Marvel movies are fun. Even when they’re tackling serious issues, they’re often truly amusing, and that’s never been more true than it is with the Guardians of the Galaxy. This band of heroes almost exist to make fun of the rest of the Marvel universe, and the first installment in the series lived up to that reputation. A huge part of the vibe of Guardians of the Galaxy comes from the soundtrack, through a great gimmick presented early in the first installment, when Peter Quill is given a mixtape of '70s and '80s jams from his mother.
That same first installment ends with the introduction of a second volume, giving us tons of music to appreciate. Under the guidance of director James Gunn and ace music supervisor Dave Jordan, the songs in Guardians of the Galaxy contribute to the feel of frivolity that infests the movies without seeming generic. These songs go together, both in terms of when they were made and how they feel.
Many of the songs were big hits, but some are deeper cuts. Most charted on the Billboard Hot 100, but that’s not true of all of them. We've ranked these songs by their place on the Billboard charts. In the case of a tie, the winner was the song that had more influence on the film overall.
Here's Every Song On The Guardians Of The Galaxy Soundtrack, Ranked From Smallest To Biggest Hit.
25 "Lake Shore Drive" by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah - Didn't Chart
This is perhaps one of the deeper cuts to make it into a Guardians film, and that probably has a lot to do with director James Gunn’s personal relationship with the song. “Lake Shore Drive” was only a regional hit in the midwest when Gunn was growing up, but it also happens to be endlessly catchy, which is why Gunn felt that it was worth including.
In a way, throwing deep cuts like “Lake Shore Drive” in is probably truer to one person’s history with music. Nobody only listens to the biggest songs from a specific era, so it would have seemed disingenuous for Star-Lord’s mom’s mixtape to come without at least a few idiosyncratic tracks. “Lake Shore Drive” also gives Guardians fans a chance to discover a new song that very few of them have ever heard before, so it’s really a win for everyone involved. It also helps that it’s a pretty great tune.
24 "Moonage Daydream" by David Bowie - Didn't Chart
Plenty of Bowie’s best songs made it on the Billboard Hot 100, but “Moonage Daydream” wasn’t one of them. Still, the song is definitely appropriate for this story of space cadets. In fact, Bowie’s whole vibe was so in line with the idea of otherworldliness that he’s an absolutely perfect fit for a film that has more aliens than humans in its core cast of characters.
The song only makes the briefest of appearances in the film. It’s used as the Guardians are traveling toward Knowhere, and it seems like Quill happens to be listening to it just as they arrive at the station. Although the song doesn’t get to be heard for much more than 20 seconds, it’s clear that it’s Bowie, and it’s a good reminder that the songs we’re hearing aren’t just on the soundtrack; they’re also songs that Quill has obsessed over ever since he left Earth, as his sole connection to his home planet.
23 "Father and Son" by Cat Stevens - Didn't Chart
This song will almost certainly tie in thematically to Guardians 2.“Father and Son” is an obvious inclusion in the film where Star-Lord will finally meet his father, Ego the living planet. While the inclusion of the 1970 song may seem obvious, the inspiration didn’t strike Gunn until he heard Howard Stern attempt to perform it with an acoustic guitar on his radio show. So it seems like Howard Stern, of all people, contributed to the Guardians 2 soundtrack, even if he did so unintentionally.
To some, “Father and Son” may seem like too obvious an inclusion, but perhaps that’s actually part of the point. After all, part of the fun of Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack is the very on-the-nose music choices. In those terms, it makes tons of sense for Star-Lord to view his first interaction with his father through the lens of a popular song literally called "Father and Son".
22 "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac - Didn't Chart
Perhaps the most shocking of the songs that didn’t chart is “The Chain,” which is widely regarded as one of Fleetwood Mac’s very best. Of course, the fact that the song didn’t chart hasn’t stopped it from becoming iconic, and it speaks to the strength of the band’s Rumours album that the song wasn’t even released as a single.
As far as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 goes, “The Chain” has been featured prominently in the film’s promotional material, which makes sense. The song has an epic, battle-ready feel to it. It’s the perfect track to accompany any of the film’s fight sequences, and it’s apparently used several times in the film. Gunn has said that it’s one of the most deeply embedded songs in Guardians 2, perhaps because of the way it reflects upon the dynamics between the central characters. After all, the song is about a breakup.
