Music and superhero movies have an odd relationship. When Star-Lord danced to yesterday's pop hits in Guardians of the Galaxy or the Joker vandalized a museum to Prince's Batman soundtrack, music was a big part of what made those moments transcendent. Still, there are plenty of superhero movies with unremarkable orchestral scores or tangential -- at best -- links to the songs that appear on their soundtracks.
While Batman Forever might not have deep ties to Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" and Mystery Men is ultimately a footnote in the life of Smash Mouth's "All-Star," a song that plays a crucial role in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Post Malone and Swae Lee's "Sunflower," has quietly become one of the most successful songs from any superhero movie.
Early in the 2018 film, Miles Morales is introduced clumsily singing along to "Sunflower" while drawing in his room. With its lush production and a dreamy mix of pop, rap and R&B, the track is the ideal accompaniment to this intimate, introductory look at Miles at his most comfortable. In an especially endearing note, Miles mumbles through as much of it as he sings, captured by the spirit of the song.
When Peter B. Parker teaches Miles about using his spider-powers later on in the film, Miles starts singing the song again to help him relax and learn how to unstick from walls. At the end of the film, he also listens to it once again as he's relaxing, having fully settled in to his new role as Spider-Man.
While "Sunflower" is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Into the Spider-Verse, its success stretches far outside of its association with the Academy Award-winning film.
Even though it was released almost exactly a year ago, "Sunflower" is still one of the most popular songs in the world.
As of this writing, "Sunflower" is the #15 most played song in the United States according to the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it's spent the past 50 weeks. While it only hit the #1 spot in January, it's still spent a total of 33 weeks in the country's top 10 most popular songs.
"Sunflower" has also had a consistent presence on Apple Music and Spotify, where the song is still among the 50 most played tracks on both streaming services every week, domestically and globally. On Spotify alone, the main version of the song has been streamed over 1.1 billion times and currently stands as the service's 25th most played track of all time.
Both Post Malone and Swae Lee, one-half of the rap duo Rae Sremmurd, are genuine rap superstars by any metric, but "Sunflower" has enjoyed a level of sustained success that very few songs reach in the streaming age.
Unlike some other superhero movie songs, "Sunflower" hasn't played down its connection to Spider-Man at all. On Spotify and Apple Music, the full title of the song incorporates the film's full title and appears as "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)." The song was the lead single off of the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, and the album's cover prominently features Miles' Spider-Man. Beyond that, the music video for the song, which has over 800 million views on YouTube alone, is entirely made up of scenes from the film.
Whether "Sunflower" became a hit because of its superhero connection, cross-genre appeal, self-affirming all-ages message or its warm, comfortable vibe, its continued success likely played a meaningful role in making the idea of Miles as Spider-Man as ubiquitous as it is today. And considering how high it still is on the charts, it doesn't look like "Sunflower" will whither away anytime soon.