When we were thinking up this list, we thought it would be so easy. So many epic, groundbreaking themes, that we could just fill this list in seconds.
And yes, that is pretty much the way it worked out.
The themes on this list are impossible to listen to without thinking of the hero, or the heroes, they are meant to represent. We listened to so many soundtracks to make this list, but at the end of the day, the classics will always win. So here they are…. in decending order….
10: Batman (1960)
The TV show that pretty much started, or, held alive, the idea of superheroes. A campy, fun, hilarious, look at the caped crusader. The rolling bass line, fueled by some blues progression, with the overtones of “Batman!” drove kids, and adults, in their masses to the fun side of comics. A staple of 60’s culture, the theme exudes cool, funk, and excitement.
9: Jessica Jones
With a theme, very, very, remincenst of The Wire, mixed with 20s or 30s crime noir, very fitting to the private detective nature of the show, the lackadaisical whimsies of the opening chords build up to a crescendo of modern proportions – leading us from that crime noir feel of the prohibition era, to a more modern era. When the bass comes in, and the guitar riffs, we know exactly where we are. The jazzy riffs lead us into a very new, and very dangerous, new era.
8: Superman (Flight – Hans Zimmer)
If there was ever anyone who could come close to creating a new theme for Superman, it was Hans Zimmer. With ‘Flight’, Zimmer builds on both our expectations, and Clark’s sense of wonder and fear. You can literally feel how trepidacious Clark is. Until with a crash of drums and a soaring bassline, Clark steps up to the plate….. and SOARS. There is a brief moment of reflection – where he wonders who he is, where he is from, and where he is going – but then he knows. A theme as epic as the original. But for a new age.
7: Luke Cage
Luke Cage was a hero from small town New York. He stood up for the little guy, and never forgot his roots. This theme by Adrian Younge, takes us back a little to the funk of late 70’s New York, but updates it with a very modern bass line to show that Luke is a very current, but reluctant, hero. The progressive funkline, mixed with a percussion that belongs in the Projects of New York, and a strong bass with underlying twang, amplify Luke’s indecision about who he should be, but also grounds him as a street level hero.
6: Spider-Man (1960s)
You ask anyone today to sing you a superhero song, or to hum one, they will either come out with Batman 66, or, “Spider-man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can”. It’s a lexicon. Everyone knows it, whether they like comics or not. That is the pervasiveness of comic books – we’re up there and in there, haha! And Spidey rules.
Ok. Quite a campy character, brought to vicious life in the Netflix show. A series that showed Matthew Murdock as a very sympathetic character, but also a man with demons he had to fight. The title theme exudes this conflict, and represents a very down to earth New York superhero. On the roof tops of Hell’s Kitchen, just waiting for you to do wrong – and he will be there to make it right. The opening bars show a restraint, leading to a crescendo of brutality, that I’m not sure even Matthew would be happy with. By the way – if you have surround sound, you may notice that all of the background elements of the score rotate around, echoing Matt’s radar sense – pretty damn cool.
Not since Tim Burton’s Batman, has there been a theme that everyone knows, that everyone hums, that everyone can place, than Alan Silvestri’s Avengers theme. Pulling though elements from Captain Americas’s theme, and Iron Man’s, it is an uproarious theme, that will have you punching the sky, no matter whether you care or not. A masterpiece of scoring, with military overtones, a rambunctious undercurrent, and a hugely uplifting top end. A classic theme, for an era of heroes.
3: X-Men Animated
Back in the 90s, comic book fans had zero representation on the small screen or the big screen of their favourite Marvel heroes – and then came X-Men: The Animated Series. It was perfect. Jim Lee’s character designs brought to life in animated form. And not only that, it was led into by one of THE greatest theme tunes of all time. It’s hard to explain just how fitting the theme to this show was. Huge synth, a progressive bassline, with angry guitar – in an era of excess, where every character had the biggest gun, the most pouches, it seemed only fitting that the theme tune was MENTAL.
2: Batman (1989)
Ok. Fight me right now. I don’t care what you say. THIS IS THE BATMAN THEME. In 1989, it had been almost a decade since superheroes had any decent recognition in mainstream media. And then came Tim Burton’s Batman. There were things that weren’t great, but on the whole? Burton’s Batman really fit the time period, and 100% influenced the next five to ten years of storytelling. The theme? A hugely bombastic, creeping, triumphant score, with melancholy undertones, it prefectly suited a dark, noir, pulp, crime fighting hero. With every creeping tone, you can hear both Batman’s triumph, and Bruce Wayne’s pain. It is a masterpiece of scoring.
1: Superman (1979)
It was inevitable, right? From the outset, it builds. Slowly. Majestically. Triumphantly. From the first note, it grabs you, and makes you feel a part of it. YOU are there with Superman. You are flying in the clouds…. THE most heroic anthem of all time, bombastic, yet tender and understanding, low key and hopeful, reaching to a full on, YES!!! A completely inspiring, and hopeful, theme, that shows innocence, hope and glory. If there was ever a theme song that made you smile from ear to ear, punch the sky and hope for a better world, this is the one. And that is the entire ethos of Superman. And that is why this is the greatest superhero theme tune of all time.
Dont worry, those great themes you were expecting to be in the top ten, will be here in this special mentions bit.
11: Batman Beyond
It would be impossible to have a best superhero themes list without having this on it. Probably the most badass theme to ever represent a hero, with dirty guitar and bass that sybolised the late nineties, this theme defined a new Batman.
I may be pushing it a little with this one, but as a theme, and looking back, it is very inspirational. It was a part of the early 2000’s teen movement, when garage rock was huge, soppy and sentimental late grunge tunes were still a thing, and they perfectly summmed up a teenage Superman growing up in smalltown Kansas. Defining Clark as a young man, and his trials and tribulations on his route to becoming the hero we all know and love – this holds up.
13: Wonder Woman
A massively bombastic score, but way down on the list due to the fact that the recognisable element of it comes in late, and doesn’t hang around. If more was made of the tribal, almost animalistic, theme, this would have been way up there in the list. A great riff, for a great hero, it’s just a shame more wasn’t made of it.