For many of 2014's greatest movies, the soundtracks became just as noteworthy as the films themselves (big shoutout to Lorde for taking full control of the [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1](movie:446261) music). Filmmakers are becoming increasingly savvy to how much the perfect song can alter a scene, and those with a particularly good ear can end up creating the perfect harmony between sound and screen. Certain movies in 2014 achieved this and more, giving us some of the most memorable scenes we can't wait to watch again and again (if only YouTube would allow more of them to stick around!).
In no particular order, here are the five best songs used in this year's movies.
1. "Everything Is AWESOME!!!" - The Lego Movie
Was there a better way to set the tone of the year's most fast-paced, exhilarating movie? Tegan and Sara teamed up with the Lonely Island guys to craft the impossibly catchy tune for [The LEGO Movie](movie:376368). It comes as no surprise that Mark Mothersbaugh, the brilliant mind behind the music in Regular Show and Rugrats, has his fingerprints all over this one.
The genius of "Everything Is Awesome" lies in all the levels that it functions on. While it can be read as a satirical mind control device within the context of the story, the song is somehow also charming and relentlessly positive on its own. It's no easy feat to make radio pop that also parodies fascism, so hats off to everyone involved here.
2. "Trapped By a Thing Called Love" - Only Lovers Left Alive
Confession: the first thing I did after seeing [Only Lovers Left Alive](movie:413675) was look up this song to download. Not only is "Trapped by a Thing Called Love" an infectious number by Denise LaSalle, it also perfectly encapsulates the relationship between vampire lovers Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Love keeps these immortal beings alive just as much as blood does, so when one of them starts contemplating suicide, there's no better pick-me-up than a little late night dance. In a movie packed with deliberate music choices, obscure guitar lingo, and an amazing performance by Yasmine Hamdan, it's the Queen of Blues who kept me coming back for more.
3. "The Hanging Tree" - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
It's at this point in [The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1](movie:446261) that Katniss has fully accepted her leadership role, and "The Hanging Tree" is stark proof of her natural ability to inspire. In the scene directly following her song, the dam busters echo it right back, reverberating the unified commitment to toppling the Capital.
The understated delivery and the vulnerability in Jennifer Lawrence's voice perfectly capture the team's sad circumstances at this point in the story. It ultimately didn't matter that Lawrence isn't a trained singer as the song's composition and haunting melody do most of the heavy lifting. The Lumineers and composer James Newton Howard draft something of an Appalachian ballad around Suzanne Collin's message of oppression and solidarity. It's certainly no fluke that "The Hanging Tree" hit number 2 on the iTunes song charts.
4. "Suburban War" - Boyhood
By traveling through twelve years of adolescence, [Boyhood](movie:989626) had a plentiful catalog of music to draw from, and director Richard Linklater did not disappoint. From Britney Spears' "Oops!...I Did It Again" to Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," Linklater managed to powerfully evoke a particular year with just a single verse from a well-selected track.
Out of all the wide-ranging songs that appear in Boyhood, Arcade Fire's "Suburban War," one of the best songs on an impressive album, could not be a better representation of Mason's (Ellar Coltrane) state of mind as he comes to terms with growing up. The guitar kicks in when Mason is drives down the highway with his girlfriend, considering their futures as they see adulthood looming nearby. Just as "Suburban War" tells a familiar story of contemporary American life, Boyhood succeeded in presenting a concept so authentically, it feels like a series of photo albums. It's the perfect soundtrack for the moments we find ourselves blindly grasping at what's ahead.
5. "Hooked on a Feeling" - Guardians of the Galaxy
Admittedly, it was super tough to pick just one standout song from [Guardians of the Galaxy](movie:424073), a movie that launched a soundtrack filled with oldies to the top of the Billboard charts. After painstaking deliberation and countless tests, my very scientific methodology drummed up "Hooked on a Feeling" as the final result!
*Blue Swede fans everywhere rejoice*
The 70s rock cover first made our ears perk in the trailer, and we all collectively swooned over the tone and style that promised to be so true to the comic books. In the movie, "Hooked on a Feeling" plays while the ragtag group of heroes are being booked in KyIn prison and really confirms how much Peter Quill likes his mixtape. The classic has just the right amount of enthusiasm without being saccharine, much like Guardians of the Galaxy itself, that promises a smile every time.
BONUS: "The Engine is Eternal" - Snowpiercer
For those of you haven't yet seen [Snowpiercer](movie:35044): 1) This scene is spoilery, so watch and read at your own risk! 2) What the heck are you waiting for? It's been on Netflix for weeks! Do yourself a favor and devote two hours to Bong Joon-ho's ambitious and immersive take on a chilly dystopian future.
When Curtis (Chris Evans), Tanya (Octavia Spencer), and the rest of the insurgents arrive in the elementary school compartment of the train, they're stunned to hear the macabre propaganda being taught to the upper-class children. In a twisted response, Mason (Tilda Swinton) finds the ditty about freezing and dying to be thoroughly uplifting. The best part, though, has got to be Alison Pill's face as she plays the piano. She seems to experience a kind of religious ecstasy with her flittering eyes, showing just how all-consuming the faith in eternal engine really is.
What song do you think made the movie in 2014?