The Marvel Cinematic Universe stands unparalleled in the annals of film history, reigning supreme as the most indomitable franchise ever to grace the silver screen. With its unparalleled longevity spanning decades, this colossal cinematic universe has etched an indelible mark on popular culture, captivating audiences with a tapestry of superhero stories that traverse a myriad of film genres. Despite the tumultuous journey rife with heart-wrenching character deaths, the passing of mantles from one hero to another, and numerous narrative twists, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to defy the odds and maintain its unyielding dominance.
Among the many facets that have contributed to the unparalleled success of these films, the distinctive soundtracks have played a pivotal role in their resonance with audiences. Each film boasts a meticulously crafted musical score, serving as a sonic tapestry that weaves itself into the fabric of the characters’ identities. Through the enchantment of music, the Marvel heroes transcend the boundaries of the screen, finding embodiment in their own unique theme songs. These famous tracks not only enhance the cinematic experience but also serve as sonic pillars that encapsulate the essence of each superhero’s persona.
Without further ado, here’s every hard rock and heavy metal song to ever make it into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Iron Man (2008)
Iron Man helped set the tone for the MCU in more ways than one. Tony Stark’s maiden voyage into the silver screen helped set the bar for future MCU films, showing superhero movies could be consistently excellent if done well. In crafting that first film, Jon Favreau helped define Stark’s character by heavily associating him with the sounds of AC/DC, which would appear in later films as a sort of calling card. Of course, it felt almost pre-ordained the song end with the Black Sabbath classic of the same name. Still a little bizarre it’s the only appearance of the song in the franchise.
- AC/DC, “Back in Black”
- Black Sabbath, “Iron Man”
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Edward Norton’s one appearance as Bruce Banner isn’t something many people remember. Despite his best intentions at getting to the character’s psychology, there’s not much to write home about or rock out to.
Iron Man 2 (2010)
The second Iron Man film doubles down on the first’s rock soundtrack, packing its tracklisting front to back with AC/DC’s best singles. Beyond that, there’s some nice love shown to The Clash, Beastie Boys and Queen. And yes, we’re counting Daft Punk as a rock band. Not sorry.
- AC/DC, “Shoot to Thrill”
- The Clash, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go”
- The Clash, “The Magnificent Seven”
- Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust”
- Daft Punk, “Robot Rock”
- Beastie Boys, “Groove Holmes”
- AC/DC, “Highway to Hell”
- AC/DC, “Thunderstruck”
Not a whole lot to write home about in the first Thor movie other than an appearance of the Foo Fighters classic. Things would kick up later.
- Foo Fighters, “Walk”
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Just a bunch of old man stuff. Cap should’ve been unfrozen in a Hot Topic, Fear Factory blasting in his old-ass ears.
The Avengers (2012)
The first joint Avengers film between all members features an AC/DC track as a Tony Stark motif and a Soundgarden song written for the soundtrack. Takes us back to the halcyon days of The Crow or Batman Forever when a movie would be lined top-to-bottom with songs written for a soundtrack.
- AC/DC, “Shoot to Thrill”
- Soundgarden, “Live to Rise”
Iron Man 3 (2013)
Why hath thou betrayed us, Tony Stark? Swapping AC/DC and The Clash for AWOLNATION and Imagine Dragons? Pretty brutal.
- Awolnation, “Some Kind of Joke”
- Imagine Dragons, “Ready Aim Fire”
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
This movie sucked and so does its soundtrack. Oh well.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
There’s a Marvin Gaye song so at least Cap started listening to newer stuff.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The first entry of the Guardians of the Galaxy series featured a seriously impactful soundtrack. Leaning into the theme of a mixtape, the soundtrack bounces between numerous genres spanning soul, pop, rock and R&B. It would help set the tone for what future soundtracks in the MCU would bring, and a great way to help define the world through its music.
- The Raspberries, “Go All the Way”
- David Bowie, “Moonage Daydream”
- The Runaways, “Cherry Bomb”
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Ultron doesn’t like metal. He does like Hikaru Utada though, a nice surprise.
“Antmusic” is a pretty funny inclusion. Didn’t take Scott Lang to be into goth music.
- Adam and the Ants, “Antmusic”
- The Cure, “Plainsong”
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Is Alt-J rock music? Not much to see here. Real missed opportunity to include Guns N’ Roses’ “Civil War” here.
Doctor Strange (2016)
More space rock! We appreciate the Floyd and Earth Wind & Fire but still feels like we could’ve had more.
- Pink Floyd, “Interstellar Overdrive”
- Earth Wind & Fire, “Shining Star”
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
Taking its soundtrack a little bit into the future, James Gunn and co. double down on their soundtrack efforts with the first film by delivering a killer followup that included everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Cheap Trick. Though sadly it did not appear in the actual movie, Sweet’s “Fox on the Run” is a perfect song that we’re happy made an appearance in the trailer for the film.