21 "Cherry Bomb" by The Runaways - Didn't Chart
A rebellious anthem so great it seems made for the Guardians, “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways never charted on Billboard’s Hot 100, although it did come close. Its highest position on the chart was 106, but that didn’t stop the song from becoming an iconic anthem of rebellion. While many of the songs on this list did quite well on the charts, the success of a song in its initial run isn’t always indicative of how well it will do in the long run.
“Cherry Bomb” has become iconic, and its use in Guardians of the Galaxy speaks to the wild, rebellious energy that sets this team apart from most of Marvel’s superheroes. This a team of criminals that come together to save the world. These are petty thieves, the kind of people who wanted to be good guys but just had something go wrong along the way. “Cherry Bomb” is their anthem; it’s the song that proves that they're rebellious, even if they’re fighting with the good guys this time.
20 "Surrender" by Cheap Trick - #68
This seems like such an obvious inclusion in the Guardians of the Galaxy universe that it’s honestly a little surprising it wasn’t in the first installment. Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” is all about parental issues, and that seems perfectly in line with Guardians 2, which appears to feature a scene where Peter runs into a father he’s never met.
Gunn is also repaying some personal favors with the inclusion of this tune. When Gunn made Super in 2011, he was given the rights to Cheap Trick’s “If You Want My Love” for nearly nothing. Now that he has the opportunity to pay musicians for the rights to their music because he’s helming enormous blockbusters, he can repay the favor.
Of course, it also helps that “Surrender” is a perfect fit for the themes and ideas that make up the world of the Guardians. It’s not like Gunn had to do any acrobatics to make the song work.
19 "Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO - #35
The Electric Light Orchestra has been described by Guardians director James Gunn as as the Guardians’ default “house band.” Apparently, the director had a tough time getting the rights to “Mr. Blue Sky” for Guardians 2 because they had gotten rights for an ELO song on the first film and ended up cutting it. In the end, Gunn had to appeal to band leader Jeff Lynne personally, and Lynne ultimately gave them the rights.
Of course, Gunn is right to say that the vibe of the Guardians jives pretty well with the falsetto laden music of ELO. “Mr. Blue Sky” is an especially good choice for the Guardians universe because of its generally airy feel. It’s got a beat behind it, of course, but that doesn’t make it sound any less dreamy and ethereal. ELO’s the perfect blend of idiosyncratic elements for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the fact that Gunn tried to squeeze one of their songs into the first installment makes perfect sense. Fortunately, he didn’t have to cut their tune this time.
18 "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - #19
Marvin Gaye was gifted with one of the purest voices that’s ever existed, and his version of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, which he performed alongside Tammi Terrell, was iconic long before it made it into 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Still, the song works perfectly as the closing anthem of the first installment; it's the song that gives us a sense of where we’ll be leaving all of the characters we just grew to love.
It’s an endlessly catchy song that’s instantly recognizable, and it also provides the right sense of uplift for the film’s final moment. While it may not be as outright peppy as “I Want You Back”, which plays as the credits begin, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” has an edge of melancholy that reminds us that there’s a sadness about each of these characters.
Of course, it’s also got the right vibe for Star-Lord’s final line, which explains that the gang is off to do a bit of bad and a bit of good.
17 "Flashlight" by Parliament - #16
It’s never a mistake to include more funk in the soundtrack for a film where dancing is almost a requirement, but James Gunn has kept pretty tight lipped about how “Flashlight” will ultimately be used in the film. Gunn did reveal that it’s one of his favorite funk songs, but he was unwilling to go into much more detail than that-- probably because “Flashlight” accompanies a particularly spoiler-filled moment in the film.
Still, the inclusion of a funk song on the Guardians soundtrack is an absolute must, so it makes sense that Gunn would turn to one of his favorites for the occasion. Despite their fantastic, outer space setting, the music is what grounds the world of Guardians of the Galaxy, and “Flashlight” is the perfect choice for reminding audiences that these characters are relatable, and have problems that everyone can understand, even if most of them are a different color than your average human.
