The Most Iconic Music Moments in the Guardians of the Galaxy Franchise

Gamora and Peter Leaning in to kiss each other
Get Tickets to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

The ‘70s are alive in the Guardians of the Galaxy films, offering fans a masterclass in music history and cinematography. Each carefully curated song beats to the heart of Peter Quill — whose passion for music is an extension of his love for the mother he lost as a child. With a battered cassette player and a series of “Awesome Mix” tapes curated by his mom, the films take fans on a musical journey through the ‘70s (with a few pit stops in the ‘60s). But it’s not just the existence of these iconic soundtracks that sets these films apart from virtually anything we’ve seen in the sci-fi genre — especially the MCU. The action, special effects, and dialogue are built around whatever song plays in the background, giving the ballads a life of their own that informs every creative decision that follows. Between iconic classic rock jams like “Cherry Bomb” and “Surrender” to R&B beats like “O-o-h Child” and “I Want You Back,” here are some of the most iconic music moments from the Guardians of the Galaxy films.


Guardians of the Galaxy

“Come and Get Your Love” - Redbone (1974)

There’s nothing like an epic introduction to kick off a franchise. The ‘70s makes itself known right after we bid farewell to Peter’s dying mother, and Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love” introduces an adult Peter dancing his way through a job. Not only does the moment highlight Peter Quill’s fun-loving personality, but the song sets the tone for the music and the dancing light show that accompanies almost every musical sequence in these movies.


“Hooked on a Feeling” - Blue Swede (1974)

We’re already hooked on Guardians of the Galaxy at this point, but we can be hooked on a feeling, too. The Blue Swede jam plays in The Klyn when Peter fights a guard for stealing his cassette player. And though his bravado is overplayed a bit, the song continues to illustrate the future Guardians adjusting to prison life.


“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” - Rupert Holmes (1979)

Okay, so the piña colada song usually accompanies vacation and karaoke scenes in movies, but for the Guardians, escaping prison is vacation. Peter has had enough of the jerk who stole his tape player — which is a more critical recon mission than escaping and grabbing The Orb. He knocks the thief out with The Orb as the perky beats of Rupert Holmes’ song play in the background, and the team works together for the first time to make their break. 


“Moonage Daydream” - David Bowie (1972)

David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” doesn’t cue a particularly meaningful sequence, but you can’t have a list of epic ballads and leave it out. The song accompanies the Guardians’ arrival at Knowhere and the wonder of the mining town’s bright lights and space city charm.


“Fooled Around and Fell in Love” - Elvin Bishop (1975)

Fans realized that Gamora and Peter fooled around and fell in love long before the icy former assassin. But that doesn’t stop the duo from getting a romantic ballad pretty early in the movie. The will they/won’t they couple embraces their first heart-to-heart when Peter shares the slow tempo Elvin Bishop song with her and almost wins a kiss. Almost. Sadly, the deadly combo of Bishop’s crooning powers and Peter’s “pelvic sorcery” aren’t quite enough to melt Gamora’s heart — yet. 


“Cherry Bomb” - The Runaways (1976)

Everyone loves a good team-up between a ragtag group of misfits, and that’s precisely what Guardians of the Galaxy brings to the table. The films feature a gaggle of characters with some pretty significant abandonment issues as they learn to trust each other and become found family. 

Of course, the movie needs a mood shift after the Guardians sappily assure Peter that they’ll stand by him. Enter “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways. The song is one of the more iconically intense pieces of music on the soundtrack as the Guardians gear up for battle to take on Ronan.


“O-o-h Child” - Five Stairsteps (1970)

No one hurls a good insult quite like Peter Quill. His last name is Quill, after all. And though Ronan doesn’t enjoy Peter’s pelvic sorcery as much as Gamora (though she’ll never admit it), it’s good in a pinch. 

We don’t actually hear Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child” ballad, but Peter singing it off-key to distract Ronan is somehow better. After a truly bizarre dance-off that Gamora refuses to partake in, Peter tells Ronan, “I’m distracting you, ya big turd blossom.” And if that doesn’t make the scene iconic, Gamora’s Luke Skywalker-adjacent “Nooooo” scream when Peter grabs the Infinity Stone certainly does.


“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” - Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (1970)

There’s nothing like a near-death experience to make you contemplate losing a loved one. For  decades, Peter kept the present his mom gave him on her deathbed in pristine condition without ever getting the nerve to open it. Yet, after his own brush with death, Peter finally decides it’s time. 

With tears in his eyes, Peter pops “Awesome Mix Vol. 2” into a cassette player, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” softly plays. Of course, Gamora comes in on the lyric “If you need me, call me” with a smile and a dance, adding a tinge of happiness and hope to an otherwise melancholic moment. And that’s what Guardians of the Galaxy is all about. But the best part just might be Yondu’s smile at the troll doll Peter replaced the stone with, proud of his surrogate son for getting the drop on him. 


“I Want You Back” - The Jackson 5 (1965)

Naturally, the film ends on a high note when Gamora tells Peter, “We’ll follow your lead, Star-Lord.” Of course, he decides they’ll do “a bit of both” when it comes to choosing between doing something good or bad. 

“I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5 immediately plays, with a tease for the second film. And thus, the film introduces fans’ biggest takeaway (and a brilliant marketing strategy): Baby Groot dancing every time Drax looks away.


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” - Looking Glass (1972) 

By the end of Volume 2, fans absolutely loathe Peter’s father, Ego. Yet the movie brilliantly subverts fan expectations early on with a flashback scene that feels like it’s taken straight out of a ‘70s rom-com. 

