As much as superhero movies are stampeding through the box office every year, the most criminally underrated aspect to many of these films are their respective superhero movie soundtracks. From Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Thor, and beyond, a superhero's power is only exaggerated and heightened by a bad-ass soundtrack. The following list of superhero movie soundtracks are our hand-picked collection of the most epic, orchestral, and rousing music ever put to film. Arguably the best superhero movie soundtracks ever composed for the big screen, these soundtracks will make you fly, flight, and save the world as we know it. Stick in your earbuds, because it's time to be super.
Superman: The Movie
When it comes to superhero movie soundtracks, it’s hard to get much better than the KING of ALL film soundtracks, John Williams. He’s created the themes to Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and in this instance, one of the greatest superhero anthems of all time: Superman. The main title crawl and opening theme that start the album are some of the most inspiring brass you’ll hear. Rarely is such optimism captured in music for film soundtracks. John Williams has such a fantastic way of manipulating an orchestra to strike the right balance of wistfulness, nostalgia and staying power. The only disappointing aspect to this soundtrack is that the other tracks are nowhere near as memorable as the main title, which may go down in history as one of the best character themes of all time.
Batman: The Brave and The Bold (Mayhem of the Music Meister)
This is a bit of a surprising pick for many of you, I'm sure. In fact, I imagine many of you actually haven’t seen Batman: The Brace and The Bold (Mayhem of the Music Meister!), and although the cartoon itself isn’t particularly great, the soundtrack is a great standout from an otherwise humdrum story. The opening theme is a great microcosm of noire 60s drums, double bass and blaring trumpets working in unison to give the show lots of energy, but some of the power ballads such as "Drives Us Bats" are high energy power rock to the eponymous character. The ballads actually have a surprising amount of heart and soul behind every note.
The Avengers Assemble
Alan Silvestri is one of the more overlooked composers in Hollywood. You can find his influence and fingerprints over the entire industry, but many cinema goers won’t even know his name. That is, until his landmark superhero movie soundtrack for The Avengers Assemble. Many of the greatest teams in film history––and the greatest soundtracks for that matter––rely upon a single riff that can be remixed and incorporated throughout an entire body of music. The quick violin strokes that make up the instantly recognizable main theme of The Avengers Assemble is not one that has been critically lauded, but one that I do believe will throw your mind back years and years when you hear it many moons from now.
The Deadpool soundtrack is a perfect embodiment of what the film was. The highly energetic composer that helmed Mad Max: Fury Road, Junkie XL took the reins of the original music and other 80s classics that spoke to the very essence of the character of Deadpool not only to make the soundtrack an instant classic, but seem to show the influence of this title character over the entire run time. With songs like "Careless Whisper," "Angel of the Morning," and, "X Gon’ Give It To Ya," the spread from 50’s doo-wop to 90s gangsta rap make this one of the more unique soundtracks you’ll listent to. But that shouldn’t overshadow the great work done by Junkie XL, whose distinctive beat/heavy industrial/rock style gives the soundtrack an extra serving of seriously good ass-kicking music.
Man of Steel
You probably could have guessed that Hans Zimmer was going to make an appearance on this list without even opening it... but it’s for a good reason. The man is so prolific in his original soundtracks that he rivals John Williams as one of cinema’s greatest composers. Indeed, there was much skepticism in the lead up to Man of Steel that he was going to butcher the already iconic theme. The film itself had a mixed critical reception, but what many critics were almost universally agreed upon was that the soundtrack was bloody incredible. The new theme had a delicate piano riff that when played, instantly evokes the character of Superman. Indeed, I’d go as far to say that along with Mad Max: Fury Road, the soundtrack of Man of Steel is perhaps one of the greatest in the past five years.
The Dark Knight
But of course that wasn’t going to be the final entry of Hans Zimmer on this list. Many would argue that The Dark Knight is one of the greatest comic book movies of all time, if not one of the greatest movies of all time. Although that position has much to do with the legendary performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker, the incredibly dark, morbid––but altogether––engaging script paired with the soundtrack played a key part in the success of the movie. Much of the music seems to be trying to capture the character of Batman, The Joker, and the conflict that they have with each other; and it’s more than fair to say that Zimmer nailed it. With one single noise, a piano wire that has been struck and wound up ever tighter, The Joker’s presence can be felt in every beat of the sinister soundtrack. One listen and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Guardians of the Galaxy
I’m not going to be focusing so much on the original soundtrack here as much as I will the eclectic collection of music that features prominently in the film itself, "Awesome Mix Vol. 1." A perfect example of how music can enhance the story, character and presentation of an entire film, "Awesome Mix Vol. 1" is a mix tape that has a diverse collection of songs from the 70s that paradoxically give the high flung sci-fi action movie a lot of heart and soul. Each individual track on the mix is featured in the film at different points in time, whether they be sad, happy or all out kick-ass. In 2013 there was little denying that Guardians of the Galaxy had one of the most accessible and charismatic soundtracks for years.
Batman V. Superman
Another entry from Hans Zimmer on the list, but this time he teams up with Junkie XL, the previously mentioned maestro that helmed Deadpool and Mad Mad: Fury Road. Hans Zimmer by this point had already made a Batman theme (as previously mentioned), so he brought on the help of rising orchestral master Junkie XL to make a hard-core theme for a darker, more lethal Batman. Each character has its own distinctive theme, from the classical, plucky, mysterious arpeggios from "The Red Capes are Coming"–– representing the manic Lex Luthor–– to the gentle, evocative piano riff that came from "Man Of Steel." Even the wonderfully empowering, primal, guttural guitar shredding in the surprise hit of the film, "Is She With You?," perfectly encapsulates the iconic Wonder Woman. It’s rare in a film soundtrack that there is so little filler and so many distinctive and memorable themes. I suppose that’s one of the advantages of working with the best in the industry.
X-Men First Class
Henry Jackman is very much the new kid on the block in the realm of top tier superhero movie soundtrack producers. Helming such projects like Big Hero 6, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Uncharted 4, Henry Jackman has rapidly proved to be one of the best in the industry. What he lacks in distinctive themes he makes up for in simple chord playfulness and evocative orchestral swells. Mixing these with modern elements like powerful and thrashing electric guitars, and Junkie XL style booming percussion, Henry Jackman in X-Men First Class is able to concoct a surprise hit in the music itself. X-Men First Class was critically well received, but the soundtrack here was vastly under looked (something that I have to believe wasn’t intentional). This is one of the best comic book soundtracks ever made...
... but not quite as good as this. While many believe that the resurgence of comic book movies started with the original X-Men film, I believe it started with Sam Raimi’s interpretation of one of the most iconic comic book characters of all time, Spider-Man. Danny Elfman, a veteran of the industry, stepped up to the challenge of a high budget comic book movie soundtrack and came away influencing perhaps every other soundtrack that I have mentioned here. Wistful string sections that play with electronic sinister loops underneath the chaos of the brass result in a strangely beautiful depiction of both the movie and the character of Spider-Man. When you consider that so much rode upon the success of Spider-Man, and the score that accompanied it, the feat which Danny Elfman achieved by creating a genuinely great collection of music is one that deserves to be remembered and commemorated for a long time.