18 Best Horror Movies Soundtracks
Music is one of the most important part of horror movies, and one that is not always noticed. But sometimes, you stumble upon a movie’s tune that really move you, or one that really scare you, getting you to get the full soundtrack. Hence, what we review here is not this one track, but the full movie soundtrack indeed, the value of the all album.
We have two people, Drew and Raoul, with two different taste… but a common love of horror. A couple of movies come back in both lists (City of the Living Dead, Suspiria) probably because these one are classics impossible to overlook.
Enjoy our lists – please comment on your own taste and what you think we might have forgotten!
And don’t forget to check out some of our Top 10 ones here:
Drew’s Top Ten Horror Soundtracks (Instrumentals)
#10) IT FOLLOWS (2015) – by Richard “Disasterpiece” Vreeland
It Follows has a soundtrack that is completely throwback, utilizing a variety of instruments to create a soft, slow, depressing atmosphere. The first song entry to the It Follows soundtrack, “Heels” sets the tone for the entire soundtrack and movie. However, the second song “Title” is the chilling hook, played most often throughout the film, its piano ditty is widely addicting and the background’s drumming base is powerful. The rest of the soundtrack has an array of scores, some not even sounding like a horror film but each contrast enough to standalone as an individual piece. The main song associated with It Follows has a screeching beat during chase scenes, reminiscent of Halloween movies, but it isn’t overly annoying or used. There are a couple throw-away tracks not having much substance except the purpose of building tension but with the track combination of “Title”, “Old Maid”, “Company”, “Inquiry”, “Doppel”, “Linger” and a few more, puts It Follows on this top ten list deservedly.
#9) THE FOG (1980) – by John Carpenter
John Carpenter is not only a phenomenal film writer and director, but his skill to construct an eerie soundtrack is his most overlooked trait to filmmaking. The Fog, a ghost story set on the California coast is a fantastic example of an outstanding horror film soundtrack. Carpenter uses the rural coastal setting to his advantage, adding fog horns fading off in the distance, and low droning scores to make someone feel they are out at sea. The Fog has mesmerizing theme with a creepy rhythm that’ll stick in your head, very similar to Halloween yet again. Piano and synthesizer themes such as the track “Elizabeth Dane” are always brilliantly written by Carpenter, making the listener seemingly escaping reality and falling into whatever place or feeling John wants you in. Be on your toes if you’re listening to this while concentrating because the soundtrack has a way of lulling down someone and then making them jump with an unexpected shriek of sound. The Fog has an all-around amazing soundtrack, terrifying at times, but the theme song sticks out being really easy on the ears.
#8) PUPPET MASTER (1989) – by Richard Band
The opening track to the Puppet Master soundtrack is a whimsical carnival theme that gives a playful vibe when watching the film. This same theme is used repeatedly throughout the soundtrack with variations in pace and crescendo, setting different moods at specific spots used exceptionally in the film. With the majority of tracks using a wide variety of string and wood instruments, the Puppet Master soundtrack separates itself from many other horror soundtracks not using focusing on horns. Besides this soundtrack from Richard Band, his other instrumentals in the movies, The House on Sorority Row, Re-animator and other Full Moon Features, were all surprisingly good. There is a mystical feel about the Puppet Master soundtrack, although repetitive, it’s instrumentals can be favorable and perpetually listened to over and over again.
#7) THE VILLAGE (2004) – by James Newton Howard
Directors and composers are often co-collaborating duos, the most notorious couple being Stephen Spielberg and John Williams. Another duo that at times dipped into the horror genre, using unsettling, frightening themes in their soundtrack is M. Night Shyamalan and James Newton Howard. Together they worked on all of their hit thrillers that include The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs, but musically, they’re best work was found in The Village. The soundtrack was disturbingly scary yet uplifting at the same time, a match that is near impossible to pair. Resembling Carpenter’s skill of creating music to a particular setting, James Newton Howard’s score felt very old-fashioned and belonging in a forested area, or an untouched environment. The “Bad Color” is without a doubt the most chilling track of the score with a few other tracks having elements of horror in their sound. Not particularly liked by the masses as a film, The Village cannot be denied as having one of the better film soundtracks in cinema.
#6) CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) – by Fabio Frizzi
To many casual horror fans, at least in the United States, they may not be familiar with City of the Living Dead since it’s not as well-known as Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters or The Beyond. That’s unfortunate, Fabio Frizzi composed a masterful soundtrack for Fulci, which really brought out the soul and depressing nature of the film. The instrumentals have an eclectic mix of happily toned, almost fairy tale type songs, to disorienting high pitch fast tracks like “Fatti Miseteriosi”. Frizzi also played homage to his Zombi (1979) theme, since City of the Living Dead’s theme was quite similar, both having an intense, pounding base with deep hymns and a synthesizer. “Verso L’Alba” was strangely uplifing and “Introduzione, Paura, Liberazione” felt like being put into a trance. There isn’t a single dull track in City of the Living Dead, each being individualistic from the next and bringing out different feelings to the listener.
