The best Halloween songs are frightfully good, horribly catchy, and a right old monster mash-up of floor-filling classics. Listen to these scary songs if you dare, because All Hallows’ Eve is upon us once again. Does the Devil really have all the best tunes? Our rundown of the best Halloween songs of all time seems to confirm that he does…
60: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
Perhaps best known for its use in various films (like the Scream series) and TV (Peaky Blinders), this Nick Cave tune evokes the spooky season better than just about anyone. Despite its easy-going bass line and relative lack of dissonance, listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll understand why some regard it as one of the scariest songs of all time.
59: Pink Floyd – Sheep
Pink Floyd are often marked out as psychedelic stoners, but they had a few scary songs to their name. (“Careful With That Axe, Eugene,” anyone?) The guitar riffs on “Sheep” are the thing that makes this tune so frightening, with the instrument mimicking frightened sheep at various points.
58: Throbbing Gristle – Hamburger Lady
Want to see demons in your sleep? This magnum opus from Throbbing Gristle has barely-there vocals with only a crying synth for accompaniment. Good luck getting to sleep after listening to this truly scary song.
57: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – I Put a Spell On You
No Halloween songs playlist would be complete without Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You” It’s been covered countless times, but nothing beats the original, with Jay’s incredible vocal delivery.
56: Eminem feat. Rihanna – The Monster
Rihanna’s chorus makes this Eminem hip-hop chart-topper an excellent addition to any Halloween song playlist: “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed/Get along with the voices inside of my head/You’re tryin’ to save me, stop holding your breath/And you think I’m crazy, yeah, you think I’m crazy.”
55: David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
The distinctive guitar on David Bowie’s tune is performed by none other than Robert Fripp, who is known for making a guitar sound like just about anything. Paired with metallic percussion and this one is clearly one of David Bowie’s scariest songs, perfect for Halloween.
54: The Black Keys – Howlin’ for You
There are few sounds scarier than a howling wolf. But that’s not exactly what’s going on in this Black Keys song. Instead, the duo is professing their love with a stomping blues-y number that has a great sing-along chorus.
53: Andrew Gold – Spooky, Scary Skeletons
This goofy-sounding tune is an easy enough song to learn and, the longer it goes on, the creepier it gets. All of which makes it a perfect addition to any Halloween song playlist.
52: Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
If you have a reaper running around your Halloween party, this scary song will be a perfect addition to the playlist. If anyone is dressed up as the guy ready to play the cowbell though, you may want to cover your ears for its duration.
51: Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Theme
One of the great horror themes of the 21st century, the ominous synths of the Stranger Things theme perfectly capture the vibe of the Netflix series.
50: Selena Gomez and Marshmello – Wolves
Despite its scary title and lyrics about running through various dark places, “Wolves” is essentially a love song. (All of that running is to “get to you.”) Even so, this perfect pop song is an excellent end-of-night cathartic love song for any Halloween party.
49: Shakira: She Wolf
Not all Halloween songs are on the spooky end of the spectrum, as Shakira can attest with her sexy hit single “She Wolf.” One of the more creative pop hits of 2009, Shakira’s song is a celebration of female strength, a daring pop/EDM crossover, and the source of a provocative video
48: Rihanna: Disturbia
No ghosts or aliens here; this 2008 classic is about the real-life monsters known as anxiety and depression. An edgy hit single by any standard, “Disturbia” was a bit of therapy that you could dance to. Its production was also sleek and powerful, with Rihanna proving that you can incorporate autotune into a great vocal.
47: Lana Del Rey: Season of the Witch
Lana Del Rey’s bewitching rendition of Donovan’s psychedelic pop track is sure to put a spell on anyone who hears it. The charmingly haunting cover, which features vintage touches and plenty of spooky reverb, was commissioned by Guillermo Del Toro for his 2019 film, Scary Stories to be Told in the Dark, and can be heard during the end credits.
