10 times movies and TV shows used heavy metal and it was awesome

Gremlins 2, Iron Man and Peacemaker
(Image credit: Warner Brothers (via Getty) ; Disney/Marvel ; JOCE/Bauer-Griffin/GC (via Getty))

Chances are, whether you've watched the show, listen to the band, both or neither, you won't have been able to move for all the hype surrounding the appearance of Metallica's Master Of Puppets in Stranger Things. As well as confirming character Eddie Munson as the internet's favourite TV metalhead in a generation, it's seen Master Of Puppets shoot up viral charts around the world and even prompted the band themselves to slap down a gatekeeping fan who tried to be snarky about the whole thing.

The fact is, metal fans (mostly) love it when our world gets an unexpected shout out in a major film or TV series, and it's something that's been happening for decades. Master Of Puppets being in Stranger Things might just be the coolest heavy metal moment in movie and TV history, but it is by no means the first - as these ten classic instances prove.

Slayer’s Angel Of Death in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

How do you follow up one of the single greatest comedy horror/critter movies of all time? You go bigger, grosser and way, way sillier. Joe Dante’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch was accused of scrimping on the genuine horror chills of its predecessor, but there’s one scene in particular that remains an all-time great goosebump-raiser. After one of our scaly, pointy-eared chums downs a mysterious vial of liquid adorned with a spider symbol, he begins a painful and messy mutation into a horrifying Gremlin-tarantula hybrid - and all to the sweet, sweet tones of Slayer’s Angel Of Death. It doesn’t get more metal than that.

Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls in Zombieland (2009)

While the likes of Shaun Of The Dead and Braindead had already shown that zombie lore was ripe for gruesome laughs, Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland was the (literally) all-guns-blazing box office swing at a zom-com that many of us had been waiting for. Not only was the film a commercial and critical knockout, but its opening credits - featuring chaotic, gory, slo-mo zombie action soundtracked masterfully by Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls - remains one of the most effective introductions to any film ever.

Metallica’s Master Of Puppets in Zombieland: Double Tap

In fact, so well-received was that iconic opening for Zombieland that Ruben Fleischer shamelessly repeated the trick for his own sequel ten years later. While the film itself felt like it was spinning its wheels for most of the (rather empty) plot and the opening sequence couldn't possibly have hoped to recapture the sheer giddy thrill of its predecessor, it was still a hoot getting to see Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock blast their way through more zombie bell ends, as soundtracked by the biggest metal band of them all.

Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades in Severance (2022)

Apple TV+’s weird and brilliant Severance is centred around the mysterious Lumon corporation, whose workers’ brains are ‘severed’ - each time they leave their eerie, Facebook-like office, they basically become a completely different person. One of the key characters is Irving, a prissy, buttoned up-jobsworth. All that is turned on its head in a pivotal scene where it’s revealed he’s really a tortured soul fixated on painting nightmarish, black hellscapes over and over again. And the none-more-metal soundtrack to his daubings? Motörhead’s Ace Of Spades. Boom! Now that’s our kind of guy.

Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

While Led Zeppelin’s earliest albums slightly predate heavy metal as we know it, Immigrant Song, released the same year as Black Sabbath's debut album, is a fabulous slice of heavy-riffed, bug-eyed, proto-metal majesty. Director Taika Waititi evidently felt the same; he used the track to stunning effect in his brilliant MCU romp Thor: Ragnarok, most noticeably during the climactic scene on the Bifrost Bridge where Thor regains his self-belief, summons a metic fuck-ton of lightning power and lays waste to a big horde of baddies, all in glorious slow-mo and soundtracked to some thumping Jimmy Page riffs.

Black Sabbath’s Iron in Iron Man (2008)

While it didn’t match the pure, adrenalised epicness of Led Zep’s star turn in Thor: Ragnarok, the very first entry into the MCU canon set an early precedent for heavy metal playing a part in modern superhero movie lore. Tony Stark’s cheeky “I am Iron Man” proclamation at the very end of the film tore apart the ‘secret identity’ tropes that underpin most superhero flicks; the perfectly executed use of Black Sabbath’s immense Iron Man to finish the scene was the icing on the cake. Blockbuster cinema would never be the same again.

Rage Against The Machine’s Wake Up in The Matrix (1999)

Considering its themes, it's unsurprising that most of the on-screen music throughout The Matrix is techno, or at the very least techno remixes of songs like Rob Zombie’s Dragula. By the time the film finishes, though, we’ve all taken the blue pill and seen the world for what it is. Neo (Keanu Reeves) now has epic new powers to take on the forces of The Matrix (including the previously untouchable agents), so we get an honest-to-god banger in Rage Against The Machine’s Wake Up as he threatens to free the rest of humanity before blasting off into the sky, Superman-style. Iconic. 

Quireboys’ You Don’t Love Me Any More in Peacemaker (2022)

From its killer opening credits down, The Suicide Squad spin-off Peacemaker is pretty much a love letter to the hair metal era disguised as a superhero comedy series. Case in point: the epic fight scene in episode one, when John Cena’s semi-naked hero gets into the mother of all bust-ups with a woman he’s picked up in a bar who turns out to be a shapeshifting assassin sent to kill him, while bandana’d Brit hard rock warhorses the Quireboys’ lovelorn ballad I Don’t Love You Any More plays over the top. Sure, the Quireboys aren’t really metal, but honestly this is just too good to leave out.

Judas Priest’s You Got Another Thing Comin’ in Archer (2020)

After three seasons of genre-bending, FFX’s Archer returned to its core format (Bond-style spy thriller meets The Office) in the most epic way possible. Season 11 kicked off with a heist caper that soon turns into a gunfight and car (bike?) chase, all soundtracked by Judas Priest’s iconic 1982 You Got Another Thing Comin’. Extra points to the show for bringing in a van spray painted with a Screaming For Vengeance-style metal eagle, complete with the pun Screaming For Van-geance.  

Nine Inch Nails’ Dead Souls in The Crow (1994)  

Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman opened the gates wide for a host of gothic, darker superhero movies in the 90s. The Crow stands as probably the most iconic, its soundtrack featuring everyone from The Cure and Nine Inch Nails to Pantera and My Life In The Thrill Kill Kult (who also make a live appearance in one of the film’s big action sequences). Our pick, though, goes to NIN’s cover of Joy Division’s Dead Souls, ringing out as Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) hops across rooftops in pursuit of the titular animal, showing the physical transformation he has undergone into the perfect avatar of vengeance.  

The latest series of Stranger Things is out now via Netflix

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He has also presented and produced the Metal Hammer Podcast, presented the Metal Hammer Radio Show and is probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.