Thrilling facts about Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on the 40th anniversary of the music video release

Michael Jackson pays homage to several horror films in the iconic "Thriller" video that was a mini-movie in itself.
American singer Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009) performs the dance from 'Thriller', circa 1984
American singer Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009) performs the dance from 'Thriller', circa 1984 / Dave Hogan/GettyImages

"King of Pop" Michael Jackson released his sixth studio album, Thriller, in November 1982. One year later, he would premiere the title track's music video, becoming one of the most iconic ever created and changing the music video and MTV world.

Thriller, an album produced by legendary Quincy Jones, was Jackson's first number-one album that spent a record 37 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the charts—seven singles were released, all of which charted in the top 10 on Billboard Hot 100.

Singles from Michael Jackson's Thriller

  • "The Girl Is Mine"
  • "Billie Jean" reaching No. 1
  • "Beat It" reaching No. 1
  • "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
  • "Human Nature"
  • "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"
  • "Thriller"

The music video for "Thriller" premiered at a VIP event in Los Angeles at Westwood Theater on November 21, 1983. The video needed to see a week-long theatrical release to become an Oscar contender. It was aired ahead of Disney's Fantasia, to the dismay of many parents.

Thriller video facts

"Thriller," directer horror icon John Landis, known for An American Werewolf in London, co-wrote the video story with Jackson. With a run time just shy of 14 minutes, "Thriller" is a mini-movie that gives nods to 50s B movies, Night of the Living Dead, and many other allusions to the horror genre. Incorporating master of horror Vince Price as the narrator for the video was pure genius.

  • "Thriller" is the most expensive and highest-grossing music video.
  • The song initially wasn't going to be released as a single.
  • "Thriller" has won every award it has been nominated for.
  • The song was originally titled "Starlight.”
  • At the beginning of the video, the movie theater was seen in director John Landis' The Kentucky Fried Movie. The posters seen in the theater are for the movie Schlock, also directed by Landis.
  • Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker was the makeup artist for the video and can be seen as a member of the undead as the zombie seen stumbling out of the mausoleum.
  • Actress Brooke Sheilds was Jackson's date to the 1984 Grammys, where he won eight awards.
  • During the height of its popularity, MTV would air the "Thriller" video twice an hour.
  • The 1988 movie Return of the Living Dead Part II features a zombie dressed as Michael Jackson.
Michael Jackson, Emmanuel Lewis And Brooke Shields
Michael Jackson, Emmanuel Lewis And Brooke Shields / Ron Galella/GettyImages

A disclaimer was added at the beginning of the "Thriller" video due to Jackson's involvement in the Jehovah's Witness church. He didn't want anyone to believe he was promoting demonology.

"Due to my strong personal convictions, I wish to stress that this film in no way endorses a belief in the occult. "

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's Thriller has reportedly sold between 100 -110 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling album ever. This album changed Michael Jackson's life as a person and a musical artist. Thriller would also alter the record industry and music videos.

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