How many do you remember?
Beyonce performing at the 2009 VMAS

Best of the VMAS

Of all the awards shows on television, there isn't one more hotly anticipated than the MTV Video Music Awards. There are always epic performances on board and this year is no exception -- but remembering past performances is fun too! We've compiled a list of the best of the best in the history of the awards. How many do you remember?

So many performances, so little time. The one thing the VMA's have always been known for are epic performances. Some of today's greatest stars made their marks during an opening performance or musical number and in turn, made music history.

Who can forget Diddy's tribute to fallen friend Notorious B.I.G. when he sang I'll Be Missing You with Biggie's wife, Faith Evans? How about Eminem when he performed Slim Shady for the first time? Or Britney Spears dancing with a live snake in I'm A Slave 4 U? But there can only be ten of the best, and here they are, counting down to number one!


Rihanna, Disturbia 2008

Backed by awesome drum beats and a bunch of zombies that made Michael Jackson's Thriller look tame, RiRi opened up the 2008 VMA's with this awesome dance party. She showed that she was a force to be reckoned with, then and now.


Nirvana, Lithium 1992

It was so simple and direct, but just what everyone needed back in '92. Nirvana put their best foot forward with a cool as hell performance of one of their most epic tunes. Kurt Cobain was a genius, understood his audience and for one brief time, looked like he was having fun because he knew he had the audience in his hands. He also ticked off MTV execs by starting off with the band's latest tune, Rape Me -- a song the network forbid them to play because of censorship issues -- but quickly segued into Lithium.


Taylor Swift, You Belong With Me 2009

Teen country queen Taylor Swift had been famously dissed by Kayne West just moments earlier, so she really had something to prove when she headed underground to the New York City subway system to perform her iconic hit You Belong With Me. It was just the attention-grabbing, revenge-getting thing Swift needed to show everyone she truly deserved the award Kanye interrupted her over.


Madonna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguliera, Like A Virgin/Hollywood 2003

Whenever Madonna is involved, it's sure to be an epic VMA performance. Put together then-bitter diva rivals Britney Spears and Christina Aguliera, add in an illicit kiss or two (and one disgusted look from Justin Timberlake) and you have the makings of one of the most memorable performances in VMA history. Plus, it was a cool smash up of Like a Virgin and Hollywood, way before the Glee cast made them famous.


Beyonce, Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) 2009

Hot on the heels of Taylor Swift's embarassment by Kanye West, consummate performer Beyonce brought the house down when she performed Single Ladies in 2009. She showed the young'uns how it was all done, and in the end graciously acknowledged Swift in a moment that showed her as one of the classiest women on the planet.


Eminem, The Real Slim Shady/The Way I Am 2000

Everywhere you looked, there was one Eminem clone after another as he performed The Real Slim Shady. It was a brilliant move and set Em on the road to rap icon status. He showed that rap could be cool, fun and yes, smart as hell. Eminem finished up his set with a heavily bleeped performance of The Way I Am.

Up next: More memorable VMA moments >>

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Comments on "Top 10 most epic VMA performances ever"

G.A. August 26, 2013 | 1:07 PM

Where is Britney's ICONIC Slave performance of 2001? She had the greatest cultural impact and that performance is much more legendary than Madonna's performances. Britney is the queen

Jagger August 25, 2013 | 5:15 PM

I don't agree with Madonna Like a Virgen, in the first place. I mean, didn't you watch Michael performance, comparing Michael's and even others performances in the list, Madonna is the weekest one. Just saying!

VMA!!!! August 09, 2013 | 3:27 AM

Im suprised that Gaga is number 4, i figured shed be 1 or 2 next to madonnas. But I am not so convinced Madonna sung that one live...So, with that said i dont even think she should be counted. And it wasnt all that great. Now Britneys or Rihannas or even Pinks, hell yeah, i cant believe Pink isnt even on the list! But Gaga should defidently be high up there. all in all pretty okay list :D gj

Lolololo August 02, 2013 | 12:28 PM

Where is Britney's "I'm A Slave 4 U" performance??? I don't know half of these performances tbh (I probably would recognize them if I saw them, but if they are that iconic, I shouldn't have to)

Judy July 05, 2013 | 11:30 AM

I think Chris Brown is a despicable person. No argument. Maybe he shouldn't have even gotten the VMA gig. However his 2011 performance was extraordinary. Why it is not in the top ten is likely people's reaction to his repulsiveness. But it is an incredible combination of dance, singing and of course flying.

Matt September 04, 2012 | 2:00 PM

No Nirvana 199,2 with the 'rape me' intro, bass throw, drum kit smash and stage diving? Shame.

Tyler September 01, 2012 | 8:47 AM

How Madonna is number 1 is weird. it sucked..... MJ amazing. as always. T swift and rihanna not iconic. GAGA SHOULD BE NUMBER 1. everyone says she is bad but i think that performance really showed her vocal talent. paws up

Ryan August 31, 2012 | 6:22 AM

Madonna's performance was not that good tbh!

Bailey August 27, 2012 | 9:27 PM

Where is Pink on this list!?? And I don't think Taylor Swift's subway thing should be anywhere on here. I don't even think I saw that...and if I did it certainly didn't stick.

C_Jay August 14, 2012 | 11:11 PM

Taylor Swift nor Rihanna's performance are Iconic... no one remembers them, if anything you need to edit that list and add Britney's Slave 4 performance where she had the snake, i remember it like it was yesterday, she was on the front of every newspaper! a lot of people still reference that performance too, even today. 11 years after it actually happened.

Raul August 12, 2012 | 10:04 PM

I agree that Gaga's Paparazzi should be top 3, but I also agree with with other comments that Pink should be up there. Maybe Elton John/Guns N Roses as well.

Carmen April 20, 2012 | 3:23 PM

Where is pink?????????????

ilovepink September 24, 2011 | 1:17 PM

P!nk should be #1 with Sober.

Paul September 13, 2011 | 7:23 AM

The greatest VMA performance I ever seen on TV or years later on the internet is Guns N Roses & Elton John November Rain 1992. Shame it's not on this list.

claudia August 27, 2011 | 2:09 AM

Michael jackson performance AMAZING , the KIng ! number one for me !

Lists August 26, 2011 | 3:30 PM

No way Gaga is top 4..she is medicore in performance at best....Beyonce should be higher and her Crazy in Love performance where she came out the CEILING 20 feet up and landed on a couch while singing should be in this top 10...Beyonce brings it. Madonna as number one has merit....MJ lipsynched too much to be top 10.

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