The Ten Best Horror Movie Soundtracks

Categories: Halloween


3. Jaws
Composer: John Williams

What more can be said on this one? Is there a more universally recognized horror theme? Williams' famous pressure-cooker score will be forever chained to the images and mounting dread of Spielberg's relentless, man-hungry leviathan. To write a piece so immediately classic, so instantly canonical, and yet totally devoid of popular-yielding compromise, was an impossible stroke of genius. Those panicked, tuba bellows helped set in motion the birth of a newly found fear of the ocean. It's a terror that has trickled down endlessly, a terror that is perpetually reborn in each new generation. How's that for influential? Here, in these moments, Williams is utterly flawless, a master of horror onto himself.


2. The Shining
Composers: Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind, Kryzsztof Penderecki,
Gyorgi Ligeti, Bela Bartok

While comprised almost entirely of pre-existing material, the music on The Shining soundtrack contains some of the most radical and psychologically hellish pieces ever written. Many of these modernist compositions are considered amongst the greatest works of the 20th century. Needless to say, it's weighty stuff. Initially, director Stanley Kubrick commissioned an original electronic score from Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, but later discarded most of their efforts in favor of high-art compositions by avant garde giants like Pendrecki, Ligeti, and Bartok. Every moment is a masterstroke; Kubrick knew his music. There's the nerve-searing instrumental wails and flickering madness of Penderecki's "Polymorphia;" and the piercing atonality of Ligeti's "Lontano." But, perhaps most memorable, are the needling strings and swelling bass of Bartok's "Music for Strings, Percussion, & Celesta"--an unshakable masterpiece that epitomizes the spectral enigma of Kubrick's timeless film.


1. Suspiria
Composer: Goblin

The loudest horror film score is also the best. Once described as the sound of "500 cats having their tails trampled on in unison," the deafening Suspiria score is a cacophonous inferno of oscillating synth gurgles, piercing bells, and unholy echoes. The Italian prog-rockers sound is bigger than big and red all over--the visual equivalent of screaming planets, tumbling like molten boulders, shaking every sense in your head. Italian master of horror Dario Argento could not have asked for a better compliment to his notorious, technicolor slasher. This near-unbearable audio assault, one heard, can never be forgotten again.

Honorable Mentions:

The Exorcist main theme: "Tubular Bells" by Mike Oldfield

Next of Kin: Music by Klaus Schulze

Nosferatu the Vampyr: Score by Popul Vuh

Cannibal Holocaust: Score by Riz Ortolani


Intentional Omission:

Halloween main theme: an annoying earworm to an even blander film. This shit sucks.

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