One of Tom Petty‘s earliest music videos was for “You Got Lucky,” the synth-driven lead single off 1982’s Long After Dark. Featuring the Heartbreakers, who arrive via hovercraft in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, the clip leaned heavily into a sci-fi theme that could not have been more appealing to the freshly launched MTV channel.
The video and song exploded. Petty had helped kick off the age of video as a crucial promotional tool for established artists. But by his own admission, he was actually ahead of the curve. “We made videos before they were videos, we made them back in ’78,” he said in the 2005 book, Conversations With Tom Petty.
“What we would do is we would make a film of the song, and wherever you couldn’t be, you’d send the film. We’d send it around Europe … and when MTV came along, they were so hungry for product that they began to play all those old films. We just called them promo films, they weren’t called videos. And we actually thought the term ‘video’ was weird, because they were on film. They weren’t serious big, huge projects.”
For Petty, video-making was a wonderful marketing instrument but also just plain enjoyable, a mood evident in several of his clips. “It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I always liked films, and I liked being on the set. I liked learning and seeing what the directors did. We got really involved in it. I wanted to be there through the edit and through the whole thing.”
Over the course of Petty’s four-decade career, many of his videos became just as memorable as the songs themselves. From his roots with Mudcrutch through his time with the Traveling Wilburys, below we dive into All 47 Tom Petty Videos Ranked Worst to Best.
47. “Don’t Pull Me Over”
With a rhythmic reggae beat, “Don’t Pull Me Over” is Petty’s most direct statements on pot legalization. Petty’s adopted home state of California didn’t legalize recreational usage until 2016, six years after the song was released. The video, a trip in and of itself, features the members of the Heartbreakers, via some stop motion, as they climb aboard a psychedelic Volkswagen bus and head off down the road.
46. “Something Could Happen”
In the years following Petty’s 2017 death, several videos have been released by his estate. (Petty’s eldest daughter, Adria, is an independent director and has worked on music videos with artists like Beyonce, Coldplay and Regina Spektor.) Several of the songs from 2020’s archival Wildflowers & All the Rest received video treatments, including the tender “Something Could Happen,” written and directed by Warren Fu.
45. “You Saw Me Comin’”
“There’s this kind of longing in the song, in the way that he wrote the chord structure, the melody and the lyrics,” keyboardist Benmont Tench said of “You Saw Me Comin’,” a track recorded in 1992 that was left off Wildflowers. “It’s wistful, and it would have been the perfect way to end the disc.” The visuals for the video – released to promote the expanded Wildflowers & All the Rest – include sweeping shots of rocky coastlines and never-ending highway lines.
44. “Make It Better (Forget About Me)”
Often, songs that do best on the charts are the “earworms” that easily get stuck in listeners’ heads. Petty took that concept quite literally in the video for “Make It Better (Forget About Me),” a song cowritten with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, when he crawled into the ear of a young woman and proceeded to jam. A fisheye lens bolsters the scene as horn players and dancers prance around the woman’s ear canals until Petty is finally removed with a Q-tip.
43. “Letting You Go”
Petty appears coolly comfortable on the video set for “Letting You Go” as the cameras swirl around him. By the end of the video, he even has those cameras swaying along.
42. “Saving Grace”
The only video made to promote Petty’s 2006 solo album, Highway Companion, “Saving Grace” features a bunch of familiar faces – namely, the Heartbreakers: drummer Steve Ferrone, Benmont Tench on piano, guitarists Mike Campbell and Scott Thurston and Ron Blair on bass.
41. “The Waiting”
Standing among colorful splotches of red, yellow and blue paint, the Heartbreakers appeared confident and upbeat in the video for “The Waiting,” the lead single from their 1981 album, Hard Promises. They needed to be – this was the same year Petty was informed that his record label, MCA, had hiked the price of the album to $9.98. Petty didn’t stand for it, withholding the LP’s tapes until the price was set back to the usual $8.98.
40. “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)”
Fiddling with shadows and spotlights, the video for “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)” took on a somewhat mysterious, film-noir air. When the band builds into the powerful chorus, the camera cuts to a wide-angle shot of the full band while Petty reminisces about the woman who’s left him for someone who’ll eventually break her heart.
39. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
Petty’s motto for the Heartbreakers: No girls allowed. But after asking the frontman if he would produce her debut solo album and being turned down, Fleetwood Mac superstar Stevie Nicks got the next best thing: a song written by Petty (and guitarist Mike Campbell) for her album. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” ended up as a duet and as Bella Donna‘s first single. (Petty would also appear on Nicks’ second solo album, The Wild Heart, for another duet, “I Will Run to You.”)
“Insider” was originally written for Nicks, but she could tell the song was dear to Petty, so she insisted he keep it for his next album. With the stars sitting side-by-side, singing lyrics like “I’m the one you couldn’t love” in harmony, it’s tempting to consider there was more going on between Petty and Nicks than just their musical collaborations. “I pushed on this question,” Petty’s biographer Warren Zanes once recalled, “saying to him, after he told me they weren’t a couple, ‘You sure sound like a couple.’ Tom looked at me and said, ‘We had our times.'”
37. “Here Comes My Girl”
With half-spoken narration driving “Here Comes My Girl,” Petty offers a few mischievous smirks and side glances in the song’s video. “Every time it seems like there ain’t nothin’ left no more, I find myself having to reach out and grab hold of something,” he sings as he playfully puts his arm around bassist Ron Blair.
36. “I Should Have Known It”
Toward the latter portion of Petty’s career, much of the work went down in the Clubhouse, the Heartbreakers’ rehearsal space. Full of guitars, amps and other assorted gear, the locale served as the perfect backdrop for a series of videos from 2010’s Mojo.
35. “Something Good Coming”
“This is what the band has grown into,” Petty told JamBase in 2010 about the Mojo album. “This accurately reflects what we’ve turned into. We’ve got a lot deeper pocket than we used to. In the early ’80s, I don’t think we would have or could have made this record.”
34. “Jefferson Jericho Blues”
It’s quite clear where Petty feels most at-ease: jamming with his band. “Are we going again?” he says in his Floridian drawl at the start of the video for “Jefferson Jericho Blues.” Surrounded by coffee cups and smoldering cigarettes, the band launches into the song. He addresses the camera at the end: “There you go.”
When the Heartbreakers first began to develop their identity, they needed to make some important choices about what types of projects they wanted to participate in. The video for “Refugee” came about when Petty decided he didn’t want to play on The Merv Griffin Show. So, the band filmed a video, which aired on the program in lieu of a live performance.
32. “A Face in the Crowd”
Petty’s own face flashes brightly as the lights in the video for “A Face in the Crowd” flicker off and on. Here one moment, gone the next.
31. “Handle With Care”
George Harrison‘s brainchild the Traveling Wilburys weren’t together for long, but they did manage to make a few videos. The one for debut single “Handle With Care,” whose title came to Harrison via a nearby packing box, includes photos of the supergroup’s members as youngsters.
30. “Inside Out”
Dressed as eclectically as their respective musical backgrounds, the Wilburys were down a member when they made the video for “Inside Out,” a song from their second and final album. Roy Orbison died between the recording of their two LPs.
29. “Scare Easy”
That’s not a guitar in Petty’s hands in the video for Mudcrutch‘s “Scare Easy” but a Rickenbacker bass, an instrument he revisited from time to time since his first band back in 1970. While Mudcrutch disbanded in 1975, right before Petty and others moved on to their more famous group, they got back together in 2008 for a pair of albums.
28. “Lover of the Bayou”
27. “I Forgive It All”
Actor Anthony Hopkins’ career stretches far beyond his renowned role as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs. In the video for Mudcrutch’s “I Forgive It All,” he serves as a contemplative protagonist as he roams the streets of Los Angeles.
26. “Keep a Little Soul”
Brimming with old footage from early shows and the Heartbreakers’ touring van, the posthumously released video for “Keep a Little Soul” is a trip down memory lane.
25. “It’s Good to Be King”
“It’s one of my favorite songs I ever wrote,” Petty said of “It’s Good to Be King.” “That’s just the truth. I thought it was one of my best things. That one had something to say.”
