1978 Blame It On the Boogie (Destiny)
1979 Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough (Off the Wall)
Michael exhibits his developing dance skills wearing his then-trademark tuxedo. He demonstrates an early interest in special effects by momentarily appearing onscreen in triplicate. Director Nick Saxton.
1979 Rock With You (Off the Wall)
Michael sings in a sparkling outfit with a bright light in the background. Director Bruce Gowers.
1980 She’s Out of My Life (Off the Wall)
Director Bruce Gowers.
1980 Can You Feel It (Triumph)
The Jacksons appear at the creation of the perfect world, strewing the glitter of love across the earth. This was a breakthrough short musical film — the filming techniques and computer-generated images were breathtaking. The film (most of it) can be found on Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
1983 Billie Jean (Thriller)
Michael appears as a magician being pursued through a mysterious cityscape by a man in a trenchcoat. This was an historic short film in a number of ways. It was one of the pioneering films presented on MTV by black artists (of the first 750 videos shown on MTV, less than 3% were by blacks) and was very influential in opening the video market for black entertainers. It was also notable for its striking imagery and Michael’s improvised choreography. Cost $150,000. Director Steve Barron.
1983 Beat It (Thriller)
In this anti-violence film, Michael breaks up a fight between rival gangs and then leads them in a remarkable dance sequence. This film revolutionized videos by for the first time incorporating a linear plot, natural background sounds, and astounding choreography. Michael asked a number of actual Los Angeles gang members to help him realize his dream of peace through music and dance. He writes in MOONWALK that the gang members were “very sweet” and “only asking to be seen”. Choreographer Michael Peters has a small role as a gang leader. Director Bob Giraldi.
1983 Say Say Say (with Paul McCartney; Pipes of Peace)
The film presents Michael and Paul as vaudevillians in a two-man show; LaToya co-stars as a dance hall girl, and Linda McCartney has a cameo. Director Bob Giraldi.
This is probably the best known of Michael’s short films. In it he transforms, through the magic of film and makeup, into a werewolf and a zombie and performs an incredible dance sequence. The Thriller short film has been called the greatest music video in history. Cost $800,000. Director John Landis.
1984 Billie Jean – Live from the Victory Tour
A video performance by United Artists for Africa. The song was co-written by Michael and Lionel Richie in an effort to raise the world’s consciousness about the plight of famine-stricken nations in Africa. The song went on to win the Song of the Year Grammy for 1985. The recording session brought together an all-star cast in an unprecedented show of unity to aid the hungry and sick. The entire proceeds realized from the sale of the single and album and short film were donated to the United Artists for Africa effort to relieve suffering, resulting in over 60 million dollars being sent to aid African nations.
This short film, shot on the streets and in the subway system of New York, starred Michael as a former gang member who had gone away to attend private school. When he returns to his inner-city neighborhood and his gang friends try to convince him that it’s cool (translate BAD!) to rob an old man in a deserted parking garage, Michael warns the would-be victim, allowing him to escape unscathed. Michael then performs the song with a company of dancers. The shortened version of the film is frequently aired during 80s specials on VH1 and MTV. The long form is must less renowned, having been aired only infrequently since its debut. Michael got the idea for the song and short film from a true story of a young man, Edmund Perry, who was killed by his former friends when he returned home on a school holiday. Of course, Michael doesn’t die. His evocation of street toughness inspired the subsequent videos of a number of artists. Director Martin Scorsese.
1987 The Way You Make Me Feel (BAD)
Michael pursues a somewhat reluctant Tatiana Thumbtzen while friends look on. LaToya has a cameo. Director Joe Pytka.
Again, Michael’s attempt to raise the world’s consciousness about the less fortunate produced a wonderful short film. Clips of the Ethiopian famine, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa are accompanied by Michael’s singing. Director Don Wilson.
Michael performs the track in a concert setting, intercut with shadowy glimpses of “Diana”. Michael has said that this song is about a groupie: “something I have experienced and anyone who has grown up on the road”. He contemplated leaving the song out when performing before Prince Charles and Princess Diana, but it was Diana’s favorite song, so he performed it for them.
