When superheroes make the leap from page to screen, they need memorable fanfare to mark the occasion or the whole experience will just feel woefully incomplete. When you call your favorite superhero movies to mind, odds are, it’ll be their theme songs that run through your head before anything else. And that’s how it should be. Even the most spectacular act of onscreen bravery won’t look too inspiring unless there’s a suitably rousing soundtrack to accompany it. That's a fact.
Join us for a countdown of the most memorable superheroic themes to ever grace our ears. As always, we make no pretense at any academic objectivity here. Do you disagree with the choices? Cool. Go on and put your own picks in the talkback. That’s part of the fun.== TEASER ==
5. “The Man Without Fear (Daredevil theme)” by Drowning Pool
Metal’s a surefire way to get sticks-in-the-mud upset, so this pick’s guaranteed to put some pants in a twist. See, comics and metal share stripes of youthful rebelliousness - - they’re at their best when parents don’t approve of them - - and they’ve hardly ever come together as tightly as they do in this track. Not only does it have a riff so charged and driving that you can all-but-see DD clubbing ninjas to it, it also perfectly captures the circus sideshow quality you’d figure would be integral to a character called “Daredevil, the Man Without Fear.”
It also fits that the guest vocals are by Rob Zombie; a dude who’d fit right into DD’s rogue’s gallery.
4. Spider-Man theme [‘67 TV show] by Paul Francis Webster
Too often, we fixate on the serious side of superheroics and forget the fun side. It’s also easy to forget the times these characters were created in. This snappy jingle reminds us of how fun the Wallcrawler can be by setting his exploits up with the jazzy, swingin’ sound of the 60’s. With horns blaring and exuberance to spare, it also puts across the duality’s that made Pete Parker so popular, alternating verses of humorous, Stan Lee-style wordplay with ones that get right at the quixotic nobility of the character.
3. Batman theme [‘89 movie] by Danny Elfman
One needn’t be all that well-versed in the technical terminology of music to articulate how a piece like this can convey such strong concepts and feelings. This suite evokes brisk adventure, gothic romance, operatic iconography and heroic determination - - all the diverse and even contradictory qualities that define your quintessential Batman adventure. The tense minimalism of the Zimmer/Howard collaborations on Nolan’s films is great and all, but this dark Elfman magic gets ahead on the playlist, any day.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about all the catchy and often inappropriate R&B that's graced Batman flicks. Keep coming along with us.
2. “The Anvil of Crom (Conan the Barbarian theme)” by Basil Poledouris
Maybe Conan didn’t start his adventures in comics, and maybe he isn’t a superhero of the mask ‘n capes variety, but if you’ve had a team-up with Spidey at some point, you deserve to be in this echelon. Regardless of classifications, this piece, with its elephantine drums and crystalline melody, is the bar-none, no substitutes, ultimate pump-up song. There's good reason this flick let the music tell most of the story. It throws down a percussive gauntlet and issues you a mighty challenge. Better than any theme in these times long after the days of high adventure, it fills you with a sense of legendary strength, indomitable will and all the other grand qualities we turn to these superheroic escapades for.
1. Superman theme [‘79 movie] by John Williams
You’ve got to be able to hum a theme - - that’s the measure of the best ones. Whether kids these days are familiar with an old movie from the 70’s anymore or not, you can be sure they’ll recognize this fanfare within just a couple notes. It’s as iconic as John Williams’ other major themes for Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but with an even more galvanizing to action. Listen to this and you won’t just be getting visions of glass fortresses, Red Suns and faster-than-light speed - - you’ll have an irresistible urges get up and “fly” around wherever you are at the moment.
For some reason, the producers of the first set of Batman movies got the idea that funk jams and R&B ballads were the songs most suitable to accompany brooding tales of vigilante justice. Whether you were around at time or not, you can’t help but smile over such bizarrely off-mood song selections from the likes of Seal, R. Kelly and, his royal badness himself, Prince.
“Kiss from a Rose” [Batman Forever] by Seal
La la la.