46: Sheb Wooley: The Purple People Eater
It didn’t seem like anybody was taking anything too seriously in the summer of 1958, when this eternal bit of outer-space silliness hit No.1. The sped-up vocals of Sheb Wooley’s hit were a new thing at the time (the Chipmunks also debuted that year), as was rock’n’roll itself. Fun fact: Sheb Wooley was also an actor who starred in the TV series Rawhide and the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales.
45: Outkast feat. Kelis: Dracula’s Wedding
Here’s a good-natured update of the sexual paranoia theme: Andre 3000 plays a vampire who isn’t scared of anything, except a cute female vampire played by Kelis. Will true love win the day? Probably, since she claims she makes great peanut butter sandwiches. This surprisingly wasn’t ever a single, probably because “Hey Ya” was too hard an act to follow.
44: Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells Theme
What better way is there to spend Halloween than with a classic horror movie such as 1973’s The Exorcist? This terrifying tale of demonic possession is still cited as one of the greatest examples of its genre, and it’s synonymous with Mike Oldfield’s eerie “Tubular Bells Theme.”
43: Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett: Monster Mash
Novelty songs don’t get any better than “Monster Mash.” With its rattling chains, bubbling cauldrons, and Boris Karloff-mimicking vocal, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 in time for 1962’s Halloween. A perennial favorite, “Monster Mash” still persuades the dead to cut some rug, especially now with a new remix.
42: Oingo Boingo: Dead Man’s Party
Oingo Boingo’s quirky mid-80s cult hit, “Dead Man’s Party” featured in the hit 1986 film, Back To School and it still brings the funk to Halloween. The band will always be synonymous with this time of year as their frontman Danny Elfman also famously scored Tim Burton’s much-acclaimed The Nightmare Before Christmas.
41: The Rolling Stones: Sympathy For The Devil
The Rolling Stones’ legendary Beggars Banquet album is just turning 50, and its most imperious track famously big ups Beelzebub himself. We defy you not to lift a cloven hoof and get down to this demonic rock classic.
40: Queens Of The Stone Age: Burn The Witch
Looking for the ideal macabre rock anthem to make your Halloween go with a bang? Then stop right here, for this spooky, glam-infused stomper with lyrics drawing upon the notorious 17th Century Witch Trials is just the accelerant you need to ignite that all-important hellfire and damnation.
39: Rob Zombie: Dragula
Film buff Rob Zombie’s biggest hit is a mash-up of stomping beats, metal madness, and horror movies. The song’s title is a derivation of the drag racer “DRAG-U-LA” from legendary horror sitcom The Munsters, and it’s introduced by the silver screen’s Prince Of Darkness, Christopher Lee. Monstrous fun all round.
38: No Doubt: Spiderwebs
In this bouncy, ska-infused track, No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani sings about screening her phone calls to avoid an overly persistent romantic admirer. The infectious single opened No Doubt’s breakthrough 1995 album, Tragic Kingdom, and offered the perfect introduction to the band’s signature poppy, punky sass.
37: Siouxsie And The Banshees: Halloween
Whether Siouxsie And The Banshees’ Juju invented goth or not, it’s a fabulous record full of sonic tricks and anthemic treats. One of its many highlights is the self-explanatory “Halloween,” which recreates an especially dark night of the soul.
36: Metallica: Devil’s Dance
A prowling, bass-heavy classic from 1997’s Reload, in which James Hetfield seemingly attempts to conjure the great beast himself. Then again, Old Nick always was a sucker for a monstrous downtuned guitar riff, so Metallica was always onto a winner with this one.
35: Creedence Clearwater Revival: Bad Moon Rising
John Fogerty comes on like a plaid-clad Nostramadus on CCR’s signature hit, ‘Bad Moon Rising’: a rockabilly-influenced end-of-days classic inspired by the suitably spooky 1941 noir-esque flick The Devil And Daniel Webster.
34: Nine Inch Nails: Dead Souls
One could easily make an entire 24-hour playlist of Halloween songs by just playing all of Trent Reznor’s catalog back to back. He is the master of danceable industrial rock and his chilling rendition of the Joy Division’s “Dead Souls” is no exception. The song originally appeared on the soundtrack to the cult horror classic The Crow, and quickly became a fan-favorite after Reznor gave an unforgettable, mud-soaked performance of it at Woodstock 94.
