The other day, over on Twitter, MOKA’s that_urban_punk, Action A Go Go’s Andrew Allen and I had a small back and forth about the music of Marvel Studios.

pp-guardians-doaly-2Punk, an admitted Marvel cheerleader, argued that the original scores to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are effective but not nearly as memorable as the DC films of the 70s and 80s. Specifically Danny Elfman’s Batman theme and John Williams’ Superman march. To an extent, I agree. But I think that the compositions of Alan Silvestri, Patrick Doyle, Brian Tyler, John Debney, Ramin Djawadi, and Craig Armstrong are notable (albeit, not part of the collective conscious) because they underline the major difference between Marvel heroes and DC metahumans…

Before Marvel dominated the film world, DC heroes were the status quo. The grandiose, triumphant work of composers like John Williams and Danny Elfman really embodied and established an archetypal sound.

Years later,.Marvel Studios (and I’m referring mostly but not exclusively to the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”) introduced a new breed of movie superhero, one that dealt with internal and external threats in a way that separates them from Michael Keaton’s Batman or Christopher Reeve’s Superman. While the DC heroes demanded a sound that supported their already established iconography, the MCU embodies the civilian first and the costume second.

In my opinion, the best Marvel soundtracks don’t try to mimic 1978’s Superman: The Movie or 1989’s Batman (a mistake that some of the pre-Iron Man films made). Instead, they encapsulate the genre of their respective characters, pulling on the diverse history of Marvel’s heroes in comics.

With the following playlist, I’ve compiled what I consider the highlights of the existing Marvel Studio soundtracks. While we eagerly anticipate what composer Tyler Bates will add to the discography with Guardians of the Galaxy, I thought it would be fun to revisit the impressive and distinctive sounds of the MCU.

With the slight exception of “The Captain America March” and the Tesseract motif (both by Alan Silvestri, not surprisingly) many of the themes shift from film to film. While I myself like a little thematic consistency and prefer the music of the Phase 1 movies, they all do interesting and unique things with each entry. In particular, they evolve to meet the tonal expectations of not just a superhero film but the subgenres that each new installment introduces.