Ranking every MTV VMA host
Ranking every VMA host ever

Ranking every MTV VMA host

Since its introduction back in 1984, the VMAs have featured a host 28 of the 35 times, as the network previously opted to go without a formal leader in 2004, 2007, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018. However, for reference we put together a definitive ranking of each hosting performance. Here is every VMA host ever, ranked from worst to best.

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20. MTV VJs (1986, 1987)

MTV VJs (1986, 1987)
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Since the MTV VJs hosted the Video Music Awards in back-to-back years, we chose to group them together, even though the lineup slightly changed. In 1986 the hosts were “Downtown” Julie Brown, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn and Dweezil Zappa. In 1987 Goodman, Hunter and Quinn were replaced by Carolyne Heldman and Kevin Seal. In both years, MTV should have realized it made a mistake. Sure, these kids were the first truly relatable hosts in the VMA’s then-young history, but they weren’t nearly as entertaining as any of the others who preceded or followed them.

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19. Christian Slater (1993)

Christian Slater (1993)
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We’re still not entirely sure why Christian Slater was chosen to host the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards. Don’t get us wrong: The actor was well on his way to stardom after roles in “Heathers” (1998), “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991) and “True Romance" (1993), but hiring a guy who wasn’t a comedian, singer or dancer was just puzzling. Then again, based on some of the legal trouble Slater would find himself in over the following few years, we think MTV probably second-guessed the decision as well.

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18. Miley Cyrus (2015)

Miley Cyrus (2015)
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If you like Miley Cyrus, you probably loved her VMA hosting turn in 2015. If you don’t care for her, you probably didn’t care for it. The 2015 VMAs were the Miley Show and not much else. Based on the reviews of her performance and the event’s TV ratings, MTV probably should have stuck to its strategy of the previous two years and just skipped electing a host altogether (which MTV ended up doing again the following year) — or at least picked a comedian.

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17. Katy Perry (2017)

Katy Perry (2017)
Christopher Polk/MTV1617/Getty Images for MTV

Most people genuinely enjoy singer Katy Perry and her playful personality, so she would likely make a good VMA host, right? Not quite. Although she cracked an awful lot of jokes at the 2017 VMAs, almost every one was downright awful. In fact, she was so bad that the cameras even caught the ever-supportive Ellen DeGeneres wincing. Most of the blame for Perry's unfunny turn as host can be blamed on the show's writers, but even the singer's elaborate performance of "Swish Swish" never managed to take off — despite the fact that she was actually lifted into the air numerous times. Plus, Perry's "bad blood" with Taylor Swift led to the latter skipping the award show altogether, leaving quite the "blank space." (See what we did there?)

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16. Chelsea Handler (2010)

Chelsea Handler (2010)
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After two edgy, successful years with Russell Brand, you have to believe MTV was looking for the same result when it tasked Chelsea Handler with the hosting duties in 2010 — especially when there were so many topics ripe for humor, including the whole Kanye West/Taylor Swift incident at the previous year’s VMAs. However, Chelsea didn’t ruffle too many feathers, and instead of making her fellow celebrities uncomfortable, she actually looked uncomfortable herself for a lot of the show. The event nabbed a record number of viewers at the time (the most since 2002), but Handler was still one of the worst-rated hosts.

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15. Jamie Foxx (2001)

Jamie Foxx (2001)
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There were numerous memorable parts of the 2001 VMAs, including the snake-filled, non-PETA-approved performance of “I’m a Slave 4 U” by Britney Spearsas well as Michael Jackson’s surprise appearance with 'N Sync. However, Jamie Foxx’s hosting turn was quite forgettable, as he never really wowed the viewers with song, dance or comedy. Most people forgot all about the awards after the tragic events of Sept. 11 only five days later.

