We’ve compiled a list of the best and most haunting horror theme songs, old and new, to help you keep the spooky spirit alive all year long.
Visuals are powerful, and film is certainly a visual medium. But it’s impossible to deny the impact of sound. When great music is combined with great imagery, that’s when magic is made. On social media, adding music to a photo using a tool like https://create.vista.com/features/add-music-to-picture/ can dramatically increase the reach and engagement over a simply static image; sound brings the image to life and tells a powerful story. In film, the score is the heart and soul of the cinematic experience, creating mood, tension, atmosphere, drama, and emotional resonance.
I listened to over 150 horror movie themes to create my personal Top 15 Horror Anthems. Some of my choices may be no-brainers; others may be head-scratchers. My goal was to create a diverse list that honors the classics while hopefully adding new blood to your chilling playlist.
15. Terrifier (2016)
Terrifier is a divisive movie in the community; arguments over gore and brutality abound. But I’m only here to discuss the classic horror theme featured in the film from the mind of artist Paul Wiley. The synth energy and relentlessly beating drums evoke 80’s slasher nostalgia and scores Art’s kookiness with old-school serial killer vibes as he takes his large dramatic steps, trash bag in hand, stalking with the slowly building music.
With the hit Clown Café debuting in the sequel, I think Terrifier stands well musically with wild features and ominous scores that pay homage to the slasher genre and keep things both campy and creepy.
14. Willy’s Wonderland (2021)
Willy’s flew a little under the radar for most mainstream audiences in 2021, but I’m a diehard fan of the Nicolas Cage epic, with the master thespian in an ass-kicking, non-speaking role.
Emoi’s blend of original freaky children’s themes, combined with the foreboding synth and organ style, scored the satanic animatronics flawlessly during their darkest scenes. This is especially true of the Death Anthem, which plays during the final climactic fight scene and includes a little ode to “Pop Goes the Weasel” as the two wordless forces of good and evil battle it out in the ball pit and hotdog stand that is Willy’s Wonderland.
The stellar soundtrack is enhanced by added catchy tunes like a theme for the restaurant played out in legendary style by Cage during an intense pinball match. If you’re not chanting, “It’s your birthday,” by the end, you haven’t been listening.
13. The Ring (2002)
Psychological and supernatural, The Ring arrived to scare us senseless in 2002, starring Naomi Watts, Brian Cox, and Martin Henderson. The film, directed by Gore Verbinski and written by Ehren Kruger, is a remake of the 1998 film Ring by Hideo Nakata, based on a 1991 novel by Koji Suzuki of the same name.
The film follows Rachel Keller (Watts), who must figure out a way to evade her death after viewing a cursed VHS that supposedly kills any viewer within seven days of watching it. Opening to a generally warm reception, The Ring holds a place in horror history, especially for memorable hard cuts to horrifying scenes.
The music is so notable because it comes from the mind of musical genius and Oscar winner Hans Zimmer, who has written music for movies from Dune to Dunkirk. The theme is quite long, very mournful, but passionately striking. Beginning with tragically sad and mystical keys on a piano, it can ramp up into quick strings, down to the lowest orchestral notes over the lightest bells. It is a beautiful piece, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film last year, the original soundtrack, in either vinyl or CD, is now available for your listening pleasure.
12. 28 Days Later (2003)
2003 brought zombie fever to the USA with the release of 28 Days Later, starring Cillian Murphy. Bringing the infected to the forefront and beginning a wave of zombie cinema and television that continues today; one could argue that this was the catalyst to the modern zombie craze.
The music composed by John Murphy, who also wrote the music for the sequel (which features this piece) as well as other high-profile horror films like Last House on the Left, created a special piece for one of the film’s most climactic moments and one of horror’s m