Perhaps more than any other film genre, a great horror movie relies on a great soundtrack. An effective horror soundtrack heightens the terror in a scene exponentially, scaring an audience before there might be anything visually to be afraid of.

The best horror soundtracks are memorable, but don’t overshadow the film. They become inseparable from our favorite horror scenes. Can you hear the Psycho jabs without seeing Norman’s knife?

So brace your ears: here are the top ten horror movie soundtracks of all time.

Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

10. The Omen (1976)

“Ave Satani” performed live  •  Best horror soundtracks

With the Omen soundtrack, blockbuster composer Jerry Goldsmith asks the question, what’s scarier than Gregorian chants? He then subsequently answers that question: not much.

Perfectly supplementing the Gothic terror of The Omen, Goldsmith’s soundtrack is filled with bombastic choral arrangements that overwhelm the viewer with religious dread. The opening song, “Ave Satani” (I’ll let you guess what that means), is a tune fit for the king of the underworld himself.

Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

Conclusion

The Omen’s soundtrack gives us one of the all-time great Hollywood composer’s all-time great scores. 

best Horror Movie Soundtracks

9. Annihilation (2018)

Galactic horror from Annihilation  •  Best horror movie music scores

The Annihilation soundtrack, like the film itself, defies boundaries. It’s alternatingly discordant humming, blasted out synths, idyllic folk guitar, ambient noise, or an ungodly mix of all of the above.

Composers Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow (of Portishead fame) created music for Annihilation that can best be summed up with one word: disorienting. The score is consistently chilling, even at its most beautiful. Similar to the world of Annihilation, the soundtrack has an ominous yet ineffable darkness that lingers throughout its various forms.

Horror Movie Music

Conclusion

The score of Annihilation is shape-shifting and unpredictable, subtly fear-inducing at every turn.

Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

8. Videodrome (1983)

Ominous synth in Videodrome  •  Top 10 scariest soundtracks

Howard Shore’s soundtrack for Videodrome feels timeless, a beguiling mix of analogue orchestration and synth wizardry. The opening track still sounds ahead of its time, utilizing percussive glitched-out samples over discordant synthesizers reminiscent of a Oneohtrix Point Never track.

The score mimics the unsettling eroticism of David Cronenberg’s masterpiece, equal parts seductive and eerie, alluring and foreboding. Never before or since has a score so successfully encapsulated the body horror genre.

Horror Movie Music

Conclusion

Videodrome was a groundbreaking horror film, and Videodrome’s soundtrack is no small part of that.

best Horror Movie Soundtracks

7. It Follows (2014)

Nostalgic synth sounds abound in It Follows  •  Best horror movie music scores

The understated nature of most of It Follows’ horror requires a terrifying soundtrack to augment it. This is what Disasterpeace provided, through rich synthesizer landscapes which swell into distorted waves of terror throughout the film’s runtime.

What makes Disasterpeace’s soundtrack stand out, however, is how it also perfectly captures the coming-of-age throughline that’s as important to It Follows as the film’s scares. Listen to “Jay” and you'll be transported into a melancholy adolescent nostalgia, all while a distant horror hangs overhead.

Horror Movie Music

Conclusion

The It Follows soundtrack is one of the most nuanced horror soundtracks of the 21st century, evocative not just of fear but of so much more.

Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

6. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

A haunted Manhattan skyline in Rosemary’s Baby  •  Top 10 scariest soundtracks

There is perhaps no opening theme as unsettling as that of Rosemary’s Baby. Mia Farrow’s soft la la la’s over low strings and an echoing plucked guitar. Sounds nice, right? Wrong– it’s terrifying.

Most of Krzysztof Komeda’s score follows this formula; music that in theory shouldn’t be creepy but for some reason… undeniably is. As Roman Polanski’s film slowly delves from unnerving to openly horrific, the music does as well, with squawking trumpets and dissonant choirs leading us toward hell.

Horror Movie Music

Conclusion

Rosemary’s Baby’s score is masterfully understated. It’s just creepy enough to keep the audience on edge without knowing why.

Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

5. Psycho (1960)

It’s Psycho, so it has to be the shower scene  •  Best creepy soundtracks

Hitchcock’s Psycho is one of the most important films of all time,  a film which permanently changed what Hollywood thought a horror movie could and should be. Bernard Herrmann’s score is no small part of that.

