The superhero genre has given us some truly iconic music and with Avengers: Endgame breaking records at cinemas the world over and even more success with Spider-Man: Far From Home, we thought we’d take a look at some of our favourite superhero scores from the big screen.
The Avengers; Endgame (2019) - Alan Silvestri
Having worked on Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, Alan Silvestri first aired the now epochal Avengers theme, with its rhythmic strings, glorious horns and the now familiar 8 note motif, in 2012. It’s never far away here, and there’s even a jazz musing on this theme in ‘The How Works’.
Silvestri’s wonderful use of dynamics, themes and pace changes, support the character ensemble. Legato strings and rich brass feature heavily to create drama and emotion and there are even some playful John Barry inspired phrases dotted throughout.
Alan Silvestri - Composer of Avengers; Endgame
John Williams - The Godfather of superhero scores
Superman (1978) - John Williams
Oscar nominated for his work on both Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, John Williams then delivered one of the most iconic of all superhero themes for Superman.
The use of perfect fifths, noted in his other works, makes this unashamedly heroic and uplifting. The main theme gives way to the interlude which uses the ‘Love Theme’ and soars and swoops as impressively as the Big Blue Boy Scout himself. ‘Welcome to Metropolis’ is wonderfully playful with Tom and Jerry-esque staccato climbs and echoes again of that delightful ‘Love Theme’.
Black Panther (2018) - Ludwig Göransson
Ryan Coogler once again gave Göransson scoring duties for the Oscar-winning Black Panther, meaning the director had worked with the composer on all of his major films.
This is a very different kind of superhero score, largely influenced by the Swedish composer’s travels to Africa. Battle cries and tribal chanting give way to majestic orchestral passages before trap style kick drums, hi-hats and synths take centre stage. ‘Questioning Klaue’ and ‘Killmonger’ are great examples of Göransson exploring blends of modern, classical and African instrumentation.
The Incredibles (2004) - Michael
Giacchino started his career in video game music before finding work on TV shows Alias and Lost, working with acclaimed director J.J Abrams. The Incredibles was his first big feature film commission, and what a way to make your mark.
The John Barry influenced score makes liberal use of a solo saxophone, an unconventional move for scores of this kind, but fits the animation style and action beats perfectly. The main theme is used to great effect in ‘Marital Rescue’ and ‘A Whole Family of Supers’, helping to support the family element of the storyline.
The 'Incredible' Michael Giacchino
Man of Steel (2013) - Hans Zimmer
A second listing for Superman here, but a first for Hans Zimmer who returned to the genre having worked on Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
This is a very ‘Zimmer’ score, blending synths and a symphony orchestra to create intensity and suspense and the addition of sculptural percussion adds an other-worldly dynamic befitting Krypton’s Last Son. The use of musical duality in its motifs mirrors the theme of the film and we find the same rising fifth found in John Williams’ Superman March, which adds a familiar heroism into the score.
Danny Elfman - he works with Tim Burton, a lot!
Batman (1989) - Danny Elfman
Tim Burton and Danny Elfman had worked together before on Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice before Batman. Tim Burton’s gothic take on The Dark Knight is matched completely by Elfman’s score, with choirs, orchestra, organs and lots of minor chords forming the core elements. There's even a Waltz, full of fairground whimsy, squeezed into this fun and frantic score.
Elfman’s ‘Batman March’ is also one of the most instantly recognisable superhero themes. It’s slow, dramatic reveal of the first 5 notes gives burst to the racing and dynamic theme.
Wonder Woman (2017) - Rupert Gregson-Williams
A first taste of the Superhero genre for Rupert, having previously scored Postman Pat and Bee Movie but not for the family as brother Harry had previously worked on the X-Men franchise. Re-workings of the Zimmer/Junkie XL ‘Is She With You’ theme from Batman v Superman are used and sensitively re-worked.
Re-workings of the Zimmer/Junkie XL ‘Is She With You’ theme from Batman v Superman are used and sensitively re-worked. Performed by Hans Zimmer’s go-to cellist; Tina Guo, this theme also provides one of the DCEU’s big music moments as Wonder Woman jumps into ‘No Man’s Land’.
Woodwinds and strings are used throughout the score, and there is a subtle Celtic influence too. The score supports our heroine’s personality, offering gentility, grace and power in equal measure.
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