This past Monday marked the death of Michael Jackson. Though the music world has been without the King of Pop for three years, his great music is still with us. Aside from making some wonderful music, he also made some of the most memorable music videos ever. He has so many that it’s kind of hard to choose only ten to talk about, but these are the ones that stand out from his long list of “short films.”
- Dirty Diana
This may not be MJ’s most fantastic or story filled video, but the thing that gets it on this list is the performance. This is when Jackson was on top of his game in the 80’s. All the passion from Michael’s singing and dancing all comes through in this clip. He’s just obviously into his performance. Also, the sweet ass guitar solo from Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens is a big bonus. It also helps that MJ looks his best here.
This is still the most expensive video in the world, so it should be one of Jackson’s best. The futuristic setting, the cute sibling rivalry, and of course the stellar dance moves all make this a memorable video. It took so long for this duet to happen, but it was well worth the wait. Janet comes to her big brother’s defense in this video and it’s pretty clear that this is a big fuck off to the media who bashed MJ so hard. Also, who doesn’t love the part where Michael walks up the wall?
- Black or White
This video is mostly known for the ending where Jackson smashes windows out of cars, continually grabs his crotch, and turns into a panther. But the video should be memorable for it’s amazing face morphing technique just before the end of the song. There was nothing like it in 1991 and years later it still looks amazing. This video shows that Jackson was truly an innovator and was always on the lookout to make his videos bigger and better.
- Remember the Time
This “short film” is full of stars, such as Eddie Murphy and Iman, but the beautiful costumes, setting, and choreography make this a timeless clip. It even has some humor at the beginning of the video, when the queen orders her servants to behead the fire-breather. I’m still not sure how or why Michael Jackson appears from gold dust, but every time he comes up and brushes off his shoulders it sends a chill down your spine.
- Billie Jean/ Beat It
These videos go together because they are so groundbreaking for music and the music video itself. “Billie Jean” was the first video by a black artist to gain constant rotation on MTV. It also showed people what could be done with this new found format. His videos may have gotten bigger and better later on in his career, but something so simple as the lit sidewalk stays with viewers today. “Beat It” shows Michael’s ability to tell a story within a four minute clip. Not only is Jackson’s signature dancing featured here, he also inadvertently spawned a new look for the 80’s.
- Leave Me Alone
I think this is an underrated video. It shows the colorful and imaginative world of Michael Jackson. It also references and pokes fun of several rumors that started around this time, including plastic surgery, buying the elephant man’s bones, and sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber. There’s also a shrine to Elizabeth Taylor featured in the video. Again, there are some stunning visuals here and though they may seem a little dated today. It mostly features stop animation and claymation. It’s a fun video to watch. Am I the only one who got freaked out by the chomping set of teeth?
- Speed Demon
This is another video that doesn’t seem to get much love. It wasn’t shown on TV much, but it is featured in the film Moonwalker. This is another really fun video that’s all in claymation. Jackson changes from a bunny to Tina Tuner to Pee-wee Herman. At the end, he has a dance off with his new found bunny friend, before he gets in trouble for dancing by the cops. It is a bizarre video (why is he turning into all these people?) but it’s so damn fun and awesome. Definitely, a video you won’t forget once you see it.
I don’t know how dancing your ass off and singing about how bad you know will get a bunch of thugs off of your back, but MJ manages to do it in this video. This is another video that tells a story, especially if you’re watching the original 18-minute version. Again, amazing dance takes over this clip and while the video doesn’t make Jackson look threatening, it does show he can keep audiences on their toes. Also, that outfit fucking rocks. I still want that now!
- Smooth Criminal
This is the video that had people wondering for years how the hell Michael did that lean. The secret wasn’t revealed until after his death and it shows that he would go to great lengths to put on the best show. The gangster-themed video is so good that Jackson copied it a second time for his single “You Rock My World.” What’s interesting about the video is that a good chunk of it is an homage to a clip found in the Fred Astaire movie Band Wagon. Either way, it’s still an amazing video and we’re still wondering who Annie is and whether she’s okay.
Who didn’t see this coming? This is the greatest Michael Jackson video ever. Hell, it’s probably the best video ever. There’s still nothing like it now. This video is a movie in itself featuring thrills and chills. Who didn’t get freaked out when Michael turned around and ordered his girlfriend to go away while baring his fangs? Then, of course, there’s the epic dancing that people still like to do in flash mob form. Everything about this video makes it a classic and it still looks damn good 25 years later. It’s better than most horror movies out there today. It also shows that Jackson has the answer to the zombie apocalypse: get them to dance.
It’s been called a long form music video and a short film. Personally, I consider it a short film, but either way it’s amazing. Most will be quick to compare it to “Thriller” and say it’s no good. But it’s actually amazing. The story was actually co-written by the great Stephen King. Jackson plays several characters in the movie, including the condescending mayor. At the time, it was hard to tell that it was Jackson in a fat suit because the makeup and prosthetics were so good. There are also amazing special effects here. Always the one to take advantage of new technology, there are extensive uses of CG in the film and since the form was new at the time, it just blew you away. Dancing skeletons, creepy monsters, and a disturbing scene of MJ shattering himself all lend to the innovative, entertaining and shocking film.
Is your favorite video not on the list? Share your favorite MJ videos in the comments below!