Despite losing the Oscar for Best Original Song to "Shallow" from A Star Is Born, Kendrick Lamar's "All the Stars (feat. SZA)" was another strong example of how a comic book movie inspires chart-topping and critically praised music. Last year saw two Marvel properties generate incredibly popular soundtracks. Kendrick Lamar curated Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Eminem released the titular song for Venom.
Music is undoubtedly a fundamental element of cinema, capable of capturing and enhancing emotion. One listen to "What's Up Danger" by Blackway with Black Caviar from Into the Spider-Verse will have you ready to jump off buildings in a brand new pair of Air Jordan Origin 1s. Black Panther, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Venom are just the latest in a sea of movies inspiring original songs written. Many films feature popular songs from all genres but we wanted to have a look at some of the best and underrated original songs made specifically for comic book films - even if the movies themselves weren't the strongest.
10 "It’s On Again" - Alicia Keys & Kendrick Lamar (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) (2014)
While The Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed both critically and commercially, Andrew Garfield's underrated second turn as Spidey wasn't without its strengths. This hype anthem from Alicia Keys produced by Pharrell Williams featuring Kendrick Lamar is one of the film's high points. Years before Lamar would leave his mark on Black Panther, he opens up this prophetic tune with a battle-cry which compliments Keys' soulful but defiant vocals. It's all capped off with the usual signature production from Williams who is no stranger to original songs in cinema, having delivered the smash-hits "Happy" for Despicable Me 2 and "Can't Stop the Feeling" for Trolls .
9 "Men of Steel" - Shaquille O’Neal feat. Ice Cube, B-Real, KRS-One & Peter Gunz (Steel) (1997)
"Take it from the Don, Where I'm from the Man of Steel is made of Teflon, keep yo' vest on!" You'd be forgiven for not knowing this song exists since Steel was, well, Steel. Shaquille O'Neal's turn in the DC adaptation majorly deviated from the source material, but at least it had Shaq's musical contribution going for it. Released on Quincy Jones's label Qwest Records, the soundtrack featured a who's who of hip-hop royalty including Mobb Deep, Blackstreet, and Spice-1. Opinions on Shaq's rap career aside, he could hold his on a beat and he does so here on this throwback 90's vibe alongside legends Ice Cube, B-Real, KRS-One, and Peter Gunz.
8 "Immortals" - Fall Out Boy (Big Hero 6) (2014)
7 "Heathens" - Twenty One Pilots (Suicide Squad) (2016)
The second the Suicide Squad trailer dropped it looked like a music video, courtesy of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. It was, therefore, no surprise the movie’s soundtrack packed a punch. A diverse compilation of rock and rap, the album featured original collaborations between the likes of Skrillex & Rick Ross as well as Imagine Dragons, Lil’ Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and more.
A close contender for the most notable song is Kehlani's “Gangsta”. However, the cut which perfectly represents the rag-tag troupe of villains is Twenty One Pilots’ rap-rock ode to the team in “Heathens”.
6 "Sunflower" - Post Malone & Swae Lee (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) (2018)
At the beginning of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse we are first introduced to Miles Morales as he practices his street-art skills while rapping along, and forgetting the words, to this beautiful pop rap ballad. It's a picture perfect way for a new audience to meet a Spider-Man for a new generation to relate to. The soundtrack is overflowing with incredible songs from the likes of Jaden Smith and Nicki Minaj, but this collaboration between Post Malone & Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd proved its brilliance on the charts as well as on the screen.
5 "Men In Black" - Will Smith (Men in Black) (1997)
It just wasn't the '90s without a blockbuster starring Will Smith, complete with an accompanying rap song. People may forget Will's dominance of the Billboards charts alongside his box-office streak. This is most likely due to the bizarre Wild Wild West - although that song was also fun. Inexplicable giant spiders forgotten, though, the titular anthem for Big Willie's turn in the Malibu Comics sci-fi smash is the Fresh Prince at the height of his movie music powers: "The good guys dressed in black, remember that, just in case we ever face to face and make contact!"
4 "All The Stars" - Kendrick Lamar & SZA (Black Panther) (2018)
This is our only Academy Award nominated entry on this list. The Black Panther soundtrack, creatively overseen by Kendrick Lamar, is a testament to how perfect a marriage movies and music soundtracks can be. The entire record is rich with Lamar's signature conceptual cohesion atop a smorgasbord of established and up-and-coming talent. During one viewing of Black Panther it's undeniable how the music helps define the spirit and tone of the movie. This closing number played during the end credits well and truly deserves its Oscar nomination.
3 "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" - U2 (Batman Forever) (1995)
Here's another movie on this list which divides audiences, due to its campiness and over-the-top villains. Hey, at least it isn't Batman & Robin, which had its own share of hits and misses on its soundtrack. When thinking of impactful songs from Batman Forever most people will think of Seal's “Kiss from a Rose” however it wasn't made specifically for Val Kilmer's brief spin in the cowl.
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That's not the only reason this cut from U2 makes the list. The song's dark atmosphere and accompanying animated video prove that the legendary Irish band had an appreciation of the source material... even if Joel Schumacher, well, you know - bat nipples.
2 "Burn" - The Cure (The Crow) (1994)
Perhaps the archetypal underrated comic book movie, due in part to the film being understandably overshadowed by the tragic on-set death of Brandon Lee - RIP. Full credit, therefore, goes to the crew behind The Crow who, despite the circumstances, delivered a timeless and heart-wrenching tale of revenge. Lee's performance as Eric Draven is career-defining, effortlessly switching from blood-thirsty vigilante to romantic musician.
Like Spawn a couple of years later, the film's soundtrack compliments the brooding tone by enlisting a myriad of alternative rock and metal heavyweights. The likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, Pantera and Rage Against the Machine all contributed songs. You might not expect The Cure to appear on a soundtrack with some of those names but their song "Burn" written specifically for the film is an epic alternative ballad. At a whopping 6:38 running time, lyricist Robert Smith assumes the voice of the lead character crying out, "Every night I burn!" It's a spine-tingling ode, and a movie unto itself.
1 "Batdance" - Prince (Batman) (1989)
Here we have quite possibly the Holy Grail of movie soundtracks. Understandably, Tim Burton is often credited with laying the foundation for today's sincere and earnest depictions of comic book characters. In complete contrast to the 1966 TV series of Batman and Richard Donner's Superman in 1978, Burton's Batman depicted a refreshingly dark and sinister vision of DC's greatest detective. Who do you call to create the music for said treatment of the Dark Knight? Well, Prince of course!
At the height of his fame, Prince ramped up the Batmania of 1989 by writing an entire solo album for Burton's first crack at the Caped Crusader. When this soundtrack comes to mind the first song to get stuck in your head is the brilliant "Party Man", the backdrop for Jack Nicholson's Joker's rampage at the Gotham City Museum of Modern Art. However, the standout is chart-topping "Batdance" - the album's lead single. The song is chaotically structured, channeling Joker's own fractured psyche. This is illustrated by Prince's Joker inspired costume in the music video. To top it off, not only does the song feature dialogue snippets from the film, but it also pays homage to the classic jingle, "Nana, nana nana nana, nana, nana nana nana, Batman!"