Never mind Michael Jackson's superior singing, dancing and cultural import, "he defined the video age," legendary music producer Tommy Mottola told Larry King on CNN Tuesday night. These five clips show him at his finest — what are your favorites? Watch and then vote in the poll below.
Look back at Michael Jackson's life in photos
"Billie Jean" (1982) This urgent ode about mistaken paternity ("she says I am the one/but the kid is not my son") is about a real-life incident between Jackson and an overzealous fan. But hey guys, look, the floor lights up when he walks on it! This video inspired many a misguided attempt at "daring" prom fashion, what with the leather tuxedo, pink shirt and red bowtie.
"Beat It" (1983) This hot clip employs the tried-and-true dancing-as-gang-fighting metaphor (see: West Side Story, Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield"). About halfway through the melody, Eddie Van Halen shows up to shred a blistering solo. Everyone knew the "deal the cards" move and everyone wanted Jackson's zippered red leather jacket.
"Thriller" (1984) This video featured a disclaimer that taught us all the word occult. A zombie Michael Jackson — and a gang of his undead friends with sweet dance moves — terrorize poor Ola Ray, the Playboy model who plays Jackson's girlfriend in this extended clip directed by John Landis as an homage to 1950s horror films.
"Bad" (1987) Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese helmed a 16-minute, black-and-white version of this iconic parking-garage rumble. In the first half, Daryl (Jackson) departs his swank prep school upstate and takes the train back to his hardscrabble New York life. Jackson actually does some acting opposite Wesley Snipes, his friend from the 'hood, to whom he must prove he's still "bad." Hence the dancing, during which Jackson demonstrates several signature moves: the crotch grabs, the exclamatory "HOO-hoo!" and the rapid-fire swivel kicks.
"Man in the Mirror" (1988) This song's inspirational melody belies the clip's gruesome parade of images of famine, homelessness, social and political unrest. By the song's end, though, the images grow more optimistic, showing how certain individuals (MLK, RFK, Mother Teresa) have looked at themselves and... made that change.