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Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Parody
"You close your eyes/ and hope that this is just imitation!"
Michael Jackson's elaborate Music Video for "Thriller" debuted to much hype in 1983 and was an instant smash hit. As the most famous single video of all time, it's become a Stock Parody, usually referencing the "zombie dance" performed by Michael and a troupe of ghouls and/or the closing Or Was It a Dream? shot of Michael with evil yellow eyes. The red leather jacket Jackson wore in the video is also likely to turn up in such spoofs.

Compare Bohemian Parody, another Stock Parody of a famous song/music video.


    open/close all folders 


  • In one strip of the Dutch comic Sjors en Sjimmie, Sjimmie dresses up as Jackson and sings a few bars of the song.

    Fan Works 
  • A rare text-only example of this trope can be found in Chapter 16 of Ed, Edd, Eddy n Edna. The chapter even ends the same way the original music video does.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A zombie resembling Michael Jackson appears in Return of the Living Dead Part II during the finale, as the all the zombies are being electrocuted.
  • The Bollywood film Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki (1984) has one of the first zombie dance spoofs.
  • In the German comedy Otto-Der Film (1985) the zombie dance is spoofed with lookalikes of the German folksinger Heino, adapting the song's tune to the lyrics of his song "Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss".
  • The Indian Telegu film Donga (1985). A character dances with zombies, also dressed in a "Thriller" jacket, singing a song with a very similar tune. It became an Internet meme in the 2000s.
  • In the 1985 horror movie Dead End, one of the zombies wears the "Thriller" jacket.
  • Ferris Buellers Day Off: During the "Twist & Shout" sequence, a group of African-Americans is seen performing zombie dance moves.
  • Coming to America: Dance sequence referenced.

  • In Terry Pratchett's Johnny and the Dead, Johnny Maxwell and his 1990's gang teach the ghosts in the local cemetary - all of whom died in the period 1850-1948 - how to do the Moonwalk dance. (an affectionate parody of the Thriller video with real Undead). The sight of a corpulent Victorian mayor and a suffragette who died for her beliefs getting really into it is one that provokes much amusement.

    Live Action Television 
  • British comedian Lenny Henry spoofed the music video as "Thinner" in 1984, parodying allegations about Jackson's anorexia. It also inverted the opening scene (the girl's dating a werewolf, and is horrified when he turns into Michael Jackson), and featured "Michael" accidentally knocking the head off a zombie in the dance routine, his mother giving him a telling-off ( and having the zombie eyes at the end), and a cameo by Henry's David Bellamy impression.
    Vincent Price soundalike: This film will shock, your flesh will creep,
    It's nasty, but it sure ain't cheap,
    And Michael will scream harder still,
    Just wait until he gets ... the bill!
  • Spitting Image: In the pilot episode, a Michael Jackson puppet leads a group of zombies who resemble members of British Parliament. His song, "I'm Perfect", has a similar melody to "Thriller". The sketch concludes with a close-up of Jackson's face with dollar signs in his eyes.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place did this when real zombies invade a prom. Alex challenges them to a dance off to stop their attack. The leader lampshades this.
    Female Zombie: Ugh, one music video comes out and suddenly everyone expects us to dance.
  • Death's song from the Halloween special of Horrible Histories (sadly impossible to find online) was built up to be this, but surprised everyone by being a pastiche of "My Favorite Things" instead. Still had some Thrilleresque dancing ghouls, though.

    Music Videos 
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Eat It" is the first video that parodies "Thriller", albeit in the context of a shot-for-shot spoof of the video for Jackson's "Beat It". A random zombie peeks through the blinds early on. At the end the video is revealed to be an Acid Reflux Nightmare of Al's. As he prepares some Alka-Seltzer, there's a spooky eyes reveal.
    • He briefly does the zombie dance in the video for "Tacky" during the line "If I'm bitten by a zombie, I'm probably not telling you".
  • Gorillaz: In the video for "Clint Eastwood" the gorillas that emerge from their graves and chase Russell also do some zombie dance moves.
  • At the end of the video for Bob Sinclar's "Rock This Party" the children imitate the zombie dance sequence, complete with outfits.
  • In the Gnarls Barkley video "Smiley Faces" it is suggested that the two members of the group were also "Thriller" zombies.
  • Lady Gaga lifted the zombie dance choreography for the "Bad Romance" video.
  • Naturally part of Alien Ant Farm's tribute cover of Smooth Criminal which among other Michael Jackson homages include some men partially doing the zombie moves and the end of the video, one of them showing off the spooky eyes.
  • At the end of LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" the robot-man turns his head to the camera where his robot eyes blink, followed by a Freeze Frame.

    Video Games 
  • In Team Fortress 2, activating any taunt during the Halloween season carries a high chance of your character performing the zombie dance instead.
    • The map added with the Spectral Halloween Special can make the roulette (which activates whenever any team caps the point on the map) force both teams to dance this way a meter apart. Then return control of everyone's weapons. Hilarity Ensues.
  • One of the first bosses in Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti for Famicom is a vampire, clad in Jackson's red jacket, who emerges from a disco floor in a cemetery and summons various zombies who start dancing and then attack the player. The game is similarly loaded with parodies of famous horror films.
  • The Dancing Zombie in Plants vs. Zombies was originally based on Michael Jackson, though an update after the singer's death replaced him with a disco dancer with a Funny Afro.

    Web Original 

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In "Treehouse Of Horror III"'s final segment ("Dial 'Z' for Zombies"), Bart and Lisa try to revive their dead cat with a magic spell, but accidentally raise dead humans from the nearby graveyard instead. This was probably bound to happen, given that Bart had to wear the Thriller album sleeve on his head to perform the spell.
  • South Park
    • Once Chef becomes a zombie in the Season One Halloween Episode "Pinkeye", he dances along with the other zombies and is dressed in Jackson's outfit. Instead of the actual song, there's a Suspiciously Similar Substitute with (this being Chef) lyrics about making love.
    • In "The Jeffersons", the reveal of Michael-as-zombie is parodied when the kids see the crumbling ruin that is the actual face of Michael Jackson (circa 2005).
  • Family Guy: The ending of "The Hand That Rocks the Wheelchair" has Stewie with wolf-like yellow eyes and maniacal laughter.
    • In "Meet The Quagmires", the 1980s version of Cleveland is wearing the red jacket.
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: In the 1983 episode "The C-Team/The Chipettes", the Chipmunks' opening musical sequence uses the chorus' dance moves.
  • Done in an episode of Littlest Pet Shop when werewolf paranoia grips the pet day camp.
  • An episode of Grojband has the band laying resurrected dead to rest with the song "Zombie Dance".
  • Done in the Metalocalypse special, Metalocalypse The Doom Star Requiem when the band have to get by forgotten musicians and junkies to reach the building Toki is being held hostage in.
  • The Fairly Oddparents referenced twice. Once during the Halloween special during Timmy's "Real and Scary" number and again in "One Man Banned" during the montage of Timmy's musical fame.
  • In one "Buttons and Mindy" short on Animaniacs, Buttons saves Mindy from a graveyard full of zombies by doing this.
  • The 6teen special "Dude of the Living Dead," centers around the gang trapped in the mall which is infested with zombies and one of the zombies happens to resemble Michael Jackson.
  • Dancing to the song was one of the challenges in the Total Drama Island episode "Basic Straining."

    Real Life 
  • The event "Thrill the World" attempts to break the record for the most people performing the zombie dance sequence.
  • A popular viral video has Filipino prisoners performing the dance in a prison courtyard.

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