- Electric Light Orchestra, “Mr. Blue Sky”
- Jimmy Urine, Un Deye Gon Hayd (The Unloved Song)”
- Fleetwood Mac, “The Chain”
- George Harrison, “My Sweet Lord”
- Cheap Trick, “Surrender”
- Cat Stevens, “Father and Son”
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Turns out Pete has pretty good taste. Beyond using some classic NY tunes like “Blitzkrieg Bop,” Parker and the gang pop into songs from The Stones, Flock of Seagulls and more.
- The Rolling Stones, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
- Ramones, “Blitzkrieg Bop”
- The Beat, “Save it for Later”
- A Flock of Seagulls, “Space Age Love Song”
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
What a choice. Though there’s only one heavy metal song on the soundtrack (and one song in totality, really), Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” helped make Thor: Ragnarok into one of the best films in the MCU. From the opening scene where Thor is clobbering on a hellish LOTR-esque demon to its reprise in the end, it’s an excellent inclusion that really pops, helping the film find its identity after a string of underwhelming solo films.
- Led Zeppelin, “Immigrant Song”
Black Panther (2018)
An excellent soundtrack executive produced by Kendrick Lamar that contains no rock music. Still, arguably one of the best MCU soundtracks.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Just a big orchestral score courtesy of Allan Silvestri. No rockin here.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Up the goth.
- Morrissey, “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
- Morrissey, “First of the Gang to Die”
Captain Marvel (2019)
Carol Danvers’ journey through the ’90s came with a very fitting soundtrack to help contextualize her journey on Earth. She also rocks a Nine Inch Nails shirt through much of the movie, sadly they don’t appear on the soundtrack. Still, hard to go wrong with Nirvana and Hole.
- Heart, “Crazy on You”
- Lita Ford, “Kiss Me Deadly”
- Elastica, “Connection”
- Garbage, “Only Happy When It Rains”
- Nirvana, “Come As You Are”
- No Doubt, “Just a Girl”
- R.E.M., “Man on the Moon”
- Hole, “Celebrity Skin”
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Seriously, how do you not bust out “Iron Man” one last time or AC/DC? A few cool tracks but all the fan edits of that final showdown between Thanos and Tony where Sabbath is blasting are a lot cooler than what we actually ended up with.
- The Kinks, “Supersonic Rocket Ship”
- The Rolling Stones, “Doom and Gloom”
- Steppenwolf, “Hey Lawdy Mama”
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Seriously, who would’ve figured Parker is a rocker. Some more solid additions to the soundtrack, and somehow there’s an AC/DC track that Endgame didn’t have.
- The Jam, “Town Called Malice”
- AC/DC, “Back In Black”
- Ramones, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend”
- The Go-Go’s, “Vacation”
- The Specials, “A Message to You, Rudy”
Black Widow (2021)
Boy that Nirvana cover was… something.
- Don McLean, “American Pie”
- Think Up Anger, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Eight Rings (2021)
A cool soundtrack rounded out by artists on 88 rising, and also an inexplicable Eagles song. Right on.
- Eagles, “Hotel California”
Marvel! We assure you there’s other spacey stuff beyond Pink Floyd. We appreciate the inclusion, but still.
- Pink Floyd, “Time”
- Foreigner, “Feels Like the First Time”
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
- Talking Heads, “I Zimbra”
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
The X-Men ‘97 theme sort of counts. But that’s about it from this movie.
Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)
The iconic use of Led Zeppelin must have really lit a fire under Taika Waititi and crew for the production of Thor: Love and Thunder, as they’ve upped the metal anthems for the film. This time, they squarely gave props to Guns N’ Roses and had their four biggest tracks ring through the duration of the movie. We’re happy that Dio also got some love in there as well.
- Guns N’ Roses, “Welcome to the Jungle”
- Guns N’ Roses, “Paradise City”
- Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
- Guns N’ Roses, “November Rain”
- Dio, “Rainbow in the Dark”
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
Shockingly, a rock song did make the cut in Wakanda Forever.
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Can’t Stop”
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)
The latest Guardians film has a pretty bitchin’ soundtrack, be it Rocket listening to Radiohead’s “Creep” at the start of the movie to the absolutely epic fight during Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” James Gunn outdid himself on his final run with the Guardians, and hopefully he can bring it with him into the next.
- Radiohead, “Creep”
- Heart, “Crazy On You”
- Rainbow, “Since You Been Gone”
- Spacehog, “In the Meantime”
- Earth, Wind & Fire, “Reasons”
- The Flaming Lips, “Do You Realize??”
- Faith No More, “We Cara A Lot”
- Alice Cooper, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”
- X, “Poor Girl”
- Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
- The Replacements, “I Will Dare”