The Top 10 Greatest Horror Movie Soundtracks
5. Friday the 13th
Source: Paramount Pictures
The thing that makes Harry Manfredini’s musical work on the original Friday the 13th so amazing is the way he was able to manipulate audiences into to thinking the killer was right under their very noses any time the music hit. Inspired by John Williams’ work on Jaws, Manfredini perfectly crafted a score that represented Pamela Voorhees stalking her prey when she was absent from the audience's view. We all know that the greatest aspect of the Friday soundtrack has to be the use of the now-famous "Ki ki ki, ma ma ma." When anyone hears this eerie piece of music, they automatically think of Jason Voorhees and his giant bloody machete.
4. The Shining
Source: Warner Bros.
There’s a lot going on when it comes to the music in The Shining. Duh. It’s Stanley Kubrick we’re talkin’ about here, people. Nothing he ever did was simple. I can’t even begin to try to elaborate on the non-original music used in the film, but I will say that it’s utilized perfectly from start to finish. It’s good to mention the brief electronic score by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, but Krzysztof Penderecki’s "De Natura Sonoris No. 2" and György Ligeti’s “Lontano” are two of the obvious musical standouts throughout the film. The way Kubrick mixes one of Penderecki’s masterworks during the classic “Here’s Johnny” scene is simply one of the best moments cinema has to offer.
Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment
As far as slasher films go, John Carpenter’s classic theme from his landmark film Halloween is simply the greatest of all time. Even though it’s one of the simplest musical compositions around, the Halloween theme works on so many levels and still somehow never gets old. The theme for this film is so good that I went to go see Halloween 4 and 5 just based on it being in the trailers for the film. That’s how much hype this score can create. The second that 5/4 piano melody hits, you automatically get sucked in and transported back to Haddonfield, Illinois in the blink on an eye. If the theme from Halloween doesn’t give you chills every time you hear it, you might just be Michael Myers himself.
Photo: Nancy Ostertag/Getty Images
Out of all the movie themes on this list, John Williams’ work on 1975’s Jaws might be the most recognizable.
Even though the unstoppable main "Shark Theme" is just a simple alternating of the E and F notes, the movie would not be the same without it and probably would have never have been as successful. Even Steven Spielberg has admitted this in interviews. Why? Because Williams just has a way of perfectly matching music to moving images, as well as to the emotions of a film’s characters.
Jaws is one of the best examples of this. When Williams described the Jaws theme as having the "effect of grinding away at you, just as a shark would do," he really hit the nail on the head. I also have to give credit to Spielberg for telling Williams that Jaws was a pirate movie because it was the perfect note to give a composer as talented as John. Think about it, people. What would this movie be without John Williams’ music? It would just be Robert Shaw getting eaten by a giant mechanical shark.
Source: Universal Studios/Getty Images
This is the one that started it all, y’all. Bernard Herrmann’s groundbreaking work on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho set the standard for what a horror soundtrack should be made up of. Hitchcock himself even said that "33% of the effect of Psycho was due to the music." It may be even more than that. Not taking anything away from one of the greatest directors of all time, but without Herrmann’s all-string masterwork during the famous shower scene, Psycho wouldn’t have made nearly the same impact. Hitchcock’s direction of the images and storyline were way ahead of their time and in a class all their own, but Herrmann’s addition to the film helped create one of the most unique, disturbing, and important movie moments of all time.
An artist is only as good as his tools and Herrmann was one of Hitchcock’s most significant pieces of hardware.