The 10 Scariest Music Videos of All Time

A lot of mainstream horror entertainment these days emphasizes creepy jumps and grotesque imagery rather than something arguably more impactful: crushing goosebumps.

Of course, violence, gore and overall shock can be important (like strong thread recognized in a prior list). However, the biggest reward comes from creating more subtle visuals and atmospheres that are extraordinarily unnerving.

Luckily, the 10 entries on this list exemplify how it’s done, as they use a variety of techniques — like nasty makeup, gruesome situations, and off-putting directing and editing styles — to really get under your skin.

As a 1972s slogan The last house on the left Put it on, keep repeating, “It’s just a music video. It’s just a video clip. It’s only . . .”

  • Sweet Death, “Get Out”

    Taken from 2019 Big Blue“Step Out” is a catchy and accessible song that is characteristic of Canadian indie/punk rockers Dead Soft.

    Therefore, you’d expect Lester Lyons-Hookham’s accompanying music video to be just as inviting – and you’d be dead wrong. Instead, the early ’90s pastoral vibe and setting contradict its disturbing tale of a couple kidnapped and murdered in the woods of a strange town.

    There’s blood at the end, but the phantasmagoria lies in its fragmented snapshots of mischief and doom. Like with blue velvet, lake of eden and Disappearancethere is a sinister under the idyllic surface that is impossible to forget.

  • Dir En Grey, “Dark”

    It’s an obvious inclusion, but that doesn’t mean it’s unwarranted. On the contrary, the Japanese avant-garde troupe Dir En Gray fills every moment with chilling and brutal performances.

    It begins by showing Geishas moving erratically and continues by depicting various instances of body horror, ritual ceremonies, taboo sex acts, malevolent clowning and much more. Plus, singer Kyo moves robotically and looks like a possessed zombie, so his mere presence makes “Obscure” an essential pick.

    If the band was aiming for a terrifying homage to cyberpunk horror from Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto and Shozin Fukui, they totally nailed it.

  • Rammstein, “Mein Herz Brent”

    Part of the reason people love Rammstein is because they can be both playful and petrifying.

    With “Mein Herz Bernnt” (“My heart is burning”), they lean definitively in the latter camp. Extract from the 2001 seminal whisperhis lyrical exploration of nightmares is fully realized in Zoran Bihać’s video.

    Along with other harrowing situations, it sees leader Till Lindemann kidnapping – and subsequently experimenting on – a class of orphans. He also becomes an insect-like creature, and the dominant combination of otherworldly masks and white and red lighting heightens the anxiety.

    Appropriately, Bihać gave the piano version a slightly less scary rendition.

  • Chelsea Wolfe, “Wild Love”

    Singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe is no stranger to the macabre, as she frequently dabbles in the looks and sounds of gothic rock and doom metal. Even so, his music video for the 2013 intro track pain is beauty is surprisingly strange.

    An excerpt from his film collaboration with director Mark Pellington, Only, his first shot — a Wolfe with a white face adorned with black eyes — is instantly disturbing. Then, her performance in front of the ruins of a building is interrupted by a collage of eerie images (bloody tissue, people wearing animal heads, ghostly binoculars and inscrutable home movies). It’s artfully experimental and utterly appalling.

  • Mr. Bungle, “Quote Unquote” aka “Travolta”

    Few metal acts are as delightfully goofy as Mr. Bungle, and while “Quote Unquote” — or “Travolta” — certainly taps into that madness, it also delivers plenty of unnerving segments.

    In a nutshell, he brings the menacing carnivalesque essence of the song to life by relishing in skewed camera angles and disturbingly psychedelic vistas. There are dead-eyed dolls, a deranged costume dance party, hints of sadomasochism, and the band themselves hanging lifelessly from meat hooks. Meanwhile, flashing lights and weird filters increase the discomfort.

    Upon release, it was banned by MTV due to its disturbing nature. We can’t say we blame them.

  • Oingo Boingo, “Madness”

    Today, Danny Elfman is touted as a premier film composer, but his work with Oingo Boingo deserves equal recognition. In fact, the 1994 farewell LP (boingo) is perhaps their greatest work, and a big reason for that is its ingeniously creepy opener, “Insanity,” and even creepier visual adaptation.

    Without a doubt, Fred Stuhr’s stop-motion monkeys, devils and dolls are inherently appalling; however, we can see what they are doing. In contrast, it’s Elfman himself (singing with gleeful mischief in a dark lair) who remains oddly mischievous. What is he doing there, and how are these little girls involved?

    In fact, we don’t want to know.

  • Cradle of Filth, “Babalon AD (So Glad for the Madness)”

    As well as exuding the band’s alarming brand of extreme metal, the video for “Babalon AD (So Glad for the Madness)” is an overt homage to one of the most heartbreaking films of all time: Pier Paolo Pasolini. Salò or the 120 days of Sodom.

    Given this, the central plot (Cradle of Filth abusing several young men and women in a mansion while dressed as aristocrats) makes a lot more sense. Of course, it’s still scary as hell, especially since the narrative framing device – a maid watching old footage on a discarded camcorder – adds a layer of authenticity and plausibility.

  • “Parabola” tool

    Let’s face it: pretty much all of Tool’s music videos are mesmerizing and disreputable. That said, none match the chilling weirdness of “Parabola” from Lateral.

    Led by the band’s resident guitarist and graphic designer, Adam Jones, it kicks off with hideous businessmen eating (then regurgitating) fruit in an otherwise hopelessly empty place. Afterwards, a series of animated, live-action people and shapes (including a tentacle-riddled Tricky) plague other deserted blue rooms and forests. Its onslaught of abject abstractions can only leave viewers agitated, and it’s this macabre ambiguity that gives it the edge over its brethren.

  • Pop will be eaten, “Ich Bin Ein Auslander”

    Like Danny Elfman, Clint Mansell fronted a one-off rock band (Pop Will Eat Itself) before writing hit movie scores (namely, Requiem for a Dream“Lux Aeterna”). The band has often conveyed a colorful and approachable vibe, which is why “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” (“I’m a Stranger”) is so atypically horrifying.

    Sure, everything shot in negative is terrifying, but what brings it home is Mansell’s whole devilish smile. He stares at the camera with demonic delight, capitalizing on the inherent weirdness of ghostly music and oversized instruments.

    Surely that kept many kids – myself included – awake at night in the mid-90s.

  • Aphex Twin, “Come to Daddy” (Director’s Cut)

    When it comes to choosing the scariest music video of all time, there can only be one answer: Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy.”

    Made in collaboration with Chris Cunningham long before “Rubber Johnny” came out, its initial setup (an elderly woman walking her dog in a deserted area) is quite odd.

    Moments later, the pair are chased by a group of children wearing identical Aphex Twin (Richard D. James) masks. If that wasn’t enough, the woman eventually encounters a howling monster who becomes the leader of the children.

    Clearly, “Come to Daddy” is pure nightmare fuel from start to finish.