It’s hard to say what makes a good music video. Often times, there are three different art mediums being used: music, dance, and film. Do one of these mediums out-shine the other two? Do all three of them work evenly together? While it may be hard to determine what exactly makes a good music video, I know that we all can agree that there’s no question when it comes to who makes an incredibly dynamic music video! That would be the trail blazer himself, the late and the great Michael Jackson!! Not only did Michael Jackson revolutionize the arts of singing, songwriting, music producing, and dancing, but he also redefined what a music video should be. It should be artistic. It can tell a story. It can be an experience. Bottom line: nobody can make a music video like Michael Jackson! Thus, I thought it’d be fun to list my top 10 favorite Michael Jackson music videos…and short films. As I do so, please keep this in mind: there are a TON of Michael Jackson music videos/short films. I love nearly all of them, but this is a list of the ones I love the most. Your favorite music video may not be on this list, and that’s OK. This list simply contains the top 10 Michael Jackson videos I love the most. With that being said, let the countdown begin!
Number 10: BAD (Martin Scorsese, 1987).
I should note that I am referring to the short version. I saw the extended version of Bad once, and it really didn’t leave that much of an impact on me. That’s not to say the extended film isn’t good, maybe I’d have to watch it again. But I love the music part. I think this is the first video Michael told us how tough he is. True, he stopped an entire gang fight in Beat It (Bob Giraldi, 1983), but in this song he tells us that he can whoop butt too! Why? Because he’s bad! This is the equivalent of Batman saying “Because I’m Batman!” Michael puts on such a persona here, and he’s so dedicated to it that you believe he’s the toughest man around! Not only that, but the choreography is amazing! It’s amazing what they’re able to do in that subway station! And all the dancers, especially Michael, move so flawlessly that you think you can move that swiftly too! One specific element I love in the video comes towards the end, when the chorus starts up again and Michael is dancing with one ensemble only to transition to the other choreography another ensemble is doing! (3:09-3:20) That is incredible! If anyone else tried to cover this song today, it’d come off as just silly. But when you hear Michael sing it, it’s just perfect. Why? Because he’s bad!
…He also gets bonus points for leading into an incredible Weird Al Yankovic parody! I’ll throw that in here too if you’ve never seen it.
Number 9: GHOST (Stan Winston, 1997).
I did not see this video until earlier this summer, and it amazed me! Likewise with Bad (Martin Scorsese, 1987), I’m referring only to the video, not the entire film. I haven’t seen the entire film yet, but judging by this video I really want to! It’s very reminiscent of Thriller (John Landis, 1983), in terms of its scary atmosphere and images. I was almost frightened when I first saw this video! So, in terms of film, this video is awesome. What about the other elements? Well, the music is awesome, too! That song is so incredible and so catchy it inevitably gets stuck in my head. I love singing that melody! Anytime it enters my mind, I have to sing it and imitate the choreography. Speaking of which, the choreography is awesome! Michael’s art and creativity are endless! How did he come up with such amazing material? My favorite part of the video, however, comes at 2:51 when Michael Jackson becomes a skeleton and dances! You read that right: there’s a dancing Michael Jackson skeleton in this video! It’s fan-frickin-tastic! Immediately after that, we see another person dancing like Michael Jackson. I thought this was amusing and even silly when I first saw it, but then I saw a piece of the extended version and it made me appreciate that moment 1,000 times more! Why? Look up the extended version to find out; you’ll need to look at the credits as well! Ghost delivers everything Michael Jackson videos have to offer: fantastic dance choreography, an awesome song, and amazing atmosphere and visuals we’d normally get in a movie! What else can I say? It’ll scare the pants off you, but you’ll have fun with the video along the way!
Number 8: SMOOTH CRIMINAL (Colin Chilvers, 1988).
I know most people are familiar with the version posted above, but my favorite version of this video is Michael’s version:
In this version, we can see the choreography and the dancers and the set even more, thus there is a greater enjoyment of the video. The song is good because it makes you want to dance every time you hear it and it’s catchy as all get out. However, I don’t know if this is one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs. It’s good, but what is he saying? If you were to hear this for the first time, you’d have to read along with the lyrics several times to understand what he’s saying. But the choreography and the style of the video are both unbelievable! This isn’t just highly trained dancers making complicated moves look easy. Here, you can see how complicated and detailed the dancing is, and you ask yourself “How in the world did they do it?!” How were they able to learn this difficult choreography? How in the world were they able to choreograph such difficult dancing? How was Chilvers able to capture all of this so brilliantly on film? It looks so good! And, of course, at the center is the King himself! Not only does Michael keep up his tough guy persona from Bad, but he proves that he can have style, class, and be smooth and slick with his toughness! There’s only one question I have after watching this: is Annie OK? She never answers…
Number 7: YOU ROCK MY WORLD (Paul Hunter, 2001).
