The King of Pop: 7 of Michael Jackson’s greatest moments in his epic music videos

Michael Jackson would have been 60 years old today. To commemorate the day, writer Dustin Seibert has compiled his list of the King of Pop's best video moments.

Michael Jackson
Popular American musician Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009) (center, without hat) shakes handswith an 'Mini Max' played by Wesley Snipes as others watch during the filming of a scene in the long-form music video for his song 'Bad,' directed by Martin Scorsese, New York, New York, November 1986. (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

If one example of “kids these days know nothin’ about that” rings true above most others, it’s the music video, which is so dead that I don’t even know what the MTV Video Music Awards show honors these days. But the music video reigned supreme in the 1980s and 1990s, and there was one king to rule them all: Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson’s videos weren’t just videos – they were events that were advertised like the season premiere of a television show. Several were 15-minute mini-movies, complete with crawling credits. Jackson’s videos were a testament to the fact that he took his theatrics as seriously as he did his actual music; the fact that he excelled at all of it – while most of his contemporaries did not – made him the consummate entertainer.

For just a handful of video moments we’d rather forget (see: gag-inducing canoodling with Elvis’ daughter in “You Are Not Alone”), Jackson has more great ones than I have the space to mention here. But, in honor of what would have been his 60th birthday, I came up with a few of my favorites:

1. Battling Wesley Snipes for hood supremacy in “Bad”

No one anywhere would’ve mistaken Jackson for a gangster. But it was the 1980s when every corner of the world adored him, so we let it slide the same way we did Prince and his ass-less jumpsuit. Jackson’s Darryl returns home from boarding school to his home in the hood, where he encounters his old crew (headed by Snipes). They’re still about that thug life, but Darryl has clearly moved on as he finds himself defending a potential victim from his crew. When Jackson tells Snipes, “You ain’t bad, you ain’t nothin!” he backs his shit up with a leather BDSM getup and his own crew of dancers who come from out of nowhere. Admit it…you also thought he was cool back then too.

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2. Stalking a young lady who didn’t want to be bothered in “The Way You Make Me Feel”

Scene: A pretty young lady walks alone through a dark city street, potential danger lurking everywhere. An overaggressive Jackson sings and twinkle-toes his way into her heart by blocking her path as she tries to keep walking. This video inadvertently delivers the message to a generation of boys that relentless persistence will get you the woman. It should be updated with a trigger warning for every woman who is ever harassed while going about their damn business.

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3. Stealing the pharoah’s woman in “Remember the Time”

I’m pretty sure there are a smooth dozen or so culturally inaccurate and insensitive references to ancient Egypt within the video’s first two minutes. Never mind that…we’re too caught up in Iman’s Egyptian queen going into heat at the arrival of Jackson’s performer, drawing the ire of Eddie Murphy’s Ramses. Bonus points for Magic Johnson as a member of the king’s guard. Twitter user @NY_Wiseass delivered a hilarious thread about this video one year ago today:


4. More gang shit in “Beat It”

The spiritual predecessor to the “Bad” video, “Beat It” underlines Jackson’s commitment to the idea that music and choreographed dance routines are the true answer to solving disagreements between rival gangs. As a small child, even I couldn’t quite understand why two people would draw switchblades on each other and then…dance it out. Also notable for featuring a young Eddie Torres from New York Undercover as a gang member.

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 5. Lusting after the boss’ woman in “You Rock My World”

It was one of Jackson’s last hits, and he resembled a made-up china doll in the video. He sticks with his tried-and-true formula of stealing the dangerous bad guy’s woman through song and dance. Chris Tucker took every opportunity he could to say “shamone!” and Marlon Brando swooped through to pick up the easiest paycheck ever. The most impressive part of this video is that it proves that Jackson could still dance his ass off in his 40s.


6. The gangsta lean in “Smooth Criminal”

Moonwalker is one of those movies I’ve been meaning to watch again but keep putting off because I know it won’t be nearly as good to me as it was when I was seven. I’m sure, however, that “Smooth Criminal” is still the best part of the movie. After using all 140 of his pounds to bare-handedly kick the asses of gangsters with guns and knives, Jackson heads up suited, brim-hatted dancers in a routine that culminates with that famous forward lean. I refuse to use Google to see how it was done because I don’t want to ruin the magic.


7. Everything in “Michael Jackson’s Thriller” 

Bottom line: if you don’t have “Thriller” in your top-three greatest music videos of all time, you’re either nuts or not old enough to remember when “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” was on air. Jackson transforming into a werewolf and frightening young Playboy centerfold Ola Ray legitimately frightened the shit out of 4-year-old me. It’s a testament to the staying power of “Thriller” that I can watch it now and still get goosebumps.


HONORABLE MENTION: His cameo in Eddie Murphy’s “Whatzupwitu”

It’s still easy to forget that Murphy attempted an earnest pop career in between making buddy cop films. “Whatzupwitu” is ridiculous front to back, but it gets a boost from Murphy’s good buddy Michael Jackson. The best part of this fever dream of a video is the kaleidoscope of Jacksons “falling, falling, falling” through the blue sky. Whoever conceived this was clearly on angel dust.

Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site,