Bad movie, good soundtrack. 10 films that didn’t live up to their music. We did not include Romeo + Juliet. We should have included Romeo + Juliet.
Why it’s a bad a movie: If you’ve seen Frozen – and you probably have because it’s this decade’s Titanic for kids – then you already know why. Maybe it’s because Idina Menzel was criminally underused. Maybe it’s because Anna (Kristen Bell) is somehow the main character in a movie where a girl has fantastic cryogenic powers. Maybe you prefer the heat. I think everyone secretly hates this movie, and that’s why the Minions are back.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: You don’t even need to watch the movie at all, because you can literally just sing the songs in order and say a sentence or two in between to segue between them. Don’t pretend you didn’t sing “Let It Go” to make a point at some point in the last two years.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: I still laugh when I think of Olaf’s “In Summer,” because it works in and out of context, unlike “Let It Go.” -Vesper Arnett
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)
Why it’s a bad movie: It is a garbage film that had so much potential. Naming your character Nick and Norah made me thought that this potentially could be some Thin Man homage. Who wouldn’t see Michael Cera as a detective? There’s a great cast that includes Jay Baruchel, Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg, and Ari Graynor. But what Nick and Norah also has is Kat Dennings at her most annoying (actually, scratch that, nothing is as bad as Charlie Bartlett). But Nick and Norah presents a New York City where there’s apparently about five places to hang out and everyone seems to run into each other all the time. This terrible film also has Dennings saying shitty things like “you’re my musical soulmate!” and also features a scene where Dennings gets fingerbanged by Cera in her father’s recording studio WHILE it’s being taped for him to accidentally discover in the future.
Yeah, fuck this movie.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: To outweigh the overall shittiness, I guess? Bishop Allen appears to perform “Middle Management” despite the terrible film they’re stuck in. The awful night is soundtracked by Vampire Weekend, Band of Horses, We Are Scientists, Devendra Banhart, and even has a theme song from Mark Mothersbaugh. It’s a pretty great soundtrack considering how goddamn bad the movie is. At least there’s not a hidden track of Kat Dennings getting finger-fucked by Paulie Bleeker.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: The “Middle Management” part. Bishop Allen frontman Justin Rice also appears as the lead in Mutual Appreciation, and while that movie is insufferable, too, the songs are nowhere near as fun. -Ross Bonaime
Why it’s a bad movie: There is no explanation needed for why Twilight is probably one of the worst movies ever made. I may end up with Twihards all on my case but there is no deniability of the dreadful acting including countless shots of vacant stares being exchanged. If you’re looking for a movie to remind you what it’s like to go through puberty, and I can’t imagine why you would want that, then Twilight is the right choice. Otherwise, stay clear of Twilight and go for a more intelligent, creative saga.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: The only reason I was able to make it through all of Twilight (besides the fact that I was pre-pubescent 12 year old when it came out) is accredited towards the soundtrack. The soundtrack combines edgy sounds with tear-jerking tracks to set the mood. If it weren’t for the music, the film would have no emotion whatsoever. Because the acting was unable to get any message across, the soundtrack’s artists, ranging between Paramore to Iron & Wine, held up the entire movie on its own.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: I will admit, I first heard Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron & Wine when I saw Twilight. Even as I lost interest in the movie, I am still a fan of this song. The calming rhythm has a very smooth feeling to it without being too slow or melancholy. -Nathalie Pollackhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iuFJ5P9ung
Donnie Darko (2001)
Why it’s a bad movie: In 2001, nobody saw Donnie Darko. The year that both Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins arrived on the silver screen, and one month after 9/11, nobody was really interested in an odd and puzzling little mindbender featuring then-still rising young star Jake Gyllenhall as a maybe-mentally-ill young man and there’s murder and child porn and a terrible airplane-related tragedy. Seriously, the weekend it hit theaters a movie called K-PAX, best and only remembered as a movie so bad it almost shamed Kevin Spacey out of acting altogether just two years after winning his second Oscar. It made 33 times as much money than Donnie Darko did in its entire original theatrical run.
