My Top Ten Horror Movie Scores & Soundtracks

A movie’s score and/or soundtrack of songs is extremely important to me as I think the right music can make a good movie into a great one or even a bad movie into a cult classic. When you think of the biggest Oscar films, almost all of them had award winning scores from highly respected composers. When I think of my own personal all-time favorite movies, the majority have brilliant scores that helped to suck me into that magical movie world that only the very best composers can help create. Can you imagine The Good, The Bad And The Ugly without Ennio Morricone’s amazing score??

I’m very picky when it comes to the horror genre & have loved very few horror films since the 70s & 80s. I do find it interesting that most of my all-time favorite old horrors are on this list of scores, though. It goes to show that they used to put so much more effort into these films than they do now, even down to the scores (but I do have a couple fairly current films on the list too). I think the score is even more important in horrors as the mood & atmosphere are fundamental to this genre. I don’t understand why so many modern horrors put so little effort into using a score effectively to create the right mood. Oh well – this genre is showing more promise again so maybe we’ll see a return to great horror scores.

More than anything, I love a good musical score that has been composed for a film but do also appreciate when a soundtrack of great songs, whether existing or new, are put together for a movie’s soundtrack. So my top ten will consist of scores but there are a few horror soundtracks that I really love so I didn’t want to exclude them.

Here are a few Horror Movie Soundtracks That I Love:

Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Composer: AC/DC

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Composer: Danny Elfman

The Lost Boys (1987)
Composer: Thomas Newman Score/Various Artists Soundtrack:

Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Composer: Tyler Bates Score/Various Artists Soundtrack

And now onto My Top Ten Horror Movie Scores (and their composers):

Honorable Mentions:

The Fog (1980)
Composer: John Carpenter
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Composer: Krzysztof Komeda
The Shining (1980)
Composer: Wendy Carlos/Rachel Elkind
The Omen (1976)
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Top Ten:

10. TIE: 28 Days Later… (2002)
Composer: John Murphy
It Follows (2014)
Composer: Disasterpeace

9. Psycho (1960)
Composer: Bernard Herrmann

8. Jaws (1975)
Composer: John Williams

7. The Thing (1982)
Composer: Ennio Morricone/John Carpenter/Alan Howarth

6. Suspiria (1977) (but also want to mention Deep Red here, which is great too)
Composer: Dario Argento/Goblin

5. Mandy (2018)
Composer: Jóhann Jóhannsson

4. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Composer: Charles Bernstein

3. The Exorcist (1973)
Composer: Mike Oldfield

2. Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
Composer: Goblin/Dario Argento/De Wolfe Music Library

1. Halloween (1978)
Composer: John Carpenter

30 thoughts on “My Top Ten Horror Movie Scores & Soundtracks

  1. Halloween theme in its simplicity is amazing! I always remember how in a program called “Heartstoppers: Horror at the Movies” they showed the meaning of great music in horror films by replacing Halloween’s music by some music from silly cartoons. The scene they used wasn’t scary at all after the change.

  2. I always feel that movie music should build and enhance the emotional mood of a film but be otherwise unobtrusive. You should feel it but not notice it. Unless it is a musical or a silent film. If you watch the movie and really felt the emotions down to your bones and have no memory of the music at all, it performed its function to perfection. Sometimes, I will start singing along to music I know. This is a bad thing. It means I’m paying more attention to the music than to the movie. It is a bad sign for the movie. Especially when I get mad that the music stops but the song, as I know it, was not finished yet. The few exceptions to this, for me, have not been horror films. Those were the original Star Wars films, the first Hobbit movie, and Frozen. At least what I can think of off the top of my head.

    • That’s interesting! I’m the exact opposite. 🙂 I love movie scores and think, if I don’t remember the music afterwards, it must have been a pretty poor score. Of course, score is different than soundtrack – I care more about score but can see a popular song on a film’s soundtrack being distracting…

    • Thanks! I adore Alien & Aliens but quite often don’t include them in my horror lists as I see them as sci-fi. They defy all genres, though – they’re just plain awesome & stand alone. 😉 I do love The Omen score! I had it as an honorable mention. I’d have to refresh my memory on the Poltergeist score… Damn good film, though.