16 "Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang" by Silver - #13
If one thing is clear about James Gunn, it’s that he has a varied taste in music. He knows all the old hits, and he’s able to create soundtracks that are both recognizable and strange. They go together harmoniously, and seem like more than a simple compilation of greatest hits. Having said all of that, there are a few select songs that are outside of Gunn’s encyclopedic knowledge, and “Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang” by Silver was actually one of them.
Fans recommend music for the soundtracks all the time, and Gunn naturally ignores most of these requests because he’s heard the songs. When this track came up, though, Gunn was shocked to discover that he’d never heard the song’s specific brand of sugary pop. Gunn describes the song as “weird,” which seems about right. The song ended up in the final cut of Guardians 2, which has to make the suggestion one of the most successful fan requests of all time.
15 "Bring it On Home to Me" by Sam Cooke - #13
Every Sam Cooke song is beautiful, and “Bring it On Home to Me” is no exception. For Star-Lord, the song is about his epic love with Gamora. Of course, as we all know from the first film, that attraction isn’t completely mutual. Gamora may have feelings for Star-Lord, but Zoe Saldana’s face is often much harder to read than Chris Pratt’s, especially because he wears his heart on his sleeve.
The beauty of using a Sam Cooke song is that it can be both ironic and serious. While Star-Lord sees an epic romance between himself and Gamora, the audience is able to simultaneously grasp how ludicrous this fantasy is. He’s a hopeless romantic, and Sam Cooke’s songs are all hopelessly romantic. Sam Cooke’s songs also happen to be wonderful, and “Bring it On Home to Me” is no exception. It’s great on its own, and it’ll be even better as part of Starlord’s fantasy.
14 "Ooh Child" by The Five Stairsteps - #8
The song that comes at the climax of Guardians of the Galaxy is probably not what you’d expect. Of course, the version that happens here does not come from The Five Stairsteps. Instead, it comes from Chris Pratt. Who can forget the moment when Pratt’s Starlord decided to distract Ronan the Accuser by belting a tune and rocking out on his own.
It’s a perfect moment in the film, one that comes just as you’re beginning to wonder whether the original Guardians had started taking itself too seriously. That moment when Pratt begins singing completely breaks the tension and reminds us how silly the story of Guardians really is. After all, Pratt has teamed up with two aliens, a tree, and a raccoon to take on a blue baddy who looks completely ridiculous.
“Ooh Child” is used to great effect, and it’s one of the things that makes the first installment so memorable.
13 "Come and Get Your Love" by Redbone - #5
Star-Lord’s a lover and a fighter. He doesn’t see any reason why he should have to choose between them, so he simply doesn’t. “Come and Get Your Love” represents the perfect line between the two. After all, there’s a reason it opens the film. Watching Chris Pratt wander through some space cavern, grabbing creatures to sing into them, is one of the most delightful images the movies has ever brought us, and it wouldn’t be the same if they’d chosen a different song.
Instantaneously, we’re clued into the fact that we’re watching a different kind of hero, one that isn’t afraid to make an enormous fool of himself on a regular basis. In short, he’s kind of a dork. Of course, he’s still a dork who looks like Chris Pratt, but he’s a dork nonetheless. The first scene perfectly establishes the tone that the film would follow through on, creating a franchise that is as spectacular as it is silly.
12 "Go All the Way" by Raspberries - #5
This song doesn’t get a ton of screen time in the first Guardians film, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t used effectively. As we’re getting to know Star-Lord, we see how much he values his ship, and watch him fly it to the riff of “Go All the Way.” It’s a short sequence, but one that sets up how the character sees himself, and the kind of carefree life he leads.
Who among us hasn’t fantasized about flying a spaceship with a rocking guitar as a soundtrack? That’s what this moment provides for the audience, even as it sets up Star-Lord’s life of one night stands and short-term relationships. This protagonist is a dork, but he wants to be a rock and roller, and we’ll slowly come to understand how he can be a bit of both at the same time.
“Go All the Way” presents the side of Quill that he wants people to see, even if it’s not always the one that’s most evident.
