I’m a sucker for a good soundtrack. Your film could be the worst thing since sliced bread and I’d still love it if the songs were nice. But the best movies take their song choices (or original works) and use them in spectacularly interesting ways. This list is meant to celebrate the films of 2013 that made sweet musical love to our ear drums.
Although I missed out on last year’s big musical hit, Inside Llewyn Davis, I’m pretty content with my choices. While I’m sure the film might’ve knocked a list item or two off the list, this list is definite. I’m entirely confident that I’ll defend every single choice until I get bored and do something else.
With that being said, let’s get on with the Ten Best Movie Music Moments of 2013.
Honorable Mentions: Turbo – “That Snail is Fast!,” American Hustle – “Live and Let Die,” Despicable Me 2 – “Happy,” We’re the Millers – “Waterfalls,” Only God Forgives – “Leum mai long,” Stoker – Piano Duet, The History of Future Folk – “Moons of Hondo”
10. “I Swear,” as performed by The Minions – Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2 had one particularly interesting thing going for it: its Pharell produced score. And while “Happy” nearly made this list because it’s damn excellent, nothing beats how the Minions are at peak adorable capacity when they sing All-4-One’s “I Swear” (roughly translated as “Underwear”). It’s not the fact they’re singing it, it’s the commitment to the bit that hits home. The white suits, their music video movement, and that final talk to a flower. It’s exquisitely cute in a film filled with that same cuteness.
9. “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” – The Great Gatsby
While F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a great text, one of its major problems is how it treats the non-White races. Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation solves most of the those issues in one scene, and in fact, the greatest scene in the movie. African Americans are only showed twice in the film, once as workers, and once as an elite group of party goers ordering around a White gentleman. It’s nice considering they never show up again (and it’s using the one song that wasn’t originally composed for the film). Gatsby has a very good soundtrack, but nothing tops the marriage of music and visuals in this one moment.
Read our review of The Great Gatsby here.
8. “Doby,” as performed by Will Ferrell – Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Anchorman 2 may not have been anywhere near as funny as the first film, but it has got some classic moments of its own. One of them involves the baby shark, Doby. It’s not really the song itself that places it on the list, but the montage that accompanies it. It’s been done before, sure, but seeing that crying kid also made it one of the funniest things I saw last year. Swim Doby, you majestic bastard.
Read our review of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues here.
7. “The Moon Song,” as performed by Scarlett Johansson – Her
Her is the best romantic film that only features one person talking to the screen. At one point, it gets terribly cliche (Theo and Sam go to a cabin), yet it’s not cliche and it’s wonderfully gorgeous. Mostly because of Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix’s duet on “The Moon Song.” It’s light, heartbreakingly beautiful, and Johansson’s cracking voice gives it an especially lovely charm. It’s truly a romantic theme that’ll last for a long, long time.
Read our review of Her here.
6. Hum Chant, as performed by Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
This may not count entirely as a music moment per say, but it’s got a beat and it’s damn catchy. More so than most of this list. At the end of the first trailer, you catch a glimpse of this chant when Matthew McConaughey sings it for a bit. But there’s so much more to the scene. There’s also a bit toward the end where it’s repeated and it’s the most guttural, animalistic sound I had heard last year. Every time I want to inspire myself, I’m going to use the exact same chant. It just hits home and makes you believe “F**k yeah! I can do this!” For a song I can use in every day life, there are few better.
Read our review of The Wolf of Wall Street here.
5. “I’m Free” – The World’s End
But why just use a song when you can adapt to your very mantra? That’s where “I’m Free” comes into The World’s End. In a film that seems to ultimately be about resisting forced change, sometimes you just want to be free to do what you want at any old time. It’s not higher on this list because it’s more of a thematic overtone rather than a single moment (although I’d love to point out how well it’s used in The World’s End pub finale), but it’s still a wonderfully chosen song. It’s a weird nostalgic trip about living out your dreams in the 90s that’s being transformed into a theme for any day, any year. Just do what you want.
Read our review of The World’s End here.
4. “Let It Go,” as performed by Idina Menzel – Frozen
Now if you’re talking about a song that says you should do what you want, look no further than Frozen‘s “Let It Go.” Becoming an instantly gratifying addition to Disney’s musical repertoire, Idina Menzel finally delivers on her sadly songless performance in Enchanted. This one scene becomes not only the best part of Frozen, but the best animated moment of the year. Elsa singing about finally releasing her worry, creating the ice castle, and changing into that oddly sultry dress is something I ended up replaying multiple times. Although every song in Frozen‘s catalog is wonderful (the “First Time in Forever” Reprise being a close second), “Let It Go” is going to end up on every fan’s “Top Ten Disney Songs” list alongside “Kiss the Girl,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Circle of Life” for many, many years to come.
Read our review of Frozen here.
3. “Run N*gger Run/Roll Jordan Roll,” as performed by Paul Dano/Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years A Slave
Now I couldn’t decide between two of 12 Years A Slave‘s standouts because they’re both used so well. Both songs are used to capture moments of extreme dread and help drive home what kind of hopeless situation Solomon’s in. Paul Dano mockingly singing “Run N*gger Run” is Dano at his career slimiest, but nothing is more heartbreaking that “Roll Jordan Roll.” The extended close up, the realization of Ejiofor’s face, until Solomon finally gives in and joins the hymn. It’s that moment where your heart tears in two. He’s stuck and finally releasing some emotion and it’s incredibly unsettling.
Read our review of 12 Years A Slave here.
2. “Everytime,” as performed by James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine – Spring Breakers
Want to talk about incredibly unsettling? Spring Breakers set the stage early on in 2013. After this movie, I knew we were in for a fantastic year of crazy movies. Who knew that it set the trend that each film would defy expectations of its genre moving forward? If the intro or gun fellatio scenes didn’t scare you away, you eventually got to the best scene in the film. As Alien (James Franco really turns it out) serenades his lovely trio of bandits with Britney Spears, one of the best montages of the year helps establish hammer the film’s exuberant tone if you hadn’t figured it out by then. It’s just so, so visually captivating. And hilarious. Captilarious.
Read our review of Spring Breakers here.
1. “Take Yo Panties Off/When the Shit Goes Down/Paper Planes/Gangnam Style/I Will Always Love You/Backstreet’s Back” – This is the End
Now This is the End won’t be every person’s favorite movie (some unfortunately think it’s shallow, and they’re wrong), but it uses music incredibly well. TiTE has a ton of montages in it, and it’s never once terrible. Each song choice is poignant, and most importantly, hilarious. It’s also completely ignorable too. When Danny McBride first enters to Cypress Hill’s “When the Shit Goes Down” it really doesn’t hit home until later why that song was chosen. “Take Yo Panties Off” is Craig Robinson’s best song, “Gangnam Style” might be the most dated choice but it only lasts a few seconds, and the final two songs lead to the most sincerely happy and riotous finale of last year. If anything makes me as delighted as TiTE‘s finale did in 2014, I can die and go to heaven myself.
Read our review of This is the End here.
What are your favorite movie music moments of 2013? Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! While you’re at it, why not check out my Top 5 Animated Movies of 2013 list too!