The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise has always had an intense connection to music, and director James Gunn really knows how to incorporate Star-Lord’s classic ’70s and ’80s bangers into his movies. Whether it be for emotional effect or cool factor, the needle drop is an extremely important aspect of Gunn’s filmmaking in the series.
- 8. Creep by Radiohead, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
- 7. Southern Nights by Glen Campbell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- 6. Fooled Around And Fell in Love by Elvin Bishop, Guardians of the Galaxy
- 5. Come a Little Bit Closer by Jay & The Americans, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- 4. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Guardians of the Galaxy
- 3. Mr. Blue Sky by the Electric Light Orchestra, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- 2. Father and Son by Yusuf / Cat Stevens, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
- 1. Come and Get Your Love by Redbone, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & Vol. 3
A needle drop, unlike a film’s original score, is when a movie uses a pre-existing recording of a song as either background music or music in the scene itself. When music or sound is in the scene itself — as in the characters we are watching can also hear the sound — it is characterized as diegetic sound. Nondiegetic sound is the opposite; only we as viewers can hear it. In the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and TV shows, Quill’s Awesome Mixes are used both diegetically and nondiegetically to great effect. Gunn’s needle drops allow him to inject scenes with emotional weight, reveal something about our characters, or create a lively scene that matches the goofy tone of the Guardians.
8. Creep by Radiohead, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
Who would’ve thought James Gunn would use a ’90s Grunge era staple to open his newest, and last, Guardians movie? Radiohead’s Creep plays as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 shows the somewhat broken state of the team at the beginning of the movie. Star-Lord is a drunk, forcing his other teammates to take care of him; Kraglin is struggling to fill Yondu’s shows; Gamora, one of the MCU’s best female characters, is nowhere to be found; and Rocket Raccoon is trying to keep Knowhere together even as he battles with his own inner demons. It’s a mournful, somewhat downbeat way to open the movie, but it’s entirely appropriate and communicates the team’s self-loathing and spiritual funk better than any piece of dialogue ever could.
7. Southern Nights by Glen Campbell, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights appears early on in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in a fun yet underrated scene showcasing Rocket’s immense intellect in battle. Guardians 2 had a lot of emotional weight in store for all of the crew members, and Rocket’s arc is centered around him accepting himself, working as a team, and finding self-importance through himself rather than fighting everyone to prove he is better than everyone.
In this scene, Rocket takes on an entire army of Ravagers all by himself, utilizing a bunch of wacky traps and technology to take down the crew in the darkness. Rocket can often be overlooked for his usefulness or prowess in battle, but this scene perfectly encapsulated what Rocket can really bring to a team. With Southern Nights, Gunn creates a fun atmosphere that plays the scene for laughs and smiles rather than intense action. It’s a welcome contrast that defines much of the Guardians franchise, and it’s the perfect song for the movie’s atmosphere.
6. Fooled Around And Fell in Love by Elvin Bishop, Guardians of the Galaxy
At the heart of much of the Guardians’ conflict lies the relationship between Quill and Gamora, which evolves and takes on a tragic weight after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. While the Guardians are waiting for the Collector on Knowhere in the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord and Gamora have their first real step towards accepting their relationship, and the emotional weight relies on Fooled Around And Fell in Love.
What starts as a diegetic song that lovingly introduces Gamora to the wonder of music starts to fill the scene as the volume is turned up, resulting in a tensely romantic scene that sets up the romance that will define the future of the Guardians. It’s a beautiful moment for these two intergalactic love birds.
5. Come a Little Bit Closer by Jay & The Americans, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
One of the most entertaining scenes in the entire Guardians franchise, Come a Little Bit Closer serves as the battle song of Rocket, Yondu, and Baby Groot as they escape from the Ravagers’ prison and destroy the entire ship. The scene serves as the first time viewers get to see Yondu go full-on murder mode, showcasing how he and his arrow can take on an entire ship of enemies without breaking a sweat.
