The best movie moments come when sound and vision are in perfect harmony – a dramatic turn or comedy beat or burst of action accompanied by the exact right musical cue. Here are the greatest soundtrack and movie-music moments of 2018, from sweeping new scores to brand new film-inspired soundtrack songs, as well as old favourites given new life and meaning on the big screen.
‘Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life’
Artist: Michael Bolton (and the Teen Titans cast)
If anything was going to get us through the trials and tribulations of 2018, it was an ‘Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life’. Just, don’t listen to it while driving…
‘Always Remember Us This Way’
Artist: Lady Gaga
Movie: A Star Is Born
‘Shallow’ got all the plaudits (and is tipped for Oscar gold), but we’d take this one instead. A cosy power-ballad that cements the best times in Ally and Jackson’s dramatic relationship.
‘Pray For Me’
Artist: The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar
Movie: Black Panther
The entire Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther soundtrack is a belter, but this is its shiny vibranium nugget – with Kendrick in full-flow, that addictive beat, and complete with Wakandan backing vocals.
Artist: Anthony Gonzalez
The emotional sucker-punch of Pixar’s latest tear-jerking adventure. Yes, we’re crying now too.
Artist: Thom Yorke
The Radiohead frontman nails it with his first film score. The (sort-of) title track is truly spine-tingling, with its haunting looping piano chords that emphasise the current of melancholy that flows through Luca Guadagnino’s remake.
Artist: Neil Young
Movie: A Quiet Place
Among the oppressive silence of John Krasinski’s ultra-tense monster-horror, this beautifully human moment flourishes – the tenderness of the central couple’s relationship is cemented as they share earbuds and slow-dance to Neil Young.
Artist: Post Malone and Swae Lee
The glitchy, glowy synths of ‘Sunflower’ are a perfect compliment to Spider-Verse’s vibrant animation. Tip: pretend to be actual Miles Morales by trying to sing along while not really knowing any of the words.
Artist: Katherine Ho
Movie: Crazy Rich Asians
Jon M. Chu sends his brilliant rom-com out on this perfect song choice – a Mandarin cover of Coldplay that’s steeped with extra importance. Just read his letter to the band asking for their permission to use the song and explaining why it means so much, and try not to weep.
Movie: Love, Simon
Jack Antonoff’s big-hearted Springsteen-as-modern-pop is the perfect accompaniment to Greg Berlanti’s teen LGBTQ rom-com – ‘Wild Heart’ especially, with its widescreen synths and epic drums.
Artist: Van Halen
Movie: Ready Player One
From the moment the very first synth stab of ‘Jump’ lines up perfectly with ‘An AMBLIN Production’ in the opening credits of Ready Player One, you know you’re in for a big, splashy action-adventure romp. Cheesy? Yep. A total joy? You betcha.
Artist: Takatsugu Muramatsu
Movie: Mary and the Witch’s Flower
The music of Studio Ghibli was pure magic – and in Studio Ponoc’s first film, that tradition continues. This is a soaring, sparkling suite that blends perfectly with Mary’s gorgeous animation.
‘House Of Woodcock’
Artist: Jonny Greenwood
Movie: Phantom Thread
One of the surprises of Phantom Thread is how lush and swooningly romantic it is (before that intoxicating third act kicks in), and plenty of that is down to Jonny Greenwood’s astonishing piano score. As old-fashioned and beautifully crafted as one of Reynolds Woodcock’s signature gowns.
‘Hearts Beat Loud’
Artist: Kiersey Clemons, Nick Offerman, and Keegan DeWitt
Movie: Hearts Beat Loud
The heartbeat of this sweet indie drama is in its titular propulsive pop song, written by father-daughter duo Frank and Sam. A gem to be played, well, loud.
‘My Love, My Life’
Artist: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Lily James
Movie: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again
Deep breaths, everyone. The bit that drew racking sobs from just about everyone in the Mamma Mia sequel is an intergenerational ode to familial love and motherhood – an ABBA all-timer, given gorgeous new context.
‘Young, Dumb, and Broke’
Movie: Skate Kitchen
The kids of Skate Kitchen might not be dumb, but in every other sense this is a perfect choice for Crystal Moselle’s ace coming-of-age film, soundtracking Camille, Devon and friends shredding through the streets of New York.
Artist: Dr. Samuel Hoffman
Movie: First Man
What a year for the theremin, which got the surround-sound treatment thanks to Damien Chazelle’s latest. This sumptuous ode to the moon is used in such a way that it feels like another thing drawing Ryan Gosling’s Neil Armstrong towards his eventual lunar destiny.
Artist: Justin Hurwitz
Movie: First Man
‘Lunar Rhapsody’ had to make the list, but we couldn’t just ignore this stunning suite from Justin Hurwitz’s score – a majestic and dramatic piece that builds steadily until the horns and soaring strings come crashing in. A key component to one of 2018’s most astonishing sequences.
‘A Place Called Slaughter Race’
Artist: Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot
Movie: Ralph Breaks the Internet
After struggling to find her place in the world (wide web), Vanellope Von Schweetz – SPOILER WARNING – finally gets her Disney Princess moment with a blast of that old Alan Menken magic.
‘Children Of The New Dawn’
Artist: Johann Johannsson
We tragically lost Johann Johnnsson this year – and there’s no better reminder of his talents than the brooding, hypnotic Mandy score. Revel in the woozy wonder of this spacy epic.
Artist: Celine Dion
Movie: Deadpool 2
After soundtracking much of the first Deadpool with hip hop classics, who better to get on-board Deadpool 2 than… Celine Dion? It’s a very Deadpool choice, a ballad that plays it entirely straight to add to the meta weirdness of it all. Except for the video which has a ‘sexy’ Deadpool pirouetting around a stage, because Deadpool.
‘I Won’t Hurt You’
Artist: The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Movie: Isle Of Dogs
A none-more-Wes-Anderson choice in a none-more-Wes-Anderson film. This oddball ‘60s ditty is a lovely accompanying texture to the hand-crafted stop-motion animation of Anderson’s ode to man’s best friend.
‘When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings’
Artist: Tim Blake Nelson, Willie Watson
Movie: The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
Death finds its way into every story from the Coen Brothers’ Wild West anthology. This lilting, melancholic tune encapsulates that perfectly, feeling authentic both to the film’s themes and it's lovingly-evoked period.
‘Come On Get Happy’
Artist: The Partridge Family
Movie: Ant-Man And The Wasp
What happens when you spend months on end under house arrest for your technically illegal superhero exploits? You end up doing karaoke to the Partridge Family theme. Maybe Scott Lang can cheer Cap and Black Widow up in Endgame with a sing-along?
‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic
Artist: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Blunt and cast
Movie: Mary Poppins Returns
The magical nanny’s big comeback is a shining light at the end of a dark year – and this number is, fittingly, all about bringing some much-needed illumination to the world. Plus, Lin-Manuel Miranda – squee!
‘We Are The Champions’
Movie: Bohemian Rhapsody
If the Freddie Mercury biopic proved divisive, the music of Queen is undeniable – and the closing suite of Live Aid recordings remains as powerful as ever.