This short film is truly remarkable — in it Michael is magically metamorphosed into a car with fire belching from its exhaust pipe speeding through the twisted alleyways of a city, a robot with rocket launchers on its shoulders, and an incredible airborne vehicle. But its most striking scenes are undoubtedly those in which he plays ball with his young co-stars and performs an intricately timed and choreographed 1920s-Chicago-gangster-style dance sequence. Director Colin Chilvers.
This short film, again, is remarkable in its scope. The film and song are Michael’s answer to the rumor-mills which have been working overtime in regards to his private life. In the short film, Michael rides a rocket through a fantasy amusement park past a human brain, which opens to emit a human nose and a scalpel, dances with the bones of an elephant man, and rides through a pyramidal shrine with images of Elizabeth Taylor displayed at every turn. His snake, Muscles, and pet chimp, Bubbles, are shown with him. Director/Animator Jim Blashfield.
1989 Liberian Girl (BAD)
A number of famous friends make cameo appearances in this video, where Michael plays a movie director filming them waiting for him to show up for a video shoot. Includes Paula Abdul, Debbie Gibson, Dan Aykroyd, Quincy Jones, Steve Guttenberg, Olivia Newton-John, Rosanna Arquette, John Travolta, Steven Spielberg, Weird Al Yankovic, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bubbles. Dedicated to Elizabeth Taylor.
Michael caught a lot of flack for this two-part breakthrough short film, which spared no expense in production. In part one, Michael celebrates with people from various cultures around the world; in part two, he performs a violent, sexual dance at night in a run-down neighborhood. The morphing technique is used in two remarkable sequences to change people of different genders, races and ethnic origins into each other, and later to change Michael into a black panther. The dance sequence at the end can be explained, in Michael’s words, as an attempt to interpret the animalistic instincts of the panther into a dance. However, I think little explanation is necessary when one thinks of the messages of hatred and venom displayed on the car windows and shop windows Michael destroys. He vents his anger and resentment of ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice in this film and no other explanation should be required. He shows that in addition to his idealistic side, he has a dark side that knows prejudice and is angered by it. Cameo appearances by Macaulay Culkin and George Wendt. Director John Landis and co-choreographer Vince Patterson.
1992 Remember The Time (Dangerous)
Another truly incredible short film, for which Michael recruits Eddie Murphy, Iman, and Magic Johnson. Michael plays a magician in Ancient Egypt who steals Queen Nefertiti’s heart, incurring the wrath of Pharoah. The morphing technique is again used to remarkable effect to make Michael appear and disappear from magic dust. Cost $2 million. Director John Singleton.
1992 In The Closet (Dangerous)
Michael and Naomi Campbell mix it up in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada. Herb Ritts and Michael Jackson co-direct this sepia-tinged film.
1992 Jam (Dangerous)
The King of Pop and the King of Basketball exchange talents on the basketball court. But there is a deep message hidden within this song and film. It shows that no one is good at everything! Michael Jordan, although very skillful with a basketball, is woefully ineffective and uncoordinated when attempting to dance. Michael Jackson, although wonderful at singing and dancing, is distressingly uncomfortable and unskilled at basketball. In other words, find your talent, hone it to the greatest degree possible, practice, strive, be the best at what you do — JAM! This message is a recurrent theme in Michael Jackson’s music and books and life. Cameo appearances by Heavy D, Kris Kross, and Naughty by Nature. Directors Michael Jackson and David Kellog.
There are two short films to accompany this song, and both can be viewed on Dangerous: The Short Films Compilation. In one, Michael’s performance of the song at the 1993 Superbowl Half-Time Ceremony is depicted. In the other, vignettes of children of many different races are alternated with vignettes of man’s inhumanity toward man. In the end, the children disarm the gun-bearing men of war with peace and love. Idealistic, corny, and beautiful!! Director Joe Pytka.
