Enemy's 1991 single By the Time I Get to Arizona depicted the assassination of a white supremacist governor.

To the surprise of no one, MTV and other networks didn't take kindly to the perceived glorification of violence against politicians, hence the promo was widely banned.

In My Darkest Hour - Megadeth

When most music videos get banned, it's due to the imagery. However, Megadeth's banned 1988 promo for In My Darkest Hour was seemingly inoffensive, showing the metal band perform on stage.

The problem was the lyrics, which MTV feared were pro-suicide. Metal-related suicides were a touchy subject at the time, following the infamous attempted suicide of two Judas Priest fans in 1985.

Do Somethin' - Britney Spears

Pop princess Britney Spears has always courted controversy with the sexual overtones of such videos as ...Baby One More Time and Toxic. However, Do Somethin' was banned for altogether different reasons.

The video for Spears' 2004 single was refused airtime in France over a legal battle with Louis Vuitton, as the brand's logo was featured without permission.

This Note's For You - Neil Young

60s survivor Neil Young has never been one to play by The Man's rules. In his 1988 promo for This Note's For You, Young set out to satirize corporate music culture.

MTV were quick to recognize that they themselves, plus their powerful corporate sponsors and some of their most popular artits, were among Young's targets. Offended, they banned the video.

Low - Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters have a good relationship with MTV, and many of their videos hinge on outlandish comedy. However, 2002's Low took things a little too far for the network.

The ultra-low budget, camcorder-shot clip casts frontman Dave Grohl and actor Jack Black as rednecks going wild in a motel room. The ensuing bacchanalian excess saw MTV blacklist the promo.

All the Things She Said - t.A.T.u

Russian pop duo t.A.T.u attracted acclaim and huge sales worldwide with their 2002 single All the Things She Said. They also prompted widespread controversy, not least for the video.

Many broadcasters were aghast at the depictions of a same-sex romance and the perceived fetishization of school uniforms. While outright bans were rare, most networks heavily censored the video.

Dead End Street - The Kinks

While music videos didn't become big business until the 80s, they did exist - and get banned - in earlier times. Such was the fate of The Kinks' Dead End Street.

The 1966 promo, which depicts the band members as undertakers and shows poverty on English city streets, was banned in Britain. The censors considered it distasteful, and too provocative politically.

Jesus Christ Pose - Soundgarden

Religious imagery in music videos has always left the censors feeling twitchy, so it's hardly surprising Soundgarden's Jesus Christ Pose raised some red flags.

Fearing that the imagery of crucifixion would offend Christians, MTV refused to air the alt-rock band's video on release back in 1991.

E.I. (Tip Drill) - Nelly

Hip hop music videos have frequently been condemned for objectifying women. The promo for Tip Drill, the 2003 remix of Nelly's earlier single E.I., was deemed to go too far.

The video's nature, as well as the song's misogynistic lyrics, saw it banned by BET. Such was the controversy, the video is not available on YouTube to this day.

Closer - Nine Inch Nails

If you've ever heard the chorus to Nine Inch Nails' 1994 track Closer, it will be absolutely no mystery why the track wasn't heavily rotated on TV or radio.

Eager to tick all the boxes, the Closer video mixes sex, violence, politics, religion and implied animal cruelty. Any airplay it got was either heavily censored, or late at night.

Black or White - Michael Jackson

With a budget of $4 million, Michael Jackson's Black or White had the most expensive music video ever on release in 1991. It also prompted a fair amount of controversy.

The lengthy video ends with Jackson performing a silent dance routine that turns aggressive, the King of Pop causing property damage with a crowbar. This violent footage was widely censored.

I Want To Break Free - Queen

Queen's 1984 video for I Want To Break Free has long been notorious for killing their career in the US. MTV banned the promo as it showed the band in drag.

In their native UK, the general public found the video funny, but the wider American audience was not prepared to allow suggestions of transgenderism into the mainstream at the time.

She Bangs - Ricky Martin

The video for Ricky Martin's 2000 single She Bangs shows the Puerto Rican pop star partying in the undersea kingdom of Atlantis - but it landed him in hot water.

