This article is part of Consequence‘s Marvel Pop Culture Week, examining all the ways in which the MCU invokes our world’s pop culture and creates its own. Here, we’re taking a look at the MCU’s best needle drops.
As of May 2022, there are 28 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (excluding the six upcoming projects, multiple television shows, and the “One Shot” series). From Jon Favreau’s experiment with Iron Man in 2008 to Sam Raimi’s grand return to superhero flicks with this year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, there are now hours upon hours of quippy dialogue, Stan Lee cameos, and epic CGI battles to satisfy our hunger for adventure.
And as much as Kevin Feige deserves credit for overseeing the direction of the MCU, building such a massive, beloved body of work takes an army of talented creatives. After facing some criticism for enforcing a rigid, overly-homogenous, albeit successful, tone between Phase One and Phase Two, Marvel wisened up and started tapping directors with strong, uncompromising visions.
The Russo brothers turned Captain America: The Winter Solider into a conspiratorial spy thriller, James Gunn snuck his Troma weirdness into Guardians of the Galaxy, and Taika Waititi reinvented Thor with his absurd kiwi charm.
With the expansion of voices came an expansion of stylistic decisions — a greater play with sound and visuals. Directors began to look for ways to distinguish their respective take on Marvel. Of these techniques, one of the most effective was the use of the powerful, always exciting needle drop. Each story grew to have its own relationship with pop music, as characters began to develop tastes that would then be reflected in their respective films. Think Starlord holding onto his dear Walkman or Steve Rogers playing catch-up with pop culture.
As our Marvel Pop Culture Week continues, we thought it’d be fitting to rank the 10 best needle drops across the MCU. Some films were almost entirely devoid of pop music, and others likely deserve a list all of their own, but for our money, these are the best instances of the Billboard charts and the MCU crossing paths.