It’s that time of year again where ghouls and ghosts come out to play and the likes of Michael Myers and Freddy Kruger do their best work. If you’re planning a Halloween costume party you need more than just a few carved pumpkins and bowls of candy to keep your guests entertained. You’ll need a killer playlist to keep everyone on the dancefloor and shaking their behind until well into the early morning.
But what makes a good Halloween playlist?
It’s a combination of truly horrifying tracks with dancefloor hits and a few songs with tenuous Halloween links. You’ll want a mix of creepy, eerie tracks like Slayer’s Raining Blood and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Stagger Lee, party starters like Kanye West’s Monster and Rihanna’s Disturbia, and good old fashioned Halloween favorites like Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers’ classic Monster Mash.
So grab a goblet of your favorite red-colored drink, put your fake fangs in place, and get ready to boogie with this cauldron of Halloween bangers.
1. Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
“Guess what? I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell,” uttered Christopher Walken in one of the funniest SNL skits of all time. The comedy bit helped a new generation of music lovers discover Blue Oyster Cult’s classic 1976 psychedelic rocker about eternal love and the inevitability of death. Plus any song about the Grim Reaper deserves a spot on a Halloween playlist.
2. The Cranberries – Zombie
Although this is a protest song, it certainly suits the Halloween theme. Zombie put The Cranberries on the map in 1994 when it hit the airwaves and charted at number one in America, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, and Iceland. It’s an alt-rock classic worthy of any playlist.
3. The Eagles – Witchy Woman
Best remembered as the tune Elaine suggests her new boyfriend Brett make their song, Witchy Woman is one of the Eagles’ earliest hits. The cruisey rocker is about a seductive temptress and is influenced by novelist Zelda Fitzgerald, books on shamanism, and a girl Don Henly knew who was interested in the occult.
4. Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath’s early doom metal songs are steeped in death, destruction, and the occult, with Black Sabbath based on Geezer Butler meeting Satan. There was a period where Butler was obsessed with dark and evil things and given a book on the occult by Ozzy Osbourne. Putting the book on his shelf after reading it, Butler woke in the middle of the night to be confronted by a black figure at the end of his bed. The figure vanished and took Butler’s book with him. When he relayed this story to Osbourne, he wrote the lyrics for what would become Black Sabbath.
5. Kanye West – Monster (ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, & Nicki Minaj)
Taken from Kanye West’s incredibly successful My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, this track is heavily influenced by horror films and features a wild collection of artists. While this is a West record, it’s Nicki Minaj who shines brightest, captivating with her freaky voices and alluring wordplay that cemented her as a modern-day great. The film clip is also scary as all hell.
6. Outkast – Dracula’s Wedding (ft. Kelis)
Andre 3000 takes on the role of Dracula and Kelis is his bride in this funky synth banger about the two getting married.
7. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Stagger Lee
Many of Nick Cave’s lyrics live in the murky, dark side of humanity, with Stagger Lee no exception. The song is a reimagining of the classic Stagger Lee folk tune and depicts Lee’s murder of rival William “Billy” Lyons on Christmas eve, 1895. This murder ballad is best played later in the evening when the party is dying down.
8. Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers – The Monster Mash
A Halloween staple, nothing will get you in the murderous spirit of October 31 then this classic from Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers. The Monster Mash is easily one of the most recognized Halloween tunes and has been covered by everyone from punk outfit The Misfits to California surf rockers The Beach Boys.
9. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Heads Will Roll (A-Track Remix)
While the original is great, this remix from A-Track adds a sparkly dancefloor edge that’s sure to have everyone up and about.
10. Rihanna – Disturbia
While there’s nothing spooky about Rihanna, Disturbia does explore some dark themes over a tasty beat. Although written by her scumbag ex Chris Brown, RiRi interpreted the song as a look at mental anguish, anxiety, and confusion. You certainly get this feeling when watching the film clip that depicts Rihanna dancing and singing in locations such as a prison cell and gas chamber.
11. Van Halen – Runnin’ With the Devil
One of Van Halen’s best was considered a satanic song when first released in 1978, but if you read the lyrics, it can be interpreted as a song about the touring life of a young musician. It’s got a killer bassline and is a rocking tune that showcases David Lee Roth’s incredible vocals.
12. Santana – Black Magic Woman
While Fleetwood Mac’s original is fantastic, Santana’s cover is even better. Crafting a melody of Black Magic Woman with Gábor Szabó’s 1966 instrumental Gypsy Queen, Santana transforms the track into a jazz meets blues-rock expression that ended up becoming one of Santana’s biggest hits.