Because of its overtly sexual imagery, She Bangs was widely censored in the US and Europe, and banned outright in several countries across Latin America including the Dominican Republic.

Try, Try, Try - Smashing Pumpkins

Alt-rockers Smashing Pumpkins were never exactly known for being upbeat - but even by their standards, the video for their 2000 single Try, Try, Try was a serious downer.

The gritty 15-minute promo follows a young couple with a baby on the way, who are also heroin addicts. The subject matter and graphic imagery prompted MTV to ban it.

(s)AINT - Marilyn Manson

Offending delicate sensibilities was always the raison d'etre for Marilyn Manson, so it's small wonder some of the shock rocker's videos ran afoul of the TV network censors.

Curiously, the ultra-provocative promo for 2003's (s)AINT wasn't actually banned; Manson's record label decided against submitting the video to US television, assuming it didn't have a chance of getting airplay.

Girls on Film - Duran Duran

The promo for Duran Duran's 1981 hit Girls on Film quickly gained notoriety for featuring women wrestling, at first scantily clad, then not clad at all.

In their native UK, the video was banned outright, but it did get plenty of stateside airplay on MTV, albeit in a censored version.

Justify My Love - Madonna

Madonna decided to stir up a hornet's nest once again with 1990's Justify My Love, the promo for which was so heavily sexual that MTV and other networks banned it.

This resulted in the promo being released on VHS, and it wound up becoming the first ever videotape to be certified multi-platinum.

Hurricane - 30 Seconds to Mars

Movie star Jared Leto and his alt-rock band 30 Seconds to Mars sparked controversy with the sexual, violent and religious imagery in the video for 2010's Hurricane.

Directed by Leto himself, the clip - which at full length runs to 13 minutes, and features S&M sequences and religious texts being burned - was unsurprisingly banned by MTV.

My Favorite Game - The Cardigans

Swedish indie pop band The Cardigans generally played pretty gentle music, so it was a bit unexpected when one of their videos was banned by MTV UK.

1998's My Favorite Game video featured dangerous driving resulting in car crashes. Due to anxiety about joyriding at the time, Britain banned the video, while other countries censored it.

Mötley Crüe - Girls, Girls, Girls

Big-haired glam metal and objectification of women go together like peanut butter and jelly, so you can probably guess why the video for Mötley Crüe's Girls, Girls, Girls was banned.

The band and their record label knew very well that the video's first cut would be rejected by MTV. A less explicit re-edited version was accepted, however.

Red Nation - The Game

If there's one genre of music that has always been guaranteed to provoke controversy wherever it rears its head, it must be gangster rap.

The video for The Game's 2011 single Red Nation was refused airplay by MTV over concerns that it presented a glorified take on the criminal gang lifestyle.

The Thunder Rolls - Garth Brooks

Country music tends to be considered less provocative than other musical genres, but this didn't stop country megastar Garth Brooks getting controversial with his 1991 video for The Thunder Rolls.

The promo - a critique on domestic abuse, in which Brooks portrays an abusive husband - was too much for CMT and The Nashville Network, who refused to play it.

Erotica - Madonna

One might have thought that by 1992, Madonna had already had her fill of getting videos banned. Instead, the Queen of Pop said "hold my beer" and produced Erotica.

The nudity-heavy promo had a midnight premiere on MTV in October 1992, preceded by a warning of its content. It was played only twice more after midnight, and never again.

Smile - Lily Allen

Lily Allen enjoyed a huge breakthrough hit with her 2006 single Smile, but the British singer-songwriter got some grief for her single use of the F-word.

MTV UK banned the promo on those grounds, which seemed an odd decision given how frequently videos are aired with curse words discreetly muted.

Little Girls - Oingo Boingo

From the title alone, it should be apparent why Oingo Boingo's 1981 track Little Girls - with its chorus of "I love little girls" - set some alarm bells ringing.

Singer-songwriter Danny Elfman (now a hugely successful movie composer) admits he "was out to offend everybody" with the satirical ditty and its knowingly creepy video, which was banned in Canada.

