Marvel Cinematic Universe songs ranked: Everything from Led Zeppelin to Marvin Gaye

From Iron Man and Captain Marvel to Black Panther and Guardians of the Galaxy, here are songs that perfectly paired to a scene.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
6 min read
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There are roughly a million trailers for  Captain Marvel . OK, maybe it's more like a handful. I came across one that used the Elastica song, Connection. Yep, that is Elastica as in '90s Britpop band Elastica. College Patrick was very happy.

Connection is just one of many '90s cuts heard in Captain Marvel, along with TLC's Waterfalls and Hole's Celebrity Skin. Which got me thinking about other songs featured in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). And boy oh boy, there are a lot -- Guardians of the Galaxy alone could fill this list. Here are those songs that perfectly paired to a scene. So without much more hype, here are my favorite song-and-scene combos from the MCU.

(While X-Men and Deadpool are also based on  Marvel  comics, I'm sticking purely to the MCU for this list. So Salt-N-Pepa's Shoop from the bridge scene in Deadpool or Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics from Quicksilver's evacuation in X-Men: Apocalypse aren't included.)

12. Captain America: The Winter Soldier -- Trouble Man by Marvin Gaye

"On your left." Steve Rogers wakes up in a hospital covered in bruises given to him by the Winter Soldier. His pal Sam is bedside listening to Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man on his iPhone . The song's tone and lyrics echo the tangle of relationships and justice Captain America finds himself wrapped up in.

"I come up hard baby, but now I'm cool

"I didn't make it sugar, playin' by the rules."

Cap wakes up, hears the song and sees Sam. After a moment, he says, "On your left." Sam responds with a small knowing smile.

11. Spider-Man: Homecoming -- Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones

As soon as I heard Peter Parker's Queens accent in Homecoming, I just knew a song from Queens punk rockers the Ramones was bound to show up. And boy, did they. After Peter puts on his new Spidey suit, he bounds into action with Blitzkrieg Bop playing in the background. The bouncy-fast beat drives a montage showing Spider-Man trying to find crime to stop. The song's fast energy matches Peter's eagerness. And there's a nice cameo by Stan Lee, who warns Spidey, "Don't make me come down there, you punk!"

10. Black Panther -- Opps by Yugen Blakrok and Vince Staples

Black Panther has hands-down one of the best soundtracks and scores of any film. Recently, composer Ludwig Goransson won an Oscar for his Black Panther score. The closing credits song All The Stars by Kendrick Lamar and SZA is also bonkers-good -- I swear I got goosebumps the first time I heard it in a theater.

But, my favorite song-and-scene moment from Black Panther was the car chase with Ulysses Klaue and Black Panther. After escaping a fight in a club, Klaue hops into an SUV and says, "Put some music on. What do you think this is, a funeral?" The Yugen Blakrok and Vince Staples track Opps starts to play and an epic chase ensues, complete with T'Challa surfing on the hood of a Lexus that's remotely driven by Shuri. The song makes Black Panther, Okoye, Shuri and Nakia seem even more badass.

9. Guardians of the Galaxy -- Come and Get Your Love by Redbone

There is an Indiana Jones vibe to Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, but that's only part of who Star Lord is. He's also kind of goofy and childish. As the opening titles of Guardians of the Galaxy hit the screen, Peter Quill takes off his Star Lord mask and then plays Come and Get Your Love on his Walkman. As he crosses ruins looking for an orb, Quill playfully dances to the song from Redbone, splashing puddles like Gene Kelly in Singin' In The Rain. At one point, he grabs a ratlike creature and uses its body as a mic to lip-sync into. This scene quickly sets up the adventure/comedy tone that's the backbone for the entire movie.

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8. Captain Marvel -- Just A Girl by No Doubt

There is plenty of choice tracks in Captain Marvel. But one that melded perfectly with the action was No Doubt's Just A Girl. Not only is the fight badass but it's when Captain Marvel realizes the true potential of her powers. The lyrics couldn't be more spot-on:

"Take this pink ribbon off my eyes
I'm exposed
And it's no big surprise
Don't you think I know
Exactly where I stand
This world is forcing me
To hold your hand"

For a more in-depth look at the Captain Marvel soundtrack check out this story on CNET en Español.

7. Iron Man -- Back in Black by AC/DC

No John Williams or Hans Zimmer here, like the grandiose superhero soundtracks of the '80s, '90s and 2000s. Instead, after a demonstration of his awesomely destructive Jericho missile, laid-back billionaire Tony Stark rides in a Humvee sipping whiskey while AC/DC plays. Welcome to the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Back In Black reflects not only Tony Stark's spirit but also establishes him as a true rock 'n' roll superhero.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy -- O-o-h Child by The Five Stairsteps

The climactic dance-off Peter Quill initiates to distract villainous alien Ronan is funny, desperate and ingenious. The fact it's O-o-h Child from the Chicago soul group the Five Stairsteps makes it all the more entertaining. In response to Quill's running man dance, Ronan can only say, "What are you doing?"

5. The Avengers -- Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC

Captain America fights Loki on the ground while Black Widow provides coverage from the air in a quinjet. All of a sudden, Tony Stark's voice is heard, "Agent Romanoff, miss me?" The jet's PA system is overridden and Shoot To Thrill plays as Iron Man swoops in, blasts Loki and dares him to "make a move, Reindeer Games." The whole sequence is a reminder of Iron Man's dominance in the Avengers.

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4. Guardians of the Galaxy -- I Want You Back by The Jackson 5

It was heartbreaking to see Groot sacrifice himself to save his friends. But luckily a midcredit scene gives us closure as well as a hint that Groot is still around… sort of. While Drax cleans his swords, a potted Baby Groot dances to The Jackson 5's irresistible I Want You Back. When Drax turns to look, Baby Groot freezes -- only to resume dancing when Drax looks away.

3. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 -- The Chain by Fleetwood Mac

The Chain plays as Peter, Gamora and Drax split off from their friends to go with Ego, who claims to be Peter's father. On the journey, Peter ponders his newly discovered dad while contemplating a picture of his pretend papa, David Hasselhoff. In that emotional moment, Fleetwood Mac's lyrics -- written as the band's relationships fractured -- line up so well with the state of the Guardians.

"And if you don't love me now

You will never love me again

I can still hear you saying

You would never break the chain."

Even if the Guardians' split is only temporary, there are unsettled matters between each of them. And it's not until they're pushed to their limits by Ego that we see them come back together.

2. Iron Man -- Iron Man by Black Sabbath

One of the best last lines of any movie. Tony Stark faces a scrum of reporters with a written statement in hand, but goes off-script to announce, "The truth is… I am Iron Man." After a reaction shot of a shocked press corps, there's an immediate cut to credits with Black Sabbath's Iron Man playing. It's a "devil horns with your fingers" moment that launches Iron Man and Marvel perfectly into orbit.

1. Thor: Ragnarok -- Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin

This Viking-themed stormer marked a more lighthearted cinematic rebranding for Thor , and appears a couple of times in the film. But it's when Thor, God of Thunder finds his… well, thunder that it really nails things. Led Zeppelin's crunching guitar riffs hammer viewers into a wide shot of Thor bounding into battle in slow motion with bolts of lightning at his back. This music-and-action combo is about as epic as it gets.