Michael Jackson’s This Is It

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Michael Jackson's This Is It

Michael Jackson's This Is It

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kenny Ortega
Produced by
  • Paul Gongaware
  • Kenny Ortega
  • Randy Phillips
Starring Michael Jackson
Music by Michael Bearden
  • Sandrine Orabona
  • Tim Patterson
Edited by
  • Don Brochu
  • Brandon Key
  • Tim Patterson
  • Kevin Stitt
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 26, 2009 (2009-10-26)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $60 million
Box office $261.2 million

Michael Jackson's This Is It is a 2009 American documentaryconcert film directed by Kenny Ortega that documents Michael Jackson's rehearsals and preparation for his concert series of the same name that was originally scheduled to start on July 13, 2009, but was cancelled due to his death eighteen days prior on June 25. The film consists of Jackson rehearsing musical numbers, directing his team, and additional behind-the-scenes footage including dancer auditions and costume design. The film's director Kenny Ortega confirmed that none of the footage was originally intended for release, but after Jackson's death it was agreed that the film be made. The footage was filmed in Los Angeles at the Staples Center and The Forum, and features a clip from East Rutherford's Arena where Jackson publicly announced the concert series.

Concert promoter AEG Live has faced criticism since the film's confirmation, largely in the form of accusations that the film was made simply for profit. Multiple members of Jackson's family refused to support the film, and some family members even attempted to stop the film agreement in August 2009. In the same month, however, a judge approved a deal between Jackson's estate, AEG Live, and Columbia Pictures. The agreement allowed Columbia to edit the hundreds of hours of rehearsal footage needed to create the film. Columbia subsequently paid $60 million for the film rights.

Despite originally being set for October 30, the film's release date was rescheduled for October 26, 2009 due to a strong demand by Jackson's fans. The film was given a worldwide release and a limited two-week theatrical run from October 28 to November 10, 2009, but theatrical release was later extended. Tickets went on sale a month early (on September 27) to satisfy a high anticipated demand; the film broke numerous records via tickets both presale and sales worldwide.

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics; its portrayal of Jackson and his performances were generally praised, although some critics and fans of Jackson felt that the film was made to profit from Jackson's death and argued that the musician would not have wanted the film released because he was a perfectionist. Despite some fans boycotting the film, and his family not endorsing it, the ticket sales for This Is It broke international records a month before its release. Records were also set in Japan, where more than $1 million in tickets were sold on the first day they were available. In London, fans bought more than 30,000 tickets on the first day. Record sales were also reported in the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Brazil, and New Zealand. In the first opening weekend it grossed $101 million worldwide. The film sold $32.5 million over its first five days in the United States and Canada, and $68.5 million in 97 other countries—making the number one film at the box office and making it the fifth highest-grossing Halloween debut. On its theatrical run, the film's worldwide revenue gross was in total $261 million, making it the highest-grossing concert film of all time worldwide.


The film begins with a short text introduction stating the purpose of the footage and its intent: "For the fans..." After short dialogues from various dancers, Ortega is heard talking through the original concert opening sequence involving a body suit made from screens which display fast clips and images with bright intensity from which Jackson emerges on stage. Immediately after this, Jackson begins "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" first solo, which pauses half-way through and a small snippet of Jackson singing "Speechless" a cappella is shown. Jackson is then joined by dancers and completes the first number. A short clip showing rehearsals of the "toaster" mechanism is shown before rehearsal footage of "Jam" is played. This plays directly into the green screen adaptation of soldiers dancers for "Bad" which are also used for "They Don't Care About Us" which is shown next. From here, the film shows Michael directing Ortega and his band for his solo rehearsal performance of "Human Nature" which he performs a cappella, then acoustic and finally with full band. Green screen rehearsals for the video vignette for "Smooth Criminal" come next (with scenes from his film Moonwalker as well as the film Gilda featuring Rita Hayworth as the title character singing "Put the Blame on Mame"), with dress rehearsals of the song following, including parts of the vignette intertwined with the dancing. Jackson is seen next directing his musical team for the cues in his song "The Way You Make Me Feel". Jackson then performs a rehearsal with dancers which he alters and changes as he goes. Jackson then rehearses a medley of The Jackson 5 songs: "I Want You Back", "The Love You Save", "I'll Be There" and "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)". After this, Jackson sings with Judith Hill, one of his backup singers, on his duet song "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" in which he sings at full strength, directing his partner as he goes. The filming for the "Thriller" vignette is then shown with Jackson and Ortega watching with 3D glasses. Jackson is then seen rehearsing "Thriller" with the vignette intertwined like that in "Smooth Criminal." Footage of the show's aerialists rehearsing to the instrumental of "Who Is It" is shown next.

