Love horror? Of course you do! Love musicals?? Oh, come on now. Don’t be shy! What’s your favorite horror movie musical?
I’ll start: My name is Lauren and I love horror (obviously?) and I love musicals! If your reaction to “What’s your favorite horror movie musical?” was “There are horror musicals?!?” then my list of 13 musical horror movies is about to change your life. Enjoy!Become a Patron!
1. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
My forever fave: The movie adaptation of the musical play (which was a reimagining of the Roger Corman film from 1960), Little Shop of Horrors is THE horror musical. The story, the music, the cast, the special effects are all perfect and it’s an absolute must-see (and must own if you have the space/money for a physical movie collection!). PG-13 – 1hr 34min.
Bonus: If you haven’t already, check out the soundtrack for Little Shop of Horrors — it’s ever-so-slightly different from what you hear in the movie. “The Meek Shall Inherit” is extended and there’s another song [“Finale (Don’t Feed the Plants)”] from the original, much darker, ending that’s a lot of fun and will make you have second thoughts about giving your vegetable garden another helping of fertilizer…
Standout Songs: ALL, but especially “Skid Row (Downtown),” “Dentist!,” and “Mean Green Mother from Outerspace.”
2. Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)
Based on a short film (Zombie Musical) by Ryan McHenry (the guy who made those fun “Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal” clips back in the day! May he rest in peace), Anna and the Apocalypse is a modern musical that feels similar to High School Musical or Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist… and then there are zombies! My absolute favorite scene is when all heck starts breaking loose (think of the opening to the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead) while the oblivious leads sing one of the loveliest optimistic tunes I’ve heard in years. (I had to buy it and add it to my Happy Tunes playlist!)
Peppy and sweet while also dark and gory, I’m so glad I watched Anna and the Apocalypse (a random pick on Tubi last week that made me go “I need to write an entire post about horror musicals now so I’ll have an excuse to recommend Anna and the Apocalypse to everyone!” Hahaha!).
The music is excellent, the teen characters are real and likeable (true zombie movie fans know not to get attached to anyone, but you won’t be able to help yourself!), and the gore/kills are on point — exactly what you’d want from an awesome zombie flick! R –1hr 33min.
Standout Songs: ALL, but especially “Turning My Life Around” and “Human Voice.”
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Directed by Henry Selick, based on a poem by Tim Burton, with character models sculpted by Rick Heinrichs, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a “modern” (it’ll be 30 in 2023!!) classic that’s about the vampire from Fright Night falling in love with the mom from Beetlejuice. He also discovers the joys of Christmas!
Jokes aside, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a wonderful horror musical that’s appropriate for all (horror-appropriate) ages. It has fantastic music written by Danny Elfman, killer voice acting, is still an absolute triumph of stop motion animation. Is it a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? It’s both! PG – 1hr 16min
Standout Songs: ALL, but especially “This is Halloween” and “What’s This?”
4. The Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Phantom of the Opera combine to create a truly unique horror musical. This strange parody of life in the rock music industry, written and directed by Brian De Palma (Carrie), was a flop when it came out but I think that’s because it was a bit too ahead of its time. Marty McFly’s “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that, yet. But your kids are gonna love it!” quote rings true for Phantom of the Paradise — now a cult classic!
Phantom of the Paradise is a stylish oddity that’s a joy to share with unsuspecting friends. This horror musical takes a hard, humorous, look at the music industry. PG – 1hr 32min. (Note: Phantom of the Paradise was rated before the PG-13 rating existed so its “PG” rating may be misleading — make sure you pre-screen it by yourself so you can use your best judgement on whether it’s appropriate viewing for the youngsters in your life).
Standout Songs: “Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye” and “The Hell of It”
5. The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Another movie adaptation of a musical play that was based on something else (in this case, a novel). Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical horror romance was brought to the big screen in 2004 by Joel Schumacher (The Lost Boys) and is… okay. I was lucky enough to attend a live performance of The Phantom of the Opera (the play) when I was a tween — one of my favorite school field trips — and that’s admittedly coloring my review somewhat; however, the play’s 2.5-hour runtime zipped by whereas the movie version, uh, feels like 2.5 hours.