Yet just a few years later, it was universally considered, if nothing else, a milestone, an underground home viewing bestseller that, along with Family Guy, can be considered a key inflection point in the unprecedentedly-rapid adoption of DVD technology and a focal point in a major transformation in how we consume audiovisual media. By releasing a DVD Director’s Cut, loaded with new material and features, linked to several websites expounding upon the film’s riddles and metaphysics, Donnie Darko was a harbinger of the disintegration and reformation of content consumption itself, a process still ongoing. Everything else aside, Donnie Darko made history.
The only complication with this very modern initial-failure-to-cult-success-to-major-pop-culture-referent tale is that Donnie Darko is crap. In an age where many movies made their names with big twists and retroactive rewriting of the film’s reality, Donnie Darko stands out as being the most shallow, obscurantist, and navel-gazing of them all. The ultimate example of how something can be at once very clever and not at all smart – and in this case, dumb as hell – Darko retells The Last Temptation of Christ (if you didn’t get it, it’s set in the year that film came out just so it can show it on the theater marquee after Donnie sees The Evil Dead), without any insight into what that story means or why its interesting, instead using its narrative framework and jettisoning all of its content and meaning. It fills that shell with inconclusive noodling on the question of determinism vs. free will without actually having anything interesting to say or even raising any interesting questions, trapping everything inside of a ludicrous metaphysics that self-justifies an embarrassing string of deus ex machina, all tied together by Symbolism 101. Compulsively watchable and anchored by great performances, Donnie Darko is all smoke and mirrors, a holographic projection of a good movie.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: But but BUT Donnie Darko also features that rare one-two punch, a killer soundtrack and a killer score. Michael Andrews’ score is mysterious, enveloping, and brooding, the perfect accompaniment to a film dabbling in dark and spellbinding questions about mind and time. Better remembered may be the brilliant selection of the alternative music that made the ‘80s, both the epochal stuff like Joy Division and Duran Duran, and the of-the-moment stuff from the movie’s 1988 setting like INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart” and The Church’s “Under the Milky Way.” Director Richard Kelly used music, among other signals (politics, movies, style) to recreate a past setting in a way that would help make Mad Men just a few years later.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: Best remember of all, of course, is probably Andrews and Gary Jules’ haunting and iconic cover of Tears for Fears’ (also elsewhere on the soundtrack) “Mad World,” overlaying the film’s climactic montage. It’s since become a ubiquitous pop culture artifact. -Max Bentovim
Boiler Room (2000)
Why it’s a bad movie: Bad, attempted mashup of Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross. The characters even watch Wall Street at one point, and Ben Affleck does an extremely lackluster version of David Mamet’s “coffee is for closers” speech. Also, Vin Diesel playing someone not named Dominic Toretto or Richard Riddick = bad.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: “Boiler Room” could have gone in many shitty directions with its soundtrack, but thankfully it instead features several mid-to-late-90s East Coast hip-hop artists like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Group Home, Brand Nubian and Pharoahe Monch.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: Listen for a pre-getting shot, pre-“In Da Club” and pre-bankruptcy appearance by 50 Cent. -Tony Beasley
Great Expectations (1998)
Why it’s a bad movie: Maybe “bad” is too harsh a word. Noble failure? Yeah, that’s better. Long before Alfonso Cuarón reinvented science fiction with Gravity, he made this modern update of the Dickens classic. Instead of biting commentary on stratified Victorian social class, our Pip (called Finn, played Ethan Hawke) is a struggling artist whose work is unappreciated by New York’s elite snob class. It just doesn’t have the same bite.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: It’s got a strong variety of artists, including Tori Amos and Scott Weiland, and the songs are cinematic/erotic while still preserving some pop sensibility. Forget Romeo + Juliet: in 1998, this was the perfect soundtrack for your high school make out sessions.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: The center of Great Expecations is the demented, cruel relationship between Finn and Estella (Gwyneth Paltrow), and it reaches its apex while Pulp’s “Like a Friend” plays over the soundtrack. The song’s introduction is tender and shy, then it builds to a satisfying, scuzzy guitar riff with Jarvis Cocker at his most resigned and angry. And in the scene, Finn and Estella have a playful, sexy moment, and she ruins it by leaving the room, effectively treating Finn like trash. The crescendo occurs when Finn, sitting by himself and feeling all mopey, finally FINALLY gets the nerve to walk outside, get in Estella’s cab, and call her a monster. The scene is done in one take – a favorite trick of Cuarón’s – which makes it all the more satisfying. -Alan Zilberman
Batman Forever (1995)
Why it’s a bad movie: Because it destroyed Val Kilmer, who recently claimed that when wearing the bat suit on set, “You can’t hear anymore … And then when you call for help, no one comes.”
