The Essential Horror Movie Scores

26 tunes that may send chills down your spine.

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The Essential Horror Movie Scores
Can you imagine watching your favorite horror without the soundtrack? What a joke, right?
We decided to collect all the best horror movie scores we could think of right here, in this article.
If you feel like your favorite OST has been left out, please leave your suggestion in the comment section below, so that we could restore justice.

Les lèvres rouges (The Daughters of Darkness) (1971)

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Daughters of Darkness is a 1971 Belgian erotic vampire horror film directed by Harry Kümel. The soundtrack was composed by the French film score composer François de Roubaix.

All the Colors of the Dark (1972)

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The score to this creepy giallo slasher was composed by Bruno Nicolai. He was a protégé of the great Ennio Morricone. The soundtrack was recorded in the same studio as Goblin’s ‘Roller’ and Alessandro Alessandroni’s ‘Sangue di Sbirro.’

The Wicker Man (1973)

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The soundtrack to the British mystery horror was composed by Paul Giovanni. The ‘Willow’s Song’ sung by the landlord’s daughter while trying to seduce puritanical policeman, has arguably been the coolest scene in the movie. Many artists such as The Mock Turtles, Sneaker Pimps, and former Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell made covers of the song.

Ganja & Hess (1973)

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This is an experimental horror film written and directed by Bill Gunn. Ganja & Hess is a psychedelic, impressionistic horror. The truly unique soundtrack of the movie was overseen by Nina Simone’s brother Sam Waymon.

Exorcist (1973)

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This film got 9 Oscar nominations in total and won for Best Sound and Best Screenplay. The Exorcist has the distinction of being the first horror movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. What is now considered the Theme from The Exorcist, ‘Tubular Bells’ by Mike Oldfield, became very popular after the film's release Oldfield himself said he was not impressed with how his work was used in the movie.

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974)

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This is a 1974 Spanish-Italian science fiction horror film written and directed by Jorge Grau. Giuliano Sorgini’s score is hard not to fall for. It has long stretches of muggy ambient capturing the feel of fog over Salford, and funkier interludes keeping the pace up.

Jaws (1975)

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John Williams' famous score will be forever associated with the images of furious, hungry creatures of the sea. This work earned him an Academy Award and was later ranked the sixth greatest score by the American Film Institute.

Suspiria (1977)

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This is a 1977 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento. Italian prog rock band Goblin composed most of the movie's musical score in collaboration with Argento himself. Goblin had previously scored Argento's earlier film Deep Red as well as several subsequent films following Suspiria.

Shock (1977)

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The Italian horror film directed by Mario Bava has a truly remarkable soundtrack. I Libra’s score is filled with prog rock excesses and avant-garde synthesizer touches. The Goblin keyboardist Maurizio Guarini lent his talent to the band, and the band’s 1975 drummer Walter Martino handled percussion.

Tentacles (1977)

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Tentacles soundtrack was composed by Stelvio Cipriani, who decided to use jazz and lounge grooves in the movie. Cipriani has re-used his successful ‘La Polizia Sta a Guardare’ theme here, which Quentin Tarantino later used in his ‘Death Proof.’

Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

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The score of the iconic American independent zombie horror was composed by Dario Argento and The Goblin. Argento collaborated with the group to get music for the international cut of the film. George A. Romero (the director) used three of their pieces in his theatrical release version. The Goblin score would later find its way onto a Dawn of the Dead-inspired film, ‘Hell of the Living Dead.’ Unfortunately, the band split soon after.

Halloween (1978)

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One of the major reason for the success of Halloween is the moody musical score, particularly the main theme. John Carpenter’s iconic 5/4 synth theme for ‘Halloween’ still sends shivers down the spines of anyone who’s had a suburban slumber party. It took Carpenter three days to compose the entire score for the film. A few years ago someone decided to reveal the movie without its score to show how integral the music is. The scoreless film was astoundingly unscary.

The Shining (1980)

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Although Kubrick selected the repertoire for the score, the process of matching passages of music was left almost entirely to the discretion of Gordon Stainforth, whose work on this film is known for the attention to fine details and remarkably precise synchronization without excessive splicing.

The Fog (1980)

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John Carpenter has created soundtracks to some of the most famous American horror films of the 20th Century. In the soundtrack for ‘The Fog,’ the selection of cues are impeccable and deeply memorable, and it's hard to imagine the film without Carpenter’s piercing synths.

Friday the 13th (1980)

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In the score of the movie, composer Harry Manfredini mercilessly rips of Bernard Herrmann at almost every turn. Somehow, though, he makes it work in his favor. He added the genre-defining whisper effects to the soundtrack that later on became synonymous with the ‘Friday 13th’ franchise.

