It was a great year for music on the silver screen in some ways — mainstream flicks featuring hot new artists; and weaker in others — favorite singers being massacred in cover-land. Here are our picks for the best soundtracks of 2012, complete with a Spotify playlist to rock you through it — and a few of the worst (we spared you the playlist for that one).
Best of 2012
Pitch Perfect – Fresh and inspired, with mash-ups that Glee would kill for, this ode to collegiate a cappella gave us – and anyone who enjoys harmonies – something to sing about.
Katy Perry: Part of Me – The pop album that just wouldn’t quit got a nice compliment with the 3-D concert film. The Part of Me soundtrack gave a new listening experience to everything from “Firework” to newer stuff like “Wide Awake.” Not to mention, it’s just plain fun.
Skyfall – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard Adele’s slow-burner of a Bond theme. But the soundtrack is more than just that hit single – thank goodness.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 – The Twilight soundtracks are always an eclectic mix of musicians and genres, and the fifth and final is no exception. Standouts include Green Day’s “The Forgotten” and “Bittersweet,” by Ellie Goulding.
Les Miserables – We had sky-high expectations for the movie version of the world’s most popular musical, but Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and the rest exceeded them. Is a Grammy in store besides the inevitable Oscar nods?
The Hunger Games – It’s fitting that one of the hottest movies of the year also had one of the hottest soundtracks. Taylor Swift joins folk duo The Civil Wars on a soulful track, and even Kid Cudi lends some cred to this collection with “The Ruler and the Killer”
Marley – Stir up this killer reggae collection from the comprehensive documentary by director Kevin Macdonald. The film follows the life of the late reggae legend Bob Marley, using music, of course, to tell the tale.
The Avengers – Hard rockers of the mid-nineties dominate the strong Avengers album, with rock out songs from Soundgarden, Scott Weiland, and more. It feels just like slamming the door to your bedroom in 10th grade and we have no problem with that.
Moonrise Kingdom – The soundtrack to Wes Anderson’s film is as quirky as its characters — and as memorable. Listening to the New York Philharmonic’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is education as well as nostalgic, and the Hank Williams old school country songs like “Ramblin’ Man” lend a camp feel to the camp movie.
The Man With the Iron Fists — RZA’s first foray into filmmaking may not be winning any Oscars, but it’s no surprise that the soundtrack was badass. Everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Fruciante to The Black Keys to Kanye West takes a turn on the album.
Worst of 2012
Magic Mike – When we heard ‘stripping movie,’ we had certain expectations about what music that meant. Unfortunately, there was a shocking lack of ‘80s rock. We did love the obligatory “It’s Raining Men,” but how could they not include “Pony”?
Sparkle – Whitney Houston: Great. Her last recording before her untimely death? Less so.
Joyful Noise – Conventional wisdom says that a movie with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton should be over the top, and while we can get down with the gospel and R&B on this album, the painful Jeremy Jordan cover of “Maybe I’m Amazed” landed it on the bottom.
Rock of Ages – We’ll never recover from that Russell Brand/Alec Baldwin rendition of “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
Written by Erin Strecker and Laura Hertzfeld