- Ten years ago, on July 23, 2010, the biggest boy-band of the decade was formed: One Direction.
- All five members had tried out for “The X-Factor” as solo artists and were eliminated – but before they could go, the judges decided to put them in a band instead.
- From that moment on, One Direction and its five members, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan, and Zayn Malik, were stars.
- To celebrate 1D’s 10th birthday, we’ve ranked all 17 music videos they released before their indefinite hiatus began in 2016.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ten years ago, five teenage solo singers’ lives were changed forever when the judges of “The X-Factor” asked them if, instead of going home, they wanted to enter the competition as a band.
One Direction went on to place third that season, but they arguably won in the greater scheme of things. All five members gained millions of fans around the world. They broke records, won awards, and weathered more than a few scandals.
To celebrate 10 years of the biggest modern boy-band, we’ve ranked every music video they produced, from the mediocre to the scream-inducing. Keep scrolling to see how your favourite stacks up.
17. “More Than This” (2012)
Only their third music video ever, the “More Than This” video isn’t actually much of a music video. It’s more of a concert video, except with the studio version of the song piped in over some screaming crowd noises. So, by default, it gets the last place ranking because even the band’s most mediocre video has a plot and an interesting concept.
This video is a sweet time capsule of the “Up All Night” era, when they all wore coordinating outfits, Converse, suspenders, and bow-ties, and only had a few tattoos between the five of them.
16. “You & I” (2014)
“You & I” was a less-than-interesting choice for a single from an album that contains songs like “Happily,” “Diana,” and “Don’t Forget Where You Belong,” and the music video is appropriately boring as well. It was universally dragged by One Direction fans almost immediately.
The concept begins with the five members magically morphing into each other while wearing the same sweater. It uses some pretty cheesy special effects, but then it gets worse. After a cursed close-up onto Harry’s face, it zooms out and shows multiple versions of all five in a time lapse. The concept could’ve been cool, but they don’t really take advantage of it.
Plus, after all was said and done, photos from the set leaked of Harry looking absolutely sick and miserable. Apparently, no one involved enjoyed this shoot.
15. “Gotta Be You” (2011)
“Gotta Be You” never stood a chance – any song that came directly after “What Makes You Beautiful” had giant shoes to fill, and this mid-tempo ballad and its generic music video simply couldn’t do it.
The “Gotta Be You” video centres on each of the boys making their way to a campsite via various methods of transportation (Liam and Louis drive, Zayn takes a train, Niall and Harry … walk?). Then, predictably, they meet up with a bunch of girls and watch fireworks.
Points for their impeccable British styling and Liam’s curly hair.
14. “Little Things” (2012)
“Little Things” was the second single released from “Take Me Home” (their second album), and the group used the same pattern as the first album: release a banger, and then slow it down with the second single. So, “Little Things” came after the “Live While We’re Young” music video which, spoiler, is a lot later on this list.
Every band does this type of video at some point – it shows the group inside the studio “recording” the song, and each of them gets to tinker around with instruments and the controls. Each of the members gets a moment or two to shine, and even with how bland the video’s concept is, their chemistry as a group is undeniable.
13. “History” (2015)
The “History” video is essentially a clip show of the group’s five years together, from their beginnings on “The X-Factor” in 2010 through 2015, and to date, their last album. For fans, it’s nearly impossible to watch it without getting choked up, and succeeds as a love letter to the Directioners, but it’s easy to assume that the inside jokes, cute dances, and clips don’t land as well with a casual fan.
While it’s sad to see Zayn alongside the four remaining members in old clips, the real gut punch comes at the end when, after showing footage from their last performance as a group at the 2015 “X-Factor” finale, the four each go their separate ways. Come back, please!
12. “Midnight Memories” (2014)
There’s nothing bad about the “Midnight Memories” video, it’s just not memorable. It’s also laughable that the members of One Direction would be at any party and not be the centre of attention.
The best scenes come from the kebab shop, when they clearly become the life of the party. While the scenes with the five of them on scooters are cute, the additions of the old ladies and the choreographed dance are confusing, and not what we love about One Direction.
11. “Perfect” (2015)
The “Perfect” music video is basically the older, more mature version of “Little Things.” Both are black and white, and both involve the band recording the song and vaguely standing around a control panel.
But where “Perfect” gains an edge is its reflection on the lives that the members have had to lead over the last five years. It all takes place inside a hotel, as the boys had been on tour almost constantly since their first album came out. You get a sense that you’re intruding on their daily lives watching the video, which is clearly the point – they have lived inside a fish bowl for years.
Though the song is a bop, and is ostensibly a love song, it’s also kind of sad. They can’t offer a real relationship with stability, just a life of switching from hotel room to hotel room. The video reflects that melancholy vibe.
10. “Steal My Girl” (2014)
Getting this out of the way: Yes, “Steal My Girl” is the One Direction video that has none other than Danny DeVito playing an eccentric Hollywood director. Clearly, they saw how well the “Best Song Ever” video turned out, and tried to recreate that magic. It didn’t work.
While DeVito is having a ball out in the desert, the video is a little too absurd for my taste. Zayn’s stuck with two sumo wrestlers, Liam leads a marching band on top of a bird cage, Louis hangs out with a monkey and other zoo animals, Harry pops out of a door in the middle of a desert to sing with ballerinas, and Niall is engaged in some type of African tribal dance that borders on cultural appropriation. In other words, it doesn’t age very well.
9. “Drag Me Down” (2015)
“Drag Me Down” was the first single and video that One Direction released as a quartet, after Zayn left the band on that fateful day in March 2015. It also singled a new sound for the group, a little more electronic and radio-friendly than past singles.
