What’s a scary movie without the perfect, haunting score? Try watching one on mute – you’ll quickly find that the movie becomes, well, not particularly scary at all!


When it comes to scary scores, there’s one composer whose work almost everyone knows, even though most people don’t know his name: Bernard Hermann. Hermann was the composer of many scores during his career, including for some of history’s greatest scary movies, such as Cape Fear with Gregory Peck and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Vertigo.

🤫 He also composed scores for some other little films you might have heard of, like Citizen Kane and Taxi Driver.

Hermann’s originality in composing scores carved his place in movie history. With Psycho, for example, he left behind the soaring orchestral tones that traditionally were associated with film to instead create tension using a strings-only arrangement. It was an innovation that soon became common for thrillers.

While Hermann was skilled in classical composing, he also wasn’t afraid to break new ground, such as with his use of electronic instruments in an era when such sounds were still quite novel. For example, in addition to electric strings and organs, Hermann used the theremin as a key part of the score in 1951’s science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Hermann’s legacy extends past his own films and includes all of the composers who were inspired by his work. Famed composers John Williams, Howard Shore, Stephen Sondheim, and many more have cited him as having influenced their lives. Danny Elfman, who has written the scores for over 100 feature films, put it eloquently in speaking about seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still as a kid:

“The movie began and from the first moment, I was hooked. That in itself was not that unusual, but I came to realize that it was the music that was doing it. And I suppose that I was suddenly aware of its power, and more importantly, that it did not just make itself — as I had more or less assumed — but was created by someone. Of course, that person was the incredible Bernard Herrmann.”

So whether you’re gathering with a bunch of scary movie buffs or just want to add a bit of musical thrill to your night, you can’t go wrong by leaning on music from the great Bernard Hermann (check out this playlist).

Happy Halloween 👻,