33: Derek And The Dominoes: Crossroads
Lucifer looms large over “Crossroads”: an ode to the place where blues legend Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to receive the devil’s best tunes and give us rock’n’roll. Eric Clapton reckoned Johnson got a bloody good deal and duly recorded this smokin’ blues with both Cream and Derek And The Dominoes.
32: Smashing Pumpkins: We Only Come Out At Night
From The Smashing Pumpkins’ blockbuster third, Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness, this deceptively gentle, piano-framed ditty provides the perfect soundtrack for all would-be creatures of the night for whom “the days are much too bright”.
31: The Cure: Lullaby
The Cure’s catalog contains no end of morose, goth-inspired pop brilliance, but perhaps their perfect Halloween song is Disintegration-era smash, “Lullaby”: a nightmare before Christmas if ever there was, wherein frontman Robert Smith dreams “the Spiderman is having me for dinner tonight.”
30: The Cranberries: Zombie
Though actually an era-defining protest song with a hard-hitting anti-violence lyric, The Cranberries’ signature hit “Zombie” is nonetheless a rousing rock anthem for all seasons and it certainly doesn’t sound out of place on the eve of All Souls Day.
29: Dead Kennedys: Halloween
Seminal punks the Dead Kennedys hailed from San Francisco, a city synonymous with celebrating Halloween and they zoned in on it with fervor on this livid diatribe with lyrics calling for people to break free of social mores in their everyday lives, not just on the titular holiday. Fast, furious, and embroidered with freaky, surf-inspired lead guitar.
28: The Charlie Daniels Band: The Devil Went Down to Georgia
Charlie Daniels could be a terrific storyteller, as witnessed by his early hit “Uneasy Rider” and this number about a boy named Johnny who beats the Devil in a fiddling contest. Unless they played the censored version, this was one of the first songs to get “son of a bitch” on the radio.
27: Dusty Springfield: Spooky
It really is spooky how some songs come back time and again with their haunting refrains. This tune, originally an instrumental by saxophonist Mike Sharpe, became a huge U.S. hit for Classics IV in 1968. Members of that group arose from the chart grave to revive it with Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1979. Our Halloween treatment is from the unearthly talent of Dusty Springfield.
26: Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Buried Alive
With a voice that can easily oscillate from bluesy croon to frenzied shriek, Karen O could have easily fronted a more goth-leaning outfit. Armed with a scathing guitar riff, O’s hypnotic chanting, and a James Murphy-produced moody groove, “Buried Alive” remains one of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most haunting tracks. It also boasts a special cameo from rapper Kool Keith’s homicidal alter-ego, Dr. Octagon.
25: Johnny Cash: Ain’t No Grave
You never did mess with The Man In Black, but when he says “There ain’t no grave can hold my body down,” you’d better believe it. He meant it, too: Johnny recorded this traditional gospel song shortly before his passing in 2003, and it came back from the dead as the title track of his posthumous American VI album in 2010.
24: XTC: The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead
“Let’s begin!”, yells Andy Partridge, launching a song from XTC’s splendid Nonsuch album that was inspired by a Jack O’Lantern he’d made and stuck on the fence post in his back garden. Andy saw it rotting away every day, going down the garden path to his home studio. But what happened to poor old Peter is a scary story.
23: Redbone: The Witch Queen of New Orleans
Welcome to the voodoo lounge of the early 70s and the wonderful, unearthly sound of Native American rockers Redbone. This scary song is based on a true story, too, about 19th century Creole healer, herbalist, and voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau. She’ll stir her witch’s brew and put a spell on you.
22: John Zacherle: Dinner With Drac
John Zacherle was a TV horror show host that gave Boris Karloff a run for his mummy. (Sorry, money.) Like Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” John’s 1958 tune “Dinner With Drac” was a fabulously ghoulish rock’n’roll spoof. Dish up a plate of batwing confetti and listen to Drac reminding Igor that the scalpels go on the left with the pitchforks.
