ENTERTAINMENT
23/08/2016 14:59 BST | Updated 20/08/2018 14:54 BST

MTV VMAs 2018: 20 Performances That Stole The Show In Previous Years

Including Britney's snake, Miley's foam finger and Beyoncé's big news.

J Kravitz/K Mazur/F Micelotta/K Winter/Image Direct

For more than 30 years, the MTV VMAs have seen the biggest names in pop music take to the stage, with music heavyweights like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince all delivering memorable performances of some of their biggest hits.

More recently, newer artists have used the ceremony to show off their star power, with acts like Beyoncé, Kanye West, and Miley Cyrus all wowing (and quite often shocking) audiences around the world with their appearances.

Here are just 20 of the most outrageous, memorable and downright scene-stealing VMAs performances ever...

  • Madonna - 'Like A Virgin' (1984)
    MTV brought out the big guns for the very first VMAs, with Tina Turner, David Bowie and Rod Stewart all on the bill.

    However, it was a new artist named Madonna who stole the show with this provocative routine, writhing around while dressed in raunchy bridal attire.
  • Madonna - 'Vogue' (1990)
    Bringing a new meaning to 'yass queen', Madonna channelled Marie Antoinette for this stunning performance in 1990, complete with powder wigs, a lot of fan action and some jolly big bloomers.
  • Nirvana - 'Lithium' (1992)
    The VMAs aren't just about the pop acts, though, and after scooping Best New Artist in 1992, Nirvana also showed the world what they do best with this performance.

    After teasing the opening lines of their song 'Rape Me', they went into 'Lithium'.
  • Michael Jackson - Medley (1995)
    By 1995, the public had begun to talk more about Michael's colourful personal life than his musical offerings, so he used the opportunity at the VMAs to remind everyone why he was famous in the first place.

    Teaming up with Guns 'N' Roses' guitarist Slash, he began with a performance of 'Billie Jean', before dancing to some new material.
  • Britney Spears - 'I'm A Slave 4 U' (2001)
    Like countless stars before her, it was a performance at the VMAs that cemented Britney's place on the pop landscape, and while no one was doubting her pop credentials before this, her 'I'm A Slave 4 U' routine was a moment it was clear she was a force to be reckoned with.

    While a lot is made of the fact she dances with a live snake during this performance, it should also be noted that Britney opens the show sharing a cage with an actual lion.
  • Michael Jackson and *NSYNC - 'Pop' (2001)
    The King of Pop returned to the VMAs six years later, to give his blessing to *NSYNC, joining them on stage to dance to their track 'Pop'.

    Time has not been kind to Justin Timberlake's beat boxing.
  • Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Madonna and Missy Elliott - 'Like A Virgin'/'Hollywood'/'Work It' (2003)
    There's so much to love about this video. Beyoncé's surprising excitement at seeing Britney emerge. The 'Queer Eye For The Straight Guy' squad mouthing along with every word. Guy Ritchie's begrudging standing ovation. Justin Timberlake's obvious discomfort. The most iconic pop song in history being interrupted by Madonna yelling 'yo, yo, yo, who that be?'

    So. Much. Going. On.
  • Britney Spears - 'Gimme More' (2007)
    Sadly, not all performances become iconic for the right reasons.

    While Britney's performance came after a shaky year in her personal life, the singer had bounced back by 2008, even taking home her first haul of VMAs, including the coveted Video Of The Year for 'Piece Of Me'.
  • Janet Jackson - 'Scream' (2009)
    The music world was rocked by the death of Michael Jackson in 2009, and it wouldn't have be right for the VMAs not to honour him at the awards show.

    After a host of dancers recreated some of MJ's best-known performances, Janet Jackson appeared to recreate the choreography from their 'Scream' video, which she totally nailed.
  • Lady Gaga - 'Paparazzi' (2009)
    Some artists were born to perform at the VMAs, and Gaga proved she was one of them in 2009, when she put on this weird and wonderful show.

    Shutting up critics who questioned her talent with her spot-on vocals, she went on to do what she does best... something odd. And it was perfect.
  • Beyoncé - 'Single Ladies' (2009)
    In the summer of 2009, it was all about 'Single Ladies', and YouTube became littered with people trying to recreate Bey's choreography, to varying results.

    The woman herself pulled it off effortlessly at the VMAs, first with two dancers as in the music video, and later with a whole squad.
  • Kanye West - 'Runaway' (2010)
    One year on from the stage invasion that got the world talking, it was announced that Kanye West would be returning to the VMAs stage, leaving the world wondering what he would deliver.

    At the end of a year where even President Obama had branded him a "jackass", Kanye debuted 'Runaway' with this minimalist performance, featuring ballerinas, interpretative dancers and some of his most personal lyrics ever.
  • Lady Gaga - 'Yoü And I' (2011)
    You'd be forgiven for not recognising Lady Gaga, who opened the show in 2011 performing as her alter-ego, Jo Calderone.

    We enjoyed the 'Yoü And I' performance. The three-minute monologue that preceded it? Not so much.
  • Beyoncé - 'Love On Top' (2011)
    Even a dragged-up Lady Gaga couldn't eclipse Beyoncé in 2011, who used her performance at the VMAs to announce that she was pregnant with her daughter, Blue Ivy.
  • Miley Cyrus/Robin Thicke - 'We Can't Stop'/'Blurred Lines' (2013)
    Controv.
  • Nicki Minaj/Taylor Swift - 'Trini Dem Girls'/'The Night Is Still Young'/'Bad Blood' (2014)
    Teaching us all a lesson in taking control of a narrative, Nicki Minaj bossed her VMAs performance by inviting Taylor Swift (who had previously attacked her on Twitter in a confusing row about that year's nominations) to appear at the end of her performance.
  • Rihanna - Medley (2016)
    When Rihanna was given the coveted Video Vanguard in 2016, she pulled out all the stops to make sure it was a night to remember.

    In fact, over the course of the evening she performed several short blasts of a number of her hit singles, reminding everyone of her impressive back catalogue.
  • Beyonce' - 'Lemonade' Medley (2016)
    Grab a cup of tea before you watch this one because, clocking in at just over 17 minutes, it's a bit of a commitment.

    You know what, though? We wouldn't cut a single second of it. What a performance.
  • Lorde - 'Homemade Dynamite' (2017)
    Proving she's not going to let a little thing like having the flu stop her from performing at the VMAs, Lorde took to the stage anyway. Unable to sing, though, she instead gave an interpretive dance to 'Melodrama' album cut 'Homemade Dynamite'... with mixed results. 
  • Kendrick Lamar - 'DNA.'/'HUMBLE.' (2017)
    There's no questioning that the VMAs in 2017 belonged to Kendrick Lamar.

    Not only did he scoop Video Of The Year with 'HUMBLE.', he also opened the show with this stunning performance, involving lasers, ninjas and a whole lot of fire.