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14. Marlon and Shawn Wayans (2000)

Marlon and Shawn Wayans (2000)
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Usually, Marlon and Shawn Wayans are hilarious together; see “In Living Color” or the early “Scary Movie” films for plenty of evidence of that. However, their hosting gig at the 2000 MTV VMAs was surprisingly forgettable, with the best line of the night coming after Britney Spears’s controversially risque performance of “Oops!...I Did it Again,” when Marlon quipped, “girl done went from ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ to the strip club.” Then again, considering the fact that the next two movies made by the brothers were “White Chicks” and “Little Man,” maybe we shouldn’t be so incredulous.

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13. Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler (1984)

Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler (1984)
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Held at Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 14, 1984, the first MTV Music Video Awards ceremony was kicked off by New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who said the venue would be renamed “Video City Music Hall” for the night, before introducing hosts Dan Aykroyd and Bette Midler. Props to the network for landing two big and funny stars, especially at the time. But did this celebrity duo represent the MTV generation? Not exactly. In the end it didn’t matter, as Madonna eventually stole the show by rolling around on the floor in a lace wedding outfit during her performance of “Like a Virgin.”

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12. Roseanne Barr (1994)

Roseanne Barr (1994)
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After the uninspiring hosting performance of Christian Slater the previous year, MTV kicked off 10 years of nothing but comedians in 1994. The first up was the always controversial (but not nearly as controversial as now) Roseanne Barr, who was also the first female to ever host the show solo. Barr provided plenty of chuckles (even more than Michael Jackson referring to his relationship with Lisa Marie Presley by saying, “and just think, nobody thought this would last”). At the very least, it was a better performance than her nationally televised rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” a few years prior (or losing her sitcom in 2018).

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11. Jack Black (2006)

Jack Black (2006)
Kevin Kane/Getty Images

If MTV were to describe its perfect VMA host, it would be someone well-known, funny, musically inclined and just a bit weird but still well-meaning. Jack Black fits that mold perfectly, which is why MTV asked him to host the event in 2006. Black performed well, but the ceremonies were generally uninteresting and ended up receiving poor ratings. In our humble opinion, this is probably due to the fact that there were little to no major controversies, backstage beef or scandalous outfits that year.

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10. Sean "Diddy" Combs (2005)

Sean "Diddy" Combs (2005)
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After a decade of inviting only comedians to host the VMAs, MTV switched things up by asking Sean “Diddy” Combs to host in 2005. In fact, this was the first year in VMA history that someone predominantly known as a musician was asked to helm the event. Although viewers noted a slight decrease in comedy and some of the preshow events were canceled due to Hurricane Katrina-related storms, Diddy nevertheless kept his cool by doing what he does best: keeping things cool. Isn’t that what MTV used to be all about?

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9. Kevin Hart (2012)

Kevin Hart (2012)
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Kevin Hart is one of the few examples of MTV VMA hosts who brought something extra to the table. Of course we already knew he was funny, but seeing Hart riff on celebrities was slightly out of character and entertaining. We got a taste of it when he opened the host-less 2011 VMAs the previous year, and his feature-length debut didn’t disappoint, even if it wasn’t one of the top performances of all time and the event received surprisingly low ratings.

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8. Eddie Murphy (1985)

Eddie Murphy (1985)
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The MTV VMAs were still figuring things out in 1985 when Eddie Murphy was brought in to host fresh off the release of “Beverly Hills Cop” and his debut album “How Could It Be” (and its hit song, “Party All the Time”). However, in a sign of things to come, Murphy injected some hilarious unpredictability into the show numerous times, like when he grabbed Glenn Frey and Morris Day for a trip down to the press room...and also the ladies' room. Along the way, there were plenty of off-the-cuff comments, wisecracks by Murphy and greetings to/from a number of other stars — and in true edgy MTV fashion, many words in this memorable segment had to be bleeped for television audiences. 

