The best Halloween songs are frightfully good, horribly catchy, and a right old monster mash-up of floor-filling classics. Listen… if you dare…
The horror! The horror!… And we’re not talking about heavy metal mullets and Spandex leggings. All Hallows’ Eve is upon us once again, which makes us ask the question: 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…
Listen to our Halloween & Chill playlist here, and scroll down to read our 35 best Halloween songs.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Michael Jackson: ‘Thriller’
Creaking doors, footsteps, and blood-curdling howls lead into one of the 80s’ truly great pop songs. Listen to it during the witching hour on Halloween and you might just turn into a pumpkin.
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.
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.
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 were always onto a winner with this one.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. It’s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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 song remains a sleeper Halloween hit, and the video finally saw the light of day in recent years.
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.
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.
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.
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 Halloween 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.
Bauhaus: ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’
A Halloween mixtape staple, Bauhaus’ goth classic is the personification of a haunted house. It’s 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.”