Michael Jackson’s Thriller album to get 40th anniversary making-of documentary

Michael Jackson Thriller 40th anniversary reissue
(Image credit: Sony Music Entertainment)

A new documentary detailing the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album is to be released in celebration of its 40th anniversary. 

Released in 1982, Thriller remains the best-selling album of all time. The film will be directed by journalist and music historian Nelson George, and focus not only on the music, but also the iconic video promos for singles Thriller, Billie Jean and Beat It.

We’re promised never-before-seen footage and interviews, though it’s not clear who will be participating in the documentary given that so many of the key players are no longer with us. Jackson died in 2009, engineer Bruce Swedien passed away in 2020, and songwriter Rod Temperton, who wrote Thriller’s title track, Baby Be Mine and The Lady In My Life, left us in 2016. Whether producer Quincy Jones will be involved remains to be seen.

When Future Music spoke to Swedien about the making of Thriller in 2009, he said: "All we did was follow Quincy Jones down the path to the greatest music we could possibly make and with a passion for details. Quincy is such a remarkable man to work with - and Michael too. I mean, we had a ball.

"Michael was never late for a session - if anything he would be early. Also, I never remember recording Michael with the lyrics in front of him. He would stay up the night before memorising the song or songs we were about to record. I don't think there are a lot of artists who do that."

Swedien went on to say that Jackson and Jones’ talent made his job relatively easy: "With Michael, there weren't any difficult tracks to mix,” he told us. “Working with Michael and Quincy is easy as pie. They are so musical - and the passion for quality that we share has made working on these projects - especially Thriller - very easy."

This will be the third documentary to focus on a Michael Jackson solo album, following Bad 25, following Spike Lee’s 2012 film Bad 25 and the director’s 2016 follow-up Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall.

“The release of Thriller redefined Michael Jackson, taking him from teen star to adult superstar, who composed memorable songs, sang beautifully and reached the highest level of on-stage performance,” said Nelson George. “The album, and the short films they inspired, created a new template for marrying music and image. It’s been a privilege to explore this extraordinary album and revisit its magic.”

A release date for the Thriller documentary hasn’t been confirmed. A 40th anniversary Thriller album reissue is coming on 18 November.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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