How Much Michael Jackson's Thriller Video Actually Cost

With a string of iconic songs to his name — from "Smooth Criminal" and "Beat It" to "Earth Song" and "Black or White" — it's an impossible task to choose which of Michael Jackson's works is the most notable. In terms of performance, though, his remarkable 1982 album "Thriller" tops all else. Unsurprisingly, it claimed Guinness World Records' world's best-selling album award in 2017, boasting 66 million sales. Going platinum 29 times over, it shares the United States sales record with "Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)" by The Eagles.

For some fans, of course, the highlight of "Thriller" is its haunting, silly-spooky title track. Its accompanying music video was also a phenomenon: It was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress on the star's 2009 death. Per Billboard, it was the first music video ever to receive this honor. How much did the video cost to create? You might be surprised.

According to Rolling Stone, the record label refused to fund another music video from the album in the wake of "Billie Jean" and "Beat It." Both of these videos were pricey pieces themselves: The New York Times reported in January 1984 that the former cost $60,000 to produce and the latter $150,000. Elsewhere, in 2010, Vanity Fair put a total price tag of $250,000 on "Billie Jean." In the mid-'80s, these were certainly hefty sums, and "Thriller" would go on to eclipse both.

Bringing the video to life was a thrilling ride

Vanity Fair goes on to explain that Jackson had to front a portion of the cost for "Beat It" personally, and it looked as though he would receive little help with the costs of the iconic "Thriller" video. To sidestep this issue, Jackson and director John Landis tried a different tack: They proposed raising money with the promise of a future "The Making of Thriller" documentary. This would go on to be a 45-minute show that was so lacking in places that the director deemed it "The Making of Filler," according to Rolling Stone.

Nevertheless, this plan successfully greased the wheels of the operation: MTV gave $250,000 for the rights and Showtime matched that sum. With begrudging help from CBS Records' Walter Yetnikoff and a cash injection from Jackson himself, the project went ahead.

Crunching the numbers before production, the star's people planned to operate to a budget of $900,000, per Vanity Fair. This Day In Music states that the total spent in 1983 was half a million dollars — five times the average price tag of a music video at the time — and that shooting was wrapped in just four days.