21: Vic Mizzy and His Orchestra: The Addams Family Theme
“The Addams Family” theme is mid-60s TV camp at its finest, and perfectly captures the exuberant goofiness of the show, and the era in general: Can’t come up with a rhyme for “kooky” and “spooky?” No problem, just go with “ooky.” Vic Mizzy’s arrangement is silly and hip at the same time, nobody could hear this without snapping their fingers along.
20: Alice Cooper: Feed My Frankenstein
You could put Alice Coopers’s entire catalog on a Halloween list, but we had to include one of his relatively few scary songs that was really about sexual relations. “Feed My Frankenstein” was one of the songs that fuelled his early 90s comeback on the Hey Stoopid album, which successfully harnessed the Alice persona to the AOR sound of the time.
19: Talking Heads: Psycho Killer
Only in David Byrne’s world would a psycho killer be a moody introvert much like himself, and prone to speaking French as well. The barbed humor of Byrne’s lyric was complemented by Tina Weymouth’s indelible bassline. For Talking Heads it was both the concert-opener on the Stop Making Sense tour, and the big finale of tours beforehand.
18: Ray Parker Jr.: Ghostbusters
“Ghostbusters” is one of those theme songs that perfectly matches the anarchic humor of the movie, and this hit featured an indelible guitar lick and sent the phrase “Who ya gonna call?” into the vernacular. The only sad part is that Ray Parker Jr. seems to be remembered mainly for this song when he plenty of other good ones, like the raunchy hit “The Other Woman.”
17: Santana: Black Magic Woman
Songs about mysterious women are a definite subtext of Halloween songs. And if you look too closely at this one – originally written by Peter Green for Fleetwood Mac – you’ve either got one unhealthy relationship or one paranoid guy. But Santana gave it the spookiest groove they could manage, and of course medleyed it with Gabor Szabo’s “Gypsy Queen,” a piece more celebratory of womanhood.
16: The Eagles: Witchy Woman
A scary song of a different sort. The Eagles’ second hit single (and first Top Ten) was about as far from “Take It Easy” as it gets; there’s plenty more sexual paranoia here as Don Henley flashes back to an encounter that left his skin turning red. Apparently, he was reading about Zelda Fitzgerald at the time; he also does some vocal channeling of Stephen Stills.
15: The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Time Warp
If you were part of the Rocky Horror Picture Show cult, this song was your cue to jump up and go wild in the aisles. Though it’s only marginally connected to the plot, this was writer Richard O’Brien’s most loving homage to glam rock. The song’s secret weapon is the absolutely killer drumming by Procol Harum’s B.J. Wilson.
14: Vince Guaraldi Sextet: Great Pumpkin Waltz
Vince Guaraldi’s evocative theme to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown stood as the centerpiece to his sophisticated-yet-offbeat score for the 1966 PEANUTS Halloween special. Guaraldi fleshed out his standard, piano-led trio with additional instrumentation, including woodwinds and guitar, which added additional warmth to the tracks. The instrumental track instantly brings to mind a chilly, autumnal day, and adds a jazzy upgrade to any Halloween playlist.
13: MC Hammer: Addams Groove
In the fall of 1991, ghoulish comedy The Addams Family was one of the biggest films of the year, and its theme song – the ridiculously catchy ‘Addams Groove’ by MC Hammer – was equally as popular – hitting the Top Ten in the U.S. and also appeared on Hammer’s album, Too Legit To Quit. As a bonus, the accompanying music video was essentially a short film, starring Hammer alongside the Addams Family cast (including Christina Ricci and Angelica Houston).
12: ELO: Evil Woman
With its soaring strings, pop hooks, and disco rhythms, 1975’s “Evil Woman” is pure dark magic. Looking to take a more radio-friendly direction with his fifth studio album, ELO founder and creative force Jeff Lynne pulled out all of the stops – scoring himself a Platinum album and his first major hit with “Evil Woman.” Fun fact: in his lyric “There’s a hole in my head where the rain comes in” Lynne was referencing The Beatles’ “Fixing a Hole.”
