The mechanical properties and deformation behaviors of AlN thin films deposited on c-plane sapphire substrates by helicon sputtering method were determined using the Berkovich nanoindentation and cross-sectional transmission electron microscopy (XTEM). The load-displacement curves show the "pop-ins" phenomena during nanoindentation loading, indicative of the formation of slip bands caused by the propagation of dislocations. No evidence of nanoindentation-induced phase transformation or cracking patterns was observed up to the maximum load of 80mN, from either XTEM or atomic force microscopy (AFM) of the mechanically deformed regions. Instead, XTEM revealed that the primary deformation mechanism in AlN thin films is via propagation of dislocations on both basal and pyramidal planes. Furthermore, the hardness and Young's modulus of AlN thin films estimated using the continuous contact stiffness measurements (CSMs) mode provided with the nanoindenter are 16.2GPa and 243.5GPa, respectively.