If you’re unable to watch the play, the 2004 movie adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera will tide you over. It’s really pretty to look at (they went all out with the set designs and costumes!), the gothic horror vibes are there, and the music is intact. There are some deviations from the play that may have you questioning your sanity (rest easy – you’re not crazy, they really did change some things!), but it’s otherwise faithful. If you have a young romantic, slightly timid horror fan, and/or theatre kid in your life, The Phantom of the Opera might be a good choice! PG-13 – 2hr 23min.
Standout Songs: “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Music of the Night”
6. Cannibal! The Musical (1993)
Filmed in 1993, the general public didn’t get to view Cannibal! The Musical until it was picked up by Troma Entertainment in 1996 — one year before its creators’ careers took off!
South Park‘s Trey Parker wrote, directed, and stars (along with Matt Stone) in this light-hearted musical adaptation of a grisly real-life expedition gone wrong. As with most movies that are “based on a true story,” Cannibal! The Musical is a very loose adaptation of what occurred (though, after reading the actual case of Alferd Packer, “The Colorado Cannibal,” I was surprised how much of the gist of what really happened was portrayed basically accurately in the film!).
The movie opens with an absolutely wild gore scene that the rest of the film struggles to live up to. If you’re expecting a high-energy gorefest, lower your expectations immediately! Cannibal! The Musical is a bit like Heavenly Creatures in that it’s based on a true story, you know from the get-go that things are going to turn out awful somehow, but they take their time and meander around doing so many other things that by the time THE thing happens it catches you by surprise. Except, unlike Heavenly Creatures, I didn’t feel horrible after watching it; so that was nice! Plus it’s fun to see Trey Parker and Matt Stone as youngsters and witnessing how their work has evolved (they’ve always been good at musicals!); and there’s a gag after the credits that made me literally laugh out loud. R – 1hr 36min.
Standout Songs: “Shpadoinkle” and “Let’s Build a Snowman”
7. Mad Monster Party? (1967)
You know that stop-motion animation Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with the elf who wants to be a dentist? That film was made my Rankin/Bass Animations… And so was Mad Monster Party?, the Halloween equivalent to the aforementioned Christmas special. It has a very similar sweetly sleepy feel to it; a benign choice for child viewers or to put on the television in the background at your next Halloween party.
Boris Karloff, a legend among Universal Monsters fans, stars as the voice of Baron Boris von Frankenstein – who has just discovered the secret to ultimate destruction and just has to throw a party with all the famous monsters to celebrate.
Mad Monster Party? is a nostalgia piece for the Boomer generation and may not hold up, pacing-wise, for modern audiences. However, the character designs (by EC Comics’ Jack Davis!) are absolutely adorable to look at. And we wouldn’t have Hotel Transylvania (which is awesome, even if its sequels were not) if we hadn’t had Mad Monster Party? back in the day — respect! Unrated (but probably G) – 1hr 35min.
Standout Song: “One Step Ahead”
8. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter star in a Tim Burton-directed horror musical set in the Victorian era.
This adaptation of the stage musical (yep; another one!) is a musical slasher film about a barber-turned-serial-killer who, with the help of his female accomplice, disposes of the evidence of his kills via grinding their remains into ground meat for pies.
Praised for being faithful to the 1979 original play, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has some fine performances (including Alan Rickman, RIP, as the absolutely vile villain of the movie), but I don’t like this one for personal reasons (sexual assault and razor blade slashes didn’t sit well with me). But, remember, just because I didn’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing! Decide for yourself!! 🙂 R – 1hr 56min.
Standout Song: “By the Sea”
9. Corpse Bride (2005)
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter star in a Tim Burton-directed horror musical set in the Victorian era.
…wait a second!!
Heh. Joke’s aside, Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animated horror musical that’s essentially a ghost story gothic romance. I’m not a fan of the music (sorry), but it’s very pretty to look at! The stop-motion animation is almost too smooth though — it looks a bit like CGI, but still “feels” like stop-motion — which adds to the dreamlike vibes of the film. It’s visually well-done, but always felt a little distant. They’ve made some great toys out of the characters over the years though! PG – 1hr 17min.