New Year's Evil (1980)

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The plot follows a Los Angeles punk rock and new wave show host who receives a series of phone calls from a killer during a New Year's Eve bash. The cool soundtrack to the movie was composed by W. Michael Lewis and Laurin Rinder.

The Thing (1982)

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Though they did not speak a common language, John Carpenter and Ennio Morricone, the two musical geniuses, collaborated on the soundtrack. Fun fact: three unused tracks from Morricone's OST for The Thing (‘Eternity,’ ‘Bestiality’ and ‘Despair’) were later used in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight.’

Rocktober Blood (1984)

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The songs ‘Killer on the Loose,’ ‘I'm Back,’ ‘Rainbow Eyes’ and ‘Watching You’ on the soundtrack were recorded by the LA heavy-metal band Sorcery, who also played the part of the Headmistress band in the film.

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

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This is the one quintessential punk rock horror movie with the greatest soundtrack that features classic punk rock, horror punk, death rock, psychobilly songs by groups like The Cramps, 45 Grave, T.S.O.L, The Damned and The Flesh Eaters.

Trick or Treat (1986)

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This is an American supernatural horror film by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. The movie had Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne as guest stars. All Sammi Curr music was composed by the band Fastway and upcoming composer Christopher Young.

The Lost Boys (1987)

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Thomas Newman wrote the original score as an eerie blend of orchestra and organ arrangements. The soundtrack contains a number of notable songs and covers, including ‘Good Times,’ a duet between INXS and former Cold Chisel lead singer Jimmy Barnes which reached #2 on the Australian charts in early 1987.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (1987)

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The theme song ‘Dream Warriors’ was written and performed by the American heavy metal band, Dokken. The success of the single led to the following sequels to include a heavy metal song in its soundtrack.

Night of the Demons (1988)

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Kevin S. Tenney's Night of the Demons delivers some great punk rock tunes in its soundtrack. Due to its inclusion in the film, Bauhaus' ‘Stigmata Martyr’ has become one of the iconic, unofficial ‘theme songs’ of cult horror. Even the movie's score by Dennis Michael Tenney has a very ‘80s punk rock feel to it.

Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

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The 1990 American slasher film directed by Jeff Burr has a very cool metal soundtrack that includes such tracks as ‘Leatherface’ by Lääz Rockit, ‘Bored’ by Death Angel, ‘Spark In My Heart’ by Hurricane, ‘The Gift Of Death’ by Wasted Youth and more.

Candyman (1992 )

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Candyman is a 1992 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Bernard Rose, based on the short story ‘The Forbidden’ by Clive Barker. It has a 70% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film's score was composed by Philip Glass. According to Glass, ‘It has become a classic, so I still make money from that score, get checks every year.’

Resident Evil (2002)

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The Oscar-nominated composer Marco Beltrami and rock icon Marilyn Manson made the score absolutely unforgettable. While the movie isn’t that great, it’s made a whole lot more watchable by the epic soundtrack.

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I feel like its definitely missing the theme from Idle Hands:
    And also missing the theme from Phantasm:
    OK I know this doesn't really fit but scream 3 has system of a down slipknot and sevendust. I know it's not really a score, it's a soundtrack but I just thought it was something worth mentioning
    Howard Shore's score of The Fly with Jeff Goldblum is pretty nice. The Finale theme is some epic stuff. 
    John Carpenter's scores are amazing, I was lucky enough to see him play his own themes live last year and it was mind blowing!
    wow! cool! I hope I can see him live one day too
    Definitely try to! He's been touring on a regular basis for the last couple of years, don't miss the next opportunity! Even though Carpenter is mainly a movie director, his way of doing things has been very influential on the way I approach music.
    Man I know Resident Evil is no Oscar or award winning film but they're sweet! Always entertaining.
    Marco Beltrami has been nominated for Original Score for his work on films "3:10 to Yuma" (2007) and "The Hurt Locker" (2008). His most popular project in 2017 has been "Logan".
    Ahh the Lost Boys...that soundtrack was almost as good as the movie. Also no House of 1000 corpses by Rob Zombie?? hmmm 
    Although not a popular choice, I've always loved the Hellraiser Score.
    The music/sounds in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre really freak me out. I believe the director was the one who did all of it too.
    He actually did. Tobe Hooper is an insanely talented man and quite under appreciated imo.
    Where the fuck is Hellraiser? Christopher Young knocked it out of the park with the first two.
    In the french movie "les diaboliques", there's absolutely no music note (except for the credits), and that give more tension to the movie than every music ever