The video is objectively cool – they got to travel to the real NASA training facilities, and each member was able to participate in a different facet of astronaut training. Some highlights, of course, were Harry getting acquainted with a robot, and their direct homage to 1983 film “The Right Stuff” with their dramatic walk in the spacesuits.
It’s also interesting to directly compare their outfits and style here to something like “More Than This.” Each member has their own distinct aesthetic, and they don’t really mesh together – perhaps a sign that a split was on the horizon.
8. “Night Changes” (2014)
From their first video without Zayn to their last one with him – the “Night Changes” video keeps the band separate, as each member gets to take the viewer (camera) on dates, which each end in disaster. To date, it’s their most technically adventurous video.
Not for nothing, the video spawned one of the most iconic One Direction memes – Zayn’s unimpressed face when his date gets interrupted by an angry guy. For this alone, it earns No. 8.
The POV style of “Night Changes” was also just ahead of its time. Scrolling through TikTok now, it’s impossible to miss any number of POV videos.
7. “One Way or Another (Teenage Kicks)” (2013)
Any self-respecting One Direction fan can tell you that the moment they knew it was all over for them was when they searched “One Direction funny moments” on YouTube. The “One Way or Another” video, which they released to support Comic Relief in 2013, is essentially just one music video full of “funny moments.”
The group filmed it DIY-style while they were on tour, with scenes from New York City, London, Tokyo, and Ghana, complete with a cameo from then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
Most iconic moments? Zayn romantically serenading a tree, Niall’s shower and bathtub scenes, Louis’ pelvic thrusting, and literally every second one of them spends with the little kids in Ghana.
6. “Live While We’re Young” (2012)
Has a boy-band ever looked like a more fun hang than One Direction? In the “Live While We’re Young” video, the five of them descend upon a campsite/festival ground and wreak havoc. They destroy a tent, they almost go flying off an antique Jeep, they play soccer, they party, they play around in a lake – all in all, a perfect way to spend a weekend.
Their charm is infectious and irresistible. If you didn’t already know, after this video you did – One Direction was the next big thing.
5. “Story of My Life” (2013)
We’re down to the nitty gritty, folks. If their previous singles (“What Makes You Beautiful,” “One Thing,” “Kiss You”) had shown anything, it was that One Direction knew how to make a perfectly delightful bubblegum pop song and accompanying music video. But with “Story of My Life,” they proved that they were a real band to be reckoned with.
The video sees each of the members reflecting on their childhoods and their families, first by singing in a room filled with photos, and then by recreating old family photos in the present-day. Another trend that has recently become popular on TikTok – the teens owe everything to 1D.
4. “What Makes You Beautiful” (2011)
Name a more perfect summer song – I’ll wait. When One Direction burst onto the scene with their debut single in 2011, it was clear: the long boy-band drought was officially over.
“What Makes You Beautiful” still holds up as a song and a music video, though the band would perfect their sound and vibe later. There’s a reason the video has over 1 billion views on YouTube. It just puts you in a great mood, has you itching to also drive down the California coast, and potentially meet some cute British (or Irish!) boys.
To put it simply: There is no One Direction phenomenon without “What Makes You Beautiful.” Harry still sings it when he performs solo. Its power is undeniable.
3. “Kiss You” (2013)
The “Kiss You” music video is just really, really fun. It leans in to what fans want to see: the five of them messing around. The vintage old Hollywood vibe of the video also complements the aesthetic they were going for at the time, which was a second coming of the Monkees/early Beatles.
Every scene, from “Jailhouse Rock” to the fake surfing to the shots of them pretending to drive in front of a green screen, has approximately 10 different little background moments that will you have you watching the video over and over, wondering how you could have missed it the first time.
2. “One Thing” (2012)
It only took One Direction three music videos to perfect what fans wanted from them for the next five years: the boys set loose on an environment with no female love interests. It all started here, with their London hijinks, which include running around park, riding a double decker bus, and busking on the street.
Why they chose to put forth “Gotta Be You” as their second single, we may never understand. But we’re lucky that “One Thing” was next – it’s easily a better song and video than “What Makes You Beautiful.” They lean into their British-ness, each of them gets a solo, and the hysteria they cause in the video signalled to us Americans that these boys are the real deal – we were just behind.
1. “Best Song Ever” (2013)
Could it be anything else? As previously stated, the main requirements for a successful 1D music video are hijinks and no love interests. The “Best Song Ever” video, which was released to promote their film “This Is Us,” takes that up a notch – Zayn himself dresses up as the “sexy assistant” that Harry is really into. They almost make out, much to the delight of everyone.
The rest of the band also plays double duty, with Harry playing Marcel the nervous marketing guy, Liam as Leeroy the flamboyant choreographer, and Niall and Louis as two studio execs that wouldn’t be out of place in “Tropic Thunder.”
The music video is really a love letter to One Direction and its fans. In the video, studio executives try to pressure them to conform to boy-band standards with matching outfits and choreography. Instead, they trash the place and perform a dance that only superfans would truly understand, filled with inside jokes and references to various interviews, behind the scenes videos, the “X-Factor” video diaries, and more. This is us, indeed.
- Read more:
- Everything we know about One Direction’s upcoming 10th anniversary reunion
- THEN AND NOW: The members of One Direction 10 years later
- From throwing insults to talking about a reunion, here’s everything One Direction members have said since their hiatus
- The 30 wildest outfits Harry Styles has worn over his decade-long career