Killed by Death - Motörhead

Motörhead's 1984 video Killed by Death begins with a disgruntled father telling his daughter she's not going out dressed like that, before Lemmy bursts through the wall on a motorbike.

Lemmy then flips off the camera before riding off with the young woman, only to be later shot and electrocuted by cops. Much too violent and anti-social for MTV's liking.

Bicycle Race - Queen

Pre-MTV, Queen were already producing videos that upset TV censors, not least the very cheeky(!) promo for their 1978 single Bicycle Race.

The promo showed the band playing the song (fine) interspersed with footage of naked women riding bicycles (less fine). Unsurprisingly, TV networks either heavily censored it or banned it outright.

Alejandro - Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga has built her name on prompting deliberate outrage, and never was this quite so pointed than in the video for her 2010 song Alejandro.

Inspired by the musical Cabaret, the Alejandro promo blends homoeroticism with military and religious imagery. Fans and critics were impressed, TV censors weren't. The video only received limited late-night airings.

Sunshowers - M.I.A.

It isn't too common for lyrical content alone to result in a music video getting banned, but his happened to Sunshowers, the 2004 video from British musician M.I.A.

MTV were uncomfortable with the political overtones of certain lines in the track, and requested these be censored. When M.I.A. refused, her video was denied airplay.

Arise - Sepultura

Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura drew an enthusiastic following with their unrelentingly brutal sound, so it was only natural that their videos got similarly extreme.

The video for Arise, the title track of their 1991 album, was filled with grisly images of crucifixion. Small wonder MTV refused to play it.

Cradle of Love - Billy Idol

Billy Idol's 1990 song Cradle of Love was featured in the movie The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, starring the popular yet hugely controversial comedian Andrew Dice Clay.

Because the video featured clips of the movie featuring Clay, MTV banned it. The network only aired the video after it was re-edited to remove all movie footage.

S&M - Rihanna

Rihanna's 2011 single S&M is another song which, from the title alone, was always going to be provocative, so no one was too surprised that the video was inappropriate.

Nevertheless, video was banned outright in a reported eleven countries, whilst being generally restricted to late-night screenings in most other territories.

Rock DJ - Robbie Williams

British pop star Robbie Williams decided to get outrageous with the video for his 2000 single Rock DJ, which sees him first strip naked, then tear off his own skin.

The video was only banned outright in the Dominican Republic, but most music video channels worldwide chose to air a censored version which left out the gore.

Smack My B**** Up - The Prodigy

Massively successful in the 1990s thanks to their unusually hard-edged take on electronic dance music, British band The Prodigy were hellbent on offending everyone with 1997's Smack My B**** Up.

Knowing full well they'd get virtually no airplay, The Prodigy commissioned a video loaded with sex, violence, drug-taking and dangerous behavior. Naturally, it only got a few late-night airings.

What it Feels Like For a Girl - Madonna

With her 2000 album Music, Madonna was widely praised for adopting a more mature style - but she still wasn't done shocking people with her videos.

Directed by her then-husband Guy Ritchie, the video for What It Feels Like For a Girl was so dark and violent that MTV and VH1 promptly banned it.

Oh, Pretty Woman - Van Halen

The goofy promo for Van Halen's 1983 cover of Roy Orbison's Oh Pretty Woman casts the band members as various old school movie heroes rescuing a damsel in distress.

The climax shows that the woman they rescue is in fact a man in drag. MTV - who, as we've seen, were nervous about drag - quickly pulled the clip.

Try That in a Small Town - Jason Aldean

No country rock song of recent years has prompted anything like the level of outrage provoked by Jason Aldean's single (and accompanying video) Try That in a Small Town.

On release in July 2023, both the song's lyrical content and video's imagery were widely condemned as racist and pro-violence. CMT withdrew the video from broadcast within four days.

Anaconda - Nicki Minaj

Anyone who's ever listened to a Nicki Minaj record won't be surprised to learn that her 2014 hit Anaconda isn't actually about a snake.

VH1 branded the song's music video the hottest of the year, but it was also one of the the most widely banned.

Hello Kitty - Avril Lavigne

Hello Kitty saw the grungy Avril Lavigne swap Toronto for Tokyo with a song accused of perpetuating Japanese stereotypes - and the video did absolutely nothing to help.

