It’s that spooky time of year when your spine begins to tingle with a familiar feeling: being judged by your friends based solely on your Halloween playlist.
But fear not — I’ve been refining mine since I was but a wee vampire. If you’re looking for some killer songs for your Halloween playlist that straddle the line between obvious, clever, and retro, you’ve come to the right place.
These old-school songs will fill out your playlist, get the dancefloor howling, and ensure your street cred remains intact for even the toughest Halloween music critics.
Freaks Come Out at Night — Whodini (1984)
While in this case it must mean wearing a leather jacket with way-too-short white jean shorts, you can also easily imagine the undead rising from their graves to get their freak on (in white short shorts, of course).
Every Day is Halloween — Ministry (1987)
If I’m at your house, and you put on your Halloween playlist, and this isn’t the opening track — I will cry. Don’t make me cry.
This is quintessential Goth, proto-industrial, and one of the best Halloween songs ever recorded (it wouldn’t kill them to do a shorter radio edit, though).
Enter Sandman — Metallica (1991)
Doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. Say your prayers and ensure this peak Metallica era hit (yeah I said it) is on your Halloween party playlist.
Also play the riff on your acoustic guitar, because literally everyone should know it.
(Don’t Fear) The Reaper — Blue Oyster Cult (1976)
Here’s my question: Are you supposed to say the parenthetical part of the song title out loud when you read it? Or do you just say, “hey, turn on The Repear.”
Not only is this song from the ultimate blue oyster worshipping band an important and just-right-amount-of-being-clever addition to your playlist, it has exactly the right amount of cowbell.
“Godzilla” from BOC is also an acceptable choice.
Somebody’s Watching Me — Rockwell (1984)
I mean if you’re going to be stalked and think you’re about to get murdered in the shower, at least have it be groovin’. There’s nothing unique about including this song on your playlist, but it’s a banger and it exudes creepy vibes. It has to be there.
Ghostbusters — Ray Parker Jr. (1984)
If this is how songs ripped off from Huey Lewis and the News sound, I say we legalize it.
If this were a ranking of the all-time greatest Halloween songs ever (which it’s not), this one would certainly be a contender. What can I say? Bustin’ makes me feel good.
Shout at the Devil — Mötley Crüe (1983)
A band so metal, they put umlauts in their name.
I mean, Mötley Crüe gets a lot of grief, but this is pretty much straight-up horror metal if you give it a fair shake.
Dead Man’s Party — Oingo Boingo (1985)
If this one isn’t included, your nerd cred will take a significant blow. We all know that.
The overlap of ‘80s Halloween-themed hit plus Danny Elfman makes it required listening at parties. Remember, this is the man who would someday bring us “What’s This?”.
A Nightmare on My Street — DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (1988)
Before he was known as Slappity McSlaps Alot, Will Smith was the Fresh Prince, and he made dorky songs like this one. It’s a fun add, but it does start to wear thin by the end.
Addams Groove — MC Hammer (1991)
According to MC Hammer, the Addams family just don’t give an eff.
They live how they want to live, dance how they want to dance, do what they want to do—you get the idea.
The Killing Moon — Echo & The Bunnymen (1984)
This is just peak Gothy-emo ’80s pop here. And thanks to Donnie Darko, what was already a pretty solid Halloween track is now forever enshrined in creepy vibes.
Runnin’ With the Devil — Van Halen (1978)
Throw your horns up and give praise to David Lee Roth. Just don’t read too much into the lyrics which basically just sound like a really depressed dude explaining how crappy his life is.
Children of the Grave OR Paranoid — Black Sabbath (1971 & 1970)
I mean, they didn’t name themselves Black Sabbath for nothing. Put them on your damn playlist.
I debated which one of these shredders to include, so instead of deciding I’ll make you decide. If you’re more of the “I’m trying to impress others” type, go with “Children of the Grave”. If you’re more of the “I just shotgunned a Coors Light” persuasion, go with “Paranoid”.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf — The Cramps (1980)
Imagine literally any scary movie. There’s a shot that every single one has where the camera is panning out over the town as children gleefully trick or treat—but the audience knows that death is in the air.
Then imagine this song, which itself was inspired by a 1957 horror movie of the same name, playing during that shot.
I rest my case.
Highway to Hell — AC/DC (1979)
Payin’ my dues
Playin’ in a rockin’ band
Say “Today Satan” alongside these ultimate Aussie rockers. Bonus points if you play some air guitar and do the Angus Young walk around the living room.
Sympathy for the Devil — The Rolling Stones (1968)
I don’t know why this song isn’t on more Halloween playlists. I really really don’t.
This is not only a great Halloween song, with its personification of the Devil influencing historical events, it’s just a damn good song.
Holy Diver — Dio (1983)
Not only is this song simply badass, the video is essentially a dark fantasy film that kind of stands up on its own.
Plus Ronnie James Dio didn’t hit it big until so late in life that it still gives many of us continued false hope.
Psycho Killer — Talking Heads (1977)
For those moments when you need to get the dancefloor filled back up, this is one of the most reliably gruesome options out there.
You could also just have David Byrne come to your party and stare at people, which would scare the crap out of any sane person.
The Witch — The Sonics (1965)
Get everyone twisting with this throwback horror-inspired groove.
You can also impress everyone by talking loudly about how The Sonics were a key influence on punk rock and how they don’t get their due credit and then launch into a treatise on MC5 from there. Or just dance around and enjoy it.
Shakin’ All Over – The Guess Who (1965)
When this song comes on it means one of two things: Either it’s a Halloween party or you’re inside a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Sure, it’s ostensibly about how a “swell” girl makes the singer feel, but the vibes work perfectly on All Hallow’s Eve.
Booby Trap — The Dickies (1989)
This song belongs on your Halloween playlist for the sole reason that it’s from the Dickies original soundtrack made for the film (using that term loosely) Killer Klowns From Outer Space.
Werewolves of London — Warren Zevon (1978)
Yes, I know this song was a big part of The Color of Money, but the lyrics are clearly about a real werewolf, complete with talking about a lady who got “mutilated” the night before. Which begs the question: Why not put out a Teen Wolf crossover with Color of Money??