Nothing puts you in the mood for your favorite movie or television show better than a great theme song. And nobody, and we mean nobody, does theme songs like the horror genre does. We’ve got 11 of the best here to prove that point.
“The Sopranos” had a great intro with “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3, and there have been some pretty great cartoon theme songs like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons”. Hell, even the old “Batman” theme song was a damn catchy tune, but honestly, horror dominates memorable theme songs. Just take a look at the list below, and we didn’t even include some great ones like “Pet Sematary” by The Ramones, Dokken’s “Dream Warriors” (written for A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) or “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)” by Alice Cooper, written for Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. (Consider those the honorable mentions! And by the way, upon researching this list, it was so much fun watching the old videos that we even included the honorable mentions for you to watch at the end of the article!) So here, in no particular order, are the Top 11 TV and Movie Horror Theme Songs.
“Dexter” Main Title by Rolf Kent
This playful instrumental is the perfect intro for the serial killer we’ve all come to love. Perfectly paired with close-up imagery that makes Dex’s morning routine look like a number of violent acts, the theme is as quirky and fun as Dexter himself. And the high-pitched triangle ting as Dexter walks away with a knowing grin has become like a starter’s pistol for fans of the show, letting us know it’s time for the action to begin….Previously on “Dexter”…
Jaws Main Theme by John Williams
Let’s move from a relatively new theme song favorite to a classic. This is the definition of a chilling theme song. Used anytime someone wants to represent danger looming, the theme for Jaws is as iconic as they come. Composer John Williams carries quite the pedigree. He’s won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, seven British Academy Film Awards and 21 Grammy Awards. Not bad. His 48 Academy Award nominations put him second to only Walt Disney. And he was at his best when he composed this memorable number. The movie scared people out of the water for years, and the theme song certainly ran through the mind of many a swimmer who found themselves in unfamiliar waters and started imagining what might be swimming just below their toes.
Psycho Shower Scene by Bernard Herrmann
Hitchcock initially envisioned the legendary shower scene without any music at all. Thankfully the great director knew enough to change his mind when a better option came along. In addition to the stunning imagery of the film, the one additional thing viewers of Psycho can never get out of their heads is the haunting screech of violins. Used perfectly, the memorable music became the theme to represent one of the greatest horror films, ever.
“The Addams Family” Theme by Vic Mizzy
To lighten the mood a bit, we must mention this song that was so popular it was actually released as a single. Although it didn’t make it too high on the popular music charts, it was unforgettable as television theme songs go. A harpsichord accompanied by perhaps the most famous finger snaps since Arthur Fonzarelli, “The Addams Family” theme song is a wonderfully humorous intro to go with this unique family. Creepy and kooky, indeed.
“The Munsters” Theme by Jack Marshall
And who better to follow “The Addams Family” theme song than our other beloved family of monsters. Nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965, “The Munsters” theme song was frantic for Season One, then ramped up and given even more pizazz for the second season of the show. Although best known as an instrumental, there were actually lyrics written for “The Munsters” theme, which were recorded and released on the album At Home With The Munsters, a must-have for any true classic television memorabilia collector. A fantastic way to remember a lightheartedly horrific piece of television history.
Maximum Overdrive-“Who Made Who” by AC/DC
Certainly not an ‘official’ theme song, but all AC/DC fans know that “Who Made Who”, the title track for the band’s first greatest hits album, was written for one reason, to be featured in Maximum Overdrive, the film adapted from Stephen King’s short story “Trucks”. In fact, the entire Who Made Who album is considered the soundtrack for the film, but it’s that title track that represents the film so well. The entire concept of the movie is perfectly summed up in that one song, which is even echoed in a line by one of the characters in Maximum Overdrive before she is unremorsefully gunned down by an huge, unmanned mounted machine gun outside the fateful truck stop which serves as the main backdrop for the film. A better band could not be chosen to craft a horror soundtrack and “Who Made Who” is indeed a great song for this film about machines gone mad.
“True Blood”-“Bad Things” by Jace Everett
Normally country music and horror aren’t known to go hand in hand, but country music recording artist Jace Everett nailed a nice horror groove with his song “Bad Things”, which would go on to be the theme for HBO’s “True Blood”. And you may notice the similarity between “Bad Things” and the aforementioned “Woke Up This Morning” theme song for HBO’s “The Sopranos”. Must be a Home Box thing. And there’s something about hearing that line…“I wanna do bad things with you…” that just gets you in the mood to see those vamps and wolves and shifters and all kinds of supernatural baddies fight and screw and do all those bad things with each other. “Bad Things” certainly sums up everything great about “True Blood” and does it in a groovy way.
From Dusk Till Dawn-“Dark Night” by The Blasters
Again, this one is technically not a theme song, but it’s played over the opening credits of the movie and is just so damn perfect it had to be included on this list. From Dusk Till Dawn comes across as almost two films in one. You have the initial section following the Gecko Brothers as they try to make their way across the Border into the freedom of Mexico. Then, of course, you have the arrival of our heroes at The Titty Twister family eating establishment and the bloodbath that ensues. “Dark Night” just happens to be the perfect song to blanket that entire adventure. The twangy tune is all groove, as Seth Gecko is, and it works smashingly for this beloved horror romp.
Halloween Theme by The Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra
Okay, first we must clarify. As many of you know, the theme song for Halloween was written by director John Carpenter. But as a nod to his hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky, the director jokingly named himself and the group of musicians organized to perform the music The Bowling Green Philharmonic Orchestra. Well played, Mr. Carpenter. Well played. The music itself is iconic. It screams horror. It screams suspense. The theme to Halloween is unmistakable…and makes a damn fine ringtone as well! One of the best and most memorable pieces of horror music you’ll ever hear. Perfect.
The Exorcist-“Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield
Damn this song is creepy. Maybe by itself it wouldn’t have been so bad. Maybe if we weren’t exposed to the most horrific movie of all times before hearing “Tubular Bells”, then it wouldn’t have become the soundtrack of nightmares. But that isn’t the case. “Tubular Bells” is what you hear when taking the escalator to Hades. This is what Satan has as the most listened to track on his iPod. Something about the title recalls The Blue Man Group, but that’s where the fun ends. You can’t hear this melody and not think about Regan MacNeil, that lonely bedroom window and the long, steep staircase just outside it on the street. “Tubular Bells”, like the film it accompanies, is horror at its finest.
“The Twilight Zone” Theme by Marius Constant
There was another theme song for “The Twilight Zone” that was written by Bernard Herrmann of Psycho shower scene fame. However, that melody would be replaced by the unmistakable number we’re all familiar with today. It doesn’t sound like any other song. When you hear it, you know exactly what it is. It’s appropriate to sing it whenever we’re confronted with a unbelievable situation. It is…”The Twilight Zone”. Quite possibly the most iconic of all the stellar theme songs on this list, Constant’s unique music combined with Rod Serling’s historic voiceover make this one for the ages.
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