11 "Fox on the Run" by Sweet - #5
Unfortunately, not every song on the Guardians soundtrack can make it into the final film. This was true of the first installment, and it’s also true for Vol 2. While “Fox on the Run” has been used in the ads for the film, it didn’t ultimately make the final cut, which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work as a part of the soundtrack. Still, the nice thing about the Guardians films is that they make use of songs that didn’t make the final cut in their trailers and other promotional material.
Also, while it’s true that Rocket Raccoon isn’t technically a fox, he certainly looks enough like one for the song to feel appropriate. “Fox on the Run” was also considered for the first installment of Guardians, but it didn’t quite make the cut there either. Still, it’s clear that the song is near and dear to James Gunn’s heart, and it’s not hard to see why once you start listening to it.
10 "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" by Elvin Bishop - #3
“Fooled Around and Fell in Love” gets to provide the background for one of the original Guardians' more tender moments. It comes as Peter/Star-Lord explains why he carries around a walkman filled with old music to Gamora, and tells the legend of Footloose, a story that Star-Lord explains is about Kevin Bacon teaching people with sticks up their butts why dancing is the best.
“Who put sticks up their butts? That is cruel,” Gamora replies, cutting the tension of the scene with a note of comedy. The scene continues as Star-Lord puts the headphones over Gamora’s ears, and we get the full power of “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”, a song that couldn’t be more perfect for capturing the romantic tension between Gamora and Star-Lord. Of course, that tension is abruptly halted when Gamora puts a knife to Star-Lord’s throat, but that’s all part of the ride that is Guardians of the Galaxy.
9 "Come a Little Bit Closer" by Jay and the Americans - #3
One of the older songs to be featured on either soundtrack, “Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jame and the Americans is used as the backdrop to a Vol 2. action sequence that some fans got to see at Comic Con almost a full year ago. The sequence has been described as an incredibly fun bit of action, one that is supposed to be among the more violent in the franchise thus far.
The dulcet, mellow tones of “Come a Little Bit Closer” provide the perfect bit of irony as the scene plays out, and it’s easy to understand, how the song could fit into the universe. Complete with backing vocals and a charming lead vocal performance, the song will clearly provide a stark contrast to the scene that it’s accompanying. Guardians has done this with musical selections before, but this seems likely to be among the most ridiculous pairings of scene and song in the history of the franchise.
8 "Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum - #3
What are the Guardians if not spirits in the sky? After all, they’re the protectors of the entire galaxy, and they have actually done much more for the universe as a whole than the Avengers. “Spirit in the Sky” works for reasons that have little to do with the song itself, evan though it never actually appeared in the film. You’d be forgiven for forgetting that “Spirit in the Sky” was exclusively used in the film’s advertisements, because it seems like such a perfect fit for the world that the Guardians films explore.
Still, just because the film was never used in the film, that doesn’t mean it’s not an integral part of the universe of excitement that came around the film. After all, it can be hard to remember what was in the promotional material and what was actually in the film, and “Spirit in the Sky” gets the vibe of the universe so right, with its falsetto backing vocals and its overdriven guitar, that it may as well be in the film.
7 "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc - #2
This song accompanies the film’s ostensible prologue, the one which had many questioning whether they had walked into the right film. In the scene, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord sees his mother die and is abducted by aliens soon after. The only thing he retains from his home planet is a mixtape and a walkman, and one of the songs on it just happens to be “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc.
The scene provides a fairly solemn opening to a film that is actually a lot more lighthearted than it might initially appear, and “I’m Not in Love” is the perfect track to accompany that solemn feeling. This opening may suggest a kind of tonal whiplash that isn’t really present in the film, but it’s also an excellent reminder that while Star-Lord may be a wise-cracking, dorky protagonist, his past is not all rainbows and sunshine. He came from somewhere real and kind of dark, and he’s been shaped by this somewhat tragic past.
6 "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass - #1
This song is cheesy. Luckily, director James Gunn seems to be painfully aware of how true this is, and told Rolling Stone that he relates to "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" in some depressing way. He included it because of this exact combination of cheesiness and depression, and it actually plays a key emotional role in the film’s second installment, appearing in the very first scene of Guardians 2.
