Halloween Playlist: The 13 Creepiest Horror Movie/TV Show Theme Songs From The Past 50 (Or So) Years

Jonathan Riggs | October 17, 2014 5:20 am

What scares us onscreen is pretty subjective. The stop-motion skeletons that got granny a-shiverin’ and a-shakin’ under her slip might not faze someone weaned in a world ruled by House-Of-Wax Plastic-Surgery-Chic like The Thing That Melted Meg Ryan.. Music, however, never loses its ability to scare us and the best, most classic horror themes can creep us all out, every time. Well, that and photographing Ariana Grande’s right side:


Do you like scary movies? Hang up that absurdly large 90s phone, crank the volume and…wait…what was that noise? You’d better go investigate…

13. “Rosemary’s Lullaby” from Rosemary’s Baby (by Mia Farrow and Krzysztof Komeda)

The plot: Satan hooks up with Mia Farrow. (He later dumps her to marry Soon-Yi.) Spooky song fact: La Farrow narrowly missed out with a placement on the Billboard Hot 100 with this eerie ditty in 1968, as “Lullaby” appeared on the Bubbling Under chart at #111.

12. Tales from the Crypt (main title by Danny Elfman)

The plot: In an early role as the skeletal, terrifyingly unhinged Cryptkeeper, Bethenny Frankel spins stories scary enough to make you drop your Skinnygirl cocktail. Spooky song fact: Before he became a film and TV composer par excellence, Danny Elfman was the driving force behind ’80s new wave art act Oingo Boingo, whose “Dead Man’s Party” shares some musical DNA with the “Tales” theme.

11. “Main Theme – Desolation” from The Thing (by Ennio Morricone)

The plot: An Arctic-bound alien attempts to achieve the dream many of us share: to get inside a young Kurt Russell. Spooky song fact: Ennio Morricone later gave a piece of music to the Pet Shop Boys, which they wrote a song around (“It Couldn’t Happen Here”) for their second album Actually.

10. “Audrey’s Dance” from Twin Peaks (by Angelo Badalamenti)

The plot: Everyone’s lives are marked by unspeakable horror after something once-loved washes up dead onshore. Think the release of ARTPOP. Spooky song fact: Badalamenti won a Grammy for his haunting Twin Peaks music.

9. “Tubular Bells” from The Exorcist (by Mike Oldfield)

The plot: A girl whips the Catholic church into a window-leaping frenzy with her bed-writhing, memorable vocals and innovative usages of crucifixes (AKA The Madonna Career Playbook). Spooky song fact: Oldfield was only 19 when his debut album, also titled Tubular Bells (from which the Exorcist theme was excerpted), came out.

8. The X-Files Theme” by Mark Snow

The plot: David Duchovny wears too many clothes. Also something about aliens. Spooky song fact: In 1996, the original song, as well as a DJ Dado cover, went Top 10 around the world, hitting #1 in France and Denmark.

7. “Overlay of Evil / Main Title” by Harry Manfredini (from Friday The 13th)

The plot: A resourceful mother embarks on a surprisingly successful career that paves the way for her child to continue the family business of making ‘em scream! Farrah Abraham’s been taking notes. Spooky song fact: Although everyone has their own interpretation of what the “lyrics” are, Manfredini recorded the sounds “ki ki ki, ma ma ma” from Mrs. Voorhees’s line channeling son Jason, “Kill her, mommy!”

6. “Theme from The Fog” by John Carpenter

The plot: Long-forgotten wraiths from a distant past return to terrorize the living. In other news, don’t forget to pick up your copy of Nick & Knight! Spooky song fact: In addition to writing and directing multiple genre classics, Carpenter also scored many of them. Next year he’s releasing an album of lost themes.

5. “Main Title (Theme from Jaws)” by John Williams

The plot: A sleek thing from waaaaaay down South devours anyone and anything who gets in the way. Ah, it’s growing up Knowles all over again. Spooky song fact: For composing one of the most famous film scores of all time, John Williams won an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Grammy.

4. “Main Title” by Charles Bernstein (from A Nightmare on Elm Street)

The plot: A disgusting fiend from hell preys on the dreams of taut-skinned, nubile teens. But in this version, his name isn’t Lou Pearlman. Spooky song fact: The concept of the film and its music were both inspired by Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” —the plot by the lyrics and the score by the eerie, ethereal synths.

3. Suspiria Main Theme” by Goblin

The plot: An American student must battle the forces of evil when she enrolls in a ballet academy run by a wicked witch. You know, like Dance Moms. Spooky song fact: Smashing Pumpkins opened their 2007 shows with this spellbindingly dark theme.

2.Halloween Theme” by John Carpenter

The plot: A chalky-faced man-ghoul slinks around the caretakers of small children. Happy Halloween from Neverland Ranch, y’all! Spooky song fact: Carpenter credited himself as “The Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra” on the soundtrack.

1. “The Murder” by Bernard Hermann (from Psycho)

The plot: Not content to just cross-dress anymore, an innocent-seeming man hiding countless sexual secrets gets his kicks servicing strangers in the way only he can. Spooky song fact: Alfred Hitchcock originally didn’t want any music during Psycho’s most famous scene. Luckily, he changed his mind and the music and scene have become arguably the most iconic of the horror genre. Enjoy that shower tonight, kiddies!

Did we forget any of your favorite scary movie or TV show theme songs? Let us know below!