It was a year that began with Anne Hathaway dreaming a dream in Les Misérables and ended with Jason Schwartzman, B.J. Novak and company flying Saving Mr. Banks’s toe-tapping kite. Somewhere in the middle Backstreet came back in This Is The End, The World’s End got Loaded, Hans Zimmer belted out more of his magisterial cues on Rush and Man Of Steel, and the kings and queens of indiedom vied for a spot on the Catching Fire soundtrack. Here are our picks of the year’s movie playlist, with a Spotify version right at the very end.
'MASTER OF THE HOUSE'
By:** Helena Bonham Carter & Sacha Baron Cohen
*In:* Les Misérables
'I Dreamed A Dream' came close, but our pick from Les Misérables' soundtrack is 'Master Of The House', as sung by the devilish double-barreled duo of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. And by “sung” we mean “talked through in a French accent”, which is nothing but a compliment: like Gene Kelly doing 'Singin' In The Rain' before him, Baron Cohen was ill during the shoot, but powered on regardless. Tom Hooper explained how he communicated with his all-but-mute actor on the Empire Podcast.
By:** Ludwig van Beethoven
*In:* White House Down
The man Bill and Ted once called “the Van Halen of his time” provided the Die Hard-est cues of this summer's second White House-based action flick. Beethoven's Ninth reverberated as a shoeless Bruce Willis made his way around the Nakatomi Plaza; Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and Pennsylvania Avenue went one better and got the theme tune to The Longest Day. This one put the 'bomb' into 'bombastic'.
By:** The National
*In:* The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The National have popped up on everything from romantic weepie The Vow (‘England’) to MMA drama Warrior (‘About Today’). This year, Ohio’s finest have appeared in Warm Bodies (‘Runaway’) and, more importantly, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This cripplingly-depressing-but-still-catchy tune is one of many reasons to buy the sequel’s soundtrack, which also includes work from Lorde, The Lumineers, Patti Smith and, with their similarly penned-for-the-movie single ‘Atlas’, some band called Coldplay.
If Oblivion the movie is better than most people give it credit for, 'Oblivion' the song is just as good as they've been saying. Crafted by French electronic mavens M83 and with lyrics belted out by Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør, it's the perfect accompaniment to Tom Cruise loop-the-looping in a futuristic bubble 'copter and about as close to IMAX as music is ever going to get.
By:** Beastie Boys
*In:* Star Trek Into Darkness
Early on in Star Trek Into Jelly Darkness, young Kirk is listening to an antique record of the Beastie Boys' 'Body Movin'', or at least the Fat Boy Slim remix thereof, while, ahem, entertaining a pair of cat-like ladies. This callback to an even younger Kirk joyriding to 'Sabotage' in 2009's Star Trek doubled as an echo of Kirk's general interest in antiques in the Prime timeline. It also, no doubt, made director J.J. Abrams grin from ear-to-ear – what with him being a big Beastie Boys fan and all. Expect 'Intergalactic' to be heard blaring out of a pedicab on Tatooine come December 2015.
'EVERYBODY (BACKSTREET'S BACK)'
By:** Backstreet Boys
*In:* This Is The End
In the summer of 1997, Backstreet was Back, with Howie, Dowie, Duey, Louie, Nick, Kevin, Brian, A. J., P.J. and D.J. – delete as appropriate – defying predictions of a sophomore slump with a bruising second album, chock-full of hits. Fast-forward to 2013, and Backstreet was Back… again, all thanks to Seth Rogen and his crew of celebrity reprobates, who somehow made this a song of biblical significance.
By:** Hans Zimmer
Not to be confused with Eric Clapton's Grammy-winning soundtrack for the 1992 film of the same name, Rush (the 2013 edition) was a glorious mix of Zimmer winners and superb '70s sounds. Kicking off the 24 song-strong selection was this Edge-from-U2-tinged treat, all foreboding strings and widdly guitar chords. There's no doubt to its impact, and it works exceptionally well in Ron Howard's double-header racing biopic.
