Superhero films have pretty much taken over the movie theaters over the past couple of decades, but even before that, when the quality of the film wasn't necessarily top-notch, the soundtracks were often awesome. Whether you're talking about cinematic scores, compilations of existing songs, tracks written for the film in question or a combination of all three, music can enhance a movie and, even if can't save a dud, it makes for a killer album. Here are 10 great comic book movie soundtracks. There are more, of course, so feel free to comment with your own suggestions…
The wise-cracking anti-hero, brilliantly portrayed by Ryan Reynolds (born for the role, apparently), got off to a less than auspicious big-screen start when he had a cameo in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, but his stock grew with the frankly awesome 2016 solo outing. The soundtrack is largely a pumping electronic score courtesy of the startlingly consistent Junkie XL, but it's peppered with some oddities that just make the whole thing sparkle. Juice Newton's “Angel of the Morning,” Neil Sedaka's “Calendar Girl,” Salt-N-Pepa's “Shoop,” DMX's “X Gon' Give it to Ya” and George Michael's “Careless Whisper” — one wouldn't normally find them on the same album.
9. Barb Wire
Barb Wire really doesn't like it when people call her “babe.” And why should she? She's a badass thrill junkie, capable of whooping any misogynistic bounty hunter or barfly without a second glance. Sadly, the 1996 movie, with Pamela Anderson in the lead role, was less than badass. Anderson sure looked the part when you go back to the Dark Horse comic book character, but she lacked the intensity to carry it off. Plus, the film is bizarrely an almost scene-for-scene remake of Casablanca. That said, there's a lot of fun to be had with the soundtrack. Shampoo's trash pop “Don't Call Me Babe” steals the headlines, but British rockers Gun's cover of “Word Up” is a treat, as are tracks by Michael Hutchence, Hagfish, Die Cheerleader, Meat Puppets and, again, Salt-N-Pepa (are they secret comic book nerds?). Interesting fact: The bleak future the movie was set in was supposed to be 2017.
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
The hippest of the hip comic book movies, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc) produced and directed this action comedy based on Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels about Canadian slacker/musician Scott Pilgrim. Michael Cera, then 22, captured the vibe beautifully but, despite the awesome gamer-inspired sequences, it bombed at the box office. It's considered a cult favorite, though, and the soundtrack is great fun. Beck is heavily involved (which makes sense — Pilgrim looks and behaves like a young Beck), while Frank Black, The Black Lips, T-Rex, Metric and Broken Social Scene all pop up. Sex Bob-omb, Pilgrim's band, appear (with significant help from Beck).
7. Tank Girl
People either love or hate the Tank Girl movie, and that makes sense. How much fun can you have watching Ice-T playing a giant kangaroo? For us, the answer is “tons of fun.” Lori Petty at least has a blast playing the cult indie character with a sharp tongue and HUUUUGE tank, and the soundtrack is wonderful. L7, Bjork, Hole, Portishead, Belly and Veruca Salt, plus (arguably best of all) Joan Jett and Paul Westerberg (of The Replacements) doing “Let's Do It” — seriously, what's not to love?
6. Guardians of the Galaxy
It's a cute little gimmick — the idea that Chris Pratt's Star-Lord is walking around with a Walkman cassette player in space, listening to the same tape over and over again. As a result, the sleeve art design is retro fun, and the songs are fantastic. Blue Swede's “Hooked on a Feeling” leads to an unforgettable mini dance scene, while other highlights include Norman Greenbaum's “Spirit in the Sky,” Bowie's “Moonage Daydream” and The Runaways' “Cherry Bomb.” A futuristic space movie with a retro soundtrack, and it works perfectly.
Any mention of comic book/superhero music simply has to include John Williams' magnificent, iconic score to the classic Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Williams is the modern score master, and Superman is right up there with his best. To this day, one mention of the big blue boy scout will instantly set grown men to humming Williams' main theme.
Unlike the Batman movie soundtracks that would follow, Tim Burton's first film in the franchise saw one artist — Prince — take over the entire thing. This was a good thing. The music swings, and it manages to capture the “dark carnival” nature of the film (and much of Burton's work) beautifully. The tracks also seem to alternate between “song,” “score,” and “somewhere in between” with ease. Whatever brief Prince was given at the start of the project, he aced it.
3. The Watchmen
For a long time, The Watchmen was passed from studio exec to studio exec, deemed unfilmable due to the huge scope and complex themes in the rightly celebrated graphic novel. When the movie finally did emerge in 2009, it was largely a success despite a few tweaks to the story (most notably the end). The soundtrack, meanwhile, is phenomenal. The somber, defeatist vibe of the story is reflected in classic tunes such as Simon & Garfunkel's “The Sound of Silence,” Dylan's “The Times They Are a-Changin'” and Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah.” It speaks volumes that timeless gems like these are so perfectly placed, it seems like they were composed with capes in mind. Just for an instant. Even My Chemical Romance's cover of Dylan's “Desolation Row” is amazing.
2. The Crow
This album is near-flawless. It opens with “Burn” by The Cure, a song that, inexplicably, the band refuse to play live. As soon as it kicks in, you can envisage Brandon Lee caking himself in goth makeup and preparing to take on some vicious junkie-gangsters. Elsewhere, the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Machines of Loving Grace, For Love Not Lisa and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult dial up the dark, industrial atmosphere. It's a wet dream for lovers of BDSM imagery. Elsewhere, Stone Temple Pilots, Helmet, Pantera and Rage Against the Machine add some stylish grit, while Jane Siberry's “It Can't Rain All the Time” has been known to reduce adults to bawling messes.
In 1993, the people behind action movie Judgement Night had run with the groundbreaking idea of pairing rap and metal artists for a full album (Aerosmith/Run DMC or Public Enemy/Anthrax style). The movie wasn't great but the soundtrack was awesome. With Spawn, they took electronic artists and paired them with rockers and, while the movie was just as mediocre as Judgement Night, the soundtrack was just as excellent. So we got Filter with The Crystal Method, Marilyn Manson with Sneaker Pimps, Korn with The Dust Brothers and Slayer with Atari Teenage Riot, among many other somehow perfect collabs.