Standout Song: “Remains of the Day”
10. Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)
If you were watching the “Where the Wild Things Are,” “The Yoko Factor,” “Restless,” and “Once More, with Feeling” episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on repeat because you just couldn’t get enough of Giles’ singing voice, then Repo! The Genetic Opera was made for you. Anthony Stewart Head stars as a unique type of repo man…
In the bleak future of 2056, after a horrific pandemic resulting in a massive surge of organ failures, society was forced to turn to drastic surgeries – first to survive, and then for fun (and profit!). Folks have become addicted to body modification and the corporation pedaling the designer organs issues them on a line of credit with an impossible payment plan. For those who aren’t able to pay off their new bodily additions? The Repo Man repossesses their organs! Which, as you can imagine, is a messy business.
Repo! The Genetic Opera is jam-packed with talented folks from horror movies, musicals, and even other horror musicals! (For example, Sarah Brightman, who plays Blind Mag was the original Christine in the Broadway version of The Phantom of the Opera). R – 1hr 37min.
Standout Song: “Zydrate Anatomy”
11. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Shock and amaze the younger generation when you point to the screen and say “See that guy? The one called Riff Raff? That’s the dad from Phineas and Ferb!” (Though, uh, don’t show this to anyone too young – it’s very raunchy!).
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a movie everyone, horror movie musical fan or not, needs to see at least once just so they can say they have. However, there’s no point in seeing The Rocky Horror Picture Show alone at home (you’ll be sitting in front of your screen like “I don’t get it… What’s the big deal?”). So unless it’s showing as an event near you, put a pin in this one for now. As a musical horror comedy, it’s not that great; but as an experience with an actively participating audience it’s pretty darn unforgettable. R – 1hr 38 minutes.
Standout Song: “Time Warp”
12. Rockula (1990)
I’d been meaning to watch Rockula since Christy Bandy recommended it back in June of 2020 and I finally(!) got around to it.
Christy already did a great job describing the movie, so I won’t go into too many details. Basically, there’s a vampire named Ralph who starts a band called Rockula to get closer to the girl he’s (always) fated to be with (who’s also a musician in her current life).
Although it came out in 1990, there are plenty of late ’80s music video-esque moments — and ’80s musicians, like Toni Basil and Thomas Dolby. If you’re a child of the ’80s, Rockula will feel comfortably cringe, an instantly nostalgic (even if you’ve never seen it before) guilty pleasure movie. Keep an eye out for Bo Diddley as one of Ralph’s Rockula bandmates! PG-13 – 1hr 30min.
Standout Song: “Rapula (He’s the DJ, I’m the Vampire)”
13. The Horror of Party Beach (1964)
Known as one of The Worst Films of All Time, The Horror of Party Beach billed itself as being “The first horror monster musical!” How could I not include it on this list?
I actually kinda like this movie! I don’t think it’s one of the “worst” films at all! Son of Dracula (1974) is also a horror musical but it was so terribly dull I couldn’t even make it to the end (Ringo is always fun as an actor, but everything else was a snooze) and yet I’ve watched The Horror of Party Beach a dozen or so times — with and without comedic robots!
Speaking of which, The Horror of Party Beach was episode 17 of the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. If you’re apprehensive about watching this one “vanilla,” check it out with a little additional comedy via Mike Nelson and the ‘bots! Unrated (probably PG) – 78 minutes.
Standout Song: “Zombie Stomp”
Have YOU seen any of these horror musicals? What did you think? Am I missing your favorite?? Let me know in the comments!Become a Patron!
Images: I drew the featured image myself, I got the Horror of Party Beach poster from CineMaterial, the image of Rockula is a screenshot I took from the movie trailer, Cannibal! The Musical is from IMDB, and everything else was purchased from Movie Stills Database.
I filmed myself drawing the illustration I did of the horror movie musical characters featured at the top of this post. I turned it into a 4-minute hyperlapse video, if you’d like to watch (link opens in a new tab). 🙂 —Lauren*
Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner of LittleZotz Writing, a super-respectable multiple award-winning website for freelance writers. She’s also the HorrorFam.com founder! Lauren grew up in the horror industry (her parents did practical special FX work for many of the horror movies you love from the ’80s and ’90s) and basically created this site so she could freely gas on about creepy stuff and stop having to pretend to be normal.