Guest Blog: Horrible Movies with Great Soundtracks

[I’m always looking for people with interesting opinions and positions on music.  This comes via Jason Kane. – AC]

Every great movie is bolstered by an equally great soundtrack. There is something special about the magic that happens when the right song is played during a poignant or exciting scene. The emotions are amplified and the moment becomes a milestone. Interestingly, many bad films have great soundtracks as well.

Filmmakers that value style over substance are not going to put a lot of effort into their scripts and directing techniques, but they will ensure that their movies contain trendy and memorable music.

Sometimes, this association makes the worst movies tinker with the hint of quality, but let’s gets real: these are just horrible movies with great soundtracks.
Empire Records

This film is regarded as a classic among people who came of age in the ’90s, but the plot and acting leave much to be desired. The concept is fun; the movie depicts one day in the lives of the teenagers who work in a record store. Liv Tyler is gorgeous as always, and Ethan Embry makes one of many adorable turns in his string of light mid-’90s films.

The problem is that the plot’s implausibility is not matched by charm or momentum. The teens fight, make up and then enjoy a flimsy triumph over corporate greed. However, the soundtrack is a great artifact from the moment following the grunge boom.

The alternative rock is rough but tuneful. Anchored by the Gin Blossoms’ “Til I Hear It from You,” the soundtrack features gems from lesser-known artists such as Toad the Wet Sprocket, Better Than Ezra and Evan Dando. This soundtrack doubles as a document of the tuneful rock that emerged for a few years in between the Seattle bands and millennial pop.
Romeo + Juliet

Baz Luhrmann’s stylized production of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy received middling reviews, but its soundtrack routinely makes lists of the best albums of the 1990s. Like the Empire Records soundtrack, this compilation is steeped in gauzy tunes from a cultural moment that that does not receive much consideration these days.

The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” became such a big hit that it is no longer associated with the film. Garbage and Radiohead contributed some of their best songs to the soundtrack.  The former’s “#1 Crush” is a powerful song about obsession that is better than the film’s acting and direction at illustrating the theme of the play.


The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One

The Twilight films are almost universally considered to be bad on every level. Bella is a horrific role model, and she spends five films doing little more than chasing after her manipulative vampire boyfriend. The soundtrack to the first installment of the final book’s adaptation is full of plaintive love songs meant to complement the onscreen story of impossible love.

Bruno Mars contributes the plaintive “It Will Rain,” and Christina Perri, an admitted Twilight fan, sings “A Thousand Years,” a ballad written expressly for the film that is better than it has any right to be. Alternative tracks like Iron & Wine’s “Flightless Bird, American Mouth,” has become something of a wedding standard since appearing in the film.

This film has aged strangely. At the time, the titular character was hailed as a new hero for young women, but people are now less enamored of mouthy, self-conscious teenagers. What seemed as edgy and smart dialogue now seems awkward and unnatural.

The soundtrack is noteworthy for bringing New York anti-folk mainstays The Moldy Peaches into the mainstream and sparking a public fascination with quirkiness that still persists.  It introduced a new generation to a mish-mash of hipster bands that have been around forever but lost and forgotten in the mainstream.
Marie Antoinette

This Sophia Coppola film is rightly overlooked in favor of the superior Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation and Somewhere.

Marie Antoinette attempts to garner sympathy for the ill-fated young queen by depicting her as a sweet girl who was out of her depth and had no control over her life.

Unsurprisingly, the public was not interested in feeling sympathy for this particular historical figure. As much as the soundtrack tries with its incongruous mix of ’80s new wave classics and contemporary hipster garage rock, the film is dead on arrival. It’s a better music video than an actual film.


Jason Kane loves a good soundtrack and has most of these soundtracks on vinyl. He is professional blogger for SoundStage Direct and recommends them for all vinyl records and record players. 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

9 thoughts on “Guest Blog: Horrible Movies with Great Soundtracks

  • April 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Notable ones for me are Judgement Night, Spawn & The Beach.

    • April 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      Judgement Night, now that’s a film I don’t hear about too much these days! I should go back and revisit! Spawn…reboot? Danny Boyle has a great selection of music for his films.

      • April 8, 2014 at 3:42 am

        The 90s had a bunch of crappy movies with great electronic OSTs: The Saint, The Jackal, Lost In Space (OK, that last one isn’t that great an OST)

  • April 7, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    “Vampyros Lesbos”, kitschy film from the 70s. Amazingly sexy, raunchy jazz, funk, pop/rock

  • April 7, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I would arguably add in The Crow as another one. Agree with the addition of Spawn and Judgement Night. Great article!

  • April 8, 2014 at 12:06 am

    I thought Daft Punk did a great job with The Tron remake/sequel. The soundtrack is still playing on my pod.

  • April 8, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Pump Up The Volume is a pretty terrible movie with a pretty cool soundtrack. And while a Wim Wenders fan I’ll admit the Until The End Of The World soundtrack is > than the movie.


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