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The best uses of popular songs in modern horror movie trailers, ranked

It’s official: M3GAN is a hit, grossing over $45 million in its opening weekend. A good reason why the movie resonated with audiences was its meme-worthy trailer, which paired horrific murders with TikTok dance moves and a popular song from a well-known artist (Taylor Swift).

These days, horror movie trailers tend to take popular and even lighthearted songs and twist them into dark and haunting numbers. This serves as an effective tool for getting audiences frightened but also interested in seeing such films. Some trailers have succeeded in this trend with their fitting and sometimes unusual film choices, making them just as memorable as the films themselves.

8. It’s Nice to Have a Friend (M3GAN)

M3GAN - official trailer

The trailer for Blumhouse’s latest cinematic outing M3GAN shows an orphaned girl, Cady, becoming best friends with the titular android doll, who’s a bit too protective of her.

As M3GAN hunts her prey and lays down some unsettling dance moves, Taylor Swift’s song It’s Nice to Have a Friend plays in the background, serving as an ironic companion to all the mayhem and murder M3GAN unleashes for her friend. Who would’ve thought the perpetually innocent Swift song would serve as a compelling soundtrack to a movie about a killer doll?

7. Every Breath You Take (2016’s Blair Witch)

Blair Witch (2016 Movie) - Official Trailer

This iconic number from The Police was unsettling enough as a deceptively catchy stalker song. But pairing it with images of the cast of Blair Witch exploring the woods and getting pursued by an evil force is especially haunting.

The cover of Every Breath You Take that plays in this trailer makes it seem like the audience is following the movie’s characters through the eyes of the Blair Witch and that the song is being sung by her, showing how they can’t escape her demonic wrath.

6. Perfect Day (You’re Next)

You're Next Official Trailer #1 (2013) - Horror Movie HD

The trailer for this cult horror film starts off looking like the perfect family gathering. But things quickly turn into a horrible nightmare when an arrow flies through a window, killing one of the partygoers.

As killers in animal masks break into the house, the night becomes far from perfect, and Lou Reed’s renowned song is an effective contrast for such a brutal slasher fest.

5. I Think We’re Alone Now (10 Cloverfield Lane)

10 Cloverfield Lane Official Trailer #1 (2016) - Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman Movie HD

The trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane begins with a trio of people enjoying their days in an underground shelter as music plays on the jukebox. The song in question, performed by Tommy James & The Shondells, fits well with the cast’s predicament.

While the three of them are alone in their bunker, it becomes clear that Michelle and Emmett are also alone with the dangerously volatile Howard. This sets up an intense battle for survival that makes the audience question what’s really outside of the shelter and if they are truly alone.

4. Fingertips Pt. 2 (Nope)

NOPE - Official Trailer

At this point, Jordan Peele has mastered the art of taking popular songs and turning them into frightening anthems. This was the case in his first trailer for Nope, which used Stevie Wonder’s upbeat song, Fingertips Pt. 2, to set up the arrival of what appears to be a UFO.

Though it sounds like the music is urging everyone to say “Yeah” to this alien visitor, it is clear from this trailer that everyone should say “nope” as it shows this UFO causes havoc and unease wherever it goes.

3. Say My Name (2021’s Candyman)

Candyman - Official Trailer (Universal Pictures) HD

Not a lot of people would think that a song by Destiny’s Child would be used for a scary movie, but the horror genre makes fools out of everyone.

Say My Name‘s lyrics fit perfectly with the return of Candyman, as those who dare say his name are all ripped apart by the vengeful spirit. As a result, Nia DaCosta’s reboot demands that it be seen with this sneak preview, which makes it sound like chanting the killer’s name will make the movie pop up in theaters.

2. Dream A Little Dream of Me (Doctor Sleep)

STEPHEN KING'S DOCTOR SLEEP - Final Trailer [HD]

One would be forgiven for not recognizing the tune during the second half of Doctor Sleep‘s first trailer. Instead of using any lyrics, Dream A Little Dream of Me plays like a religious hymn heralding the return of Dan Torrance and his mystical shine in this preview video.

Such a tune mixes well with surreal and mind-bending visuals that flash on-screen, capturing the nightmarish odyssey that Dan is forced to make as he is forced to confront the ghosts of his past and the monsters of his present.

1. I Got 5 on It (Us)

Us - Official Trailer [HD]

To think that a song about smoking weed could become so terrifying. Director Jordan Peele gave the world their first glimpse into his second film with this old-school song from rapper Luniz.

Though this laid-back tune works well with the family’s relaxing beach vacation, its tone takes a turn for the worse as the Wilsons find themselves targeted by their evil doppelgängers. The aptly-titled “Tethered Mix” of I Got 5 on It sends chills creeping down the viewer’s spine as images of the Tethered’s reign of terror flash on-screen.

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Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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