Michael Jackson's Estate Gave 'Stranger Things' the Right to Use 'Thriller' After 50 Phone Calls

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” appeared in a trailer for Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things. During an interview, producer Shawn Levy revealed it was incredibly difficult to obtain the rights to the song. He explained what he said to attempt to convince Jackson’s estate to allow Stranger Things to use “Thriller.”

What the members of the ‘Stranger Things’ team did when they thought they couldn’t use Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’

Levy is a producer and director known for directing the Night at the Museum films and the remakes of Cheaper by the Dozen and The Pink Panther. During an interview with Vulture, Levy said he decided to produce Stranger Things even though many other producers passed on it. He felt the creators of the series the Duffer Brothers — had great talent. Levy was also excited to do something different from his usual fare.

Levy wanted “Thriller” to appear in a trailer for the series even though Jackson’s estate wasn’t initially receptive to the idea. The Stranger Things team tried to see if other songs would work in the trailer. “We tried 50 other songs,” Levy said. “Literally, I’d wake up at 4 a.m. thinking, “It’s a good trailer, but it’s not going to make people lose their mother-effing minds.”

The Michael Jackson estate was responsible for 1 of the happiest moments of Shawn Levy’s career

“Part of my job as a producer was conveying that the value of a song being in Stranger Things was far bigger than money,” Levy said. “Trust me, we’re paying good money too [laughs], but my central thesis was, ‘I know it sounds like I want the benefit of your song in our trailer, but you’re going to get the benefit of our show being linked to your artist’s song.’” 

Levy discussed what it was like to get permission to use ‘Thriller.” “Mere days before Comic-Con, I got the ‘Yes,’” Levy recalled. “It was one of my happiest moments of my career. So when people ask me, what is a producer’s job? I tell them: Whatever it takes. And in this case, it was making 50 phone calls for three months to get permission to use one song.”

How the pubic reacted to ‘Thriller’ in the 1980s

“Thriller” was a major hit in the 1980s. The song reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the charts for 20 weeks. The song’s parent album, Thriller, topped the Billboard 200, staying on the charts for 491 weeks.

“Thriller” was a major hit in the United Kingdom as well. The Official Charts Company reports the song peaked at No. 10 in the U.K., staying on the charts for 56 weeks. Thriller peaked at No. 1 in the U.K., remaining on the charts for 259 weeks. While “Thriller” was a hit in the 1980s, Stranger Things proved the song had relevance long after the song’s initial release.

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