During the dance sequence, puppets are suspended in the audience aisles while Jackson emerges from a robotic spider originally seen in the vignette. Jackson and Ortega rehearsing the cherry-picker is seen next, along with Jackson rehearsing "Beat It". Footage of Jackson and the band rehearsing "Black or White" is shown next, in which he instructs his band to skip the second verse and later allows guitarist Orianthi Panagaris to take center stage to finish with a high guitar riff. The video sequence for "Earth Song" is shown next, featuring a little girl who wanders through a forest, falls asleep, and wakes up to find the forest destroyed by man. Jackson then performs the song, with his voice being heard at the end telling of the dangers of global warming and the lack of reversible time left. He then performs a quick version of his song "Billie Jean". Michael is then seen talking to all crew members and wishing everyone the best for the London performances. At a sound check, Michael performs "Man in the Mirror" with strong backing vocals. The credits are shown next, with a montage of rehearsal clips and "This Is It" being played in the background. After the show, a live recording of "Heal The World" was played. Then, the audio of "Human Nature" was played, with a clip of Michael rehearsing it in early June (the 3D screen was not set up yet). Then, a clip of what could have been a Dome Project video of "Heal the World" was shown, in which the girl that appeared in the "Earth Song" video was shown holding the world and a signed message, by Michael, saying "I Love You."

Songs performed in the film

# Song(s) Notes
1 "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" Performed without the third verse.
The first verse was rehearsed.
Contains an a cappella snippet of "Speechless". Live vocals. Key transposed.
2 "Jam" The second verse has been cut in the film, but was rehearsed as a complete song. The rap has also been cut down significantly in the film.
Contains a sample of "Another Part of Me". Dubbed vocals with live ad libs
3 "The Drill" A military dance sequence which features samples of "Bad", "Dangerous", and "Mind Is the Magic". Instrumental dance performance.
4 "They Don't Care About Us" Contains samples of "HIStory", "She Drives Me Wild" and "Why You Wanna Trip on Me".
Part of this song was released during the days after Jackson's death; in this version the sample of "HISTORY" is the original with the Great Gate Of Kiev; in the final film version this was changed to a similar piece of music composed by Michael Bearden, the show's musical director. This alteration is due to orchestra copyright issues, but the Great Gate Of Kiev was supposed to have been used. Features a mix of live and dubbed vocals.
5 "Human Nature" Also played during an alternate video clip shown after the end credits.
Was rehearsed as a complete song, but first lines not recorded. Live vocals.
6 "Smooth Criminal" Features a clip from Gilda where Jackson is digitally inserted into the video.
Includes the song "Put the Blame on Mame" from the film.
Includes scenes from Jackson's past film Moonwalker.
Features a clip from The Big Sleep where Jackson is digitally inserted into the film.
In a Lonely Place edited into a scene where he speaks to Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) before being shot at by him.
The anti-gravity lean sequence is cut from the film, but was rehearsed. First verse is dubbed vocals,rest of the song live vocals
7 "The Way You Make Me Feel" Performed with the slowed-down intro from the 30th Grammy Awards ceremony.
The first verse is performed after the intro, but this was not shown. It was only shown being performed in the intro.
Performed without second verse. Dubbed vocals (pitch lowered) with live vocals at the beginning and then live ad libs at the end.
8 "I Want You Back" Part of The Jackson 5 Medley. Live vocals. Key transposed.
9 "The Love You Save" Part of The Jackson 5 Medley. Live vocals. Key transposed.
10 "I'll Be There" Part of The Jackson 5 Medley.
Performed with backing vocalist Daryll Phinnessee. Live vocals. Key transposed.
11 "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" Contains a sample of "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."
Performed as an instrumental dance sequence with the chorus sung by the backing vocalists.
Jackson only appears at the end of the number; backing dancers show off their moves.
12 "Stranger in Moscow" Was rehearsed on June 23, however no footage of this rehearsal was shown during the feature film. This song was planned to occasionally replace Human Nature during different nights. Live Vocals (Note: The song's placement during differ from the placement of the song during rehearsals.)
12 "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" Contains an a cappella snippet of its Spanish version "Todo Mi Amor Eres Tu."
Duet with backing vocalist Judith Hill. Live vocals. Key transposed.
13 "Thriller" Featured a new 3D video.
Contains samples from "Ghosts - Underscore" and "Threatened."
Was rehearsed as a complete song, but the intro was not featured in the film.
Contains the laugh and first rap verse by Vincent Price. Dubbed vocals.
14 ''Dirty Diana" Rehearsed on the 23rd June 2009 however footage of the run through of this song was not included in the cinematic feature film. Song was due to be fully rehearsed with props on the 25 June 2009. Live vocals
15 "Beat It" An instrumental version of "Who Is It" is played before the song showing the aerialists rehearsing.
The second verse, along with other parts of the song, were cut from the film, but was rehearsed as a complete song. Live vocals.
17 "Black or White" Performed without the second verse.
Features a new hard rock ending performed by Orianthi Panagaris and Tommy Organ. Live vocals.
19 "Earth Song" Featured a new 3D video which was due to be shown on the LED backing screen at the live shows. Live vocals until 3rd chorus, then dubbed vocals from "What About Us" (Earth Song Demo).
19 "Billie Jean" Features vocals from the song's original demos. Dubbed vocals then live vocals towards the end.
20 "Man in the Mirror" Performed as a sound check; the full song is not shown.
Was rehearsed as a complete song. Dubbed vocals after the chorus,then live ad libs after the bridge.
21 "This Is It" Audio played during the end credits.
Featured The Jacksons as backing vocalists.
22 "Heal the World" Remix with live instrumentation played during the end credits.
Was rehearsed without the second verse. Dubbed vocals (pitch lowered). Key transposed.

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