By:** Hans Zimmer
*In:* Man Of Steel
As usual, it's been a busy year for Zimmer. As well as the F1 thrills of Rush, he fitted in work for the History Channel miniseries The Bible, as well as The Lone Ranger, Mr. Morgan's Last Love, 12 Years A Slave and this, the standout track from Man Of Steel. It's a tune so strong that you almost forget about John Williams' genre-defining theme from back in 1978. Getting the audience to believe a man can fly is hard enough, but doing it without using one of cinema's most iconic tunes takes a superhuman effort. Zimmer achieved it.
By:** Kanye West
*In:* The Wolf Of Wall Street trailer
A Martin Scorsese film about a hedonistic boiler room stockbroker in the 1990s doesn't necessarily scream out 'Black Skinhead' (also stylised as 'BLKKK SKKKN HEAD'), but sometimes thinking laterally does wonders when grabbing the public's attention. The obvious connection between song and film is the lyric “I'm aware I'm a wolf”, which is on the nose to say the least, but it's Mr. West's general air of body-popping debauchery that Scorsese is channeling here. Incidentally, just under a dozen people produced this track, including Kanye West himself, Daft Punk, Gesaffelstein, Brodinski, Mike Dean, Lupe Fiasco, No ID, Jack Donoghue and Noah Goldstein. About the only person missing is a tossed dwarf.
*In:* Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa
Watching Steve Coogan (as Alan Partridge) 'air sing' this immortal '80s romp 'Cuddly Toy', it's a wonder Roachford didn't include the lyrics, “There's no fog. NO FOG!” in the first place. Catchier than the jingle to 'Alan's Funny Stories' and much more fun to mime, it's a song that will stay with you until the end of time. It'll be tough to follow-up, should Alan Partridge 2 come to pass, although an easy win would see Norfolk's finest jumping off a cliff, Union Jack parachute unfurling, miming to 'Nobody Does It Better'.
'CAN YOU DIG IT'
By:** Brian Tyler
*In:* Iron Man 3
The best credits music heard this year, Brian Tyler’s brassy instrumental was such a fixture on the Empire hi-fi that almost everyone in the office came up with unofficial lyrics for it (which we won’t share with you now for reasons of public decency). Tyler, who’s been serving up excellent work on the likes of Eagle Eye, The Expendables and Fast Five, has now been welcomed into the Marvel fold with his follow-up work on Thor: The Dark World, so expect more from him as we hit Phases 3 and 4…
'LET'S GO FLY A KITE'
By:** Jason Schwartzman, BJ Novak, Bradley Whitford, Melanie Paxson & Emma Thompson
*In:* Saving Mr. Banks
Stop us if you've heard this one before. It's a little ditty from a relatively unknown family movie called Mary Poppins, and there's a decent chance you might like it. Of course, it's a damn shame Bradley Whitford didn't bust out a full rendition of 'Fidelity Fiduciary Bank' (playing every member of the board of the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, of course), but this one will do just as well in its place.
By:** James Franco / Britney Spears
*In:* Spring Breakers
There are many “What the hell?” moments in Spring Breakers but this is easily the weirdest of the lot. All wearing bright pink balaclavas, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson stand around James Franco as he plays a relatively obscure Britney Spears ballad on a white grand piano by a beachside swimming pool. The thing is - and this really is the thing here - it was still somehow entrancing, despite Franco's scary silver grill and all those machine guns.
By:** Ben Folds
*In:* About Time
Ben Folds explains the origins of this heartbreaking song on The A.V. Club. In short, 'The Luckiest' was written for Amy Heckerling's film Loser, but the scene for which it was made ended up on the cutting room floor, leaving a beautiful ballad with nowhere to call home. Tacked on the end of his first solo album, Rockin' The Suburbs, it finally made it to the big screen 12 years later when About Time director Richard Curtis begged to use it. The begging was worth it.
