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The Five Worst and Best Comic Book Movie Songs

Prince, The Cure, and Seal have all gone from zero to hero.

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As seasonal villain Kanye West once said, “Every superhero needs his theme music.” The history of superhero movies would agree. For almost every superhero flick, there’s a gaudy soundtrack behind it, with songs ranging from the perfection of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” booming as we get our first look at Tony Stark’s red suit to the tragedy that is Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap” from the oft-forgotten Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret of the Ooze. Hell, U2 loved making songs about superheroes so much they followed-up “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” from Batman Forever (more on that film later) with a whole Broadway musical about Spider-Man. We’re sure it turned out great.

For the good of mankind (or at least our readers) we assembled the team of Dan Caffrey, Zack Ruskin, Danielle Janota, and Michael Roffman to determine once and for all which comic book movie songs are worthy to fight for justice, and which ones are better left in the gutters of Gotham. It should be noted that each one of the tracks ahead were written specifically for the film, as opposed to the older, more classic songs later applied to great scenes. That means, bye-bye Sabbath, farewell Ramones, and sorry Smashing Pumpkins. They penned great songs about superheroes and provided wonderful B-sides, all of which are disqualified for this particular list. Now that you know, it’s time to fly and finish Marvel Week on a high note.

THE-WORST

5. R. Kelly – “Gotham City”

Batman & Robin (1997)

If anyone was wondering the least cool way to portray the world of Batman, R. Kelly has found the answer! One of the most solemn slow jams ever written, “Gotham City” calls for peace and an end to corruption in Bruce Wayne’s native metropolis. “A city of justice, a city of love, a city of peace for everyone of us,” R. Kelly croons. While the song isn’t the best fit for a Batman film, it might’ve been appropriate if Harvey Dent were running for DA in the ’90s and needed a campaign song. —Danielle Janota

4. Dolby’s Cube feat. Cherry Bomb – “Howard the Duck”

Howard the Duck (1986)


Take a blender, add equal parts generic synth, helium voices, inane lyrics, and more breakdowns than HBOGo after a new Game of Thrones premieres, then hit puree. You now have the exact recipe for this painful attempt at a catchy theme to a film undeserving of white noise. Bonus points for the moment at the 2:30 mark, where the track devolves into unintelligible voices talking amongst each other that sort of makes you question your sanity for multiple reasons. —Zack Ruskin

3. Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla $ign – “Shell Shocked”

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

The more obvious inclusion for our Heroes in a Half Shell would be Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap”, but as a pop song, it’s really not that awful. Lyrically, it’s about as cheesy as a slice of New York ‘za, but c’mon, you’re talking about the same idiot responsible for “Ice Ice Baby”. A far more annoying and pandering canister of sonic drivel is last year’s “Shell Shocked”. Over an uninspired drill beat, thanks to Kill The Noise & Madsonik, Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla $ign take turns being morons for three-and-a-half minutes of lame bars (“Bought the orange Lamborghini, call it Michelangelo”) and one asinine chorus (“Knock, knock, you about to get shell shocked”). It’s pure fodder for parents and post-twentysomethings to shake their heads at and grumble, “Now that’s what I hate about music today.” Yet it’s also a good excuse for Turtleheads to revisit Partners in Kryme’s oft-forgotten, “Turtle Power”. Sure, the duo confused Raphael and Leonardo, but they possessed T-U-R-T-L — whatever, you get the point. –Michael Roffman

2. Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott – “Hero”

Spider-Man (2002)

Any track that involves the Nickelback frontman is obviously going to be a bit cringeworthy, but “Hero” takes it to another level. In classic Kroeger fashion, the Canadian rocker uses hoarse vocals to sing vague lyrics that attempt to be cathartic, but end up sounding cheesy. “Hold on to the wings of the eagles, watch as they all fly away,” he belts. What eagles (animals of flight) have to do with Spider-Man (a flightless superhero) is beyond me. But hey, at least the quality of the song matches that of the movie. Hearing Chad Kroeger on the soundtrack is just as awkward as watching Tobey Maguire try to play Spiderman. —Danielle Janota

