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Michael Jackson's Thriller Parody

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"You close your eyes / And hope that this is just an imitation"note 
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. In a series, this is often a part of a Halloween Episode.

Usually combined with The Dead Can Dance. Compare Bohemian Parody, another Stock Parody of a famous music video.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One Piece: Along with having an island/ship named Thriller Bark. The zombies do a Suspiciously Similar Song dance number called "Zombie Night" to hype themselves up before they attack the Straw Hats.
  • In the CLANNAD anime, when Tomoya orders Fuuko to "act like a zombie", she immediately starts doing the "Thriller". Tomoya doesn't comment on this.
  • A blink-and-you-miss-it nod in one episode of the Monster Musume anime: one of the end cards featured zombie subspecies, and the Early Zombie girl wore Michael's red jacket.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim uses this for a quick gag in its Halloween Episode. Namely, GIR dresses up as Michael in the video, sings a few lyrics, and dances, with a group of zombies acting as his backup.
  • A direct reference in This Bites!, where Soundbite plays "Thriller" when the group encounters the zombies on Thriller Bark, causing the zombies to start dancing. Instead of performing a Head Desk like the snail expected, Cross decides to join and lead the impromptu act.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Saras Face: Along with the plastic surgery addicted pop/rock singer Jonathan Heat being a massive Jackson Expy, his comeback album is obsessed with werewolves and masks, clearly based on Thriller.
  • 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.
  • Dork Diaries: In "Tales from a Not-So Fabulous Life", Nikki discovers that her PE teacher's CD of Swan Lake is actually a CD of Michael Jackson's Thriller album. She ends up doing the zombie dance from the music video with her ballet group, leading to them flunking the class.

    Live-Action TV 
  • As early as 1984 Joe Piscopo parodied the music video of "Thriller," but transforms into Jerry Lewis. He is then joined by a whole group of awkward walking and funny voiced Jerry Lewis clones.
  • 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 sound alike: 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 thanks to Max accidentally sending the invitations to the Wizarding World. When the protagonists convince Zeke that the zombies are drama students from a rival school, he challenges them to a dance off. 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 Thriller esque dancing ghouls, though.
  • A 2010 film, made in Gabon, has local Gabonese actor Michael Anicet imitate the music video. It's very low-budget and just playbacks to the original song, but actually very well done and has the interesting variation of having the actress who plays Michael's love-interest do some more dance routines herself.
  • During the Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger Crossover with Kamen Rider Ghost, the Zyuohgers do their "Super Sentai" Stance and a confused Ghost contributes by doing a pose from "Thriller".
  • Pixelface: In "Bored to Undeath", the console is overrun by zombies from Claireparker's survival horror game. The characters finally manage to get rid of them by running them through Kiki's dance training program and then having Aethelwynne led them back to their game Pied Piper style, carrying a boombox playing Michael Jackson's "Thriller". The zombies, of course, are doing the zombie dance.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?: In the American edition, one game of "Song Styles" had Wayne Brady performing for an audience member, who worked as a professional bingo caller, as Michael Jackson in "Thriller", with Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, and Greg Proops playing the zombies.

    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" from Gorillaz the gorillas that emerge from their graves and chase Murdoc 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 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 Ending.
  • At the end of Britney Spears's "I Wanna Go" the man that saves Britney at the end of the video has creepy eyes with a Freeze-Frame Ending.
  • Beatfreakz's remix of Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" uses this for the music video. Hilarious in Hindsight because Michael Jackson provided vocals on the original song.
  • Muse's music video to "Thought Contagion" is heavily inspired by the "Thriller" video.
  • The video for "Cinema" by Samuel feat. Francesca Michielin ends with a few zombies and a Thriller parody, but with the Gillman replacing Jackson.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • At CHIKARA Operation Big Freeze, March 12, 2011, there was a six-man tag with The Osirian Portal (Amasis/Ophidian/Hieracon [Jonathan Gresham]) vs. The Dark Army (Sinn Bodhi/Obariyon/Kodama). The Portal did their hypnosis routine, and the song started, with The Dark Army imitating the zombies and chasing the Portal around the ring. Finally, everyone got back in the ring and did the dance.

