Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

The Best Movie Music Moments Of 2012

by The Playlist Staff
December 10, 2012 3:05 PM
  • |
2012: Music Moments

When it first began, many, many years ago, The Playlist covered film in general, but with a particular focus on the places where movies intersected with music -- scores, soundtracks, music videos et al. And while our remit has grown over time, it's still something we take a particular interest in. After all, it's hard to think of major movies in which music doesn't play a key part, from a piece of score elevating a key sequence to a pop song that becomes inextricably linked with a film until the end of time.

And 2012 has been no exception, with a host of movies that have used songs and music to hugely impressive effect, from grand-scale musicals to contained dance sequences to memorable montages to movie-stealing karaoke numbers. So, to kick-off our year-end coverage, we've picked out some of our favorite movie music moments of the year. The only rule was that they had to be intrinsic parts of the film -- closing credit numbers (like Arcade Fire's stomping "Abraham's Daughter" at the end of "The Hunger Games") or cuts-used-in-passing (like the cunning-but-brief use of The Walkmen's "Angela Surf City" in "Seven Psychopaths") didn't count. You can find, and watch/hear, our picks below, let us know your own favorites in the comments section below. For all The Playlist's year-end coverage make sure to follow all our Best Of 2012 features.

"Alps" -- Hot Butter's "Popcorn"
Yorgos Lanthimos' follow-up to the absurdist and dark “Dogtooth” is similarly bizarre. This askew look at human relationships centers on a secret society that sets out to ease the grieving process by creating a business wherein they impersonate the recently deceased in an effort to help soften the suffering of loved ones. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but one of the members of the “Alps” is a teenage gymnast, and one of the main points of contention in the film is that her coach won’t let her do her floor routines to pop music -- classical music only. It’s such a divisive issue, that the girl eventually attempts suicide. In the end however, the coach caves and she gets the opportunity to do her gymnastics  floor routine to a cheerful and corny techno-version of Hot Butter’s '70s Music to Moog By hit “Popcorn.” It’s a celebratory moment and it’s likely not going to mean much to anyone who hasn’t seen the film, but for those that have, it’s a terrific cap to this odd little gem of a movie.

Anna Karenina Dance
"Anna Karenina" -- Dario Marianelli's "Dance With Me"
The ball scene is something of a staple of the costume drama world, and Joe Wright managed a couple of fairly definitive takes on the trope in his debut, "Pride & Prejudice," using a Steadicam to glide between participants in immaculately choreographed long takes (we discussed it in detail right here). Reteaming for the third time with Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina" he manages to top himself with the amazing centerpiece scene. Demonstrating the title character falling in love with the much younger Count Vronsky with barely a word being spoken between them, the pair head off to the tune of composer Dario Marianelli's lovely "Dance With Me," their waltzing accompanied by strange, beguiling hand movements courtesy of choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. As they move, the others dancers first freeze around them, then, in one bravura shot, disappear altogether. It's sexy and convincing stuff -- not least to Kitty, who loves Vronsky, and is helpless to watch her man being stolen away as she dances with another partner. The whole thing is one long, hugely accomplished set piece, but you can see a truncated glimpse of it below.

"Beasts Of The Southern Wild."
"Beasts Of The Southern Wild."
"Beasts Of The Southern Wild" -- Dan Rohmer and Benh Zeitlin's “Once There Was a Hushpuppy”/”The Confrontation”
The combination of Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin, composer and composer/director is a deadly one that should not be slept on. Their passionate, anthemic and melancholy-tinged scores are akin to the symphonic swells, childhood pains and bittersweet aches channeled by Arcade Fire. Romer and Zeitlin's compositions have the same heartrending trajectory of hope, sadness and fervent emotion, so much so that the Obama campaign used one of their songs from the director’s short “Glory At Sea” for one of their key commercials in the last week of their 2008 campaign. And so everything that is wonderful about their work is alive, magnetic and present in the magical and muddy fairytale “Beasts of The Southern Wild.” There’s plenty of score pieces in the film that are wistful, beautiful and filled with longing, but perhaps none is so great as the motif theme, perhaps represented well by “The Confrontation,” that reaches its stunning crescendo in the final moments of the film and the score piece “Once There Was A Hushpuppy.” The film’s precocious lead Hushpuppy’s father has sadly passed on and the young girl gives her little voice-over monologue about perseverance, survival, hope and community. The lugubrious music rises, your emotions tremble and much like the spirit of hopeful New Orleans funerals, this lament bursts into an apex of tremendous joy and celebration. Suffice to say it made many of us literally burst into tears the moment we experienced it.

Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best
"Brooklyn Brothers Beat The Best" - The Brooklyn Brothers Rehearsal
This little seen indie film features some of the most charmingly quirky original tunes to be found in film in 2012, and they were played live by the actors live on set. Take THAT, “Les Mis”! Yes, they are playing that guitar and those toy keyboards driving in the car, which makes this winning scene even more remarkable. After the depressed Alex decides to go on the road with the unhinged Jim (for lack of anything else to do), these two misanthropes find a real creative connection in pairing Alex’s somber and sensitive lyrics and guitar with Jim’s mastery of a collection of toy instruments, resulting in a unique sound that manages to be not overly twee, but instead one of those chocolate and peanut butter combinations: it just goes right together. The scene in the too small car when they finally play together, just hours before their first gig, is the first of many truly inspired musical moments in the film, and their distinctive sound becomes an integral part of the film’s emotional and stylistic aesthetic. It’s also one of the first times we get to see Alex experience something like happiness, as he sets off on this unknown adventure with a possible lunatic, but a friendly one at that. Lead actors Ryan O’Nan and Michael Weston actually released an album of the self-described “The Shins meet Sesame Street” songs, written mostly by quadruple threat writer/director/star O’Nan, in addition to the film’s soundtrack, and played a few live shows promoting the film. Hopefully we'll see more from them soon.

The Comedy
"The Comedy" -- Donnie & Joe Emerson's “Baby” & William Basinski's ”Disintegration Loops (1.1 Excerpt I)”
Rick Alverson’s disturbing and hilarious mediation on the male psyche -- in the form of an aging hipster played by Tim Heidecker -- is an unflinching look at damaged manchilds. And the tasteful collection of mystical soul and bittersweet pop -- described as  the "autumn of the American Era” by the filmmaker -- is a strange and wonderful elixir for this provocative picture. There’s two phenomenal sequences. The first is Donnie and Joe Emerson’s amateurishly sweet and soulful “Baby” which plays as the arrested 30-something in the picture are introduced in slow-motion-- drunkenly dancing half naked and wrestling in a tribal-like ritual. With sweaty guts keeling over and beer splashing the walls it’s an amazing/beautiful/ridiculous expression of their hyper and acute juvenalia. The second sequence, is these men, free of the obligations of jobs and responsibility pissing away the day drinking beers and playing wiffle ball in the park. The montage is cut to a forlorn ambient track by William Basinski and its stunning, wonderful genius, conveying both a carefree like wonder and an underbelly of sadness. Rarely is source music used very effectively in movies these days, let alone atypically and Alverson is one to keep an eye on, at the very least for his amazing and unusual command of picking the perfect left-of-center track.

Django Unchained Jamie Foxx
"Django Unchained" -- Rick Ross's "1000 Corpses" & John Legend's "Who Did That To You" 
While the music in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" is the best its been in years, there's not really a "music moment" per se like David Bowie's "Cat People" in "Inglourious Basterds" or "Stuck In The Middle With You" in "Reservoir Dogs," but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention there were a few pretty standouts. Aside from the excellent borrowed title theme (which is not really a moment, just a tremendous song), most of the memorable song moments are contemporary -- a first for Tarantino. He goes super anachronistic with Rick Ross' spaghetti-western flecked hip-hop song "1000 Corpses" and the song is terrific and while the scene is a brief transition moment, it's pretty badass and fitting. Meanwhile, a soulful John Legend ballad is great too, and Tupac rapping over James Brown in the action crescendo is kinda neat as well. And it looks like QT's selections outside his well worn vinyl collection of Ennio Morricone soundtracks has served him well this time out.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    


  • Trina Logan | July 28, 2013 3:00 AMReply

    I agree with this list of songs from awesome movies completely!

  • Matt Lohr | December 14, 2012 2:40 PMReply

    I can't think of a musical moment in film this year that surprised me more than Tenpole Tudor's "Swords of 1000 Men" amping up the opening of "The Pirates! Band of Misfits." It immediately put a smile on my face that didn't leave until the movie was over.

  • EasySeamus | December 13, 2012 8:05 PMReply

    Playground scene in The Comedy is incredible. Never experienced the emotions of ridicule and nostalgia sandwiched together, let alone so well. heatbreaking stuff

  • Bryan | December 13, 2012 4:54 PMReply

    I watch those scenes from Take This Waltz over and over again. My two favorite scenes of the year. Thanks for the list.

  • lora | December 13, 2012 9:53 AMReply

    I like the music part in Rust and Bone

  • ska-triumph | December 12, 2012 4:24 PMReply

    Good list - juicy. But, hey, how no WHERE DO WE GO NOW?

  • Mike | December 12, 2012 10:48 AMReply

    So is it Marianellis or Desplat's score used in the dancing scene in Anna Karenina? All I know is Marianelli is the music composer for the whole film.

  • Ronnie D. | December 11, 2012 4:44 PMReply

    Kylie Minoque's song, and her whole part in general, were literally the worst part of Holy Motors.

  • ska-triumph | December 12, 2012 4:25 PM

    Agreed. Slowed down the whole thing for me... The magic was forced and not absurdly, surreally organic.