This clip exists in two versions. One consists of a series of excerpts from Michael’s greatest videos. The other shows Michael in a melancholy mood as his girlfriend, apparently secretly a call girl, goes from one assignation to another. He goes to her apartment, finding it in an untidy state, and his picture in a broken frame on the floor. He leaves, and is shown taking off in a helicopter as she runs unsuccessfully to catch up with him. He flies away in the helicopter, then in a small jet. Director David Fincher.
1993 Will You Be There (Dangerous)
Michael performs this gospel-tinged work in concert, intercut with scenes from the successful movie “Free Willy”, which included the tune in its soundtrack. Director Vincent Peterson.
1993 Give In To Me (Dangerous)
Michael and Slash recreate the song from the Dangerous album in Germany during Michael’s tour stop. He has said that the film took about two hours to shoot “no time at all, really. We wanted it to be fantastical — and fans — like it’s a rock concert.” Director Andy Morahan.
1993 Gone Too Soon (Dangerous)
This short film is Michael Jackson’s tribute to his young friend, the AIDS activist Ryan White. It shows Ryan in a number of vignettes, enjoying many of the common pastimes of youngsters the world over. It is beautifully photographed and edited and is a truly fitting memorial to a courageous young man whose life ended far too soon. Director Bill DiCicco.
This video, created as a promotion for the upcoming release of the HIStory album, created controversy for its perceived fascistic imagery and implication of self-glorification on Michael’s part. The video, filmed in Budapest, Hungary, contains no music from the album. It shows Michael, in a silver-and-black uniform, confront a goose-stepping, Eastern-bloc army, which then lays down its weapons and marches behind him through a city full of cheering crowds of people. At the end, an enormous statue of Michael in uniform is unveiled to great acclaim. Critics likened the imagery and cinematography to “Triumph of the Will”, a pro-Nazi propaganda film by Leni Riefenstahl, and the narrative to pro-Stalinist cult-of-personality iconography. Such an interpretation is unlikely, however, as Michael is well known for promoting international brotherhood. The meaning is perhaps best found in the differences between what is depicted in the video and the fascistic devices with which it has been compared. Michael is found among the people in his video, not aloof and above the crowd as is Hitler in “Triumph”. There are no swastikas or other symbols of racism, only a few Cyrillic letters that spell out nothing. The army that follows Michael is multiracial and of various ages, not all-German and of military age. The army does not carry weapons, neither are there any machines of war. The inscription at the base of the statue, written in the international language Esperanto, reads: “We build this sculpture in the name of every land, global motherhood and the healing power of music.” The choreographers of the video say that the concept was to convey an impression of power and unity. The film apparently uses the militaristic trappings only to subvert them in a celebration of the liberation of Eastern Europe and a welcoming of its peoples into the brotherhood of nations…and to announce that Michael is back!
1995 Scream (HIStory)
In this touching and angry video, Michael and sister Janet express their rage at injustice as they explore the inside of a spaceship, pass through distortions of space and gravity, perform remarkable new dance steps, and play futuristic games. Michael recreates the famous Edvard Munch (1863-1944) illustration “The Scream”. In a tribute to Fred Astaire (“Royal Wedding”), he dances on the ceiling. Cost $7 million. Director Mark Romanek.
1995 Childhood (HIStory)
This somber film shows Michael sitting alone on a tree stump in a dusk-veiled forest, while above the treetops, children sail in airborne ships (obviously modeled after those used in the Peter Pan ride at the Disney Parks) in a star-studded, full moon-drenched sky.. Stranded below, Michael is aware of, but unable to reach or experience the joys and fantasies of childhood. Two children, a boy and a girl, run through the forest. The boy, deeply troubled, is rescued at the end by one of the children from the ships, who reaches down and magically levitates him up to the vessels. References are made to the popular feature film Free Willy 2, which, again, features Michael’s song as its theme Director Nicholas Brandt.
