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The best songs from the movies of 2016

One of my biggest problems with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that none of the movies have opening theme songs. Some of the movies have interesting soundtracks and certain leitmotifs for different characters carry over across films, but I’m talking about full-on, lyrical theme songs. I’m talking “Star-Spangled Man” in Captain America: The First Avenger. Imagine how much more out of this world Thor: Ragnarok would be if it’d began with some splashy title sequence set to an original song by Flight of the Conchords or whoever else Taika Waititi is into.

A catchy theme song can even make me forget about the bad movie it was paired with like “It’s On Again” by Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar and “Gotham City” by R. Kelly from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Batman & Robin, respectively. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Oscar-award winning songs from the recent James Bond movies, theme songs don’t seem to pop up as often these days at the cinema. However, the blockbusters of 2016 have been a bit more musical than past years. From worst to best, here are the songs that had me launching Shazam as the end credits rolled.

I thought the new Ghostbusters was pretty good. I mostly agree with our resident film critic Bob Chipman. But this remix of the iconic Ray Parker Jr. Ghostsbusters theme, arguably the best part of the original movie, was total junk. The rap-rock combo felt like such a relic of 2005 that I figured the song was recorded while the film was still in development hell, back when Fall Out Boy still mattered. What’s even crazier is that literally every other remix of the Ghostbusters theme featured in the film is vastly superior than this official pick. I’m partial to the cover by Walk the Moon.

Suicide Squad actually has a few original songs. Along with “Sucker for Pain” there’s the hot Rick Ross/Skrillex/Jared Leto Joker collabo “Purple Lamborghini” along with the Twenty One Pilots track “Heathens.” However, “Sucker for Pain” stands out for a few reasons. One, it has about as many musicians are there are members of the Suicide Squad. Two, its spookhouse wailing and borderline Juggalo beats are precisely the kind of “dark” and stupid yet entertaining schlock I expect from the film itself. And three, it sounds so completely like a song that can only exist right now in 2016, contemporary to the point of ephemeral. It’ll already be dated and forgotten in a month. In that way, it’s like the 2014 Ninja Turtles rap.

This one has a weird history. YouTube band TeamHeadKick recorded a rap about Deadpool back in 2013, because what comic character deserves a parody rap song more than Deadpool. However, when the film unexpectedly roared back to life, thanks to leaked footage, so too did this song. TeamHeadKick recorded an updated version with direct references to the movie that became an official part of the cinematic Deadpool canon. Ain’t that funny?

Zootopia totally caught me by surprise. It’s a great socially and politically relevant Disney cartoon with some really incredible world building. Plus Idris Elba plays a buffalo. Any fiction writer can tell you that layering in a lot of tiny specific details about how your fantasy world works can really sell it to audiences. The Shakira-voiced gazelle singer in Zootopia isn’t vital to the movie’s plot, but her musical presence makes the world of Zootopia feels that much more alive. Plus, the song’s modern vibe sounds like it will age better than some other songs on this list.

Just as Star Trek Beyond might end up being the actual best movie of the summer, its tie-in Rihanna track “Sledgehamer” might be the best movie tie-in song of the summer. Granted, the two don’t go together all that well. Rihanna tweeted lyrics from the chorus over two years ago, surely from a time before the song was paired with the film. But the music video has Rihanna doing crazy alien stuff. Plus she’s into vaporwave. What more could you want?

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