The Guardians of the Galaxy movies have proven to be some of the most popular in the MCU to date. The first in 2014 was a pleasant surprise, introducing a whole squad of entertaining and endearing characters that many non-comic-book fans had likely never heard of. A strong sequel followed in 2017, they appeared in two Avengers movies, had a Holiday Special in 2022, and are now set for a final adventure with 2023’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

One reason for the popularity of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies has been the series’ soundtracks. The films tend to use classic pop/rock hits in creative ways, with the music also being a part of the film’s world, due to protagonist Peter Quill carrying around with him his “Awesome Mixes.” It ensures there are far more needle drops in the Guardians movies than other MCU entries, with the following being some of the best found in Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and even the Holiday Special, ranked chronologically.



10 “I’m Not In Love” by 10CC

Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Though the Guardians of the Galaxy movies get pretty comedic, the first one starts on a surprisingly downbeat note. It begins with a flashback depicting Peter Quill as a child reacting to his mother’s tragic death immediately before he’s abducted by aliens and abruptly taken off Earth.

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The tragic backstory of Peter and his brief time on Earth is underscored by the ballad “I’m Not in Love” by 10CC, as a young Peter had been listening to it before his last interaction with his mother (with his Walkman and music being the only things he keeps from Earth, post-abduction). It establishes the film’s love of 1970s music right off the gate, and also perfectly accompanies the melancholic tone of the unexpectedly emotional – yet ultimately effective – opening scene.

9 “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone

Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014 (1)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The first scene with Peter Quill as an adult stands in direct contrast to the opening scene with him as a child. He’s shown exploring a desolate area on an abandoned planet, and seems to be having fun while doing so, dancing and singing along to “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone.

It’s an upbeat pop/soul song that establishes the tone for much of the rest of the film, and fittingly plays over the opening credits here. The tonal whiplash between this scene and the preceding one with “I’m Not in Love” also helps highlight how the film (and its sequels) like to switch between fun/comedy and more emotional moments quite suddenly.

8 “Hooked On a Feeling” by Blue Swede

Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” is most commonly associated with the trailer for the first Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s also known for being the song that features the earworm chant of “Ooga-Chaka, Ooga-Ooga, Ooga-Chaka, Ooga-Ooga,” which is pretty much impossible to forget once heard.

The song also appears in an early scene of the first movie, after Peter is arrested, tasered, and put in jail (which he and the soon-to-be other members of the Guardians break out of). It’s the perfect sort of classic pop/rock song for a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s understandable why it’s now so closely associated with it.

7 “Moonage Daydream” by David Bowie

Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014 (2)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Eight years before “Moonage Daydream” was used as the title for a visually intense and enigmatic David Bowie documentary, it was also used in the first Guardians of the Galaxy. David Bowie didn’t always sing about outer space of course, but some of his best-known hits did involve lyrical references to it (and other sci-fi concepts), making his music here perfectly suited to a sci-fi/superhero movie.

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Here, “Moonage Daydream” plays as the Guardians approach the outpost known as Knowhere, which becomes an important location for future films in the MCU. Knowhere itself isn’t a planet, and is actually the severed head of a giant, long-dead Celestial, making Bowie’s bold and in-your-face rock song a perfect fit to help introduce such a strange location.

6 “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps

Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014 (3)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps had been used in several notable films before 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. These included memorable uses in the classic 1991 film Boyz n the Hood, as well Spike Lee’s Crooklyn (1994). It was also on the soundtrack for Grand Theft Auto V, which came out a year before Guardians of the Galaxy.

Still, to this movie’s credit, it finds a unique way to use the song, as Peter sings and dances to it in an apparent dance-off which serves to distract the main villain in the film’s climax. It sounds silly on paper, and it is, but it works for the kind of movie this is, and it also feels very in-character for Peter to do something like this, even in the face of great danger.

5 “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5

Guardians of the Galaxy - 2014 (4)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Towards the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, everyone’s favorite talking tree Groot nobly sacrifices himself to ensure his team’s survival. Thankfully, they manage to preserve a small piece of him, and given he’s a plant, he ends up growing into a new, much smaller Groot, who’s then seen dancing right before the end credits.

The song he dances to is the infectious Jackson 5 song “I Want You Back,” though he only does it while Drax isn’t looking. It’s the perfect needle drop to be heard at the film’s conclusion, helping end things on a positive, upbeat, and humorous note, with a new Groot who’s somehow even more endearing than the last.

4 “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 2017
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wasted no time in re-introducing Baby Groot, and establishing the sorts of things the team had been up to since they were last seen. They’re introduced fighting a strange, interdimensional monster known as the Abilisk, and it’s all backed by Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.”

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It’s a fun and energetic track, and perfectly accompanies a chaotic but enjoyable and low-stakes introductory action scene. The icing on top is that since Baby Groot can’t exactly join in the fighting very much, he opts instead to dance around to the song, with the camera focusing on his dance moves and showing much of the action only in the background.

3 “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 2017 (1)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Like “Hooked on a Feeling” from the first movie, Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” was well-utilized in the marketing for the second movie. Additionally, it proved good enough to be used on two separate occasions within the film, both being equally effective (it also helps that it’s a song that builds throughout, with different parts being able to complement different moods).

It’s heard when the Guardians part ways temporarily in the film’s opening act, with the lyrics reflecting this uneasy division very appropriately. Then, the more bombastic final section of the song is also put to good use towards the film’s climax, underscoring some of the action when Peter goes up against his father and the two battle.

2 “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 2017 (2)
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“My Sweet Lord” in the second film serves a similar purpose to Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” in the first film. It plays as Peter, Gamora, and Drax see Ego’s planet for the first time, with the George Harrison track being well-suited to accompany the strange new sights that the planet provides.

It works similarly to how “Moonage Daydream” helped introduce a unique sci-fi world. It’s easily one of the best songs Harrison wrote in his post-Beatles career, too, so on top of it being well-suited to the scene in question, it’s also just good to hear it in a movie regardless of the type of movie it’s in.

1 “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl

Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special - 2022
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Unsurprisingly, the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special has a soundtrack made up of Christmas songs. It also happens to feature what might arguably be the best Christmas (or perhaps anti-Christmas) song of all time: “Fairytale of New York” by Celtic punk band The Pogues, with featured vocals by Kirsty MacColl.

It accompanies the very start of the special, which is notable for being animated (though it switches to live-action shortly thereafter). The other songs work well enough for being in a holiday special, though the soundtrack lacks a bit of punch compared to the proper Guardians movies… with the exception of “Fairytale of New York,” of course, which is a great song and fittingly sets the tone.

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