1995 You Are Not Alone (HIStory)
This film, with settings based on paintings (“Daybreak”) by Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966), is a deeply romantic and sensual evocation of married love. At the beginning, Michael is seen walking head down, alone, surrounded by reporters and cameramen. Later he and wife Lisa Marie, nearly nude but shielded by shadows and draperies, exchange tender confidences and gestures by a Grecian pool surrounded by pillars. These scenes are intercut with those of Michael singing alone in black jeans and an unbuttoned black paisley shirt. In the unedited version released on HIStory in Film, Volume II, the scenes described above are iterlaced with soft-focus vignettes of a scantily-clad angel (played to perfection by none other than our own Michael Jackson) surrounded by a quiet, waterfall-fed pool. The film is reported to have been partially filmed in the stately, ornately-decorated Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Director Wayne Isham.
1995 Earth Song (HIStory)
This video begins in a lush forest inhabited by wildlife, then swiftly changes to a forested area that has been burned and is still burning in places. Michael walks through this charred wasteland, anguished, as he begins to sing. The scene shifts constantly, from an elephant whose tusks have been harvested, to an African family mourning the destruction, to forests being cut down and destroyed, to tribal villagers viewing a land destroyed by war. Michael is intercut with the other scenes as he walks through the burning wasteland. As he reaches out to a felled tree, seeing it in his mind as still flourishing, a saw blade cuts through the trunk. He falls to his knees and plunges his hands into the earth, letting the fertile soil fall through his fingers. Emotions fly across his face, from wonder to pain, as scenes alternate between life and destruction for the world’s animals. The second verse finds the camera lens viewing other scenes of destruction in war-torn Boznia. A storm arises, and the earth begins to turn backwards, erasing the destruction that has reigned until now: trees are raised, tanks move backwards, dead men return to life and dead and harvested elephants rise to their knees as their tusks grow through the magic of computer generated videography. This video is powerful, with images breathtaking in their sorrow and in their hope. Director Nicholas Brandt.
1996 They Don’t Care About Us (HIStory)
There were actually two videos made for this song…The first was shot entirely in Brazil, and opens with a shot of the Christ figure statue with a woman speaking a few lines in Portuguese. A remixed version of the song is used in the video, with extra percussion added by the Brazilian percussion group, Olodum (over 200 members), whom accompany Michael in the video. The video itself is very colorful, with shots of Michael dancing and associating with the people of the town it was shot in. Michael himself wears different Olodum t-shirts in the video, along with a pair of jeans, which Michael seldom wears. The video also shows actual footage of a woman breaking through the security, running up, and hugging Michael, subsequently making him fall to his knees on the rough cobblestones of Dona Marta, and being helped back up by the director of the video, Spike Lee. This version was shot in two Brazilian cities–Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. The scenes that show him with Olodum and the one showing the woman breaking through security were shot in Salvador, in the historic part of the city, and the slum scenes were shot in Rio. One of the overwhelming messages of this version of the film is the joy shown by the inhabitants of some of the most poverty-stricken slums known to this planet. These people are having a GOOD time, poverty and misery notwithstanding … and Michael joins right in with them dancing through the crowded alleyways of Dona Marta.
The second version of the video, the “prison” version, is a much more graphic video and better demonstrates the meaning of the song. It opens with kids singing and saying things outside of a prison, then switches to graphic news footage, with such shots as the Rodney King beating, and other such acts of violence. Michael is then seen as a prison inmate, shackled in a cell with TV screens embedded in the walls, all of which show violent news footage. Throughout the video, the TV screens and news footage demonstrate the call of the song to stop the unnecessary violence and racism in the world today. Meanwhile, Michael is seen singing and dancing both in a jail cell, and in a “mess hall” with dozens of other inmates. Michael’s singing, dancing, and expressions show the seriousness of the song, and how angry Michael feels about everything that is going on in the world. Near the end of the video, special effects are used which show Michael dancing in the middle of violent news footage, such as bombings and human rights violence.
The prison video is very powerful and moving, and as such features disclaimers by various music television networks saying the video should be viewed with parental discretion and that it contains violent news footage. But the overall message is clear: The hatred and violence in the world needs to stop. Director Spike Lee.
