Can you believe it’s been 7 years since Michael Jackson passed away? It feels like it was just last week. His legacy is far from gone, however, and this week, we’ll be taking a look at and celebrating what made MJ the true King of Pop.
Music videos are great, right? They put an image to your favorite songs, and more often than not, help to tell a story. And then there’s Michael Jackson’s music videos, or “short films,” as he liked to call them, which is a term well-earned with the level of production he delved into. He single-handedly revolutionized the music video industry, from the way in which they’re used to tell stories now to adding diversity and bringing public awareness to MTV‘s rotation. And above all else, his videos are pure entertainment at its finest. Let’s take a look at some of Michael’s best short films.
Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1983)
Plain and simple, Thriller is the greatest music video of all time. This is the one that changed MTV and the music scene forever, and even kickstarted the video rental business since fans wanted to watch the video at home (and VHS tapes were expensive to own in those days). Michael even had a star-studded, Hollywood-style premiere for his short film, at the end of which the crowd was chanting for an encore. Everything about Thriller is iconic: the eye-popping red jacket, the famous dance, those terrifying yellow werewolf eyes, and even just the classic horror movie feeling. Altogether, it thrilled the world.
“Smooth Criminal” (1987)
Originally apart of the film Moonwalker, the video for “Smooth Criminal” is another MJ classic. It’s cool, it’s adventurous, and it’s captivating. In addition, the 1930s gangster style of the video and the dance sequence, along with Michael’s white suit and fedora, pay tribute to one of his main influences, Fred Astaire in the film The Band Wagon. There are a lot of little moments to love in “Smooth Criminal” (like when Michael crushes a cue ball in his hand and blows the powder in a fellow gangster’s face), but the best part by far is the anti-gravity lean. The illusion was created with harnesses in the film, but he would later patent special shoes that hooked into pegs in the ground for stage performances of the song.
In my mind, “Jam” is the ultimate representation of the 1990s, right down to the look and feel of the film quality. It’s relaxed and carefree, yet still very cool and “jamming,” all the way from the basketball game to the clean rap verse by Heavy D. And of course, there’s the epic meeting between the world’s most famous MJs – Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan, both the ultimate legends of their respective fields. Their time together in the video (including after the song’s conclusion) is both awesome and comical, as Jordan tries to teach Jackson how to play basketball, and in return, Jackson tries to teach him how to do the moonwalk.
Without a doubt, this is my personal favorite MJ video of all time. It’s set in outer space and is so futuristic and sci-fi, and just plain fun to watch (seriously, wouldn’t you want a space ship like that?). Plus, the way Michael and his sister Janet team up to call out against the media’s scrutiny is a powerful force to witness just as much as their dance moves in the video. “Scream” has certainly held its own with both its message and its interstellar special effects throughout the years, and with good reason – to complement all the hard work put into making it, it cost $7 million to produce, making it the most expensive music video of all time.