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How many do you remember?
Lady Gaga at the 2009 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!

Best of the vmas

We've compiled a list of the best of the best in the history of the awards. How many do you remember?


Lady Gaga, Paparazzi, 2009

Everyone in the know knew who Gaga was in 2009, but she was still breaking into the public consciousness. All it took was some damn good piano playing, theatrics like no other and a fake suicide at the end to have everyone talking about that girl who stole the show the next day. Her performance of Paparazzi was stunning, both visually and vocally.


Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, Living On A Prayer/Wanted Dead or Alive 1989

No one had ever had the nerve to do it before. The VMA's were all about big performances, so when Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora walked out on the stage with just two acoustic guitars, the audience didn't know what to expect. The musical purity of two men with two guitars singing a compliation of Prayer/Wanted Dead or Alive was stunning. MTV loved it so much, they built a whole series around it: Unplugged.


Michael Jackson, Medley 1995

Just MJ on the stage, dancing his way through one song after another. Yes, it was all lip-synched, but the sheer joy of seeing one of the world's most iconic performers on the stage again that was thrilling to the audience. The addition of Slash to the mix didn't hurt matters either. MJ was the man who made videos popular to the masses and reinvented them along the way -- the ultimate MTV icon.


Madonna Like A Virgin 1984

This was the moment that had everyone talking in 1984. Everyone knew who Madonna was, but it was the risque way she pushed the envelope that had everyone in an uproar. She sashayed her way onto the VMA stage in a wedding gown, and proceeded to bump, grind, twist and twirl her way onto the top of the Video Music Award hot list. No one knew what to make of her, but they knew one thing: She was a star!

Photo credits: PictureGroup/MTV
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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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