Lavigne fiercely pushed back on claims that the video was racist, but many channels still refused to play it out of fear of getting caught up in the controversy.

Heart-Shaped Box - Nirvana

If you want to get a music video banned in the United States, desecrating religious iconography is a surefire way to go.

It's hard to imagine Nirvana weren't aware of this before they released the video for Heart-Shaped Box, which features a memorable shot of a crucified man wearing a Santa hat.

Ride -  Ciara and Ludacris

A steamy collaboration between Ciara and Ludacris, Ride features plenty of euphemisms and double entendres, and its video contains some seriously raunchy dancing. 

While nothing overtly explicit is ever shown, BET still decided that the overall tone meant it was unsuitable for broadcast.

Prison Sex - Tool

Although the stop-motion video for Tool's 1993 record Prison Sex isn't overtly graphic, it does allude to childhood trauma in a genuinely distressing fashion.

MTV did actually broadcast the video a few times, before realizing it was far too thematically heavy and disturbing, and removing it from rotation.

Elastic Heart - Sia

The music video for Sia's Elastic Heart features actor Shia LaBeouf and professional dancer Maddie Ziegler - both wearing leotards - dancing around in a cage.

The video was widely condemned as uncomfortably inappropriate, largely because Ziegler was just twelve years old at the time, and it was banned by the majority of channels.

Window Seat - Erykah Badu

Not only did the music video for Erykah Badu's Window Seat get widely banned, it also earned the R&B legend a misdemeanor conviction.

Given that the video involves Badu stripping down while walking through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza, we can't say we're particularly surprised on either count.

Worlock - Skinny Puppy

Even if TV channels were willing to overlook Worlock's sample of Charles Manson, they definitely weren't prepared to overlook the 21-minute highlight reel of horror that served as its video.

Consisting of some of the most disturbing moments from the history of film and television, the video was, unsurprisingly, banned just about everywhere.

Famous - Kanye West

In addition to reigniting the feud between Kanye West and Taylor Swift, the music video for Famous was banned by MTV and most other channels.

Drawing inspiration from a painting by Vincent Desiderio, the video featured West in bed surrounded by wax models of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Amber Rose and - most provocatively - Swift herself.

WAP - Cardi B feat. Megan Thee Stallion

If you know what WAP stands for, then you've probably got a good idea of why its music video wasn't considered appropriate fare for most music channels.

Featuring a cameo from Kylie Jenner, some predatory cats and lots of flesh, the video generated almost as much controversy as the song's lyrics.

Windowlicker - Aphex Twin

Aside from its expletive-laden lyrics, Windowlicker's music video also features plenty of unsettling imagery, mostly in the form of warped versions of Aphex Twin's face. 

MTV banned the original video, although they eventually aired a highly edited version that removed most of the disturbing content.

Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams

As soon as Blurred Lines hit the radio waves, Robin Thicke was widely condemned for the song's wildly misogynistic lyrics.  

The video only added to these accusations, featuring a smirking Thicke flanked by a cadre of young, skinny models. Unsurprisingly, it was widely banned.

Stan - Eminem feat. Dido

Eminem is known for pushing the envelope, but the video for his 2000 record Stan was too disturbing for the vast majority of music channels.

The video revolves around a rapidly unraveling super-fan who kidnaps his girlfriend, locks her in the trunk of his car and drives off a bridge. Cheerful it is not.

Happiness in Slavery - Nine Inch Nails

Considering it revolves around a man strapped to a torture machine that slowly rips him to shreds, it's easy to see why MTV refused to air the video for Happiness in Slavery.

Nine Inch Nails were encouraged to make a more family-friendly version, an idea which was rejected with a predictable level of contempt.

Born Free - M.I.A.

An incisive commentary on the senselessness of prejudice, the video for M.I.A.'s record Born Free depicts a brutal genocide perpetrated against redheads.

While undeniably powerful, the video makes for deeply upsetting viewing, and it was banned in many parts of the world.

Montero (Call Me by Your Name) - Lil Nas X

Rapper Lil Nas X is no stranger to controversy, but his video for Montero (Call Me by Your Name) had audiences riled up more than ever before.

