Does Michael Jackson Moonwalk in ‘Thriller’?

Aside from his music, Michael Jackson is known for his “killer” dance moves — especially for the “Thriller” music video. Did the “Billie Jean” singer do the moonwalk in his “Thriller” short film? Here’s what we know.

Michael Jackson on stage, performing 'Thriller'
Michael Jackson performing ‘Thriller’ at Madison Square Garden | George De Sota (ID 5073478)/Redferns

No mere mortal can resist the evil of a “Thriller.” Jackson released the album Thriller in 1982, with his legendary “Thriller” short film premiering in December 1983.

At the time, “Thriller” was one of the most expensive music videos to create — an unprecedented $900,000. To help offset the cost, Jackson shot a “making of” documentary, becoming one of the first artists to do so. 

Even years later, this music video continues to be a fan-favorite Halloween release, with a spooky storyline and even Jackson in zombie form. (The official YouTube music video currently holds over 700 million views.) This production is also known for its “killer” choreography, emulated by fans across the globe.

Does Michael Jackson moonwalk in the ‘Thriller’ music video?

Jackson popularized the moonwalk around the same time “Thriller” debuted. When the artist performed “Billie Jean” live during Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever in 1983, shocking viewers across the country. 

He performed this dance move on tours in conjunction with “Billie Jean.” The “Thriller” music video featured several iconic dance moves performed by zombie extras and Jackson himself. However, this short film did not feature Jackson’s legendary moonwalk. 

These dancers had the soul for getting down. The assistant choreographer behind this music video, Vincent Paterson, actually made it to the background of this production, appearing as a zombie alongside the “Billie Jean” artist. 

“I really think it’s the fact that it’s simple, the fact that it was original, the fact that, even if you do it badly, you can still look good,” Paterson said of its longevity during an interview with Assignment X

“You don’t have to be a trained dancer to look like a zombie, and I’ve just been flabbergasted at the amount of things on YouTube, from wedding receptions to the prisoners over in Asia, who were able to pick up the thing and make it work,” he continued. “I think it has to do with a bit of the simplicity of it, and also the fact that truly, you don’t have to look like a dancer to be able to do the movement in ‘Thriller.’”

The Thriller album also received plenty of recognition, earning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1984. The same year, it received the Brit Award for Best Selling Album.

Clarification: Vincent Paterson was the assistant choreographer on “Thriller.” The choreographer was Michael Peters.

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