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The Scariest Film Scores Ever Written

Music Scores for Horror, Suspense and Thriller Movies


I'm sure you'll agree that music plays an important role in any movie. A good musical score helps move the story, create excitement and elicit emotions. Horror, suspense and thriller films make use of the powers of music to build a viewer's anticipation and fear of a specific scene. Here are some of the scariest scores ever written for horror films.

  • Carrie - Based on a novel by Stephen King; this movie about a teenage girl who has telekinetic powers, is definitely one of my favorites. Pino Donaggio writes the score for this film, most notably the chilling "School in Flames."

  • Jaws - The main theme for this 1975 movie, that probably scared every beach-goer who saw it, was composed by John Williams. Chances are, you'll hear someone mimicking this orchestral theme when you're on a beach. Williams earned an Academy Award for his film score that remains one of the most recognizable movie themes to date.

  • Halloween - John Carpenter, the "master of terror," directed this 1978 horror film about an escaped psychiatric patient named Michael Myers. Carpenter himself wrote the score for this movie which reportedly grossed $75 million worldwide having a budget of only $300,000.

  • Psycho - This 1960 film was directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock and based on Robert Bloch's novel. The most famous and unforgettable scene is undoubtedly the "shower scene." The terror of that scene is magnified by Bernard Herrmann's superb score.

  • Rosemary's Baby - The main theme of this 1968 film was composed by Krzysztof Komeda. The music can be described as a lullaby with sinister undertones; a perfect match for the plot of the movie. The theme from "Rosemary's Baby" has always struck me as creepy, even before I had the chance to watch the film.

  • The Exorcist - This 1973 film features a piece titled "Tubular Bells" which was written by Mike Oldfield. The music in itself is not as scary compared to other scores. But used in the movie, the music is transformed into one of the most spine-chilling scores for a horror film.

  • The Omen - This 1976 film features a hair-raising and sinister-sounding choral piece titled "Ave Satani." The score was written by Jerry Goldsmith who earned an Academy Award for his contributions to the said film. Many versions of "Ave Satani" has been recorded since it first came out, but the original version remains a favorite.

  • The Sixth Sense - This frightening yet touching suspense/thriller about a boy who "sees dead people" came out in 1999. The film score was beautifully written by James Newton Howard and is a mix of poignant and pulse-raising music, specifically "Suicide Ghost," "Hanging Ghosts" and "Kyra's Tape."

    Know of other scary film scores that should be on this list? Email it to musiced@aboutguide.com.
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