We don’t know exactly what this scene will be, obviously, although speculation is the name of the game. It may be a scene involving Kurt Russell’s Ego the living planet; one that explains how Star-Lord came to be the half human half god that he is today. The first Guardians was surprising in part because of the solemn nature of its opening moments, and Guardians 2 could surprise us again with its opening by going in a variety of wildly different directions.
5 "My Sweet Lord" by George Harrison - #1
George Harrison’s solo career probably hit its high watermark with this lovely mid-tempo song which will be featured in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The song is really about George Harrison’s newfound love for Hinduism, and James Gunn is trying to play off of that with its use in the film. Because Guardians 2 deals with some cosmic subject matter, “My Sweet Lord” was the perfect fit to accompany the film’s explanation of where Ego the living planet comes from.
There’s a significant creation myth associated with the planet, who’ll be played in the film by Kurt Russell, and “My Sweet Lord” is the perfect song to accompany that myth. Ego is, after all, quite god-like, and he’s probably the answer to those wondering whether Star-Lord may have any special powers.
Gunn also pointed out that Ego’s creation myth has some similarities with the creation myths of Hinduism, which gives the song an added layer.
4 "Southern Nights" by Glen Campbell - #1
“Southern Nights” is a little bit different for the Guardians, but it has some sentimental value for Gunn, who grew up with the song. Glen Campbell’s version isn’t actually the original. It’s a cover, and the original was written by Allen Touissant. The song is an interesting mashup of country and disco stylings, which makes it just the right kind of oddity for a Guardians film.
"Southern Nights" hit number one when it came out in 1977, and the odd mashup of genres only reinforces the strange mashup of elements that make the Guardians movies themselves such a success. After all, these are movies about a band of heroes that are almost entirely nonhuman, and include a talking animal and a tree that repeats one phrase over and over again.
Disco country fits right in here, and it gives the Guardians an added flavor that may have actually been lacking in the first installment.
3 "Escape (Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes - #1
This song just had to be in Guardians. There’s really no way around it. It’s the kind of classic tune that’s almost become a parody of itself, to the point where there’s comedic value in simply hearing it. That makes it a perfect fit for Guardians, which is filled with laughs for the majority of its run time. Naturally, the song is used for its comedic value when the Guardians make an escape from the prison that they all end up in.
One of the guards has taken Star-Lord’s walkman, and is using it to listen to the song. Star-Lord gets to give the guard a rude awakening, which means that we only get a few seconds of the song in the film. Still, the genius of using the song this way is that you get the obvious comedic value, and you also get the added value of the title “Escape”, which describes exactly what the Guardians are attempting to do in the film. This escape sequence is one of the best in the film, and it just wouldn’t be the same without the inclusion of this gem.
2 "I Want You Back" by The Jackson Five - #1
There are few songs as exquisitely joyful as “I Want You Back”. It's the closing song of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, and an undeniably great tune. Of course, the song will forever be linked to the outstanding sight gag that is watching Baby Groot dance to the song, but hide the fact that he’s doing it from Drax. It’s an incredibly cute and a charming way to end a deeply charming film.
"I Want You Back” works so well for the film because it’s so euphoric, even though its lyrics don’t necessarily align with its overall tone. It’s a song about losing those people who are close to you, which all of the Guardians can certainly relate to, but it’s also a song that you can shake your groove thing to. In short, it’s the perfect combination of melancholy and whimsy.
1 "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Suede - #1
The single most iconic song in the Guardians universe, “Hooked on a Feeling” has been used in the trailers for both films, and its bombastic silliness is perfect for our lovable band of misfits. The song perfectly combines the epic feel of the film with its inherent absurdity. Like the film itself, “Hooked on a Feeling” is aware that a film can have stakes and be fun at the same time. You don’t have to sacrifice one in service of the other.
With its huge horn part and its chanting intro, “Hooked on a Feeling” is in perfect harmony with the Guardians. The song experienced something of a resurgence around the film, but it should really just be popular at all times. No song better explains the laid back vibe of the Guardians universe, so the fact that the team is identified with it makes perfect sense.
What's your favorite song on the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack? Share in the comments!