11: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince: A Nightmare On My Street
Now this is a story all about how, Will Smith’s and DJ Jazzy Jeff’s lives got flipped turned upside down. The hip-hip duo wrote the undeniably catchy, “Nightmare On My Street” for the fourth Freddy Kruger movie, only to have producers shelve the song, pull the plug on the finished music video, and New Line Cinema sue the group. But unlike Nightmare on Elm Street, the story has a happy ending. The scary song remains a sleeper Halloween hit, and the video finally saw the light of day in recent years.
10: Stevie Wonder: Superstition
Who says ghosts’n’ghouls ain’t got the funk? This supernatural belter from Stevie Wonder topped the U.S. charts in 1973 and remains a touchstone for those spooked by bad luck – or else no luck at all.
9: The Ramones: Pet Sematary
Stephen King was a major Ramones fan and they loved him right back, name-checking him on the Pleasant Dreams album and then writing one of their last truly great songs for King’s film Pet Sematary. Though it’s a lot more jovial than the movie itself, Dee Dee’s lyric gives away some of the shivers in the plot, with a classic Ramones “I don’t wanna” in the chorus.
8: Whodini: Freaks Come Out At Night
To be fair, Brooklyn in the 80s could be a scary place to be at night, but the “freaks” in question were more of the hedonistic variety than the supernatural. An old-rap classic and proto-New Jack Swing essential, Whodini’s 1984 hit is perfect for when the Halloween party punch starts to kick in.
7: John Carpenter: Halloween Theme
This is one of the few times that an established director has successfully produced the theme for his own movie Halloween. John Carpenter came up with a truly scary song that puts a sinister spin on the synth sound of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. You can feel Michael Myers creeping up on you just by listening.
6: Rockwell: Somebody’s Watching Me
Rockwell’s paranoid pop hit is a staple of any Halloween playlist, but it was never intended to be a seasonal smash. Motown progeny and songwriter Kennedy Gordy (a.k.a. Rockwell) wanted to prove he could make a hit on his own, so he enlisted his family friend Michael Jackson to sing on the hook, added some spooky New Wave synths and a drum machine and the ultimate 80s Halloween party anthem was born.
5: Warren Zevon: Werewolves of London
Warren Zevon’s perennial monster hit remains of the most quintessential Halloween songs and proudly carries the torch of comedy-horror novelty tracks. Part jaunty piano jam and part blues-rock number (thanks to backing fretwork by Fleetwood Mac members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie), “Werewolves of London” was a complete pop anomaly, scoring Zevon his first and only Top 40 hit that still gets people to howl along.
4: Michael Jackson: Thriller
Creaking doors, footsteps, and blood-curdling howls lead into one of the 80s’ truly great (and scary) pop songs. Listen to it during the witching hour on Halloween and you might just turn into a pumpkin.
3: Roky Erickson: Night of the Vampire
With its fuzzed-out and foreboding intro and Roky Erickson’s hair-raising howl, “Night of the Vampire” is one of those scary songs that hits a little too close to home. The late 13th Floor Elevators’ vocalist fuses his love of psychedelic rock and pulp horror to chilling results.
2: AC/DC: Highway to Hell
AC/DC have flirted with the horror genre a couple of times, most notably on “Who Made Who” (which they did for the Stephen King soundtrack Maximum Overdrive). But “Highway to Hell” had to make our list of best Halloween songs because it’s about being on the highway to hell and about taking the most irresponsible things you did at the Halloween party, and doing them all year long.
1: Bauhaus: Bela Lugosi’s Dead
A Halloween mixtape staple, Bauhaus’ goth classic is the personification of a haunted house. Its stuttering drums are a stand-in for squeaking doors and scratching nails. For nine-and-a-half minutes, the band builds a thick fog of doom, with spare, skeletal guitars, echo effects, and a chilling, descending bassline. You’re already three minutes in before Peter Murphy’s enigmatic vocals come in, and your fate is sealed when he starts chanting, “undead, undead, undead.” One of the scariest songs you’ll ever hear.