Music is more important to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than any other installments in the MCU, because Peter Quill’s mixtapes are important to the plot. His mother made them for him and he listens to them on his Walkman.
It looks like we could be waiting a while for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, as writer-director James Gunn was fired and then rehired and had taken another job in the interim, so all we’ve got is the first two for a couple of years. Here are the 10 Best Used Songs In The Guardians Of The Galaxy Movies, Ranked.
10 “Father and Son” by Cat Stevens
The most heartbreaking thing about Yondu’s death in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is more specific than simply the loss of a great character. He sacrificed himself to save Quill right after Quill realized he’d known his real father all along. It wasn’t his biological Celestial father; it was the Ravager who raised him. And by the time he realized that, it was too late.
It was only fitting to have a song called “Father and Son,” performed by the great Cat Stevens, playing over Yondu’s funeral. It also made for an apt send-off for the character and a very emotional ending to the sequel.
9 “Bring It on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke
In the first Guardians movie, Peter Quill introduces Gamora to the notion of dancing via the “legend” of Footloose. In the second one, they dance together, and it’s a really sweet and romantic and beautiful scene. It’s even more heartbreaking to watch now that we know what was coming a year later.
Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” was used for the scene and it set the mood incredibly. The song has a tremendous legacy, too – it’s been named by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the songs that shaped the rock and roll genre in the first place.
8 “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass
This song was selected to play over the scene in which Ego and Meredith Quill go on a date in 1980. The melody is very calming and easy-going, which makes it suitable for a date scene, but it actually has a sad deeper meaning. It tells the story of a barmaid who flirts with lonesome sailors in the small harbor town where she works, but she really misses the love that left her a long time ago.
The track reappears later in the movie as Quill listens to it on Ego’s planet and Ego calls it “one of Earth’s greatest musical compositions, perhaps the greatest.” When we later find out what Ego did to Quill’s mother, a tragic layer is added to it and the deeper meaning makes sense.
7 “The Rubberband Man” by the Spinners
Okay, so this song is from Avengers: Infinity War, which technically isn’t a Guardians of the Galaxy movie. But the Guardians of the Galaxy are in it and they each go through an emotional character arc and it’s in the MCU timeline and it’ll likely affect what happens in Vol. 3, so it sort of counts. “The Rubberband Man” by the Spinners plays in the scene that introduces the cosmic team into the movie.
With its blending of the funk and soul musical styles (very ‘70s), “The Rubberband Man” was the perfect song choice to segue from the Avengers to the Guardians. It was supposed to feel like the scene had been lifted from a Guardians of the Galaxy movie and stitched into a giant Avengers team-up, and that’s exactly the feeling we get with the Spinners on the soundtrack.
6 “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra
Music is an incredibly powerful part of the makeup of a movie. It sets the tone for what you’re seeing, and if it doesn’t match what you’re seeing, then it can create a comical juxtaposition. A movie’s opening track is responsible for setting the tone for the entire thing.
At the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, we see the characters battling a giant alien squid thing. But we don’t focus on that. We focus on Baby Groot as he dances to “Mr. Blue Sky” by the Electric Light Orchestra. The film’s comedic style is established immediately and we settle back in for another adventure with these quirky characters.
5 “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone
In the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy, we see an eight-year-old Peter Quill watch his mother die and get abducted by aliens. There’s a huge tonal shift in the next scene when we see him as an adult, played by Chris Pratt, dancing around a distant planet, listening to his Walkman, and stealing what turns out to be an Infinity Stone.
The scene was initially built around Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling,” but James Gunn changed his mind when he found Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” to be a “better fit.” And he was right – its funk-rock sound introduces us excellently to this intergalactic combination of Han Solo and Indiana Jones and set us up for a very fun movie.
4 “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison
Right after the Guardians meet Peter Quill’s father Ego, played by Kurt Russell, he takes them back to his planet. At the time, we don’t realize that he is the planet, but we’re getting a hint that something’s up with him. All we’re being told visually when we arrive on Ego’s planet is that it’s a strange paradise, and that’s what makes George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” such a good fit.
The ethereal, psychedelic, almost surreal sounds of Harrison’s guitar riffs introduce us to the planet perfectly. The former Beatle was inspired by religious imagery when writing the song, which plays into Ego’s god-like powers.
3 “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5
The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie got to have its cake and eat it, too, as James Gunn got to toy with his audience’s emotions by killing off Groot, but didn’t actually have to do away with his most popular character as he could be replanted. Moviegoers sighed with relief, and smiled uncontrollably, when they saw Baby Groot dancing to the sounds of the Jackson 5’s soulful hit “I Want You Back.”
Drax was sharpening his knife in the background, and every time he looked over to see if Groot was moving, he stopped dancing and froze. It was a delightful scene and the wonderful “I Want You Back” was the perfect choice for the soundtrack – we almost want to dance along with Groot, because we get into the groove with him.
2 “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie
David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” is played over the scene in which the Guardians first arrive on Knowhere. According to James Gunn, a few other songs, such as “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell and “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” by Three Dog Night, were considered for the scene, but Bowie’s track just feels right.
His otherworldly sound pairs beautifully with the otherworldly imagery of a Celestial skull floating through space. Gunn actually considers Bowie to be a personal hero and was courting him for a cameo appearance in the 2017 sequel before the music legend sadly passed away in 2016.
1 “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac
Usually, in the final battle scenes of MCU movies, a grandiose, sweeping, orchestral score will play to capture the weight and gravity of what’s going on. But James Gunn has demonstrated with the Guardians of the Galaxy movies that the same can be accomplished – and is actually more effective – with a pop classic.
At the end of Vol. 2, as Quill finally manages to channel his Celestial half and soar through the air as he fights his evil dad, the dramatic heft of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” packs the emotional punch the scene needs. It doesn’t have the weight of an orchestral score, but then the scene doesn’t have the weight of the Avengers saving Earth from an alien invasion – it’s just a father and son battling it out. It works incredibly well.