By:** David Soul
In a film as filthy as Filth, any dream sequence is bound to be seriously deranged. But where reality for James McAvoy's corrupt cop includes bondage, throwing people out of windows and swearing at children, the surreal is, well, something else. Enter David Soul, in character, singing his very own song as he drives around Edinburgh in his cab. Magnificently gnarly.
By:** David Bowie
*In:* Frances Ha
Noah Baumbach knows it would be enough for his audience to watch his gloriously clumsy heroine (Greta Gerwig) dashing down some of New York's busiest streets, tripping over curbs as she windmills her way to whichever dinner party she's heading to, but he really amps up the situation with a well-chosen slice of Bowie brilliance.
'DJANGO (MAIN THEME)'
By:** Rocky Roberts & Luis Bacalov
*In:* Django Unchained
Django's theme was first heard by cinemagoers in 1964, when Sergio Corbucci's original spaghetti Western hit theatres, but a whole generation of Django fans was introduced to the song thanks to Quentin Tarantino's 2013 take. Franco Nero, the original Django, can be seen in a brief cameo half way through QT's .44 Magnum opus, when he explains to Jamie Foxx that he's perfectly aware of how to spell his name. Hint: the 'D' is silent.
By:** Michael Giacchino
*In:* Star Trek Into Darkness
It'll be a glorious day when Michael Giacchino tops his work on Up, but so far the closest we've come are the scores to both 2009's Star Trek and this year's Star Trek Into Darkness. The 11th film of the Star Trek franchise knocked us for six with Giancchino's new main theme, but for its sequel, he went for a subtler approach. Our pick is this, 'London Calling', not for jingoistic reasons, but because of the gentle opening kicking into top gear come the 1.50 mark, teasing us with a motif we wish we could hear more of later. Something for Star Trek 3, perhaps?
By:** Sisters Of Mercy
*In:* The World's End
'80s gothsters Sisters Of Mercy were a fittingly doom-laded presence in The World's End. With his trenchcoat, lank hair and general air of being about to twang a bass in a sinister fashion, Young Gary King is a gothelganger for the band's lead singer Andrew Eldritch. “This was the only song I really knew”, explained Edgar Wright of the pick, “but Simon [Pegg] was a major Sisters Of Mercy fan”. That Sisters Of Mercy T-shirt Pegg's Gary wears, a ubiquitous (and probably fairly smelly) presence, is complemented on the soundtrack by the band's 1987 stonker, which came complete with 40-strong choir, apocalyptic bass lines and its own weather system.
By:** Primal Scream
*In:* The World's End
For people of a certain age, The World's End soundtrack was a jukebox of nostalgic nightcrawling delights. Gary King's anthem for a resumed youth was arguably the most nostalgic of the lot - at least, before all the smashy-smashy eggmen arrived on the scene and ruined all the fun. Never mind the apocalypse: King just wants to get loaded and have a good time.
'THE BLUE UMBRELLA'
By:** Jon Brion
*In:* The Blue Umbrella
This whimsical delight featured the vocal charms of Sarah Jaffe, a young Texan singer/songwriter with a voice like a mountain glade filled with honey, flowers and fluffy kittens, and the songwriting prowess of Jon Brion. This tune even helped inspire the short film it accompanied: Pixar’s Saschka Unseld had Jaffe’s music in his ears when he spotted an abandoned, gutter-strewn umbrella on a rainy day in San Francisco.
By:** Conal Fowkes
*In:* Blue Jasmine
This baritone crying-in-your-beer belter has been sung by Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Mel Torme, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra since it was penned in 1935, but Woody Allen - surprise, surprise - chose a member of The Woody Allen Jazz band to record its sombre sentiments on Blue Jasmine. His name: Conal Fawkes. Incidentally, if this song isn't played as the Best Actress Oscar winner walks up the Dolby Theatre on March 2, we'll eat our double bass.
