Active lava lakes represent a variety of open-vent volcanism in which a sizeable body of lava accumulates at the top of the magma column, constrained by the vent and/or crater geometry. The longevity of lava lakes reflects a balancing of cooling and outgassing occurring at the surface by input of hot and gas-rich magma from below. Due to their longevity and relative accessibility, lava lakes provide a natural laboratory for studying fundamental volcanic processes such as degassing, convection and cooling. This article examines all seven lakes that existed at the time of writing, located in the Pacific, Antarctica, Africa, and South and Central America. They span all tectonic environments, and a range of magma compositions. We focus on analysis of the lake surface motion using image velocimetry, which reveals both similarities and contrasts in outgassing and lake dynamics when comparing the different lakes. We identify two categories of lake behavior: Organized (Erta ’Ale, Nyiragongo, K¯ılauea after 2011, and Erebus) and Chaotic (Villarrica,Masaya, Marum). This division does not map directly to lake size, viscosity, gas emission rate, or temperature. Instead, when examined together, we find that the lakes follow a linear relationship between average surface speed and the ratio of total gas flux to lake surface area. This relationship points to the importance of both flux and lake size in addition to the total volumetric outgassing rate, and suggests a shared deep mechanism controls the supply of heat and gas to all lakes. On the other hand, the differences between Chaotic and Organized lakes highlight the important role of the geometry of the conduit-lake transition, which superimposes a shallow signal on that of the deep circulation. The spatial patterns of surface motion we document suggest the release of gas bubbles at Chaotic lakes is more efficient (i.e., bubbles are less likely to be retained and recycled) compared with Organized lakes. In addition, the data presented here indicate that the solidified crust of Organized lakes plays a role in regulating convection and outgassing in lava lakes.