The MCU has used songs to fantastic effect throughout its franchise.
Music can make all the difference to a film scene—the creatives behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) know this well.
Not only does the MCU have amazing film scores that one can listen to for hours, but the franchise’s use of licensed songs has been nothing short of astounding.
We’ve picked 5 of the best music moments from the series and explain why they add to the scenes they accompany.
The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
The Guardians of the Galaxy films have no dearth of music in them—the eccentric space team love their music, thanks to mixtapes courtesy of Peter Quill’s mother.
It’s definitely hard to choose just one music moment from these two films—and from the Guardians’ appearances in Infinity War and Endgame—but there is one music moment that stands out.
In their second outing in the MCU, the Guardians try to work within the law, but when your team is made up of smugglers and assassins, that’s not going to work out very well.
And it also makes being a family a particularly rough deal. Fleetwood Mac’s seminal ‘The Chain’ plays for the first time in the film when the Guardians split up, essentially for Quill to reconnect with his long-lost father, Ego.
But while the song fits well in that scene, it’s the reprisal in the third act of the film that will give you goosebumps.
Quill and the Guardians learn of Ego’s murderous plot against living beings and band together to fight the living planet.
Seeing the team come together as a family after being so fraught for the majority of the film’s runtime is nothing short of iconic and encapsulates the MCU’s overarching theme of the importance of found families.
Back in Black – AC/DC
When fans think of Iron Man, Black Sabbath’s titular song is the first one that comes to mind.
But if you think back to the first film of the MCU, it is AC/DC’s oeuvre that accompanied Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark.
In Iron Man, AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ opens the film, as it is played over the speaker system of a squad jeep that carries Stark and a group of soldiers. It’s a jovial beginning to the much-loved universe, setting up Stark as a cocky rule-breaker with a heart of gold.
As fans know, the scene soon transitions from its light mood—the squad is attacked and Stark is taken hostage. Thus, begins his journey towards becoming Iron Man, the hero we all know and love.
Not only was AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’ an iconic intro to a much-loved character, but the band also provided the entire soundtrack for Iron Man 2. Plus, throughout the MCU, Stark can be seen sporting AC/DC t-shirts.
And the importance of ‘Back in Black’ has not been forgotten past phase 1 of the MCU.
In 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, Peter Parker embodies his late mentor in a montage set to ‘Back in Black’—aside from the fact that Parker mistakes AC/DC for Led Zeppelin. Ah well, he still has some things to learn.
It’s Been A Long, Long Time – Kitty Kallen
The MCU spent 20 films building up to Avengers: Endgame. Plenty happened along the way—villains were fought, friendships were forged, and families were built.
Captain America, the leader of the Avengers—and the first Avenger, though he wasn’t aware of it at the time—had had quite the life.
An experiment made him strong; his unyielding heart made him a hero. Captain America fought in the Second World War, ‘died’ for the world, and was left frozen in ice for 70 years.
His last thought before he went in the ice was of Peggy Carter, fellow soldier and friend who could have been so much more. His first thought after being thawed out was of Carter again—that he’d missed their dance and that she’d had to live her life without him.
Throughout the MCU, Steve Rogers manages to make friends and add to his found family—Black Widow, Falcon, Iron Man—but his heart still belonged in the 1940s. When he found his best friend Bucky Barnes alive in the 21st century, Rogers got something of his old life back, but that was clearly not enough.
In Endgame, Rogers is tasked with returning the Infinity Stones to their correct timelines—he’s meant to come right back but he takes a detour to enjoy a different life, the one he always deserved.
As old-Steve hands Falcon the Captain America shield and mantle, he is coy about the person he made a life with. But back in the 40s, the camera pans to a home, Kitty Kallen’s ‘It’s Been A Long, Long Time’ playing through the window. As the camera goes into the home, we see Rogers and Carter getting that dance they had always been denied. And cut to black.
There’s been a great deal of discussion about this moment—many have felt that Rogers’ denial of his found family, especially Bucky and Falcon, was out of character. But it seems that Rogers, despite making valiant efforts to fit into the new world, never quite found himself at home in the 21st century. His place was always in the past, by Carter’s side.
The reason this music moment feels so powerful is because it is another reprisal—not from the same film, but from an MCU film from a while ago. Kallen’s song made up the stunning soundtrack of Captain America: Winter Soldier, and hearing it again in Endgame made it an incredibly satisfying moment.
Just A Girl – No Doubt
The MCU’s first female-led film took far too long to arrive—and when it did, a small vocal group of ‘fanboys’ decided to campaign strongly against it because it’s a crime to acknowledge that women exist, apparently.
But Captain Marvel was not only a joy to watch, but encompassed many of the themes of the MCU—finding oneself, becoming a hero, being part of a family, and standing up for those who can’t fight for themselves.
Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers spends the majority of the film under the belief that her powers are a curse and need to be reigned in. But by the end of the film, Danvers takes on her Captain Marvel mantle, and fights back against the Kree overlords who have held her back from her true self.
Fully powered and ready to kick ass, Captain Marvel faces off against her former friends and family in an instant classic of a fight scene—made even more memorable with the addition of No Doubt’s ‘Just A Girl’.
The choice of song is apt for a number of reasons. Captain Marvel is set in the 90s and judiciously uses some classics from the era to place the narrative.
But ‘Just A Girl’ has even greater significance because of the way Danvers and her fellow pilots from the early 90s were treated by the air force.
Danvers finds herself by remembering that every time she fell—and there was a man around to gloat about her never being better because she was ‘just a girl’—she picked herself back up, until she became the hero she always believed herself to be.
When one recalls the misogynistic hate directed towards Captain Marvel and Brie Larson, ‘Just A Girl’ becomes an even more powerful anthem for the film, the fight scene, and the MCU.
Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin have been known for not lending their music, particularly ‘Immigrant Song’, for feature films. ‘Immigrant Song’ has only been used once before—in School of Rock.
Aside from being an amazing song that has been a favourite for the musically-inclined for over 40 years, ‘Immigrant Song’ is perfect for one of the most contested groups of the MCU—the Asgardians.
Even in the Marvel comics, Thor has always been a tough character to get used to—he speaks in an otherworldly fashion and is a literal god. Translating the character and his universe into the world of feature films was nothing short of a feat of endurance.
Following a strong debut, Thor had a lukewarm follow-up, making his third outing that much more concerning for fans.
Enter Taika Waititi and Thor: Ragnarok, which soon became one of the most entertaining entries in the MCU, and owner of what is undoubtedly one of the most astounding music moments of the franchise.
Use of the ‘Immigrant Song’ had been teased in trailers for Ragnarok, but the film introduced the song early on. Stuck in a difficult position, Thor fights Surtur’s hordes (get it?) to escape back to Asgard—all to the raging beats of ‘Immigrant Song’.
But while this moment was outstanding, in yet another astounding reprisal in the MCU, ‘Immigrant Song’ makes a comeback in the third act.
Broken and beaten—and missing an eye, as well as his confidence—Thor is ready to meet his dead father in Valhalla when a few words of inspiration remind him of who he is.
Renewed and more powerful than ever, Thor flies back to the land of his people, lightning encompassing his body, Led Zeppelin’s primal scream accompanying his flight as he makes short work of Hela’s undead troupes.
Talk about iconic!
What’s Your Favourite MCU Music Moment?
The MCU is no stranger to powerful music moments. Whittling the list down to just 5 top scenes was a challenge but we think we’ve covered some of the most powerful and memorable ones.
Which music moment is your favourite? Tell us in the comments below.