Just like the film itself, Herrmann’s score starts relatively unassuming, though twinges of darkness seep into its lilting melodies. Of course, everything changes with the stabbing. The strings stab right along with the knife, helping create one of the most memorable scares in cinema history that horror films and scores have been trying to imitate ever since.

It’s a testament to Herrmann’s undeniable prowess that Psycho might not be his greatest score. But it surely is his most influential.

Horror Movie Music

Conclusion

Psycho’s massive legacy is indelibly linked to its score, one which continues to haunt listeners to this day.

best tHorror Movie Soundtracks

4. Suspiria (1977)

The raucous Suspiria theme  •  Horror movie music soundtrack

The Suspiria theme is one of the few horror soundtracks that, while scary, is also just a great rock song. 

Giallo godfather Dario Argento recruited Italian prog-rock band Goblin to score his greatest film, and the band lives up to its name, creating a devilish rock-horror anthem that, no joke, has vocals chanting “witch” over rollicking guitar grooves.

Goblin’s Suspiria soundtrack shows that a horror score doesn’t need to be atmospheric dread; it can jam.

Best creepy soundtracks

Conclusion

Suspiria leaves nothing on the field, and that includes its soundtrack, which is as thrilling and original as the film.

Best Horror Movie soundtracks

3. Halloween (1978)

Starting your movie off right  •  Top horror movie soundtracks 

It wasn’t enough for John Carpenter to simply produce, direct, and co-write Halloween; he also had to score it. The game-changing film was made on a shoestring budget, and so Carpenter, without the funds to hire a composer or orchestra, used a piano and a synthesizer to create the entirety of the soundtrack.

The result is a theme which is an instant classic: pulsing singular piano notes backed by a twitching click track, then underscored by throbbing synthetic brass. The simplicity of the Halloween soundtrack is its superpower, worming its way into your head and staying there.

Scary Movie Soundtrack

Conclusion

Like Psycho, Halloween was a watershed moment for the horror genre and for Hollywood at large. Its score highlights what makes the film so great: it’s cheap, simple, and utterly terrifying.

Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

2. The Shining (1980)

A score scary enough to ruin the state of Colorado  •  Horror movie music soundtrack

The Shining’s opening scene is a study in the power of a score. Without sound, we’re seeing a family drive through a beautiful mountainscape, perhaps for a fun vacation. With Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind’s theme, it is all but certain this family is heading into the bowels of hell.

Wendy Carlos was at the forefront of electronic music innovation, and had already worked with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange. The Shining sees her further refining warped synthetic soundscapes to great effect, even though Kubrick only uses two of her songs. The rest of the soundtrack is taken from preexisting classical pieces written by the likes of Gyorgy Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki.

The Shining provides a shining (wink) example of musical direction, not limiting itself to any one composer, but rather picking and choosing songs to create the perfect horror collage.

Scary Movie Soundtrack

Conclusion

The Shining gives us pioneering synth work right next to experimental orchestral avante garde. It’s a hodge-podge, and it’s a great soundtrack.

Best Horror Film Soundtracks

1. The Thing (1982)

Simple, pulsing, terrifying: The Thing’s score  •  Best horror movie soundtracks of all time 

By 1982, there was no question John Carpenter knew how to write a horror soundtrack, but for The Thing he tapped legendary composer Ennio Morricone to score what would be his crowning masterpiece.

Carpenter, always a man of few words, gave the composer one guiding direction: “fewer notes.” Morricone then used a sublime combination of orchestra and synthesizer to create what can only be described as frozen fear. The soundtrack is droning, swelling then dissipating, underscoring the paranoia endemic in the film.

Morricone wrote so much music for The Thing that he used what was left on the cutting room floor for The Hateful Eight, which won him an Oscar for Best Score. When your scraps are receiving Academy Awards, you know you’re onto something. 

scary moive Soundtracks

Conclusion

The Thing score is a masterclass in minimalism, never giving more than what is needed to unnerve the audience. It’s the greatest horror score of all time.

Up Next

Best Horror Movies of All Time

Beyond their scores, all the movies on this list are fantastic, but if you’re looking for more great horrors, check out our definitive list of the best ever. You’re guaranteed to be spooked.

Up Next: Best Horror Movies →
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