#5) DRACULA (1931) – by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet
Possibly the most polarizing choice on this list will be that of Philip Glass’s rendition of Dracula (1931), which was scored way, way later in 1999, under the commission of Universal Studios. Many fans of older work, horror or not, prefer the absence of music in their films especially since Dracula (1931) was close to the silent era. Glass hit the nail on the head though, with eerily dynamic pieces that form together very fluidly. Listening to the soundtrack on its own, without viewing the movie, seems the score can tell its own story with such a vigorous flow to the tracks. This is unlike the vast majority of soundtracks, in which all the tracks are noticeably broken up to fit the current scene of the film. Each bit of this score is magical and seems to somehow fit the time period of the early thirties. Here at HoS, it’s strongly recommended to watch Bela Lugosi as Dracula with Philip Glass’s oddly beautiful but horrifying score that works on its own.
#4) PHANTASM (1979) – by Malcolm Seagrave and Fred Myrow
The fact that Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave came out of near obscurity to form one of the most diversely creative horror soundtracks is astonishing. The whole purpose of Phantasm, film and music score, is to put the viewer into a dream state, enclosed within the Phantasm environment and unaware of any other surroundings. Tracks in the beginning such as the “Main Title” and “Welcome to Morningside” to the ending “Mineshaft Chase” are compelling, powerful but each song is marveling in its own way. The blend of these tracks is what’s most impressive, “Phantasm Atmosphere” is downright spooky, “Just a Dream” is relaxing, “Under the Car” is franticly all over the place and lastly “The Tall Man on Main Street” as well as “Mike on the Road” are effective spin-offs from the main theme. There is so much to be said about the Phantasm soundtrack, without it, the film wouldn’t nearly as good as it is.
#3) PSYCHO (1960) – by Bernard Herrmann
Perhaps the most notorious music in horror history stemmed from Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho. Bernard Herrmann, the man who created this ingenious soundtrack, was credited by Hitchcock, saying Psycho’s appeal wouldn’t be what it is without Herrmann’s score. During the opening credits, the “Prelude” really set the tone to them film with an electric, authoritative punch. As the soundtrack progresses, it’s hard to not be more and more impressed by each of the following tracks. “Temptation” is a slow, hauntingly enriched song that gives a nice balance to the fast paced strings that are often played in tracks such as “Flight”, “Patrol Car” and “The Rainstorm”. Herrmann soundtrack definitely has a pattern in his tracks, making calculated choices on what gives his score persistent feelings of high and low emotions. Although the tracks are slightly repetitive for the first thirty minutes, the quality of the score is too good to give a negative remark. The first track that finally differs from the previous tracks is called “The Murder”, which is a real kick in the teeth, hard to listen to and very effective to the film scene. From there, the remaining tracks finally have their own personal characteristics and express a variety of sensations. Psycho’s score is ultimately one of the most imperative to the horror genre, highly acclaimed and fascinating to listen to.
#2) SUSPIRIA (1977) – by Goblin
Of all the soundtracks on this top ten list, there is one that is not capable of being compared to, being extremely off-beat, hypnotic and influential. The first track is named that of the film itself, “Suspiria”, a spellbinding theme with demonic sounds and a punk attitude. The instrument sounding like a xylophone, provides a calming state of mind, while in the meanwhile, little creepy voices that are almost inaudible, are speaking to the listener. It’s truly a brilliant and forceful theme, which sucks the viewer into the soundtrack and film immediately. If the group Goblin didn’t make their initial theme song demonic enough, the following track named “Witch” by far blows the insanity of “Suspiria” out of the water. “Witch” is very tribal, striking, almost god-like in a sense, which is remarkably terrifying. Another track worth mentioning is “Markos” a bizarre song, created electronically, and definitely one of a kind to anything heard in other horror films. This review could rave on and on about the Suspiria score because it deserves the attention, being extremely artistic and masterful. All of Goblin’s twelve tracks are terrific, worthy of being discussed, and it should rank the Suspiria soundtrack as obviously one of the best in horror cinema.
