Top 5 Superhero Themes From Movies

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Of all the superhero tropes we’ve seen played out over the past two decades, one of the hardest to replicate has become nailing that instant-classic superhero theme music. For one, the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to have abandoned this concept entirely (much like their villains). But with Wonder Woman hitting theaters this week, and the Amazonian warrior getting a great theme in Batman v. Superman, we’re counting down the five most iconic themes from superhero cinema.


Honorable Mention: Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man Theme (Spider-ManSpider-Man 2Spider-Man 3)

There’s something playfully mysterious about Elfman’s theme for the wall-crawler. It perfectly reflects Peter Parker’s more bizarre origins than most superhero’s had gotten on the big screen back in 2002. But it’s epic, heroic sweep perfectly accompanies any scene of Spidey swinging through the streets of Manhattan. Though while it certainly laces in the melancholy of Peter’s chief tragedy, it’s not quite as hummable as the rest of the musical cues on this list, but still entirely noteworthy.


5. Hans Zimmer’s Batman Theme (Batman BeginsThe Dark KnightThe Dark Knight Rises)

Epic in every sense of the word, Zimmer’s pulse-pounding round of violent thumps permeates through each of Christopher Nolan’s films in the Dark Knight Trilogy. As well-used when being understated as when the Tumbler is rolling into action, and with a number of fitting variations depending on which film you find it in (or which foe Batman is facing), this epic tune is part of the cinematic trio (alongside Pirates of the Caribbean and Inception) that made Zimmer a household name.


4. John Ottman’s X-Men Theme (X2: X-Men UnitedX-Men: Days of Future PastX-Men: Apocalypse)

The ever-convoluted X-Men franchise has gone through a number of composers over its ten films. But none were better than John Ottman, who delivered the rousing theme that played over the CGI credits of the series’ first sequel. When it suddenly played again in Days of Future Past, 11 years and five movies later, it felt like coming home. X-Men: Apocalypse kept the theme intact for Bryan Singer’s supposed final outing for the franchise, hopefully solidifying once and for all that this is the music fans will forever associate with their favorite mutants.


3. Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL’s Wonder Woman Theme (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)

A lot of bad things can be said about Batman v. Superman, but none of them have to do with Wonder Woman. Arriving on screen with an exotic, electric guitar fueled cue, Wonder Woman instantly joined the ranks of the other two members DC’s “Holy Trinity” with her own classic theme, albeit a few decades later. Just when superhero themes were starting to feel redundant, Zimmer and Junkie XL dropped this slightly bizarre, yet entirely awesome miniature rock opera, the first indication that the Amazonian’s long-awaited debuted on the big screen had been well worth it.


2. John Williams’ Superman Theme (SupermanSuperman IISuperman IIISuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceSuperman Returns)

Just a year after he created the most iconic score for any film in history, Star Wars, Williams delivered another rousing, sweeping call for fantastical heroism with his bombastic, good-hearted Superman theme. There’s a reason it’s in more films than any other entry on this list. Instantly iconic, this joyful collection of dramatic strings and horns hints at the other-worldly nature of Kal-El, but never forgets to make him out to be the hero of all heroes. Altruistic and unabashedly pure, there’s a reason Superman hasn’t quite felt at home on the big screen without Williams’ theme.


1. Danny Elfman’s Batman Theme (BatmanBatman Returns)

I almost wish Danny Elfman’s Batman theme and John Williams’ Superman theme could exist in the same cinematic universe. Much like Williams did with the Man of Steel, Elfman composed a theme for a dark knight. Integral in getting viewers to forget about Adam West for two hours in the summer of 1989, this dramatic, mysterious, epic theme is the darker answer to Williams’ Superman theme. The tension and tragedy that lies within Batman’s backstory and decidedly brutal brand of superheroism bleeds through this endlessly hummable tune. But the playful comic book bombast is still present, unlike Zimmer’s theme for Christopher Nolan’s trilogy starring the Caped Crusader. This is the ultimate superhero theme song, perfectly embodying the character it’s for, full of “Bam!” and “Biff!,” yet searing with Bruce Wayne’s inner turmoil. It will likely never be outdone.


What’re your favorite superhero theme songs from the movies? Let us know in the comments below!


By Matt Dougherty

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