Prior to winning an Oscar for his score to Lawrence of Arabia, composer/conductor Maurice Jarre wrote the tender, haunting theme to the deranged French-Italian classic Eyes Without a Face. Many horror films are about the terror of alienation and the danger of obsession, but few soundtracks manage to capture those feelings with such pathos.
Yes, the screeching string section that soundtracks the infamous shower scene in Psycho is iconic and unsettling, but that's not why we're including Bernard Herrmann's theme to Alfred Hitchcock's trend-setting slasher film in our list. The more melodic string passages in Psycho perfectly capture the sense of dread, insanity and imminent danger pervading the whole film.
Despite boasting one of the most iconic movie themes ever, The Exorcist's staccato piano riff wasn't composed for William Friedkin's classic: It's actually taken from a prog-rock album. The filmmakers sampled the opening riff from British rocker Mike Oldfield's 1973 album Tubular Bells for the film's recurring musical theme. Although they added their own flourishes, it's not a far cry from the original.
Italian prog-rock outfit Goblin began their long-running gig scoring films from genre master Dario Argento on his 1975 movie Deep Red. With an ominous organ solo and an eerie Celesta riff akin to The Exorcist, this is a harrowing score. Plus, the bass line is seriously sick.
Director John Carpenter himself composed the iconic theme to his slasher classic Halloween. Taking a cue from The Exorcist, which also used a repetitive piano riff to great effect, Carpenter successfully created one of the most instantly frightening horror themes. Much like the film itself, the simplicity of this theme actually makes it more unsettling.
Two years after scoring Deep Red, Goblin delivered their most frightening score for Dario Arengto's masterpiece. Seriously, Suspiria's theme is supernaturally good. Just try listening to the demonic murmuring over the innocent Celesta riff that plays throughout the film and not freaking out.