    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 has a roulette wheel (which activates whenever any team caps the point on the map) that can force both teams to dance this way a meter apart. Then return control of everyone's weapons. Hilarity Ensues.
      And though you fight to stay alive
      Your body starts to spasmus
      For no mere mortal can resist
      The magic of Merasmus!
  • 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 afro.
  • In RuneScape, one can purchase a Morytanian Music Box from Solomon's General Store. Placing it on the ground and clicking on it causes players to do a dance almost the same as the Thriller dance. Heck, even the music that plays whilst this is happening sounds awfully like Thriller.
  • Cataclysm has a zombie version as a joke monster. It can turn nearby zombies into non-hostile yet Nigh-Invulnerable dancers, but killing The Thriller turns them all into hulks.
  • In Guild Wars, the female necromancer dance is a copy of the zombie dance.
  • In some expansion packs of The Sims 2 and The Sims 3, the Sims can get together to do the Smustle which contains variations of this.
  • Stubbs the Zombie's dance-off against Police Chief Masters. He even does Michael's signature "HEEE!" and crotch grab! Subverted in that Stubbs is the only zombie participating in it.
  • During one portion of the dream world segment of Lunarosse, a group of zombies in the apocalypse area start doing this. Channing lampshades it by calling a "music video rip-off".
  • In Crash: Mind Over Mutant, the TK do this. Well, it's pretty tough for a debut cutscene...
  • Yakuza 0 has a side-story where you have to help a pop star names Miracle Johnson film a music video where he moonwalks through a street while zombies attack him. Miracle insists on having the zombies attack him for real for the sake of authenticity, resulting in an Escort Mission.
  • In StreetPass Mii Plaza's Battleground Z/StreetPass Zombies, allies whose hobby is dancing have a Limit Break in which all zombies onscreen are forced into a synchronized dance sequence, after which all of the zombies are struck by lightning at the end.
  • Paper Mario: The Origami King: In the Temple of Shrooms, a haunted pyramid, the villainous, disco-obsessed Hole Punch has punched out the faces of forty Toads, resulting in them becoming zombie-like in their mannerisms. Mario must gather the Toads and get them to dance to the very Michael Jackson-esque "Thrills at Night" in order to draw out Hole Punch for battle.
  • Trials of Mana: Charlotte's Limit Break as a Chaosbringer involves her summoning zombies and ghouls while she mimicks the portion of the dance where both arms are raised with tongue stuck out.
  • Disgaea 3: In the opening animation, the main characters do a dance that is equal parts Thriller and Hare Hare Yukai.
  • Sleeping Dogs (2012): The opening and ending scenes of the Nightmare in Northpoint DLC's storyline are very overt homages. Especially the latter, which sees Smiley Cat posessing Not Ping and laughing at the camera.
  • Them's Fightin' Herds: If Oleander taunts while FHTNG/Fred is out during her level 2 super, the later will mimic the Thriller dance.
  • One boss fight in Monster Party features a pair of dancing zombies who can be defeated only by waiting until the music stops.
  • Khimera: Destroy All Monster Girls has an oblique reference to it: the bio for the zombie girl enemies says that they resent the fact that everyone thinks they should move like the zombies in the "Thriller" video.
  • Bayonetta 3: when game's villain Singularity turns an entire army battalion into zombies, he can't help himself but reenact copyright-friendly Thriller parody with them.
  • Wargroove: The game's jukebox shows a sprite of the game's commanders dancing along to their own leitmotifs. Sedge is doing the zombie dance to his own theme.


    Web Original 

    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.
    • In the third level of arcade game, when a batch of zombies rise from the ground they briefly perform the Thriller dance.
  • 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). And yes, he's wearing the red jacket.
  • 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. There's a music video called "Wolfified" where the characters dance as werewolves.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Downplayed in "Night of The Living McFizzles"; the only reference to "Thriller" is a zombie dressed in Michael Jackson's outfit, who even does a little "Hee-hee!".
  • Robot Chicken's second season ends with co-creator Matthew Senreich killing a majority of the show's cast, staff and even co-creator Seth Green...but they're renewed for another season anyway. Seth and the rest of the dead characters rise from their graves and chase after Matt. After the zombies corner Matt, his phone rings. They stop and dance to the music (a knockoff of "Thriller"), but once the music stops, they go right back to chasing him.
  • 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 (where some monsters and skeletons are shown doing a similar dance) and again in "One Man Banned" during the montage of Timmy's musical fame (one part of which shows Timmy clad in the costume Michael Jackson wore in the music video while doing the Thriller dance with Cosmo, Wanda and Poof as zombies).
  • 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 episode "Basic Straining."
  • Casper's Scare School: the episode "My Fair Harpy" ends with all students performing a group dance identical to that of Michael and the zombies.
  • Wakfu season 2 episode 3: In the end credits, the ghouls are dancing like the zombies in "Thriller".
  • The title sequence for The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries has a lineup of monsters doing the dance.
  • In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy episode "Little Rock of Horrors", Billy and a whole group of brainless zombies do the dance.
    • A few seconds of this scene are shown in a commercial of the show that features Billy and Mandy watching themselves at the cinema and then Billy deciding to spaz, scream and jump neurotically around as his idea of re-enacting the moves.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra!", Dewey teaches a group of the titular mummies the zombie dance as part of their rebellion against Toth-Ra. Needless to say, it's ineffective.
  • Get Ace: In the Halloween Episode, Ace accidentally turns everyone into zombies and they do the dance to a Suspiciously Similar Song.
  • The Breadwinners Halloween Episode "Night of the Living Bread" not surprisingly had SwaySway and Buhdeuce doing this when they used the Irresistibly Craveable Bread to keep the zombies at bay and realize they follow their every movement while holding it, leading into the dance number, "Shake Your Zombie Booty!".
  • An episode of El Chavo Animado has El Chavo having an Imagine Spot of Don Ramón raising from a tomb as a zombie, doing the Thriller dance (with some appropriate music as well).
  • The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! episode "Count Koopula" originally included a Thriller parody after Koopula (King Koopa using a costume and alias) turns some of his minions into monsters by having them look at the full moon. For whatever reason, it's been replaced for the DVD releases (as have most of the other song parodies featured in the show).

    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.
  • NFL wide-receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. performed the two most recognizable dance moves from the "Zombie Dance" after scoring a touchdown on national TV in the 2016 season.
  • Every year, NYC'S iconic Village Halloween Parade features a troop of dancers performing this.


This House Is Haunted

When Molly's haunted house is a busy, Scratch invites all his ghost pals to make it a real one.

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