The early master of thriller movies was Alfred Hitchcock, and scores to his films Vertigo and Psycho by Bernard Hermann were early classics of the genre. And so Hermann became the master of thriller movie music, going on to compose the theme for Taxi Driver and the soundtrack for Citizen Kane. Throughout these, there are similar patterns but equally different variants, with strings creating an epic classical sound at times, whilst at others the music is laid-back jazz, that overall provide the same contrasting effects as the movies; beautiful and inviting, whilst eerie and unsettling.
Another composer whose music has expertly scored thriller movies is Ennio Morricone. His main instruments of piano and trumpet have delivered the rise and fall that epitomises the genre in a variety of experimental ways. This ranges from creepy horror themes like The Thing, to dramatic westerns like Once Upon A Time In The West, showing that like the thriller genre itself, the music can be widely defined, taking in opera to country and much in between, and can vary from sweeping upbeat blasts to quietly threatening noises. The one thing that ties the songs together is the pacing to match the plot twists and extreme emotions in the stories, that encompass dark rhythmic crawls on the one hand, and vibrant seductive flourishes on the other.
Outside of soundtracks, thriller music has influenced standalone songs in popular culture. This is evident in the builds and drops that bring an emotional journey to electronic dance music, in the jazz and classical sounds from which thriller originated, and even outside of its instrumental leanings, in pop and rock artists incorporating the techniques and the instrumentation that bring a cinematic soundscape. Plus, of course, it may be no coincidence that one of the most successful albums and songs of all time, by Michael Jackson, is called Thriller.