1996 Stranger in Moscow (HIStory)
This black-and-white clip centers around themes of loneliness and anguish. Michael, wearing a long coat and wet from a driving rain, moves through the film in real time while his surroundings persist in an unusual slow motion. Finely detailed computer-generated sequences show us the minutest movements of a bee in flight and rain as it splashes upon the upturned faces of the people. Director Nicholas Brandt.
1997 Blood on the Dance Floor (Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix)
The film depicts a nattily-dressed, latin-flavored Michael Jackson dancing in a club. Michael caused a mild sensation with his red leather suit, matching red satin shirt and tango-styled dance sequences. Directors: Vincent Paterson and Michael Jackson … Producer: Beth Anthony
1997 HIStory (Blood on the Dance Floor, HIStory in the Mix – Tony Moran Remix)
The film has Michael represented only in video clips shown on video screens throughout a dance club as the regulars show off their dancing skills. Featured video clips include most, if not all, of Michael’s videos including Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough, Scream, Will You Be There (live performance), Stranger in Moscow, Ghosts, Jam, The Way You Make Make Feel in a video-montage of Michael’s HIStory.
1997 Ghosts (Blood on the Dance Floor: HIStory in the Mix)
This film combines footage from the feature-length film of the same name that premiered in selected Sony Theaters in the United States in October of 1996 and throughout Europe at the Cannes Film Festival as well as at several tour stops along the second leg of the HIStory World Tour. Director: Stan Winston.
2001 You rock my world (Invincible)
The music video for “You Rock My World” was directed by Paul Hunter, and was released in 2001. The video, which is over thirteen minutes long, was described as being a short film. The dance performed during the video consists of fragments from the canceled “Dangerous” music video.
The video consists of Jackson’s and Tucker’s characters trying to gain a woman’s (Kishaya Dudley) affection by subsequently following her around the neighborhood. The video for “You Rock My World” was thought to be the last music video to feature any participation from Jackson before the video for “One More Chance” was unearthed (his following videos would consist of archive footage of himself and others).
The video has been compared to Jackson’s previous 1980s music videos for his singles, “Smooth Criminal” (1987), “Bad” (1987), and “The Way You Make Me Feel” (1987), all from his 1987 studio album, Bad. In the video, Jackson can be seen wearing a Blazer and his traditional hat. The video features appearances from Marlon Brando, Michael Madsen and Billy Drago. Catherine Halaby, a writer for Yale Daily News, who had given the song a positive review, described the video as being a “direct descendant” of “Smooth Criminal,” with the “nuances” of “The Way You Make me Feel”. Halaby commented that appearances by Marlon Brando and Michael Madsen were “indeed random” and that “few things Jackson does shock us anymore.” The video won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Music Video at the award shows 2002 ceremony.
2001 Cry (Invincible)
“Cry” was promoted by a music video, or “short film,” as Jackson would refer to it. The video was directed by Nicholas Brandt, who had previously directed “Earth Song” (1995), “Childhood” (1995) and “Stranger in Moscow” (1996), all of which were featured on Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I album. The video was filmed in six different locations, five of which were in California and another in Nevada. People featured in the video included members of a real life gospel group. The video begins with dozens of people of different ages, ethnicities and races holding hands. Long lines of people were stretched over mountains, across highways, in a forest and on the beach. Everyone stands in silence for a majority of the video. Following the bridge, everyone begins singing the chorus. Towards the final chorus, the group collectively clap their hands along with the song, taking hands once more as the song ends.
“Cry” is the only Michael Jackson video to be included on an enhanced CD of the single.
“Cry” was issued as a single against Jackson’s original intentions to release “Unbreakable.” (The same situation applied with the release of “You Rock My World” months prior.) Due to his dissatisfaction with the way Sony was handling the album’s promotion, he refused to appear in the music video for “Cry”. Craig Halstead and Chris Cadman, authors of the book Michael Jackson: The Solo Years, believe that Jackson’s absence from the video “did little to promote it.”