    • Thanks! 🙂 Well, it would make a top ten on soundtracks as opposed to score as I love the songs in it. Although, The Lost Boys score is by one of my absolute favorite composers (Thomas Newman). But it’s not one of his more memorable ones. The Exorcist is indeed an all-time classic (although I don’t think it was specifically made for the film – I do love all 1,829 hours of the entire Tubular Bells song). 🙂

  3. Good to see a blend of songs and scores. I love that you have a new one like IT FOLLOWS on there. It definitely had some retro cool synth sounds to enjoy. I’m really diggin your SUSPIRIA pick. It’s your underdog amongst some heavy hitters. Fantastic list! The mere mention of some of these scores sent a shiver up my spine. I’m thinking of the Carpenter flicks 😉 Great article!

    • Thank you! Sorry – I’ve been away & fell waaaaay behind on replying to people. 😦 I really dig that It Follows score. I don’t own it but I really should – I need to hear it all again. Hmm – I thought Suspiria might be too obvious. But, yeah – I suppose I just talk to a lot of movie geeks. 😉 lol. I could mention the Suspiria score at work & I’d get blank stares…

  4. One can never overlook a good horror movie soundtrack/score. One I would add in terms of original scores is ‘It Follows’, which was composed by electronic artist Disasterpeace. Now, bear with me, Mutey. It *is* a modern horror filled with (probably) all of the sorts of things classic horror appreciators do not care for, but I have to say one track in particular, ‘Jay’ from that thing is just. Oh man. I don’t know how to put it other than the ridiculous statement that it is the epitome of why I love going to movies. That song just makes me feel so utterly nostalgic for the ’80s and for Carpenter’s Halloween. A lot of people have made note of how that entire score evokes Mike Myers’ terror. But for me it’s just something undefinable. Like, I want to be able to access whatever “place” or feeling that the song(s) are providing me, but I know that as soon as I reach out to touch it, it’ll dissolve and crumble like a sandcastle. Movies are fake. Music is for real.

    • Tom the Bomb! Here I am! Further catching up on almost a month’s worth of comments. I suck!!!! 😦 Anyhoo… I love your comment. I love hearing from fellow bloggers who care about a film’s score as much as I do (surprisingly few movie bloggers even seem to notice a film’s score). Are you yelling at me for not including It Follows, though?! Because it totally made my list. Lol! I put it at number ten but, to be honest, I originally had it at something like 6 or 7. I think I sometimes worry about the “haters” on here. 😉 I absolutely loved It Folliws and the score RULES. I’ve only watched it the one time so I don’t know the tracks well but it’s one I really should own. I’ll have to go & specifically listen to “Jay” now. 🙂 Music is definitely for real, especially when it’s from the heart (that’s why I think so many of Carpenter’s, which were done for his own films, are so amazing).

      • Mutey Lives! (She Lives! — should that be a sequel to They Live!, I wonder?)

        And ppphhtt, ignore me. I don’t know what I was doing. It Follows is *RIGHT THERE* haha. I’m going to go to the doc’s now and get my eyesight checked. I’ll let you know how that goes, but I gotta say I’m nervous for the results.

      • Oh man – I’d love to be in a sequel to They Live! That’s my favorite Carpenter film. I could be the female Roddy Piper! The sexy female Roddy Piper, of course. That’s okay – I forgive you for missing my awesome inclusion of It Follows. 😉 I’m guilty of not always noticing the score too but, if the score wasn’t memorable, it probably wasn’t that good anyway. 🙂

      • And yes I would also add to that that it must be a tough gig being a film score person thingy. Film scores are so, so under-appreciated and I am guilty of that all of ze time.

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