The boppy love song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” strums along while Ego and Peter’s mom cruise down the street in a classic car and have a casual dalliance in a forest. The ballad later gets a reprisal when Ego turns on Peter’s cassette player, only to crush it after dropping the bombshell that Peter’s own father caused his mom’s tumor. Well, that certainly escalated. 


“Mr. Blue Sky” - Electric Light Orchestra (1977)

The Guardians of the Galaxy movies just can’t resist a good title card intro. This time, “Mr. Blue Sky” kicks things off in a pretty literal way as the sky sparks with colors to the beat of the bop while Baby Groot dances. Meanwhile, the Guardians have to parent the sapling while they fight a gnarly sea-looking alien. Once again, Groot stops every time Drax looks his way. 


“The Chain” - Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Rocket helps cue the iconic Fleetwood Mac song “The Chain” when he tells Peter, “I hope Daddy isn’t as big of a dick as you, orphan boy.” Oh, if they only knew. The song chimes in as Peter, Gamora, and Drax have an epic slow walk to Ego’s ship. And if Rocket’s sentiment doesn’t foreshadow the aptly-named Ego’s, well, ego, then the lyric, “And if you don’t love me now … you will never love me again,” certainly will. 

The Fleetwood Mac jam also gets a reprise when Peter takes down Ego and beats the holy hell out of him with a rock. Peter quips, “You shouldn’t have killed my mom and squished my walkman.” Well, at least he gave killing his mom top billing in that particular dig.


“Southern Nights” - Glen Campbell (1977)

Maybe Disney World’s Tower of Terror needed some promotion because the “Southern Nights” sequence in the sequel certainly gives off those vibes. The movie launches into the song when Rocket blasts a group of enemies up and down to the song’s beat, all while cackling. Can someone get this rascally raccoon a job at Disney World? He clearly needs to let off some steam.


“My Sweet Lord” - George Harrison (1970)

Maybe George Harrison’s 1970 ballad should be titled “My Sweet Star-Lord.” Both fans and the Guardians get introduced to Ego’s gorgeously colorful planet as “My Sweet Lord” trails alongside the bright orbs and sprawling greenery that mask the haunting skeletons of Ego’s discarded children. 


“Come a Little Bit Closer” - Jay and the Americans (1964)

Until the second film, we don’t see too much of Yondu’s unbridled chaos. All that changes when Peter’s surrogate father fires a Yaka arrow at his foes while “Come a Little Bit Closer” ebbs and flows with each bright red zoom and accompanying whistle. After the song crescendos, Yondu blows up his own ship during an impressive feat of main character energy.


“Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang” - A. Silver (1976)

As Kraglin says, “Remember that Ayesha chick?” Remember her, indeed. The High Priestess launches her Sovereign fleet at the Guardians when they’re trying to defeat Ego as “Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang” accompanies each crash, fall, and blast during the interruption.  


“Father and Son” - Cat Stevens (1970)

Peter spends much of the second movie wistfully thinking about his biological father without acknowledging the man who raised him — until it’s too late. Yondu certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s clear he cares for Peter when he puts his son above the job and ultimately sacrifices himself to keep Peter safe. The Cat Stevens song “Father and Son” is a little on the nose when Peter listens to the MP3 player Yondu left him, but we’ll allow it. 

Peter shares the song with Baby Groot while the rest of the Guardians deal with their own emotional baggage that Yondu’s death brought up. As the soft notes slide by, the Guardians watch a battalion of the Ravagers pay their respects to Yondu with a gorgeous firework display that puts the bright beauty of Ego’s planet to shame. Peter puts his arm around Gamora — and she lets him — as the lyrical sentiment “I know I have to go away” closes out the movie. 


“Surrender” - Cheap Trick (1978)

Obviously, we can’t end on that tear-inducing note (pun intended). Cheap Trick’s epically fun jam “Surrender” plays as soon as “The Guardians of the Galaxy will return” flashes on the screen with a light show. Meanwhile, Kraglin poorly tries to get a handle on Yondu’s arrow as he stabs a less-than-thrilled Drax and inches away from the scene of the crime.


The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

“Here It Is Christmastime” - Kevin Bacon (2022)

Real friends kidnap Kevin Bacon and bring him to another planet for Christmas. Much to fans’ delight, Marvel served The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special on a festive platter. Infusing a mix of animation and live-action goodness, the special is arguably the best holiday special to date — and much of that is due to Kevin Bacon signing onto the project to play a dramatized version of himself. 

In a misguided attempt to help Peter celebrate Christmas, the Guardians kidnap Bacon and gift the actor to a very perplexed Peter, who’s horrified to see his hero held captive by his friends. Of course, it’s a Christmas special, so everything ends merry and bright. And while the original songs throughout the special are a treat for fans, nothing can top Bacon’s performance of “Here It Is Christmastime” alongside Old 97’s. 

Even Cosmo the Spacedog has a blast jamming with Bacon. As a result, everything has finally come full circle from Peter’s sassy line to Gamora in the first movie when he says, “On my planet, there’s a legend about people like you. It’s called ‘Footloose.’ And in it, a great hero named Kevin Bacon teaches an entire city full of people with sticks up their butts that dancing,’s the greatest thing there is.” It’s easy to see why his friends think Bacon is a superhero, but honestly, they’re not wrong.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 premieres in theatres on May 5th! See it at Regal. 

See Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 at Regal