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7. Dana Carvey (1992)

Dana Carvey (1992)
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By 1992 MTV was looking for another host who could keep the peace while still entertaining, which is why it tapped Dana Carvey the same year “Wayne’s World” was released in theaters. The comedian’s appropriateness almost always falls in the PG to PG-13 range, making him the perfect host for the ninth annual event. Of course, Carvey brought his Garth Algar character along for the ride as well as his impressions of George H.W. Bush and Johnny Carson.

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6. Dennis Miller (1995, 1996)

Dennis Miller (1995, 1996)
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Public opinion on Dennis Miller changed in the 21st century when he became increasingly political and floundered as a “Monday Night Football” host. But in the mid-’90s, Miller was in his prime, and he displayed that with his typical smug, sarcastic and witty humor at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards. In fact, Miller did so well that he was invited back in 1996. Sure, he pushed the envelope, but there wasn’t much drama or backlash after his hosting stints, especially since music fans were more focused on the controversial Van Halen reunion that almost was but then wasn’t.

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5. Ben Stiller (1998)

Ben Stiller (1998)
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Ben Stiller has always been a master of sketch comedy at MTV award shows (as well as comedy in general), and after previously hosting the MTV Movie Awards in 1996, he was invited to take a shot at the VMAs in 1998. And take a shot he did. In fact, he took countless shots at numerous celebrities, but he delivered it all in that light Ben Stiller way that makes it appear as if he’s poking fun at himself as much as he is at others. The only disappointment regarding his 1998 hosting gig is the fact that he never helmed the VMAs again.

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4. Jimmy Fallon (2002)

Jimmy Fallon (2002)
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In 2002 Jimmy Fallon seemed like he was on top of the world. In addition to a starring role on “Saturday Night Live” and a gig hosting the show’s "Weekend Update," the funnyman also hosted the 2001 MTV Movie Awards and was asked to take over the 2002 VMAs too. His ability to tell jokes, deliver spot-on impressions, sing, dance and simply be likable made it seem as if there were no better job for him than hosting MTV’s award shows and doing “SNL.” Little did we know that he would eventually find an even better job when he took over “The Tonight Show” in 2014 while also hosting the Emmys in 2010 and the Golden Globes in 2017.

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3. Arsenio Hall (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991)

Arsenio Hall (1988, 1989, 1990, 1991)
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After allowing a group of VJs to run the show for the two previous years, MTV turned over the duties to an experienced host, Arsenio Hall, in 1988. He succeeded — so much so that MTV invited the funnyman back to host again in 1989, 1990 and 1991. In a time when the VMAs consisted mainly of Madonna raising people’s eyebrows, Andrew Dice Clay getting a lifetime ban for obscene nursery rhymes and rock stars brawling backstage, Hall was just what the network needed: someone who was stable, reliable, charming, hip and humorous — and who didn’t have the censors scrambling after every joke.

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2. Russell Brand (2008, 2009)

Russell Brand (2008, 2009)
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2008 was an interesting time in America after eight years of George W. Bush as president, two wars and no idea what the November election would bring. Hence, inviting a non-American to host and give us his uninvolved, third-party opinion was a solid choice. Making it an even better choice, the foreigner selected was Russell Brand, known best for his then-recent role in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” as well as his painfully honest and sometimes uncomfortable opinions that are expressed whether one asks for them or not. As expected, Brand ticked a lot of people off (especially Republicans and Jonas Brothers fans), but his strong, hilarious and predictably unpredictable performance earned him an invite to host the 2009 ceremony.

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1. Chris Rock (1997, 1999, 2003)

Chris Rock (1997, 1999, 2003)
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When all's said and done, there has never been a better MTV Video Music Awards host than Chris Rock. He’s almost universally adored by fans and fellow celebrities, his comedy is always biting and relevant (and funny!) and he pushes the envelope without stuffing it down people’s throats. That’s the main reason why Rock was invited to host on three separate, non-consecutive occasions: in 1997, 1999 and 2003. Forget only VMA hosts, there’s no celebrity in the world who’s better than Chris Rock at being simultaneously critical and lighthearted while also hitting the nail on the head in an effortless and carefree way.

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