Home Movie John Carpenter’s Best Film Scores, Ranked

John Carpenter’s Best Film Scores, Ranked

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The Incredibly Talented John Charpentier does everything. He acts, directs, writes, produces, and the list goes on. Despite all the fields in which he worked, he is best known for his musical compositions. And while he has worked in a variety of genres, he is most commonly associated with horror and is dubbed as one of the greatest masters of the horror genre.



Carpenter is the mind behind the eerie sounds of movies like Halloween and Fog. He has a knack for being able to up the ante in any scary scene by composing music that really ups the scare factor and sends shivers down your spine. In most of the films he worked on, Carpenter composed or co-composed the music. In addition to his musical film career, he has also released four solo studio albums.

Carpenter’s legacy is enduring and played a major role in influencing other directors, writers, composers and producers like the Duffer Brothers (stranger things), James Wan (Conspiracy) and David F. Sandberg (Curfew).

More recently, Carpenter composed the soundtrack for the Fire starter reboot with his son Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, who were also featured on Carpenter’s solo albums.

With such a long and successful career, let’s recap some of John Carpenter’s best musical scores over the years.

seven Christina (1983)

This 1983 Stephen King adaptation is about a car with a mind of its own and a very jealous and possessive personality towards its owner. Christina is one of those instances where Carpenter conducted and made the music. Not only is it a great adaptation of ’80s King – considering how many there were in the decade – but the musical score fits the movie perfectly. It’s strange, full of suspense and even a little questioning. It also represents the decade to a tee. The almost tiny synth compositions sound like the 1980s.

Upon its release, Christina received generally positive reviews and has become something of a cult classic over the years. There is currently a Christina remake in development, though there are few production details at this time.

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6 Prince of Darkness (1987)

Another 80s horror movie with Carpenter in the director’s chair and handling the score, Prince of Darkness is about a group of physics students who travel to a Catholic church to help a priest investigate a mysterious liquid he found in a vial, which turns out to be the liquid embodiment of Satan. Prince of Darkness is not Carpenter’s best or worst film; rather, it’s somewhere in the middle. It seems to drag on a bit, and when comparing the story and delivery to other Carpenter films, it doesn’t quite measure up. However, it comes with an excellent score.

The music in Prince of Darkness seems to come to you every second of the movie from start to finish. It’s moody and creepy, and Carpenter manages to craft compositions around each scene that fit perfectly and really elevate the horror on screen. Even though Prince of Darkness may not be Carpenter’s best film, the musical score was undeniably effective and was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Music in 1988.


5 Halloween (2018)

Many times the Halloween sequels struggle to measure up to the original, but David Gordon Green (halloween kills) 2018’s sequel, simply titled Halloween, is one of the best. It features Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Michael Myers’ favorite target, as she deals with PTSD from Michael’s past killing spree and prepares to face him again.

Carpenter returned to score this sequel with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, and brought much of the haunting flair that made the original Halloween soundtrack so successful. It’s perfectly chilling and suspenseful and pays homage to its predecessors and the iconic Halloween theme, while maintaining a modern appeal.

Related: Halloween: should the franchise revisit the original anthology plan?


4 Escape from New York (1981)

Escape from New York is a 1981 science fiction action film co-written, co-scored and directed by Carpenter. Escape from New York is set in 1997 New York City and follows former soldier, federal prisoner and anti-hero Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) as he has 24 hours to rescue the President from anti-government rebels in order to be forgiven for his crimes. Upon release, the film was both a commercial and critical success, and became one of Carpenter’s most popular works. It was then followed by the sequel Escape Los Angeles in 1996, but this film did not perform as well as the original.

Carpenter co-signed the film with Alan Howarth, with whom he also worked on Christine, the thing, Halloween IIand Big problem in little China. Escape from New York proved that Carpenter’s talents go beyond horror films and that he can also create an action-packed composition. Carpenter also talked about the possibility of a third installment in the franchise, Escape from Earth.


3 Assault on Compound 13 (1976)

John Carpenter did it all with 1976 Assault on Compound 13, handling the writing, directing, scoring and editing. It’s an action thriller about a neighborhood cop that comes under attack from a local gang after the LAPD kills some of its members. The police station cops eventually regroup with some of their prisoners to defend the station. Assault on Compound 13 initially met with mixed reviews but, of course, became a cult classic over time. It was then remade in 2005 with Ethan Hawke (The black phone) and Laurence Fishburne (The matrix).

The main theme is the most recognizable in this score. It’s groovy and infectious, but intimidating at the same time. Somehow, Carpenter manages to convey all of these emotions, as well as the film’s theme, in an instantly recognizable track. Once you’ve heard it once, you’re left with it.


2 The Fog (1980)

Fog, which premiered in 1980, is a Carpenter smash hit about a mysterious fog that hovers over a coastal California town, bringing vengeful ghosts who were killed in a shipwreck 100 years prior; with the young scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween) alongside his mother, Janet Leigh (psychology). Carpenter co-wrote, produced and composed the music for Fog. Critics didn’t necessarily like Fog upon its release, but despite this, it did well at the box office. Later, however – like most of Carpenter’s films – it became a cult classic and received an influx of more positive reviews. Today, it’s certified fresh with a 75% Rotten Tomato rating.

The score features a very soft synthesized piano melody that builds tension as the film progresses, really emphasizing the scariest scenes. Everything about the score just screams classic horror. Most notable here is the track “Andy on the beach“, where Andy (Ty Mitchell) finds a gold coin and part of a shipwreck on the beach. The eerie and eerie music draws attention to the scene and lets the viewer know that something is about to happen without even say anything.

RELATED:John Carpenter gives his take on the future of the Halloween franchise

1 Halloween (1978)

One of Carpenter’s most successful films is Halloweenwhich premiered in 1978. Beginning as a simple indie slasher film, Halloween was a huge hit with critics and the box office and exploded into a 12-film franchise, including the thirteenth installment, Halloween endspremiering this fall.

Halloween became an instant classic, and its groundbreaking and innovative score is one of the reasons. Carpenter uses his synth piano and organ sounds to create some of the most haunting auras in horror movie history. Each scene explodes with energy, as Carpenter’s compositions bring characters and environments to life. The score itself is rather simple and took Carpenter three days to put together, including the iconic, instantly recognizable Halloween theme. But, despite the simplicity of the score, it left a lasting impression. The elements of the original score and the Halloween theme itself, have made appearances in later sequels in the franchise. The film’s iconic theme song is a Halloween-era classic, guaranteed to still send chills down your spine, even all these years later.