24. “You Don’t Know How It Feels”
Sporting a Dylan-esque harmonica holder, Petty walks viewers through his own personal and professional search for autonomy, offering a relatable message along the way. The video for “You Don’t Know How It Feels” won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1995.
23. “Leave Virginia Alone”
Up until 2020, the only officially released version of Petty’s “Leave Virginia Alone” was a cover by Rod Stewart, who wasn’t so keen on recording the song at first. It eventually appeared on his 1995 album, A Spanner in the Works. “I had to be persuaded to do it,” Stewart said. “But now I’m glad I did.” Two takes of Petty’s own version of the song, plus a video starring actress Casimere Jollette, were released in October 2020 to promote Wildflowers & All the Rest.
Heartbreakers Mike Campbell and Howie Epstein make brief cameos in the narrative video for “Swingin’,” a song that seemingly fell perfectly into place without much work. “I actually ad-libbed it completely,” Petty said about writing the song. “I played that first round of chords, the band fell in, I ad-libbed the lyric from top to bottom.”
21. “You Wreck Me”
Glimpses of Radio City Music Hall give it away: Petty’s video for “You Wreck Me,” which features a freshly hired Steve Ferrone on drums, is centered on a visit to New York City, possibly filmed around the same time Petty appeared on Saturday Night Live with guest drummer Dave Grohl in 1994.
20. “Walls (Circus)”
Bursting with color, the video for “Walls (Circus),” a song that includes backing vocals by Lindsey Buckingham, incorporates elements of Indian culture and Hindu-aligned symbolism.
19. “She’s My Baby”
Here’s your chance to see Bob Dylan riding a bicycle! “There was a lot of joy around in those days,” Petty said of playing with the Traveling Wilburys. “We were a happy bunch.”
18. “Drivin’ Down to Georgia”
Using time-stamped archival tour footage from 1995, viewers can follow along as Petty and the band drive to Georgia — the next best thing to being on the tour bus.
17. “Jammin’ Me”
A year after serving as Bob Dylan’s backing band on the True Confessions Tour, the Heartbreakers released “Jammin’ Me,” a song commenting on media overload that Petty cowrote with Dylan. “I guess they were picking words out of a newspaper or off the television,” Campbell said in a 2003 interview, “and Tom said ‘Oh, I’ve got this track of Mike’s,’ and they inserted those words over the track. I wasn’t there when Bob wrote the words to it, but I was pretty thrilled to hear that he had contributed to it.”
16. “Peace in L.A.”
“If the powers that be let evil go free, you must understand, don’t play into their hand,” Petty sings over a backdrop of television footage from the 1992 Los Angeles riots, urging for harmony and justice.
Released a year after Petty’s death, the video for “Gainesville,” just like the song itself, is a love letter to his Florida hometown. With footage from his earliest days, as well as clips from more recent years shot around the streets of Gainesville, Petty’s bayou roots are on full display.
14. “End of the Line”
Chugging along in a train car, the Traveling Wilburys paid tribute to departed band member Roy Orbison in the video for “End of the Line,” which included scenes of a rocking chair with a guitar sitting on it and a framed photo of Orbison as his vocal line is played. (Orbison died less than two albums after the Wilburys’ debut album was released.)
13. “You Got Lucky”
In Petty’s view, the video for “You Got Lucky,” which received plenty of airplay on MTV as the network was getting its footing, was the project that made the Heartbreakers a household name. “It really changed everything. No one had ever – even Michael Jackson – done a prelude to the video,” Petty said of the clip’s first minute, which includes no music. “A bit of business before the song started, and we never lip-sync or anything in that video. That was the idea. We were sick of lip-syncing. … But boy, did it explode. It really did change the way videos went. There were a lot of imitations after that.”
12. “Runnin’ Down a Dream”
Directed by Jim Lenaham, who directed multiple Petty projects, the animated video for “Runnin’ Down a Dream” took inspiration from the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland by legendary cartoonist Winsor McCay. The pioneering comic typically portrayed Nemo having elaborate dreams that were interrupted when he awoke at the end of each strip.
