Michael Jackson – Thriller


The music video for “Thriller” references numerous horror films, and stars Jackson performing a dance routine with a horde of the undead. It was directed by the horror director John Landis and written by Landis and Jackson. Jackson contacted Landis after seeing his film An American Werewolf in London. The pair conceived a 13-minute short film with a budget much larger than previous music videos. Jackson’s record company refused to finance it, believing Thriller had peaked, so a making-of documentary, Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller, was produced to receive financing from television networks.

Michael Jackson’s Thriller premiered on MTV on December 2, 1983. It was launched to great anticipation and played regularly on MTV.  It doubled sales of Thriller, and the documentary sold over a million copies, becoming the bestselling videotape at the time. It is credited for transforming music videos into a serious art form, breaking down racial barriers in popular entertainment, and popularizing the making-of documentary format.

Many elements have had a lasting impact on popular culture, such as the zombie dance and Jackson’s red jacket, designed by Landis’ wife Deborah Nadoolman. Fans worldwide re-enact its zombie dance and it remains popular on YouTube. The Library of Congress described it as “the most famous music video of all time”. In 2009, it became the first music video inducted into the National Film Registry as “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant.