Movies & TV / Columns

The Top 5 John Carpenter Soundtracks: Halloween, Vampires, More

August 28, 2020 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween

The Top 5 John Carpenter Soundtracks


Not that long ago I did a Top 5 Best John Carpenter Movie Themes (you can read it here, in case you missed it). As soon as I finished the list I thought, at some point, I should do a Top 5 Best John Carpenter Movie Soundtracks list, meaning which full soundtracks are the best from the director/writer/composer. He’s done so many and, in general, they’re all great, but which ones were the best? Which ones do I like to listen to simply as music?

And so, without any further what have you, here are my Top 5 John Carpenter Movie Soundtracks.

Honorable Mentions

Escape from New York: This is one of the first Carpenter scores that I bought and, after listening to the opening theme about a million times, I really dug into the rest of the music. Even though this collaboration with Alan Howarth is for an action thriller, this soundtrack can be oddly calming. Even the goofy “Everyone’s Coming to New York.”

Halloween II: Another collaboration with Alan Howarth, this soundtrack is eerie as hell. It’s really all in the organ. Adding that sound to the classic Halloween sound just makes you feel uneasy.

Halloween (2018): I despise this movie, but the soundtrack Carpenter did with his son Cody and Daniel Davies is very cool. It’s essentially the original Halloween soundtrack amped up with rocking guitars and other ass kicking elements. “Halloween Triumphant” is one of the best things Carpenter has ever done.


5- Halloween: This is an absolute classic soundtrack. It has the iconic Halloween theme, the contemplative “Laurie’s Theme,” and, to a certain extent, the soundtrack is just reworked versions of those two themes. You would think that would get repetitive, but it doesn’t. Carpenter manages to get a lot out of what he composes. The best, most badass part of the soundtrack, though? The final track, “The Shape Stalks,” Is three minutes of white knuckle suspense. When I listen to this soundtrack every Halloween I make sure to crank up this last bit of music.

See what I mean? Holy shit.


4-. Escape from L.A.: Carpenter collaborated with composer Shirley Walker for this misunderstood sci-fi action sequel and created something that’s both hard rocking and epic. The soundtrack starts with, essentially, rock music, with the theme from Escape from New York reworked and amped up. “Snakes Uniform” is one of the best things Carpenter has done (how can you not dig that song?). But as the soundtrack goes on you start to hear more and more orchestra pieces mixed with the synth and guitar stuff, and by the end you have a gigantic score (listen to “Escape from Happy Kingdom” to experience just how gigantic this score gets). My favorite bits of music, though, on the soundtrack are the opening theme, “Snakes Uniform,” “Submarine Launch,” and “Showdown.” Just an amazing score.


3- Assault on Precinct 13: This is another seemingly simple Carpenter score that really only includes a few pieces of music and themes that keep repeating over and over again. Just like the Halloween score, though, the repetition isn’t a bad thing. Carpenter manages to do so much with so little and creates two of the best themes he’s ever done, the Main Title theme (his best piece of music hands down) and the sad and contemplative “Julie’s Theme.” Go ahead and listen to that outside while standing on your porch and look out. You feeling like Lt. Ethan Bishop? You goddamn know you do.


2-. Ghosts of Mars : This is, so far, the final soundtrack Carpenter put together for one of his own movies that he directed and it will melt your fucking face off. Why? Because Carpenter worked with thrash metal Gods Anthrax, kick ass guitarist Buckethead, the great Steve Vai, and Robin Finck to create one of the few true blue heavy metal movie soundtracks. It’s insane how much this soundtrack kicks ass. It starts with a terrific Carpenter theme, and then the rest of the soundtrack is just heavy metal bliss. The end titles theme “Kick Ass” is six minutes of head banging awesomeness, and the amazing “Pam Grier’s Head” is something I’m surprised more podcasts and radio show hosts don’t use as their own bumper music. If you’re a metal fan you have to get this soundtrack.


1- Vampires: John Carpenter’s Vampires is the closest thing to a western that Carpenter directed in his career and the soundtrack expresses that, just in case you didn’t get it while watching the movie. Teaming up with various musicians (they’re known as “The Texas Toad Lickers” and you can see who they are here), Carpenter created something that’s hard rocking, bluesy, and sublime. There are so many great “still” pieces of music on this soundtrack (“Santiago” is terrific). But the songs you will likely remember the most include the opening theme “Slayers,” “Motel Sex” (it sounds exactly like its title sounds), “Stake and Burn” (from the scene where Jack Crow beheads his dead fellow slayers), “Cruel Highway” (you will air guitar the fuck out of this) and “Padre’s Wood,” the song that plays over the end credits. I can still hear the thumping beat I heard while listening to this in the movie theatre. Just amazing stuff. I hope Carpenter gets to create something equally as good in the future.


Thanks for reading. Agree? Disagree? Sign up with disqus and comment. You know you want to, so just go do it.

Please “like” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column on Facebook!

Oh, and B-movies rule. Always remember that.