11. “Wildflowers (Home Recording)”
“Wildflowers,” like many of the tracks from Petty’s 1994 solo album of the same name, was written during a period of poignant transition, as he struggled with drug addiction and the breakup of his marriage. So the 2020 video for the dusted-off version of “Wildflowers (Home Recording)” is a welcome sight, featuring scenes of Petty smiling and looking content as he strolls the woods with his dog at his side.
10. “For Real”
Like many of his peers, Petty couldn’t imagine doing anything else with his life. “Tommy knew he had the best gig in the world: making music and making people happy, and he loved doing it,” his widow, Dana Petty, wrote in 2019, a month after the “For Real” video was released. “He always said he would have done it with five people in a room, let alone 50,000.”
9. “You and Me”
The video for “You and Me,” directed by Petty’s daughter Adria, spotlights a side of the story viewed from the stage. In 2018, Petty’s family urged fans to share photos and videos from over the years for a clip “brought to you by you” – from kids learning their first Heartbreaker songs on guitar to tattoos featuring Petty lyrics. “Music was in his soul,” widow Dana Petty noted. “His fans were responsible for making him feel as vital and charged-up at 66 as he was at 26.”
8. “Don’t Come Around Here No More”
The trippy Alice in Wonderland-themed video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” stars Louise “Wish” Foley, who also appeared in Petty’s video for “Make It Better (Forget About Me).” It also includes the song’s cowriter, Dave Stewart, as a caterpillar, Petty himself as the Mad Hatter and the rest of the Heartbreakers as esteemed tea-party guests.
7. “I Won’t Back Down”
The video for “I Won’t Back Down,” the lead single from Petty’s first solo album, Full Moon Fever, featured two Beatles: fellow Traveling Wilbury George Harrison, who played acoustic guitar and sang backing vocals, and drummer Ringo Starr. Mike Campbell can also be seen playing Harrison’s iconic “Rocky” guitar, a 1961 Fender Stratocaster the Beatle painted with psychedelic colors in 1967.
6. “Learning to Fly”
Returning to a familiar desert backdrop (see “You Got Lucky”), Petty and his band sit on top of a cluster of airplanes as a montage shows a young boy coming of age step-by-step, earning his wings.
5. “Yer So Bad”
A song Petty referred to as “black humor” required a similarly styled video, one that spins a wild tale of a flirtatious woman and her disowned “yuppie” husband who turns to a blow-up doll for companionship.
4. “Free Fallin’”
The video for “Free Fallin’,” one of Petty’s best and most popular songs, sort of documents the journey of the “good girl who’s crazy about Elvis” Petty sings about. But the clip is also a tribute to Los Angeles, featuring luscious scenes of highways and skateboarding parks.
3. “Wilbury Twist”
The video for “Wilbury Twist” is nothing short of a ball, featuring comedians and actors galore. Eric Idle, Woody Harrelson, Whoopi Goldberg and John Candy are just a few of the stars who drop by.
2. “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”
“Mary Jane’s Last Dance” won the MTV Video Music Award for Best Male Video in 1994 and remains one of Petty’s most popular clips. In it, the frontman plays a morgue assistant who takes home a beautiful dead woman played by actress Kim Basinger. “That was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Basinger told the Daily Beast. “It was classic, wasn’t it? He was a doll, and he was so sweet and asked me to do it, and both of us are extremely shy, so we just said three words to each other the whole time. I’ll never forget how heavy that dress was! And I had to be dead the whole time. You know, it’s really one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, because I had to be completely weightless to be in his arms the way I was. It won all those awards, and the kids love it.”
1. “Into the Great Wide Open”
Petty told some great tales with his songs. One of his most engaging is the title track to Into the Great Wide Open, so it’s no surprise the song’s video is a stunner. With the assistance of Johnny Depp as Eddie Rebel, Gabrielle Anwar as Eddie’s girlfriend and Faye Dunaway as his manager, the clip painted a brilliantly engaging portrait of a “rebel without a clue” who risks and loses it all. “And they all lived happily ever after,” Petty concludes as the video comes to a close.
Tom Petty Albums Ranked
He’s a rock ‘n’ roll rarity: an artist who was consistent until the very end.