The 10 Greatest Horror Movie Needle Drops

Nothing sets the mood -- even if it's a scary one -- like the perfect song choice.

Needle Drop
Shutterstock

5. “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” by Tiny Tim – Insidious (2011)

Insidious

Tiny Tim doesn’t need help to be creepy. I mean, have you seen Blood Harvest? But while his act, his warbly sharp tenor, and general demeanor do not conjure images of summer breeze and lounging in the grass, his music does. Which is why it’s perfect to juxtapose this concoction of strangeness with something meant to be scary. In Insidious, James Wan’s maturation of form that would become his career’s second act, the film’s respectability gives Tiny Tim’s song “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” an otherworldly feel. Like it doesn’t belong in the films universe, much like Insidious’ many demons and ghosts. You can’t put your finger on why it’s out of place, it just is. And that’s what makes it perfect. (Jacob Trussell)


4. “Blue Moon” by The Marcels, Sam Cooke, and Bobby Vinton – An American Werewolf in London (1981)

American Werewolf

Three versions of “Blue Moon” play over the course of An American Werewolf In London. The first is supplied by The Polish Prince, Bobby Vinton, during the opening credits. The last occurs the moment the inevitable tragedy cuts to black and the closing credits slam courtesy of doo-wop legends, The Marcels. But the one we’re here to champion is Sam Cooke‘s aching ballad that whispers atop David Naughton‘s outrageously painful transformation into the beast. The tourist is finally free from the hospital, but he’s found his way into the bed of Nurse Alex (Jenny Agutter), where she can continue to tend to his wounds of the heart as well as those resulting from his lupine assault on the moors. She’s gone off to work, however, and the big blue marble arches into the sky. Now David fully understands that his zombie friend Jack (Griffin Dunne) was no mere figment, but a genuine harbinger of doom. Rick Baker‘s artistry rips, tears, and savages David’s body, and all the kid can do his whimper out an apology, “I’m sorry I called you meatloaf, Jack.” The agony is amplified even further by the presence of Cooke acting as this bittersweet transition from newfound romance to apocalyptic horror. (Brad Gullickson)


3. “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield – The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist

In May of 1973, Mike Oldfield released his debut studio album. An instrumental album containing just two tracks, it was met with little to no fanfare. Seven months later it blew up when one of the songs was used as the main theme in William Friedkin’s classic The Exorcist. Despite never being intended for use in a film, let alone a horror film, the track has become one of the most iconic within the genre right up alongside Carpenter’s Halloween and Herrmann’s Psycho. The moment the first haunting note rings from those eerie bells we’re instantly pulled into Regan’s possessed world. You can’t ask a needle drop to do much more than that. (Chris Coffel)


2. “Nazi Punks, Fuck Off” by Dead Kennedys (cast cover) – Green Room (2016)

Green Room

Song cues in movies typically come in the form of the film’s soundtrack, but as the protagonists of Green Room are a punk band it’s fitting that writer/director Jeremy Saulnier gives them the best needle drop. “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” sets the stage perfectly between our spunky, likable heroes and the Nazi pricks who they’re about to face off against. It’s a rallying cry they didn’t even know they were making, and it makes the life and death battle that follows that much more relevant. And not for nothing, but it’s a message we can all get behind too. (Rob Hunter)


1. “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News – American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho

Hey, it’s a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. Thankfully we have the titular pop culture obsessed maniac to walk us through the irony-laced Top 40 tune before he drops an ax in dumb drunk Paul Allen (Jared Leto)’s noggin. Huey Lewis famously regretted how “Hip to be Square” was received by the masses upon release. When he changed the point of view from the third person to the first person, he confused a whole bunch of people into thinking that the song was an anthem celebrating conformity. The chumps who chanted along from their McMansion stereo systems were the same dolts who ra-ra’d the red, white, and blue to Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born in the U.S.A.” For some reason, the masses never dig deeper than the refrain. That’s why we have Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) to chop through the idiocy and celebrate the message of the music, man. (Brad Gullickson)

Red Dots

That sound you here is the audible joy of clicking on more entries in our 31 Days of Horror Lists!

Val is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer, TV lover, and cheese plate enthusiast. You can find her @aandeandval wherever social media accounts are sold.