Michael Jackson never followed trends. That is how Jackson broke the color barrier over at MTV and revolutionized the game while becoming the standard. He proved this time and again every time he released a video or as he called them short films. Jackson’s visuals that accompanied his music always had a beginning, middle, climax and ending. Michael Jackson was also one of the greatest dancers of all time. When he moved his body became a part of the music. He once explained to Oprah that his movements were involuntary and most of the time determined by whatever feeling the music gave him. He told stories with his music, films and body. Four years after the death of the King, here are some of his greatest dance films, in no particular order.
Choreographers: Michael Jackson and Michael Peters.
MJ’s Thriller remains the biggest selling album of all-time. But the album’s title track is really the one song on the album that feels out of place. It probably wasn’t until the 14 minute short film for the track premiered that many actually took notice of the song. The John Landis directed film remains a standard of creativity for the music world and has been named “the most famous music video of all time” by the National Film Registry. Jackson choreographed the short film with Michael Peters and worried about turning the dancing zombies into an unintentional comedy. We all see how that turned out. There is also a rumor that sister Janet appears as one of the dancing zombies in the film but that has never been confirmed.
Choreographers: Michael Jackson, Jeffrey Daniel, Vincent Patternson.
When you think of the moonwalk, Jackson instantly comes to mind. Even though the dance that Jackson was actually doing was the backwards glide, it’s still his signature move. Yet, he rarely included it in his films. Smooth Criminal is one of those rare occasions that we get to see Jackson glide in a film. You can actually see Jackson do the moonwalk shortly after he does the backwards glide. The Fred Astaire themed film was just smooth all around. Plus, it gave us that anti-gravity lean that I’m sure everyone attempts any time that the song is played.
Choreographers: Michael Jackson and Jeffrey Daniel
The storyline for this Martin Scorsese directed short film was based on a true story of a teen who was murdered amidst his aspirations for a better life. Jackson takes some cues from West Side Story as him and a troop of dancers move fiercely through a train station. The dance moves saw Jackson take on an edgier persona that matched perfectly with the song and album’s namesake. Also, check out a fresh faced Wesley Snipes making his debut.
The greatest, in their respective fields, joined forces for this film. Michael Jordan appears in this grittily filmed film and even attempts to bust a move. Jackson shows some of his signature moves in solo shots that appear throughout the film in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse. Plus, he tries to teach Jordan how to moonwalk. Watching how stiff Jordan was now in the film actually makes you actually root for him to fast forward to his baseball career. But the last few minutes of the film where Jackson tries to teach Jordan how to dance is one of the greatest things in the history of things. The song also featured the late Heavy D. whose name did no justice to how light the rapper actually was on his feet. Rap duo Kris Kross and a young Wade Robson can also been seen jamming in the film.
Choreographers: Michael Jackson and Michael Peters
It has a choreographed knife scene. I mean… The steps for the chorus are some of Jackson’s most imitated due to its simplicity in comparison to some of his other routines. The ending where all of the gang members join Jackson and dance away their differences shows the power that the Kang possessed on the dance floor.
“Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough”
A tuxedo and cheesy effects with Michael Jackson dancing in front of a green screen equals magic. The lead single from his first full on musical collaboration with Quincy Jones, Off The Wall, will still pull anyone to the dance floor. In the break, a triplicate of Jacksons can be seen cutting a mean impromptu rug.
“Remember The Time”
Choreographer: Fatima Robinson
Michael Jackson had no trouble getting anyone to guest in his short films. In this beautiful Egyptian themed film; Eddie Murphy and Iman co-starred with an appearance by Magic Johnson. Robinson did an amazing job creating a routine that worked perfectly with the flow of the film while keeping Jackson strong in his element.
“Blood on the Dance Floor’
A song from Jackson’s remix album Blood on the Dance Floor: History in the Mix, the film takes a laid back approach with a Latin vibe. It’s very simple in terms of a Jackson production but even while armed with maracas he still manages to mesmerize.
“You Rock My World
Loaded with celebrity guests and drama, the short film for Jackson’s comeback in 2001 provided us with an updated version of some of his more classic works. The dance sequence is reminiscent of some of the live performances of his song “Dangerous” and the short film for “Smooth Criminal.”
Choreographers: Tina Landon, Travis Payne, LaVelle Smith, Jr., Sean Cheesman
The one and only duet from the legendary siblings yielded a seven million dollar film that will forever boast the best dance break EVER. The song and film brought together two of the most influential artists of all time who are continued to be imitated but nowhere close to being duplicated.