1. Drowning Pool feat. Rob Zombie – “The Man Without Fear”

Daredevil (2003)


Oh to be a fly on the wall of the high-level executive meeting where Daredevil director Mark Steven Johnson met with the 20th Century Fox team and described what he had in mind for the breakout single of his film’s soundtrack. “Okay, so you know the guys who did that ‘Bodies’ song? We got them! I know! But that’s not it – we have Rob-freaking-Zombie guesting on this thing. What’s the song? Well basically it’s just a singular guitar riff and Rob screaming the name Daredevil over and over again for four minutes.” There was perhaps some polite nodding, which is as much head-banging as this ear sore deserves. –Zack Ruskin


THE-BEST

5. Silverchair – “Spawn Again”

Spawn (1997)


The dark, sprawling genius that is Spawn was buoyed by the careful, curated musical choices that occur throughout the film. One gem was Silverchair’s “Spawn Again”, a tense mix of brooding guitar, staccato piano, and the haunting voice of Daniel Johns. It would’ve been easy to let the music serve as an over-the-top reflection of a plot line that finds a mercenary brought back from death as Satan’s soldier, but instead Spawn is populated by tracks that add a needed murky atmosphere to the cult classic. —Zack Ruskin

4. Prince – “Batdance”

Batman (1989)

Who better than Prince to produce a song as frenetic and maniacal as the Joker himself? Complemented by a purple-tinted, “Thriller”-like dance video that can’t be unseen, the chaotic song combines movie sound-bytes and blaring guitar riffs to concoct a funky power ballad that still stands as a solid track 25+ years later. Not only is “Batdance” one of the best signature tracks a Batman film has brought to the table, it has inspired several iconic songs and videos since its release, most notably Hot Chip’s opus: “Ready for the Floor.” —Danielle Janota

3. Dashboard Confessional – “Vindicated”

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Director Sam Raimi installed a number of upgrades for his Spider-Man sequel in 2004. He brought in Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon as a script doctor, gave the hideously underused Alfred Molina a starring role, and ditched Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott for a teary-eyed Chris Carrabba. Okay, so that last part wasn’t actually his call, but it’s just one of many, many reasons why Spider-Man 2 works from beginning to end. The Dashboard Confessional singer-songwriter avoids all the pitfalls of superhero movie anthems, opting instead for loose imagery (“Hope dangles on a string”) and self-deprecating heroism (“So let me slip away”) that just gushes with emotion. And the boy did his homework (or really studied the script) as the lyrics naturally mirror the film’s frantic love story. When he turns left into the song’s bridge — sigh — it’s enough to shiver and disappear into one’s own hoodie. Don’t you miss the days when Spider-Man was this exciting? #LoveYouTobey –Michael Roffman

2. Seal – “Kiss From A Rose”

Batman Forever (1995)

What is there to say about “Kiss From a Rose” that a thousand middle school proms haven’t already said better? In Batman Forever, a movie overflowing with choice tracks from the likes of U2, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, and Mazzy Star, it was Seal’s silky smooth ballad of a man in love that trumped them all. Originally slated to play over a love scene between Nicole Kidman and Val Kilmer, Joel Schumaker wisely (yes those words together look odd to me too) decided to stick it on the end credits, where it crept down our ear canals and into our hearts. This song reeled in Heidi Klum. That’s some super strength. —Zack Ruskin

1. The Cure – “Burn”

The Crow (1993)

Many superhero films use whatever alt-rock or nu metal acts are popular at the time for the soundtrack. The filmmakers of The Crow shirked this formula by tapping musicians who actually make sense within the world of the film. Not only did James O’Barr frequently listen to The Cure when writing his gothic masterpiece—he turned to Robert Smith’s makeup as inspiration for the sad-clown look of his vigilante. With such a palpable connection to the source material, it’s uncannily fitting that, as a resurrected Eric Draven smears on white pancake and eyeliner in the mirror, Robert Smith howls about painting your face in shadows. —Dan Caffrey

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