San Diego summer is officially in full swing. And of all the local traditions that come with our hottest season — beach days, fireworks, the Fair, Padres games, tourists, concerts, outdoor movies, and the racetrack — there’s nothing that quite compares to the annual Comic-Con.
In honor of all the Deadpools, Bat Girls, Black Panthers, and Daenerys Targaryens who take over our fair city, PACIFC has compiled a list of the 10 greatest comic-based soundtracks of all-time.
So, pop in your ear buds and get ready to embrace your inner super hero.
10. Ghost World (2001)
Ok, so not exactly the “get you pumped” collection of songs, the soundtrack to the film based on Daniel Clowes’ 1997 graphic novel makes the cut for its sheer individuality. Instead of compiling a list of hipster tunes, or getting the bands of the day to each contribute a new track, Ghost World collects a completely disparate set of old school deep cuts. From Mohammed Rafi’s Bollywood classic Jaan Pehechaan Ho and Lionel Belasco’s calypso rhythms, to bluesman Skip James’ Devil Got My Woman and composer David Kitay’s gorgeous Theme From Ghost World, this 20-song anthology is as enjoyable as it is educational.
9. Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 2 (2017)
Not as great as the accompanying tunes to the first film (see below), still this set is almost as slick in its mining of mostly forgotten-about classic tunes from the ’70s. Sure, the additions from Fleetwood Mac, Sam Cooke, Cheap Trick, and Parliament aren’t exactly neglected compositions, but re-introducing modern audiences to songs like Jay & The Americans’ Come a Little Bit Closer and Silver’s Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang is hero’s work indeed.
8. Black Panther (2018)
Pulitzer-prize-winning rapper Kendrick Lamar teamed with Top Dawg Entertainment CEO Anthony Tiffith and Black Panther director Ryan Cooper for a soundtrack of music both in, and inspired by, the film. Lamar appears on five of the best tracks on the album, teaming with SZA, The Weeknd, Jay Rock, Future, Travis Scott, and James Blake, as well as taking on the title track by himself. Other standouts feature artists like Vince Staples, Khalid, Jorja Smith, Anderson .Paak, and 2 Chainz.
7. The Crow (1994)
Although a dark cloud will always hang over this film because of star Brandon Lee’s death during filming, the distinctly macabre soundtrack perfectly captures the mood of the graphic novel source material. Standout tracks from the Cure and Nine Inch Nails mix well with contributions from Rage Against The Machine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Stone Temple Pilots, Helmet, Pantera, and others.
6. Batman Forever (1995)
While the film itself is likely to go down as one of the weakest entries in The Caped Crusader’s anthology, the soundtrack reads like a Who’s Who of '90s music and beyond. U2, Seal, Mazzy Star, Bono, PJ Harvey, Massive Attack, Nick Cave, The Flaming Lips, and Michael Hutchence of INXS all make appearances. Even Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man got in on the action with The Riddler, a dedication the character Jim Carrey plays in the film.
5. Men In Black (1997)
While it’s probably worth mentioning that Oingo Boingo front man turned film composer Danny Elfman was responsible for all of the music in the film other than Will Smith’s title track, the soundtrack is a standout for many other reasons. Not only did the album spend a couple of weeks at the top spot on the Billboard 200, it also garnered Smith a Grammy, and serves as the debut of both Alicia Keys and Destiny’s Child. Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, and D’Angelo also contributed to the album.
4. Flash Gordon (1980) + Heavy Metal (1981)
It’s a tie for the fourth spot, and for quite different reasons. Flash Gordon makes the cut because instead of just contributing a few songs, British rockers Queen actually composed all of the music for the film, and the entire thing is intertwined with quotes from the movie. Heavy Metal gets the nod for being one of the first adult animation films to really cross over and simultaneously use a widely divergent soundtrack of popular music. Devo, Black Sabbath, Journey, Stevie Nicks, Grand Funk Railroad, and Cheap Trick all contributed to the ultimately uneven film.
3. Suicide Squad (2016)
While the film deservedly sits with a 27% Rotten Tomatoes score (and that’s probably generous), the once highly anticipated entry in the DC Comics extended universe did a nice job marrying old tunes and new ones without feeling like it was trying too hard. Eminem’s Without Me and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son somehow work well alongside entries from the likes of Skrillex, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Imagine Dragons, Grimes, twenty one pilots, and Wiz Khalifa. And Panic! At the Disco bridges the gap between old and new with their strikingly faithful cover of Bohemian Rhapsody.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 (2014)
Probably the greatest use of soundtrack in the plot of a comic-based movie, the importance Chris Pratt’s Quill places on dusty classics by The Runaways, David Bowie, Norman Greenbaum, Jackson 5, Blue Swede, and 10cc practically turns them all into minor characters. And bringing a song like Redbone’s 1973 hit Come and Get Your Love back into the spotlight is never a bad idea.
1. Batman (1989)
In an era of MTV that we’ll never get back, the always enigmatic R&B superstar Prince jumped into the pop culture pool with both feet on this one. Director Tim Burton used the iconic singer’s contributions sparingly, but memorably, including Jack Nicholson’s Joker dancing to album cut Partyman in the much-talked-about museum scene. The album spent six consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and has sold an estimated 12 million copies to date.