What’s your favorite scary movie? Think for a moment about horror movies you love – the best ones, the most iconic ones – and think of what they all share.
I’ll give you a moment…
It’s music! Yup, along with a bunch of spooky scenes, jump scares, blood, guts, ghosts, beasts and demons, there is another critical element to crafting an excellent horror movie. That would be the score. The essence of a good horror flick is its ability to build anticipation, and setting the mood is the best way to do that.
Music is the way we build tension in film. Horror has taken this idea and made it a staple. And for me, horror movies are the best of the best because of the way they make you feel. They manipulate your brain and cause you to actually fear something that cannot possibly harm you!
I want to show some love to the music that makes the magic. So, let’s count down the top 10 Halloween songs from movies of all time!
The Top 10 Halloween Songs From Movies
10. “This Is Halloween” – “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (Danny Elfman)
Before you say this isn’t a horror movie, show it to a kid and see if he thinks it’s scary! I cannot make a list of spooky season songs and not include this iconic bop from Danny Elfman, who lends his singing voice to Jack Skellington and composes all of the music. A certified staple of the Halloween season, “This Is Halloween” will be sure to put you in the spirit to frighten, haunt and maybe even cause some mischief. An ensemble piece that sets the tone of the movie and introduces us to our pumpkin king; there is no better way to start this list.
9) “One, Two, Freddy’s Coming For You” – “A Nightmare on Elm Street”
What’s a spooky list without the dream killer himself, Freddy Krueger? Within the Wes Cravenverse, he is certainly an iconic piece of the puzzle. And from the haunting “Nightmare on Elm Street” comes this horrific take on a children’s nursery rhyme. Sung by what I can only assume are the “Children of the Corn,” this little bop caused generations of movie-goers nightmares that surely brought a smile to the charred and melted face of Mr. Krueger. Get your sweaters on, and be sure to get some caffeine in you if you find yourself hearing this song because you have signed up for a fright!
8) “Dead Silence Theme” – “Dead Silence” (Charlie Clouser)
We will see this name again of horror composer and verifiable musical genius Charlie Clouser. The haunting turn of a music box begins this iconic horror theme and puts you right on the edge of your seat. We’re no dummies here at In-Between Media (IBT), and we know that anything innocent in a horror movie means sinister shit is coming. And Clouser makes a point to assure us nothing is good and safe in the world of Mary Shaw (Judith Anna Roberts). So, a word of caution to all of you horror fans… when you hear this theme, be sure not to scream.
7) “I Put a Spell on You” – “Hocus Pocus” (Mark Shaiman & Bette Midler)
The witch is back! And she delivers an absolute banger in this Halloween staple. Go to any party during the month of October, and this song is blasting. Sign me up to dance to death to the wonderful Ms. Bette Midler, playing Winifred Sanderson, because there is no point in this song where she isn’t at her most divalicious self! What had been a planned throwaway movie by Disney was turned into a cult classic mainly because of the performance by Midler. This song has endured the 30 years it has existed and remains a Halloween mainstay!
6) “Every 27 Years” – “It” (Benjamin Wallfish)
Who’s afraid of clowns here? I can’t say I am, but after hearing the main track from the killer demon clown from another dimension, I might have developed a healthy distrust. A haunting and bone-chilling acapella beginning from the twisted mind of one Benjamin Wallfish, “Every 27 Years” comes in with a whisper and lingers in your ear long after the final credits have rolled. If you haven’t given this admittedly beautiful piece of music a listen, try it out. And if you want to bring your own haunting to the next level, consider this one a must-have on your playlist!
5) “Murder” – “Psycho” (Bernard Herrmann)
We have all done it… “Ree, Ree, Ree, Ree,” as we pretend kill our friend with some inanimate object. Well, we have the classic movie “Psycho” to thank for that, and its incredible composer, Bernard Herrmann. You know the scene, the shower curtain flying open, the knife slashing, the blood in the tub… Iconic. The lasting impact of this piece has earned it a place in our top five. And from here on, it’s only going to get better and scarier. But nothing could have kicked off the elite of elite horror tracks like “Murder.” Hitchcock had a brilliant idea, and he hired a brilliant mind to make it work!
4) “ZEPP” – “Saw” (Charlie Clouser)
The only modern horror movie to make the top five, “Zepp” is one of those tunes that true horror fans can’t help but cheer for when it plays. Embracing all of the energy and pulse-pounding ups and downs of a “Saw” movie, Clouser has once again created a theme that is earworm-level catchy. You know when you hear the pounding of the synth at the end of the film that a big twist and reveal is coming, and accompanied by this track, it comes across as a full-on epic. Add in Tobin Bell (Jigsaw) and his iconic “Game over!” line, and this has created a moment in horror that likely will never be forgotten.
3) “Halloween Theme” – “Halloween” – John Carpenter
I don’t need to describe it, you know it. Simple, quick and absolutely terrifying, you know when you hear the pings of the piano in this classic theme that a bunch of people are about to get… well, I’ll keep this PG-13… messed up. Indicating the arrival of Michael Myers and his unique brand of lunatic, this theme sends a chill down the spine of all who hear it. We yell at the screen, tell people to run, stop fighting and “why would you go upstairs, you absolute moron?” Carpenter created an iconic character and then gave him an iconic score to go with it. There was no doubt this was a top-three choice.
2) “Tubular Bells” – “The Exorcist” (Mike Oldfield)
Perhaps the greatest horror movie ever made, it has a score to go along with its iconic status. You know the tune when Ellen Burstyn (Chris McNeil) is walking home, and we know that things are about to go very, very bad. The tune only grows in intensity as the music swells and instruments join throughout, giving us the awful sense that things are not right in the world. Very few songs have the ability to make you feel unsafe, but this one does. It had to be top two. From its beautiful piano to its striking organs, “Tubular Bells” is as much a part of the genre as Regan (Linda Blair) herself!
1) “Shark Attack” – “Jaws” (John Williams)
And the king stays king with us! John Williams, the greatest film composer of all time, put together the simple, terrifying, beach-emptying score for the classic shark film. Stephen Spielberg only gets the best for his movies, and Williams is the best, and this tune is as well. Whether you are in an ocean, sea, lake, or hell you could be in a kiddie pool, if someone “Daaaa-nah,” you will immediately feel a shark swimming around you.
This song and movie were so entrancing that beaches reported a significant loss of revenue the year after it came out. Sharks went from an afterthought to the scariest of monsters because now we had this film and score. It tied us to the idea, and it left us in fear for the rest of time. It is the greatest horror piece of music ever created and deserves its place in the highest ranks of all-time cinematic music in general. Williams, you sick bastard, never change.
Thanks for reading my “Top 10 Halloween Songs From Movies.” I hope you have enjoyed yourself, and keep an eye out for more movies, music and show recommendations! For more entertainment and sports takes, find me on Twitter, @Steve_Lawson93.
Though this article is over, it is never goodbye; it’s just until next time! So be good, be good to each other and have a wonderful Spooky Season!