13. The Rocky Horror Picture – Time Warp
Another Halloween staple is Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s one everyone will enjoy dancing along to, with most people sure to know some of the dance steps.
14. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
Although it started as a joke, Werewolves of London would arguably end up being the late, great Warren Zevon’s calling card. It makes the ideal addition to any Halloween playlist, with lines about a “hairy-handed gent who ran amok in Kent” who likes eating a “big dish of beef chow mein.”
15. Michael Jackson – Thriller
Thriller is not just a fantastic song, but one that has become somewhat of a pop-culture touchstone. From Michael Jackson’s “ohs” and “ahs” to Vincent Price’s narration, this is a monster disco meets pop tune like none other. Then there’s the film clip; a near 14-minute mini-movie with some of the best-choreographed dancing ever seen in a music video. An absolute classic sure to get party-goers on the dance floor.
16. Shakira – She Wolf
Remember Shakira? The Colombian songstress was everywhere in the early to mid-00s with hits such as Whenever, Wherever and Underneath Your Clothes. In 2009 she dropped the dancey She Wolf, a bonkers pop song about a werewolf looking for her next conquest. It’s accompanied by a mesmerizing film clip featuring Shakira dancing in various locations.
17. Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters (Theme)
The 80s gave us some of the best movie theme songs of all time, with Ghostbusters easily being in the top 10. Written and performed by Ray Parker Jr., it’s a synth-pop ditty that spent three weeks at number one and is a tune that fits in with the Halloween season. The film clip is also a blast, with several cameos from famous comedians including Chevy Chase and John Candy.
18. The Ramones – Pet Semetary
Proving just how strange show business is, author Stephen King enlisted his favorite band, The Ramones, to write a song for the film adaptation of his hit novel Pet Semetary. The song turned out to be the biggest charting single for The Ramones and introduced them to a new generation of punk rockers. While it’s far from the crash and bash punk rock of their early days, Pet Semetary is a memorable 80s rocker with a killer melody.
19. Eminem – The Monster (ft. Rihanna)
The fourth collaboration between Marshall Mathers and Rihanna is a rap-pop crossover where Em contemplates the monster that is his alter ego, Slim Shady. Eminem delivers as always while RiRi’s vocals complement his aggressive raps.
20. Alice Cooper – Feed My Frankenstein
There are a bunch of Alice Cooper songs that could have ended up on this playlist, such as Welcome To My Nightmare and Billion Dollar Babies, but I’ve gone with the synth-heavy Feed My Frankenstein. While it seems to be a song about Frankenstein needing to be feed, it’s also said to be Cooper talking about his libido that needs fulfilling. Either way, it’s a fantastic song and notable for being the first time Cooper collaborated with Joe Satriani and Steve Vai on the same track.
21. Misfits – Halloween
Similar to Alice Cooper, you could include a dozen tracks by the Misfits, but it’s hard to go past Halloween. Not only is the title of the song relevant, but this a rollicking, two-minute dose of horror punk contains lines about pumpkin faces, candy apples with razor blades, and burning bodies hanging from poles. This one is sure to get the party rocking.
22. Stevie Wonder – Superstition
This song takes me back to my time living in the UK as a 21-year-old. I spent six months in the coastal town of Newquay and would frequent a venue known as the Sky Bar. Without fail, Superstition would get played every night and result in the dance floor turning into a heaving mass of sweaty bodies. It was delightful. It also makes a great Halloween song.
23. Backstreet Boys – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
We are so far removed from the height of Backstreet Boys fame that we can enjoy just sitting back, while EVERYBODY sings this at the top of their lungs.
24. Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me
Another 80s gem, Somebody’s Watching Me is an electro tale of paranoia notable for featuring backing vocals from Michael Jackson and his brother Jermaine Jackson.
25. Talking Heads – Psycho Killer
The song that made the world take notice of Talking Heads delves into the mind of a serial killer. Originally written and performed as a ballad, the band turned Psycho Killer into a new wave banger that includes David Byrne’s compelling vocals, a pulsating bassline, and a bridge sung in French.
26. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
The title track from the album of the same name, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) finds Bowie singing about a women’s descent into madness. This track is notable for its post-punk sound and Robert Fripp’s exceptional guitar work.
27. Donovan – Season of the Witch
Donovan ditched his playful folk murmurings for a psychedelic rocker on Season of the Witch. While it has nothing to do with witches, the song does express Donovan’s psychological demons that haunted him during the spring of 1966 when he was arrested for pot.
28. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
One of the greatest heavy metal tracks, The Number of the Beast had religious groups up in arms when it was released in 1982. A pounding 80s guitar rocker, the song was a massive hit and has become Iron Maiden’s most well-known track.
29. Greenskeepers – Lotion
Any song referencing the iconic Silence of the Lambs line “it puts the lotion on its skin, or it gets the hose again,” deserves a spot on a Halloween list, even more so given the song is brilliant. Maybe don’t sing this one in front of the kids.
30. Cosmo Jarvis – Love This
A whole film clip with a dude rocking a devil get up surrounded by angels. Sounds Halloween-friendly to me.
31. AC/DC – Highway to Hell
Bon Scott era AC/DC will always be my favorite, and this track from the album of the same name is rifftastic! Although it’s about the hardships of touring, the chorus has very horror-themed lyrics, even if it’s just the title repeated over and over.
32. Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On
There’s nothing quite like Halloween dress-ups to unleash the freak in you. Might as well get this banger in your ears while it’s happening.
33. Timbaland – Morning After Dark (ft. Nelly Furtado & Soshy)
There was a point in time during the naughties that if you wanted a hit, you dialed Timbaland to deliver it. This vampire-themed clip is a good song over a cracking beat, and you get to see Timbaland make a whole bunch of funny faces. It’ll get you dancing…
34. Cry Little Sister – The Lost Boys (Theme)
80s classic The Lost Boys was my introduction to vampires (and icons like Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, and the Coreys) . Cry Little Sister will take you on a haunting trip down memory lane.
35. Marilyn Manson – The Beautiful People
You could argue that MM’s entire career is one long Halloween party. It’s been over 20 years since The Beautiful People was released, yet it still gets the blood pumping. Bonus points for the creepy clip too!
36. Bauhaus – Bel Lugosi’s Dead
In case you didn’t know, Bel Lugosi is dead. That’s the message English post-punkers Bauhaus wanted everyone to know when they released this nine-and-a-half-minute epic in 1979.
37. Slayer – Raining Blood
A thrash metal classic, Raining Blood depicts the overthrow of Heaven by a vengeful man, with the title representing the angels’ blood falling on him. Nice.
38. DJ Jazzy Jeff & Will Smith – A Nightmare on My Street
Although not associated with the Friday the 13th film franchise, this track finds Will Smith discussing an encounter he had with Freddy Kruger, who he calls Fred.
39. Busta Rhymes – Break Ya Neck
In the 2002 so bad it’s so good film Halloween: Resurrection, rapper Busta Rhymes kicked the shit out of Michael Myers by doing kung fu. Nobody else on the list has this achievement to their name, and this song slaps.
40. Die Antwoord – I Fink U Freeky
There comes a time in your playlist when you need to kick it up a notch. South African dance killers Die Antwoord provide the perfect opportunity with numerous suitable tracks, but this one is arguably the weirdest. Make sure you wait for the drop before you really cut loose.
41. Screaming Jay Hawkins – I Put a Spell on You
Despite saying he doesn’t remember recording the song, I Put a Spell on You is Screaming Jay Hawkins’s most well-known song. To capitalize on the song, Hawkins would appear onstage rising out of a coffin wearing a cape, tusks in his nose, and accompanied by a cigarette smoking skull named Henry. It sounds corny but it worked and helped Hawkins become a massive name and the song itself a Halloween mainstay.
42. Filter and the Crystal Method – Can’t You Trip Like I D0
1997s Spawn is a terrible movie – sorry Michael Jai White – with an exceptional soundtrack. Many of the songs would fit right in on a Halloween playlist. This belter from Filter and the Crystal Method will bring back some memories or might be the catalyst for some new ones.
43. Rob Zombie – Dragula
Inspired by the name of Grandpa Munster’s dragster on The Munsters, this song doesn’t seem to have much to do with drag racing but does have plenty of horror references. The aptly named Zombie sings about digging ditches and burning witches over an industrial metal composition. The film clip is pretty trippy too.
44. Ministry – (Every Day Is) Halloween
A goth anthem of the 80s, I’ve no doubt many horror fans would love every day to be Halloween.
45. John Carpenter – Halloween Theme
When the witching hour has come and gone and you’re ready for bed, there’s no better way to get your guests out of your house than by putting on the theme from Halloween. A menacing synth dagger to the chest, director John Carpenter’s theme will have you checking your closest to make sure Michael Myers isn’t hiding in wait.