  • Arjuna | December 11, 2012 10:03 AMReply

    And that's Johnny not Jinny (looks up to the heavens where Johnny is playing guitar deepest apologies, sir). Seriously, your list please and include Silver Linings Playbook which feature the songs of Led Zeppelin as well as Dylan & Cash...thank you.

  • Arjuna | December 11, 2012 9:58 AMReply

    The scene in Silver Linings Playbook where Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be" (incredible scene) as well as Bob Dylan and Jihnny Cash's "Girl from the North Country" (quite possibly one of the most beautiful songs EVER written) need to be included....c'mon, guys.

  • Claude | December 10, 2012 10:11 PMReply

    Why nothing from Joseph Kahn's brilliant slice of pop-culture satire, "Detention"? The use of "MMMBop" as an instrumental piece, and later as a dance number was great. Or the twenty year long detention set to a montage of songs that fit with the trends we see was genius. Or even "Field Of Gold" sung by Toby T.! A vastly underrated gem of a movie with a vibrant soundtrack.

  • Monica | December 10, 2012 8:20 PMReply

    I love the Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best

  • justin | December 10, 2012 5:04 PMReply

    i am confused. why are you hating so bad on skyfall, oliver, when in your own review ( you praised a return to form. you didn't call the film perfect but you didn't call it a disappointment.

    what's up with this? you're starting to flip flop on your own reviews on this website.

  • Mark Zhuravsky | December 15, 2012 6:54 PM

    Hi Alan, in my experience, the intro and the film that followed were very different animals worthy of highlighting via the write-up. In fact, the intro stands out even more in light of that. I don't think it's fair to call my submission selfish considering that this is a group piece that includes a variety of opinions.

  • Alan | December 11, 2012 6:50 PM

    Justin may be civil, but I am not. Congrats Mark, you managed to take a piece about celebrating the musical achievements in 2012 cinema and make it into a glorified rebuke against 'Skyfall', as if to say, "well, you didn't ask for my opinion, but ...". I don't think that film is perfect, but I do think it is incredibly arrogant to highjack the piece - co-written by others - into an attack against a well-liked film that, shock horror, you just don't happen to like. It's like a Tom Hooper directorial choice: it's selfish and takes away from the work of your collaborators.

  • justin | December 11, 2012 6:44 PM

    i love the multitude of different opinions people have about films, and overall i've been impressed with the reviews your group puts out. i see no reason to be uncivil about something that you clarified so well (although it is hilarious to read all of the angry responses for you not voicing what they're thinking). thanks again and keep up the good work. can't wait for the rest of the end of the year reporting.

  • The Playlist | December 11, 2012 6:00 PM

    Wow, Justin. What a civil response. If only more commenters were like this.

  • justin | December 10, 2012 10:33 PM

    oh! ok. well that makes more sense. when i read this article earlier it said oliver was the reviewer so i was starting to doubt even the reviewers and their opinions. thank you for clarifying and i'm sorry you didn't enjoy skyfall!

  • Mark Zhuravsky | December 10, 2012 5:33 PM

    Hi Justin,

    Several staff members with assorted opinions contributed write-ups. I actually penned the Skyfall theme write-up.

  • Christian | December 10, 2012 4:47 PMReply

    How do you not include What Is And Should Never Be in The Silver Lingings Playbook. Or anything from that movie?

  • The Playlist | December 10, 2012 5:11 PM

    Silver Linings is one we definitely considered. A lot of great music, but not quite a moment that popped out at us. Look for it on our best soundtracks and scores piece.

  • LO | December 10, 2012 4:34 PMReply

    Where (the hell) is Laurence Anyways??

  • Kevin | December 10, 2012 4:40 PM

    Technically, it will be a 2013 release for the US, so look for it next year.

  • jack | December 10, 2012 3:41 PMReply

    Hace tuto guagua- Argo: Mendez returning home after saving the hostages to his son. Lying in bed with him, as we see the storyboard.
    Why Do We Fall-Dark Knight Rises: Bruce climbing out of the pit.
    Feelin' Alright: Flight: Denzel hitting that line of cocaine
    Ladies of Tampa-Magic Mike: McConegheny serenading the crowd, as Tatum decides to leave

  • bill | December 10, 2012 3:35 PMReply

    god beasts score is beautiful

  • S | December 10, 2012 3:33 PMReply


  • Nate | December 10, 2012 3:30 PMReply

    "The Man Comes Around" in KILLING THEM SOFTLY was fucking awesome! Amiright?

  • Ronnie D. | December 11, 2012 4:45 PM

    But overall the movie was ehh.

  • Glass | December 10, 2012 4:27 PM

    Can't help but think of how that song's been raped and pillaged for soundtracks already - especially the whole ending montage of Generation Kill. It felt redundant at this point, but that's me.

Email Updates