Gunn lets loose on his filmmaking as well, utilizing unique camera techniques as well as the arrow’s red trail to create some arresting images of mass slaughter. The song choice is fun and upbeat, a perfect complement to the heaps of pleasure Yondu and Rocket seem to be having in killing dozens of mutineers.
4. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Guardians of the Galaxy
As the first Guardians movie comes to a close, viewers get a one-two punch of emotion as Gunn turns up the volume on Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. The song comes after Quill reads his mother’s last letter to him, a sad yet smile-inducing moment wherein Star-Lord’s name becomes less of a joke and more of a meaningful ode to his mom. The song plays as we wrap up what occurs in the aftermath of Ronan’s attack on Xandar, from Yondu partying with his crew to sapling Groot waking up.
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough itself is a fitting complement to the emotional stakes of the scene; now, the Guardians are ready to take on a new journey, a new challenge in their newly formed family. And nothing can stand in their way if they stick together as a family. It’s one of the more emotional moments in the series filled with little details that beg tears or a big smile from its viewers — or a bit of both.
3. Mr. Blue Sky by the Electric Light Orchestra, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The opening scene of Guardians 2 kicks off the film on a strong footing, thanks in large part to Mr. Blue Sky. As the Guardians take on an interdimensional tentacle monster, Gunn chooses to focus on the music and Baby Groot’s dancing instead of a wild action scene. It’s a playful choice that leans into the contrast between the visuals and the sound, and it showcases how the Guardians work. People call them idiots time and time again in these movies, and, well, they kind of are in some ways.
But they’re lovable and effective idiots, so it’s fine! The Guardians have always separated themselves from teams like the Avengers because they are so unabashedly goofy and unique in their methods that they exude a personality that other characters simply cannot match. With the Mr. Blue Sky scene in Volume 2, Gunn creates a lovable, hilarious reintroduction to our favorite crew of misfits.
2. Father and Son by Yusuf / Cat Stevens, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Similar to how the first movie utilized Ain’t No Mountain High Enough to end the film with an emotional capstone, Father and Son provides an even more effective soundscape to one of the saddest moments in the entire MCU. Guardians 2 was in large part about what makes up a family and how we love that family, whether it be a biological one or not. Yondu himself put it best with his final words: “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn’t your daddy.”
As Yondu’s death is commemorated by a beautiful Ravager funeral of colorful fireworks and loving faces, Father and Son reminds viewers of what Yondu meant to our characters. He was flawed and not the best at times, but he always cared about Peter even if he would never admit it. Father and Son is already a song that causes tears to stream, yet Gunn’s use of it could very well result in all-out waterworks.
1. Come and Get Your Love by Redbone, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & Vol. 3
In reality, the Guardians of the Galaxy could have been executed a hundred different ways. Gunn, though, chose to make these Guardians something different. They aren’t ultra-serious or insanely powerful MCU Avengers like Captain America or Thor, but they are a fun band of misfits that can’t help but indulge themselves in their weirdest inclinations.
The use of Come and Get Your Love in our introduction to Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy perfectly encapsulates that fun yet capable energy. Quill isn’t your average scrapper trying to scrape away some loot. He’s instead a capable fighter that is almost mind-blowingly dumb at times, but he also has a sensitive core. The Come and Get Your Love dance sequence sets the tone for the entire franchise; it’s a fun romp, a dancing adventure full of goofiness and heart that separates it from the rest of the Marvel canon.
The song is also utilized in one of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3‘s post-credits scenes. The scene begins with some familiar faces discussing music on a seemingly deserted desert planet. Rocket Raccoon asks everyone what their favorite song is and why. After Kraglin, Cosmo, Adam Warlock, Blurp (an alien pet-like creature adopted by Warlock earlier), and a young girl named Phyla (more on her later) respond, Rocket reveals his favorite tune: Come and Get Your Love. The song begins to play as Rocket’s team charges into battle, suggesting a new era of Guardians is about to begin, even with James Gunn leaving it and Marvel behind.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is now playing in theaters.
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