The Thriller 40 Documentary (Where to Watch & Review)

“Thriller 40” is the best doc on Michael Jackson I’ve seen.

The title suggests it’s entirely about MJ’s Thriller album.

But it also covers most of his career from The Jackson Five to his non-Thriller solo albums and music videos.

It steers clear of most of his controversy. But, hey, you can watch “Finding Neverland” and a host of other videos on that elsewhere.

This is more about MJ’s pure magic — with “Thriller” being the apex.

That’s why I rank it #1 on my list of “The 15 Best Michael Jackson Documentaries (Ranked)”.


Trailer for “Thriller 40”

Watch “Thriller 40”

Release date: September 2, 2022

You can stream “Thriller 40” for free on YouTube (with ads) by clicking the embed above or here: (I get the ads skipped because I pay for YouTube Premium).

You can also watch the Thriller 40 doc on:

Check here for the latest on where to watch Thriller 40:

Some of you have have heard that you can watch “Thriller 40” on Netflix. That’s not the case. In fact, Netflix doesn’t carry any Michael Jackson documentaries right now (May 8, 2024).

However, you can watch the documentary “Quincy” on Netflix and that includes some content on the making of Thriller.


  • My Rating: 95/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.9/10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 94/100 (Users); na/100 (Critics)

Review of “Thriller 40”

Nelson George directed this 90-minute documentary in 2022. It celebrates the 40th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Thriller album.

Thriller, released in 1982, sold over 66 million copies worldwide.

It spent 37 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The doc features interviews with Quincy Jones, Thriller’s producer, and Rod Temperton, who wrote “Thriller,” “Baby Be Mine,” and “The Lady in My Life.” They share stories about recording the album at Westlake Recording Studios in LA.

Usher and Mary J. Blige are also interviewed a bunch.

The doc starts with how Michael had a hard time in the mid to late 1970’s when his looks changed.

He was no longer the popular kid from The Jackson Five.

He was a young adult and not as “cute”. He wasn’t getting noticed at parties.

We learn about the groundbreaking music videos, like “Billie Jean,” which was the first video by a black artist played on MTV.

The 14-minute “Thriller” video, costing $900,000, premiered on MTV on December 2, 1983.

The doc includes footage of Michael’s live performances, like his electrifying Motown 25 appearance on May 16, 1983.

He wore a black sequined jacket and debuted the moonwalk during “Billie Jean.”

Nelson also touches on Michael’s personal life, including his vitiligo diagnosis and 1994 marriage to Lisa Marie Presley.

However, the doc maintains its focus on Thriller’s legacy.

Thriller 40 is an engaging look at a seminal album. It’s a fitting tribute to Michael Jackson’s artistry and impact.

If you want to nerd out deeper, here are some other highlights:

Off the Wall

The doc does cover his album before Thriller (“Off the Wall”).

He expects it to be “the biggest selling album of all time”.

Michael thinks that Off the Wall will win grammies in every category.

He wins only one Grammy (Best Male R&B Vocal) for “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.”

Michael is furious and vows to try again to make the best album of all time.

Enter “Thriller”

Some fun learnings about Thriller:

On “The Girl is Mine”.

It’s a duet with Paul McCartney. I always figured McCartney wrote this song (sounds like it, right?).

But it was MJ who wrote it.

The doc shows McCartney and MJ in the studio.

It was so cool to see them singing and joking with each other.

Michael Jackson’s Songwriting Process

Great Michael Jackson quote on how he thinks about songs:

Well, the songwriting process is something that’s very difficult to explain because it’s very spiritual.

“Who’s wrong or right, just beat it…” …it really is in the hands of God.

And it’s as if it’s been written already. That’s the real truth. As if it’s been written in its entirety before you were born and you’re just really the source through which the songs come.

Really, because they’re… they just fall right into your lap in its entirety.

You don’t have to do much, uh, thinking about it.

And I feel guilty having to put my name sometimes on the songs…but I do write them. I compose them. …I do the scoring. I do the lyrics. I do the melody. But still it’s, … it’s the work of God.

Michael’s backup singers on Thriller asked him what his end-of-the-song rap of “Ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ko-ssa” meant on Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and they said MJ said:

“Well, it don’t mean nothing. Just sing it”

I wrote about Lionel Richie’s take on MJ’s writing (of the song “We are the World”) in my review of “Greatest Night in Pop”.

4K Footage of the Victory Tour

The inclusion of high-quality 4K footage from Michael Jackson’s Victory Tour is a highlight. I only wished they showed more.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly

Chief Maniac, Daily Doc