By:** Nick Drake
*In:* Le Week-End
Another moon safari to follow 'Blue Moon'. Le Week-End's many musical delights extended to an homage to Bande À Part's famous café dance and a run-through of Bob Dylan's 'Like A Rolling Stone', but this ditty from folk hero Nick Drake best captured the melancholy the film held at its heart and lent much maudlin loveliness to Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan's marital strife.
*In:* American Hustle trailer
We don't yet know how good David O. Russell's American Hustle is, but if it turns out half as pulsing as its heady, hairsprayed trailers, we're in for a treat. In the first of them Johnny Mathis' 'It's Not For Me To Say' popped up, grabbed the mic and swooned a bit before clearing the way for Jeff Lynne and his band of '70s rock brigands to unleash a crate of cello-fuelled electro lunacy.
'FAR L'AMORE (CLUB MIX)'
By:** Bob Sinclar & Raffaella Carra
*In:* The Great Beauty
French house producer Bob Sinclar and veteran Italian chanteuse Raffaella Carrà joined forces on this disco banger in 2011. Two years later, and Toni Servillo was joining forces with a hedonistic throng of weird and wonderful shindiggers to dance the hell out of it in the opening scenes of Paolo Sorrentino's marvellous The Great Beauty. It's a party that made Gatsby's gatherings look like bridge night at the W.I.
By:** Of Monsters And Men
*In:* The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty trailer
As far as Hollywood's Yellow Pages is concerned, Iceland isn't just there for the apocalyptic things in life. In contrast to the stark environments that decorated Oblivion and Thor 2, the musical landscape had an uplifting air, thanks largely to Of Monsters And Men's anthemic folk songs. The six-piece (from Keflavik rather than Vanaheim) played out The Hunger Games: Catching Fire with 'Silhouettes', but it was 'Dirty Paws' on the trailer for Ben Stiller's forthcoming fantasy-adventure that caught our ear. Walter Mitty? Walter Ditty more like. Um, sorry.
By:** MarchFourth Marching Band
*In:* Monsters University
You can't make a college movie without at least one big brass band moment, and Monsters Uni ticked that box with a jaunty number delivered by Oregon's freeform jazzsters the MarchFourth Marching Band. With stiltwalkers, fire-eaters and a percussion section made partly from bits of old bicycles, they're straight out of Portlandia central casting, but no less fun for that.
By:** John Waite
*In:* Warm Bodies
Power ballad alert! Here was one of those rare source music cues that doubled up as something of a plot point in Jonathan Levine’s zomromcom. Nicholas Hoult’s lovelorn zombie uses it woo Teresa Palmer in his home on an old commercial airliner, reanimating ‘80s rocker Waite in the process. The rocker gave the film the ultimate endorsement: he took his mum to see it. “She hasn’t been to the pictures in 15 years,” he told EW. “But she’s going tomorrow.”
'YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL'
By:** Lana Del Rey
*In:* The Great Gatsby
A song this sultry and wistful was bound to find its way onto The Great Gatsby soundtrack, even aside from the fact that Lana Del Rey is herself a New Yorker with a Gatsby-esque back story of her own. Jay-Z, the movie's semi-official musical impresario, helped assemble a playlist that boasted The xx, Jack White, Beyoncé and Andre 3000, but Lana Del, his American Beauty collaborator, takes the MVP prize.
'YOU ARE MY DREAM'
*In:* Only God Forgives
A lullaby-inspired ditty in a film that no child - and, to be honest, quite a few adults - should ever see. The film, the closest thing this year to being hit over the head with a pot of Marmite, divided opinion like nothing else - Empire gave it five stars; others… less than that - but the soundtrack was another Cliff Martinez opus to follow Drive, featuring this track from Thai band Proud.