I didn’t grow up watching Michael Jackson short films and music videos; I got into them when I was in high school. I say this because while many people were exposed to Michael Jackson’s incredible music videos through Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (Nick Saxton, 1979), Rock With You (Bruce Gowers, 1980), or Billie Jean (Steve Barron, 1983), THIS is one of the first Michael Jackson videos I saw, and THIS is one of the videos that made me fall in love with Michael Jackson’s videos! First, Chris Tucker’s here, and he being here with Michael is hilarious! Second, the music video/short film does not fail to give us exactly what we want: an awesome musical experience through the arts of dance and film. I was mesmerized by the song; I was captivated by the dancing; I was impressed by the style and look and tone of the film. It’s just an amazing film! I must admit, though, that I do make fun of this film sometimes for not being clear or sensible. For example, how come the main fighter kept saying “Is that all you got? You ain’t nothin'” if he didn’t even try to fight back? Michael knocks him out in one punch…who ain’t nothin’? Secondly, you wouldn’t understand the Marlon Brando cameo or dialogue if you’ve never seen The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972). I’ve never seen it, and someone had to tell me what his appearance was parodying. Fortunately, however, I’m able to get beyond that. I don’t watch Michael Jackson short films/music videos for plot structure, characters, and a good story…It’d help if all of that were there, but those aren’t the main focus of Michael Jackson videos. The focus is on the King of Pop himself, MJ! Listen to his vocals, look at his dancing, and look at the stylistic choices he made for this film! This is what he’s great at doing when it comes to making videos, and no one does it better than him…Throw in Chris Tucker, and we’re all set!
Number 6: EARTH SONG (Nicholas Brandt, 1995).
When I first got into listening to Michael Jackson’s music (again, during high school), this became one of my favorite songs. The video does not disappoint, but it doesn’t draw our attention with artistic filmmaking or impressive dance moves. The emphasis here is on the song itself and its message. I love that Michael Jackson is having a conversation with God, asking Him what’s happening to the world He created. Is MJ angry with God? Probably, but I don’t think he’s blaming Him for the destruction of the world. You see throughout the video that it is we who are destroying nature and the animals. MJ’s taking his frustration out on God, but he’s not accusing Him of anything. He knows the fault lies in us. I also love how the song begins peaceful and passive, but as it continues it only gets more angry and harsh. That’s how the video moves as well. As it continues, we get harsher clips of horrifying events against nature. From poor families and dead bodies to animals being slaughtered and destroyed forests, this video shows us what we as humans are doing to the world and where it’s headed. When was the last time you saw a sort-of cautionary tale in a music video? Well, Michael does it here excellently, and he throws all of his passion and energy into it. It’s an incredible video!
Number 5: LOVE NEVER FELT SO GOOD (Rich Lee and Justin Timberlake, 2014).
YES! I know this came out after he died! YES! I know it’s only a clip video of him in his other videos! YES! I know this song version does not include the Justin Timberlake remix. But not only do I prefer this song version over the Justin Timberlake one, but this video is just fantastic! Look at the editing! How long did they spend making sure these dance moves lined up perfectly to the music? How did they know which clips to use? Also, it’s a great homage to Michael Jackson! Keep in mind that when this song came out, we had gone nearly five years without him being here! This video practically celebrates him! Don’t think I’m worshipping him or I’m putting him on a pedestal, I’m not. I’m merely saying that we sort of get a piece of him here in this perfectly edited video of him and his art. Besides, when you hear “Michael Jackson video,” don’t you want to see Michael Jackson? No disrespect to Timberlake, but he sort of takes up space and focus away in the other version. This song and video version allow us to bond with the memory of our King of Pop! It’s so sweet, it’s kind of sad because you still can’t believe or accept that he’s gone! Look at everything he left us! It’s so rich, it’s so massive, it’s so impressive! But this video and the song allow us to love Michael like never before, and that feeling has never felt so good.
Number 4: MAN IN THE MIRROR (Donald Wilson, 1988).