#1) HALLOWEEN (1978) – by John Carpenter
A great horror soundtrack should invoke a tangible feeling of emotions that could be dread, excitement, abandonment, melancholy, hopefulness, etc… John Carpenter’s Halloween definitely explores all those feelings and more, sending the hair to stand up on anyone that listens. The piano that opens the soundtrack slips listeners into a dire hopeless atmosphere. Carpenter’s piano work, “Theme” is superior to majority of other theme songs out in the genre, being extremely catchy and cleverly written. Michael Myers would not be the iconic slasher without the theme song, being a huge part of the film’s success. The track labeled “Halloween 1978” or also known as “Laurie’s Theme” gives a total sense of a rural Midwestern location and a placement in the fall season. The first three introduction tracks really set the atmosphere for the entire score. Some critics may think the abundance of dialogue in the original soundtrack, and many of the others, ruins the music’s flow and mystique. That’s an understandable criticism but it doesn’t take away from the pure genius of the rest of the musical soundtrack. Overall, every instrumental in the Halloween soundtrack is flawless, being orchestrated beautifully and being absolutely frightening.
Drew’s Honorable Mentions:
- Candyman (1992) – by Philip Glass
- Day of the Dead (1985) – by John Harrison
- The Beyond (1981) – by Fabio Frizzi
- The Entity (1983) – by Charles Bernstein
- The Thing (1982) – by Ennio Morricone
Raoul’s Top Ten Horror Soundtracks
(A bit of everything really!)
Doing this Top 10 horror movie soundtrack list was easy for me. I am an organization freak and classifies my music in such a geeky way, you wouldn’t believe. Anyway, I went digging into my “movie soundtrack” file and realized that out of the hundreds I have downlo… (bought indeed!), only 10 were left in my “regular listening” file.
The main reason is that these 10 soundtracks are entirely good, from the first to the last song, making them worth listening over and over again!
#10) RESIDENT EVIL RETRIBUTION – byTomandandy
If you like dubstep, this one has a couple of really good songs in it. Maybe the only soundtrack in this list for whom not every song is great, but overall the music is of really good quality.
#9) THE OMEN – by Jerry Goldsmith and Lionel Newman
The most satanic music to have ever reached my ears, kind of like ancient Church music, except worshipping Satan! I always find it so disturbing to listen to. My wife hates it when I put it out loud in the car by surprise!
#8) TOKYO GORE POLICE – by Kou Nakagawa
I remember, while watching the movie, being amazed by the quality of the music. Listening to the soundtrack was the next logical step…and its quality is amazing.
Soundtrack (Main Theme only): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb5tcJiq35A
#7) THE BEYOND – by Fabio Frizzi
Fabio Frizzi is great Italian music writer and composer, and he composed the soundtrack for many of Lucio’s gore classics, including Zombi (1979) or Cat In the Brain (1990). The latest two cited are excellent, but The Beyond is just one level above. A couple of the OST tracks are really, really majestic.
#6) CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD – by Fabio Frizzi
Fabio Frizzi again, and again for a movie by Lucio Fulci! City of the Living Dead might be a little less good than The Beyond as a movie, but its soundtrack is even more interesting. I have listened to the main theme an impossible number of times while writing for this website.
#5) HELLRAISER – by Christopher Young
Instrumental classic, this soundtrack by Christopher Young is perfect for working or writing – it brings great inspiration… especially is you are plotting for the end of the world or something like that!
#4) ZOMBIE STRIPPERS – by Various Artists
This campy movie might not be to everyone’s taste, but it sure as hell contains great music. It features a great diversity of artists such as punk rockers The Dirtbombs and The Hunches, metalcore acts Maroon, Vistalance, Kyo, and Yeva, and techno-tinged Roxy Saint, who also plays a major role in the film (as the gothic zombie).
#3) SUSPIRIA – by Goblin
A list of the best soundtrack wouldn’t be complete without some work from Goblins. They are to Dario Argento what Fabio Frizzi is to Lucio Fulci ,and they have participated to the soundtrack of many horror classics (Deep Red, Phenomena, Sleepless)… but their work on Suspiria is their real masterpiece.
#2) CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST – by Riz Ortolani
Riz Ortolani, who sadly passed away last year, is for me the Italian master of soundtrack. The tunes in Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack are all really moving, sometimes disturbing, sometimes depressing, but always really emotional. If men were allowed to cry, I thing Cannibal Holocaust main theme would be my tearjerker.
#1) FROM DUSK TILL DAWN – by Various Artists
The only thing I want to say is that I have listened to it soooooo many times over the years!!! Like in the best Tatarantino soundtracks, this one compiles a great variety of amazing tunes. The style of the tracks goes from blues to hard rock, including tunes by the ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan. The band Tito & Tarantula, who played as the band in the Titty Twister bar, delivers a couple of songs including “After Dark”…. one of the my favorite song ever.
Raoul’s Honorable Mentions:
- Silent Hill (2006) – by Akira Yamaoka
- The Exorcist (1969) – by William Friedkin
- Eraserhead (1977) – by David Lynch, Fats Waller and Peter Ivers.
- Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982) – by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth
- Zombi (1978) – by Fabio Frizzi
Please comment on your own taste and what you think we might have forgotten!