'THE LIBERACE BOOGIE (FEAT. MICHAEL DOUGLAS)'
By:** The BTC Orchestra
*In:* Behind The Candelbra
As character intros went this year, Michael Douglas's Liberace, complete with some dizzying musical mathematics and enough diamante to blind the cast of Sunshine, took some beating. Douglas's much-embattled larynx stood up to the strain of channelling Liberace's Vegas patter and his fingers did the rest.
By:** Azealia Banks Ft. Lazy Jay
*In:* The Bling Ring
You couldn't move for Azealia Banks' slices of wash-your-mouth-out rudeness this year. Pitch Perfect had it (in an epic soundclash with Young MC), cop comedy The Heat played it, and Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring dropped it like it was hot. Which it was. Not to mention explicit as f*ck.
By:** The Flaming Lips
*In:* Ender's Game
Astral magicians The Flaming Lips may have seemed a leftfield pick for the Ender's Game soundtrack, but then, hey, it was a pretty leftfield movie. After all, there were killer children, a main character called Hyrum Graff and Ben Kingsley playing a Maori. In other words, right in Wayne Coyne and fellow Lips's cosmic wheelhouse.
By:** Steven Price
An unsung cog in the Earth-orbiting colossus that was Gravity, composer Stevem Price delivered a sparse, haunting piece of music that oscillated in and out of the film. As the movie unfolds, score and sound mix mingled as on few other films when Price and director Alfonso Cuarón found a way of filling the silence of space with ear-pleasing noises. Standouts included 'Gravity', 'Shenzhou' and 'Holy Shit, One Of Those Guys From Moonraker Just Floated By'.
By:** The Stone Roses
*In:* Made Of Stone
When it came to the year's mythical figures, only Pacific Rim's Kaiju and Percy Jackson's mighty Hippocampus could possibly compete with Made Of Stone's heroes. The Stone Roses swaggered out of posterity and conquered the world - well, the baggy parts of it anyway - right before our eyes in Shane Meadows' loving doc. This 'Roses classic was a heady highpoint, with Meadows' cameras there to capture the band's first jam back in the studio.
'I FOLLOW RIVERS (THE MAGICIAN REMIX)'
By:** Lykke Li
*In:* Blue Is The Warmest Colour
A 2011 floor-filler from Swedish popster Lykke Li that popped up in Abdellatif Kechiche's soulful love story and made everyone dance about like loons for a bit when Adèle and Emma went to a gay pride march. Catchy and propulsive, it perfectly encapsulated the giddiness of young love. We have no idea who The Magician is, but we'd like to shake him by the wand.
'WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE'
By: Gioachino Rossini
In: The Lone Ranger
Back in the silent era, long before man invented the “BRRRRMMM!”, action sequences (usually involving trains) tended to be scored by the William Tell Overture. Cineastes would have enjoyed the symmetry of hearing Rossini's fanfare blare out again on the big screen. Or they would have done, if any of them had seen the film.
'BECOME THE COLOUR'
By: Emily Wells
Stoker was a film that defied most attempts at categorisation, and this key soundtrack cue, a funky fugue that mixed hip-hop and classical influences, did likewise. Emily Wells, a Texan singer/violinist/multi-instrumentalist, was the artist behind it. We suspect we'll be hearing more from her.
'EVERY 1'S A WINNER'
By: Hot Chocolate
In: Frances Ha
Errol Brown and his sexy Chocolateers will soon be lending their aural love potions to Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2, but their 'Every 1's A Winner' also offered an incongruously funky backdrop to's Greta Gerwig's lonely odyssey to Paris in Frances Ha.
'ALL BOUNDARIES ARE CONVENTIONS'
By: Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil
In: Cloud Atlas
Talented man, that Tom Tykwer. Not content with co-writing and co-directing the already eye-wateringly complex Cloud Atlas, he also joined up with his Run Lola Run pals Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil to pen the film's score. This swooning, orchestral delight was a standout.
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