Of course I had to include this video on the list! It’s not one of Michael Jackson’s most iconic songs for nothing! But what is it about this video that is so special? Why do so many people love it so much? It could be because it draws emphasis to the incredible song it’s based on. Like Earth Song (Nicholas Brandt, 1995), another message song, this video doesn’t catch our attention with eye-lusting visuals or unbelievable dance choreography. It’s focus is on the song and the message it’s trying to convey. What does that tell us? It’s as if Michael Jackson was saying, “There’s a time and place for you all to be wowed by my other skills, but this isn’t the time or place for that. I want you to get the message of this piece.” That doesn’t mean his other songs don’t have messages as well – all songs and videos have messages. But it seems as though Michael Jackson really wants us to understand and apply the message here. He doesn’t distract us with anything. In fact, he doesn’t even distract us with his appearance. We don’t see Michael Jackson at all in this video. It’s about the wars and the demonstrations of peace that are and have taken place throughout the world. Again, what does this tell us? That if we want the world to get better, we have to first better ourselves. Only then will the world end, and will we see peace flowing throughout the world. This is video art at its best. It’s very rare a pop star goes out of their way to promote such a strong message, but because of Michael Jackson’s desire for love and peace he didn’t even use any new video or film clips for this number. You can tell how serious the message is to him, thus why this song and video means so much to all of us.
Number 3: REMEMBER THE TIME (John Singleton, 1992).
As I mentioned earlier, there are three artistic mediums in music video: the song, the dance, and the film itself. In this video, and, really, in the top 3 videos on this list, all of these mediums are just fantastic! This short film features Eddie Murphy, Imani, and Magic Johnson! I love the set up in this film. The queen of Egypt wants to be entertained, and she kills everyone who can’t do the job. Really, she just wants to be loved. Did you see the look she gives Eddie Murphy after he accepts the drink from his servant? He’s probably having an affair, and she totally knows it. Of course she’s willing to get with Michael Jackson when he comes in. I love Magic’s side comments, they’re really funny. As I heard a fan say once, I’m glad this film reminds us that there are Black people in Egypt. I don’t know whether to thank Michael Jackson for that or John Singleton or both, but kudos to somebody! The choreography is just incredible! I can’t help but stop and look at it every time I watch this video! Again, this dance is so complex, yet they perform it so flawlessly. I would love to perform this someday…Or maybe I’ll just be comfortable watching it. It’s still awesome! Finally, the song itself is just so good! This is a song that will cause you to think back to the first time you fell in love with your lover. It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s groovy, and it’s sweet. It’s one of Michael Jackson’s hits for a reason. This video is a gem that you surely won’t be forgetting!
Number 2: SCREAM (Mark Romanek, 1995).
I’ll just get it out now: Michael and Janet Jackson! That alone makes this worth watching. I’m surprised the world didn’t explode during the making of this video! Listening to these two sing together and watching them dance together is fantastic! Aside from that, the style and production of this video is just fantastic; it’s never been matched or duplicated. This is the most expensive music video ever made, costing $7 million! It’s incredible, it’s an experience, and it is simply wonderful! There’s not much else to say except this video with make you scream in amazement!
Before we get to Number 1, how about some honorable mentions:
1) Billie Jean (Steve Barron, 1983).
Why the crud doesn’t the ground light up when I walk on it?
2) Beat It (Bob Giraldi, 1983).
If we could get all gangs to come together through sing and dance numbers, we wouldn’t have to worry about ISIS or any Missouri crimes. Shout out to Weird Al’s parody of this song as well!
As we all know, there are many, many more!
And my Number 1 favorite Michael Jackson music video is:
THRILLER (John Landis, 1983).
I’m sure many of you were expecting this, but can you blame me? This is one of the greatest, if not the greatest music video/short film of all time! This was the game changer! This made every music artist want to change their approach to the arts of song producing and music video-making. This made every fan stand up and realize Michael Jackson for the trail blazer he is. A beautiful send-up to horror films, this short film masters everything you’d want to see in a music video nowadays. It’s based on a great song, it has memorable and fantastic choreography, and the filming is just genius! Think of your favorite music videos that have come out within the past couple of years; they all owe their thanks to this film! Typically, people are able to think of their favorite moments in a movie, not a music video. But here, people can name tons of favorite moments: the zombies coming out of the cemetery, everyone ganging up on Ola (the leading lady), Michael saying “I’m not like other guys,” and, of course, that incredible dance number! Anytime people hear this song, they don’t even wait for the chorus – they just begin moving and dancing. I can’t give this film justice; it’s one of those things you have to see to understand why this video/short film is so loved all over the world. It’s a thriller you’ll be glad you experienced.
What do you think of my list? What are your favorite Michael Jackson videos or songs, or dances? Leave a comment and let me know. And remember, “I’m bad!”