Why it’s a good soundtrack: It was a vehicle for one of the best pop songs ever written, Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose,” and also “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me,” a U2 song which now stands as one of the only redeeming qualities of U2. Nick Cave and Mazzy Star also make appearances.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: That part of the movie where “Kiss From a Rose” plays in the background, as Bruce Wayne and Dr. Chase Meridian kiss for the first time. Actually, this scene does not exist, but here’s a great HACK: pop the “Batman Forever” soundtrack into your CD player, skip to track four, press pause, and when you see Val Kilmer in a turtleneck, quickly press play. You’ve just created the scene that definitely should have existed, but doesn’t! BAT HACK! -Tony Beasleyhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ateQQc-AgEM
Why it’s a bad movie: Before “life hacks” on Buzzfeed there was the 1995 film Hackers. It’s about cool New York kids using cool computers. “RISC architecture will change everything,” declares a weirdly prophetic character played by a young Angelina Jolie. It has a very mid-90’s, ambiguous cyberpunk theme. All hackers are apparently also ravers. It values style over substance. It’s confusing and banal. And poor Bunk Moreland from The Wire plays a FBI agent. Ultimately, though I admit it has a certain lasting appeal, which the ‘Net always tells me is called “cult appeal,” the film is bad.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: The Hackers soundtrack is a who’s who of 90’s techno artists who managed to cross over into the mainstream. Memorable appearances include Massive Attack, The Prodigy, Leftfield and Orbital. The first time I’d ever heard Orbital’s “Halcyon And On And On” was in this movie. Although Fisher Stevens playing a corporate, dramatic-skateboarding villain is less than memorable, the Hackers soundtrack remains a valuable time capsule.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: Hackers, who are not only ravers, but also skaters, cruise down a busy Manhattan street thanks to some serious traffic light hacking, while “Voodoo People” by The Prodigy crescendos in the background. -Tony Beasley
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984)
Why it’s a bad movie: You don’t need to see Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo to know it’s a bad movie. It’s one of those rare cases where the title speaks entirely for itself—like “Surfer, Dude” or “Sharknado.” But if you need more proof of its god-awfulness here’s its entire plot description on Wiki: “Breakin’ 2 features three characters from Breakin’…who struggle to stop the demolition of a community recreation center by a developer who wants to build a shopping mall.” Really the film is based on the premise of what would happen if the whole world were to spontaneously throw down some cardboard and start break dancing. The film’s biggest flaw, and greatest asset, is being a musical with way too much neon and nylon.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: For how overwhelmingly cheesy it is, the soundtrack is still funkier than the majority of Rick James albums released during the same period of time. The music (and the dancing) was the reason the movie was made. The whole point of the film is to function as one long music video. I mean they didn’t keep Ice-T in all three movies because of his acting skills. The soundtrack is a gaiety mixture of 80’s R&B, funk and early hip-hop. At times it could almost be confused with the least Chromeo record. It’s that perfectly cheesy 80’s goodness you so strangely crave.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: In the film’s climax, Ozone and the gang perform at a benefit dance concert to save the community center (you couldn’t get more 80s), and though few could pick any of the songs off the film’s track list, everyone should instantly recognize the song the gang chooses for their dance. That’s because George Kranz’s “Din Daa Daa” is that sample repeating over and over again during the Ying Yang Twins’ “Shake.” Thanks for once again ruining everything Pitbull. -Zeke Leeds
Why it’s a bad movie: This shouldn’t require a lot of explanation. Though not without some redeeming qualities, Dune is to David Lynch what Alexander is to Oliver Stone. Dune looks like someone transported Zak Snyder back in time, took away his computers, and told him to adapt the novel into a movie.
Why it’s a good soundtrack: In case the terrible special effects and hair made you forget this movie was made in the early 80’s, the entire soundtrack is by Toto! This was truly the height of Toto – they scored this film not very long after “Toto IV,” easily their most notorious album.
Favorite song and/or musical moment: The end credits, which feature a visual curtain call set against the roaring waves of Caladan and the operatic stylings of Toto. -Tony Beasley