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Strange ’80s Synth Music for Horror and Fantasy Films

Lewis McGregor

Stranger Things did it right. And so can you! Go upside down with these killer royalty-free, retro-style synth tracks for your next project.

It feels like an eternity since Stranger Things last graced our television screens, computers, and even mobile for the 15% of viewers that consume Netflix on their smartphone. Given that season three was released in 2019, and every year after that has felt like a decade in its own right, I guess it has been an eternity.

Stranger Things quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon when released in 2016, and when things become popular, other creatives are quickly influenced by the hottest trend—whether for parody, or to put your spin on the theme and cash in while the trend is hot.

After the release and huge success of Stranger Things, we certainly saw more movies and TV shows running back to the ’80s for a nostalgia kick. The likes of IT and Bumblebee are two examples of young teenagers getting caught up in an adventure during the ’80s.

While we have covered many tutorials around Stranger Things, such as How To Get The Stranger Things Look, Bring Your Film Marketing To Life With a Motion Poster, and The Cameras Behind Netflix’s Original Films and Series, the music is often the selling point of films set in this decade.

Royalty-Free Music for You

We’ve got what you need when it comes to the finest royalty-free synthesizer tracks. Our composers continue to produce stellar royalty-free tracks for your projects, from our previous retro-creepy Chilling ’80s Synth Mixtape to the recently popular Futuristic Sci-Fi Synth for noir dramas.

Stranger Things is not only defined by its gripping storyline, but also its distinct ’80s soundtrack and score that’s brought back the popularity of this genre. But, what is it about the sound of synths that brings us back to the ’80s?

The decade of the ’80s saw a surge in population amongst synthesizers, an electronic instrument usually in the form of a keyboard that produces various sounds generated from waveforms.

Steering away from the sole use of acoustic instruments, and using electronic instruments, saw the birth of synth-pop.

Seamless pattern with retro 80s-90s musical instruments and cassette players
Image via Radiocat.

This technology wasn’t exactly new. Artists such as Brian Eno and Kraftwerk used these synth sounds in the 1970s, which musicians in the ’80s began to favor and implement in their hits.

Origins of synth-pop come from New Wave and Punk music. There wasn’t any specific starting point, but musician Gary Numan, frontman of the punk band Tubeway Army, was seen as one of the pioneers of this genre. With the discovery of the Minimoog synthesizer, which he used to create their song “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?,” his curiosity and experimentation led to this song becoming a number one hit and a staple kickstart to this era of music.

This distinct sound skyrocketed due to the catchy hooks and melodies produced—creating short yet memorable riffs that were quickly consumed by the listener, also perfect for playing on MTV and FM radios. Bands such as Duran Duran, Human League, Soft Cell, and Eurythmics were amongst those who quickly rose to fame.

Characteristics include the prevalent use of synth keyboards, as well as drum machines. The most popular of the time was the Yamaha DX7 Keyboard and the Roland TR-808 Drum Machine. Synth-pop had a futuristic sound due to moving away from acoustic instruments—it became associated with sci-fi sounds and had an outlook of flamboyance and androgyny.

Melodic riffs were minimalistic, with slight harmonic progression—simplicity was a defining feature of this genre. With just a few clicks of some buttons, an array of sounds and beats could make a timeless hit.

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein certainly poured all these ingredients into the Stranger Things score, which made it incredibly iconic in such a short period of time.

Now, don’t worry, whether you’re working in urban horror, retro fantasy, or even futuristic noir, you don’t have to go and buy a TR-808 just yet, you can give your project the soundtrack it deserves with this ready-to-use playlist.

Cover image via Francey.

Strange 80s Retro Synth
Strange 80s Retro Synth
These royalty free tracks will make you feel upside down.
  • Hydrus
  • Dark and building, with production / film scores horror elements featuring pulsing synthesizer, piano, and strings to create a sinister and menacing mood.
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  • Tomorrow is Today
  • Tense and dark, with synth pop and production / film scores horror elements featuring mysterious synthesizer, piano, and electric guitar to create a dramatic and ominous mood.
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  • Midnight Runner
  • Driving and dark, with production/film scores horror and action elements featuring frantic strings, synthesizer, and percussion to create a menacing and dangerous mood.
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