Highly c-axis textured AlN films on Mo could be obtained using the structural modification of Mo thin films by the reactive rf magnetron sputtering at a low temperature. The correlation of structural properties of Mo and the degree of c-axis texturing in AlN films was studied as a function of sputtering pressure during the dc sputter deposition of Mo. The microstructure and residual stress of Mo films were found to be very dependent on the sputtering pressure. As the pressure decreases and the stress changes from tension to compression, the surface morphology and roughness of Mo films became gradually denser and smoother. It is found that the controlled smooth surface of Mo electrodes plays a key role in the growth of highly c-axis textured AlN films deposited onto them. A full width at half maximum of the x-ray rocking curve of the best AlN film on the surface-controlled Mo electrode was 2.30°. Film bulk acoustic wave resonators with an effective coupling coefficient of 5.6% could be achieved using the improved AlN films. © 2003 American Vacuum Society.