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We can all agree that the spooky szn of Halloween is one of the most beloved holidays. But what songs make the best Halloween playlist? Whether you’re looking for classics or new releases, we have something for everyone on this list of the top 15 Halloween songs.
“Thriller” – Michael Jackson
What is the most popular Halloween song? It has to be this classic from the King of Pop.
Perhaps even better than the song, which was the title track from one of the most popular albums of all time, is the legit scary video. It doesn’t hold up super well anymore, but it’s still a must-see every Halloween.
Plus, dig the appearance from 71-year-old Vincent Price rapping at the end. One of the most famous, and best, Halloween songs.
“Season of the Witch” – Donovan
Although Donovan’s five-minute plunge into gloomy psychedelia from his 1966 album Sunshine Superman is called “season of the witch,” he never explains what he means by the term. Odd, but who cares because its spooky atmosphere says enough, making it good enough for any Halloween 2023 playlist.
The guitar part, played by a pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page, adds welcome undertones, and the song’s description of identity flux in a world gone topsy-turvy sends shivers down the spine.
“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon
The only other song that screams Halloween as much as “Thriller” is Warren Zevon’s fun “Werewolves of London.”
The son of a CIA agent, many of Zevon’s songs have disturbing and chilling storylines that’d make them good additions to this list. Others include “Excitable Boy” and “Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner.”
“Pet Sematary” – The Ramones
Somewhat shockingly, the highest charting song by punk legends The Ramones was “Pet Sematary,” the theme from the movie of the same name. It sounds more like a straightforward 80s pop song than a typical “hey! ho! let’s go!” Ramones track.
Though it doesn’t really feel like a Halloween song, its lyrics and inclusion in the Pet Sematary solidify it as one of the best Halloween songs.
“Boris the Spider” – The Who
When you think of Halloween, you think of creepy crawlies, and this Who track from their 1966 album A Quick One is the ultimate song on the topic.
Dig those “creeepy…crawly…..” backing vocals. They sound simultaneously scary and campy, like the best Halloween movie.
Who bassist John Entwistle, who wrote the song, provides a deep bass sound that is also fitting.
Believe it or not, the Who are still touring over 50 years after their debut.
“Welcome to My Nightmare” – Alice Cooper
Shock rock pioneer Alice Cooper could easily fill this list on his own with Halloween songs like “Feed My Frankenstein” (made famous in Wayne’s World) and “Billion Dollar Babies.”
“Welcome to My Nightmare” stands out from the pack, though, with its piercing horn accompaniment and Cooper’s spine-chilling delivery.
“Red Right Hand” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Murder Ballads, released in 1994, features the smoldering slow-burner “Red Right Hand,” whose title is taken from John Milton’s epic work Paradise Lost and alludes to the apparently furious hand of God.
Due to its high scare value, it has been used in all three Scream movies. It is also one of the best funny Halloween songs.
What is the most played song on Halloween? It’d have to be “Monster Mash” by one-hit wonder Bobby Pickett. This relic of the dance craze era features distinctive vocals and delightful 50s production.
Its story of a Frankenstien-like doctor partying with monsters is peak Halloween.
“Country Death Song” – Violent Femmes
You won’t find this on many best Halloween songs lists!
The Femmes deviated from their usual sparse folk-punk bubblegum frenzy and teen angst for this incredibly eerie country ballad. The jubilant tune is from the trio’s Blister in the Sun.
Gordon Gano’s nasal wailing, the Southern gothic atmosphere, and the gloomy backdrop combine for an improbable spine-chilling experience.
Nightmare on My Street – Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff
Before he was busy slapping awards show hosts in the face, and even before his popular sitcom, Will Smith was a relatively popular rapper.
There aren’t many rap songs to put on a best Halloween songs list, but this is certainly one of them. It’s one of the best fun, campy Halloween tunes.
“Suspiria” – Goblin
Italian avant-garde/prog-rock/jazz band Goblin created this wonderful (re: frightening) companion to “Tubular Bells.”
In addition to being an excellent mood builder, the music in “Suspiria” is the stuff of nightmares. Especially if you’d like a more “Seventh Circle of Hell”-like atmosphere than a “Monster Mash.”
“This is Halloween” – Danny Elfman
Elfman perfected his unique horror-tinged musicality with Oingo Boingo, but he let loose on this smash hit that kicks off The Nightmare Before Christmas. Its jingle-jangle craziness and chorus of ghouls guarantees its inclusion on any best Halloween songs list.
“I Put a Spell On You” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
A classic that many consider the first Halloween song ever written, “I Put a Spell On You” is one of the all-time greats.
The song, which Hawkins claims he does not recall recording, officially added the Screamin’ to his divinely bestowed name.
Some of his famous antics include emerging from a coffin onstage, wearing a black cloak, tusks protruding from his nose, and frequent use of a smoking skull named Henry. He also has a memorable appearance in underrated classic movie Mystery Train.
“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – Bauhaus
If you’re looking for an underrated horror film to add to your list of movies, look no further than 1983’s The Hunger. David Bowie is in it for crying out loud.
The movie’s beginning features this song from art-house band Bauhaus as the main characters get into all sorts of dark shenanigans in a club. It’s as frightening as the song itself is.
“Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell
Considering his famous song, I wonder what Rockwell (actual name Kenneth Gordy) would make of today’s Internet age, where governments, news outlets, and malicious hackers are likely monitoring your every move.
Michael Jackson, Rockwell’s friend, provides the “Thriller”-esque hook.