The video flirts heavily with Satanic iconography, which was enough to get it banned from most American TV channels and called out by some political figureheads.

David Bowie - China Girl

Aside from perpetuating racist stereotypes of Asian women, David Bowie's 1983 single China Girl also generated controversy with its music video.

It wasn't the stereotypes that got the video banned in New Zealand however, but a scene of Bowie and actress Geeling Ching in a passionate embrace on the beach.

You’re All I Need - Mötley Crüe

The music video for Mötley Crüe's 1997 record You're All I Need revolves around an abusive relationship that ends with violent murder.

Unsurprisingly, this didn't really fit the vibe that MTV was going for, and the channel refused to air the video.

A Tout Le Monde - Megadeth

There's nothing particularly ban-worthy in the video for A Tout Le Monde, although the shots of Dave Mustaine digging a grave are undeniably macabre.

However, MTV interpreted the lyrics as glamorizing suicide, and they refused to have anything to do with the song - meaning the video was banned from the channel.

Reckoning Day - Megadeth

Despite the fact that the video for Megadeth's record Reckoning Day contained neither disturbing imagery nor offensive lyrics, it was still banned by MTV.

No official reason was given, but it's believed there was bad blood between Dave Mustaine and MTV's execs on account of all the band's previous bans.

Crooked Officer - Geto Boys

The music video for Crooked Officer - which contained scenes of violence against police officers - proved exactly as controversial as Geto Boys had hoped.

The video was roundly condemned, including by some high-profile politicians, and MTV quickly slapped it with a ban.

White America - Eminem

Eminem came out swinging with the music video for his 2002 record White America, with a scene of the Constitution being torn to shreds causing a major stir.

MTV ultimately decided that the video was too political for their liking, as did many of the other music channels.

The Pack - Vans

When The Pack submitted the video for their hit record Vans to MTV, the channel rejected it on the grounds that it came across as an endorsement of the clothing brand.

MTV was worried that this would alienate their advertisers, and The Pack refused to change the content of the video or the title of the track.

Kanye West - Monster

Boasting some of the best guest verses in the history of hip hop, Monster remains a high point in Kanye West's discography.

Unfortunately, its video was swiftly banned from MTV, thanks to some ghoulish imagery of zombies, monsters and a shot of West holding a severed head.

Ghost Ride It - Mistah FAB

Mistah FAB's 2008 record Ghost Ride It pays homage to the practice of "ghost riding," which involves exiting a car and dancing alongside it while it's still moving.

It wasn't long before youngsters were getting seriously injured trying to ghost ride, and the song's music video was swiftly banned by MTV.

Dirrty - Christina Aguilera feat. Redman

Although it featured plenty of risqué imagery, Dirrty - Christina Aguilera's collaboration with hip hop legend Redman - was still played by most music channels.

It was completely banned in Thailand, however, due to the presence of some posters in the background of the video that bore offensive messages in Thai.

Pagan Poetry - Bjork

Simon Chaudoir, the photography director for Pagan Poetry's video, later said it was one of hardest things he's ever shot because he was "constantly on the verge of throwing up."

The video involves close up of extreme body piercings - including a skin corset - and it was predictably banned by the majority of channels.

Baby Got Back - Sir Mix-A-Lot

Boasting one of the most memorable opening lines in hip hop history, Baby Got Back generated quiet a bit of controversy when it was released in 1992.

The lyrics were seen to objectify women, and many music channels refused to air the admittedly hilarious video, which features Sir Mix-A-Lot dancing on a giant butt.

Jeremy - Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam's 1991 single Jeremy is based on the true story of Jeremy Wade Delle, a 15-year-old high school student who tragically ended his own life in front of his whole class. 

The original music video gruesomely depicted the moment, and MTV understandably refused to air it unless the offending scene was removed.

Stress - Justice

Inspired by the dystopian crime movie A Clockwork Orange, the music video for Stress depicts a gang of teens tearing a path of carnage through Paris.

The video was harshly condemned as racist (most of the teens in the video are Black), and it was banned in France and several other countries.