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Top 10 Michael Jackson’s Thriller Trivia

VO: Rebecca Brayton
"Grizzly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom!" This is the most influential pop music video of all time. A watershed moment for the music industry, it not only secured Jackson's place as the king of pop, but had a profound effect on popular culture. With this music video being so influential and remaining the most successful music video of all time, we thought it would be a great time to take a closer look at the unforgettable classic. Join as we count down 10 pieces of trivia about Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

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Top 10 Michael Jackson’s Thriller Trivia

Grizzly ghouls from every tomb are closing in to seal your doom. Welcome to, as we count down 10 pieces of trivia about Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

#10 – The Making of the King of Pop

Kicking off our list is a fun fact about the most influential music video ever! Considered a defining moment for the music industry, the “Thriller” video pioneered the blend of filmmaking and music, sold nine million copies and became the most watched music video of all time. Not only that, but the album also helped pave the way for other black artists, as it forced MTV and other radio stations to break the color barrier.

#9 – Breaking the Bank with a Big Budget

In the early ‘80s, most music videos cost between $50-$75 thousand to make. “Thriller” shattered that with an unprecedented budget of half a million dollars! Considering the project was shot over just four days, and the finished product runs 13 minutes and 43 seconds, that’s a pretty big price tag. But worth it for the zombies!

#8 – “Thriller” Goes the Extra Mile

“Thriller” was made long before DVD special features – or DVDs for that matter – but the production still embraced behind-the-scenes extras. This added content came in the form of a companion VHS tape called “The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” which was an hour-long documentary that was packed with interviews, rehearsals, set footage and costume design.

#7 – Not the Girl Next Door

Set in the 1950s, “Thriller” follows a teenaged Michael Jackson as he and his date get stranded near some spooky woods. Michael uses the opportunity to ask her to be his girlfriend, but he also warns her that he is not like other guys. Little did he know she wasn’t like other girls: Jackson had no idea that his sweetheart co-star Ola Ray was a nude model for Playboy!

#6 – The Right Direction

Without a special director, “Thriller” would never have become such a landmark video. Film director John Landis agreed to fill that role thanks to his desire to revitalize the short-film genre. However, he put in place firm conditions before work began: he forced extras to spend two weeks with a choreographer in dance rehearsals. Music videos never required this much effort on the part of their extras – but then again, they didn’t feature this dance, either.

#5 – Something Old, Something New, and Lots Borrowed

Landis decided to add a few nods to his previous work in the “Thriller” video. See that theater? It’s actually the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles – the same one featured in 1977’s “The Kentucky Fried Movie.” Landis had also just finished shooting “An American Werewolf in London,” and he was so happy with that horror production, he decided to have “Thriller” mimic its plot by having Jackson change into a werewolf – in fact, he even used the same animal sounds for his transformation!

#4 – A Masterpiece, At What Price?

“Thriller” had the production values and the music, but what really made it a horror classic was the participation of legendary horror movie actor Vincent Price. Price performed the film’s voice over and rap, and can even be seen on the movie theatre sign! Love his lines? They were written last-minute by the songwriter on the way to the recording session!

#3 – A Close Call for a Classic

It’s unthinkable, but Michael Jackson once debated abandoning the “Thriller” album because he didn’t think the early audio mixes were up to snuff. He went for a bike ride to cool down, and ended up watching some children play in a schoolyard. By the time he was back in the studio, he was in the right frame of mind to get it right. That wasn’t the only good decision he made: MJ also abandoned the original title “Starlight,” which just doesn’t have the same ring…

#2 – Failed Oscar Push

Jackson and Landis had Oscar ambitions for “Thriller.” To be eligible for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short, they presented it theatrically alongside Disney’s 1940 film “Fantasia” at a special week-long LA screening. Despite its financial, cultural and critical success, somehow “Thriller” was not nominated – but its theatrical presence did irk a truckload of unsuspecting parents!

#1 – The Bizarre Disclaimer

Taking the top spot on our list is a factoid about “Thriller”’s themes and the King of Pop’s religious beliefs. Jackson was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness at the time of filming, so due to the occult ideas and violent imagery they added a disclaimer at the beginning of the film. Yes, you heard that right: we’re sure you would have been thrilled if Michael had come knocking on your door.

What’s your favorite “Thriller” factoid? For more entertaining Top 10s, be sure to subscribe to

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