Soundtracks are an overlooked yet important factor in the movie-watching experience. When good music is paired with a good movie, it becomes a fully integrated piece of the film (see: “Reservoir Dogs”). Far more interesting, though, is when a solid soundtrack is paired with a steaming pile. When this happens, the music becomes one of two things: a show-stealer, outshining the very movie it’s featured in; or a trickster, fooling people into believing the movie is a classic.
So let’s examine 15 middling movies with great soundtracks. Regardless of the category, be sure to take these off your Netflix queue and head straight to iTunes instead.
1. “Garden State” (2004)
The breakthrough indie songs from the likes of The Shins, Frou Frou and Thievery Corporation were good enough to distract viewers from the fact that the film was a gloppy intravenous drip of sad giggles and unabashed Natalie Portman idolatry. Zack Braff: curator of indie, purveyor of twee, voice of toilet paper-using puppy.
2. “The Twilight Saga” (2008-2012)
The trilogy’s track list boasts a roster of heavyweights–Muse, Thom Yorke and Vampire Weekend–and reads like a fantasy music draft between the editor of Pitchfork and the founder of Emo Weekly. The film itself appeals only to the latter.
3. “Boiler Room” (2000)
The film’s high-rolling hustlers are set to the sounds of raw hip-hop from some of New York’s best MC’s: Biggie, Rakim, De La Soul and a still-underground 50 Cent. Clearly an attempt to draw a profound parallel between Wall Street and rap’s paper-chasers, the juxtaposition only served to make the Wall Street meatheads playing with Monopoly money seem even more outlandish.
4. “Vanilla Sky” (2001)
This movie is always in the HBO cycle because of Tom Cruise’s particularly Tom Cruise-y performance, the Penelope Cruz nip shots, and the incredibly eclectic soundtrack featuring classics from Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel, as well as somber cuts from Radiohead and R.E.M. Fortunately, this all diverts your attention from the nonsensical plot (I mean, really, why would you set your splice point for AFTER the disfiguring car wreck?). Although, maybe that’s why it’s nonsensical in the first place.
5. “Hot Rod” (2007)
When a movie is utterly dumb, it can be painful. But when music is utterly dumb, it can be a blast (see: Ke$ha). This dumb comedy celebrates some of the best dumb, montage-ready songs of the ’80s, including forgotten gems like “Two Of Hearts” and “You’re The Voice,” plus four Europe songs. Is it absurd to include four Europe songs? Of course. Which is exactly why it works.
6. “Above The Rim” (1994)
One of a multitude of forgettable sports flicks, except it has arguably the best hip-hop soundtrack of all time: Dr. Dre in the studio, 2Pac‘s first go-round with Death Row, Snoop Dogg and, oh, maybe you’ve heard of a little ditty called “Regulate.” If aliens wanted to know what West Coast rap sounded like in the early ’90s (these aliens are incredibly curious about incredibly specific topics), you’d hand them this album.
7. “Good Will Hunting” (1997)
Now that we’re well past the 10-year statute of limitations, can we all finally admit this movie was an overrated fluke? No? Well, let’s at least agree that the aching Elliott Smith-centric soundtrack still holds up. The album also contains Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street,” which is the melted Velveeta of songs: unnaturally smooth and cheesy, but undeniably appealing.
8. “Idlewild” (2006)
You know what they say: A bloated album from Outkast is better than a fine-tuned effort from anyone else. Highlights include “Mighty O,” “N2U,” “Morris Brown” and “Call The Law” featuring Janelle Monae. Andre 3000 and Big Boi can do no wrong (cinematic endeavors notwithstanding).
9. “21” (2008)
A murderer’s row of late-aughts hit-makers: Rihanna, LCD Soundsystem, MGMT, Mark Ronson, Peter Bjorn and John. We’ll just pretend that remix of The Rolling Stones‘ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” didn’t happen (which is also what Kevin Spacey does with this movie).
10. “RocknRolla” (2008)
All of Guy Ritchie’s crime capers are injected with a rollicking mix of songs. But this is the first collection to surpass the film, thanks to stompers from The Hives, The Clash, Wanda Jackson and a few gritty blues covers.
11. “Remember The Titans” (2000)
The movie, while entertaining, suffers from the “based on a true story” curse, i.e., overzealous use of artistic license. For a realistic depiction of early ’70s life, check out the time machine of a soundtrack that features CCR, Marvin Gaye, Cat Stevens and a bunch of other songs your parents used to force you to hear on the way to Disney World.
12. Any Elvis Movie (1950s-1960s)
The plot for any Elvis movie is more or less encapsulated here. But the soundtracks–it’s freaking Elvis!
13. “Footloose” (1984)
If you’re at an ’80s theme party, you’ll hear this movie’s title song. And probably “Let’s Hear It For The Boy.” And maybe “Holding Out For A Hero.” And definitely “Hurts So Good.” You get the picture. But, c’mon, a movie about a town that bans dancing? Even Saudi Arabia thinks that’s a ridiculous premise. Oh, wait, we just remade “Footloose“? Whoops! Just kidding! That’s a GREAT premise.
14. “Batman Forever” (1995)
Don’t even try to pretend you didn’t slow dance to “Kiss From A Rose” back in seventh grade! This soundtrack has a potpourri of chart-toppers (U2, Brandy, The Offspring) to match the ridiculously star-studded cast (see photo), plus a dose of underground rockers to salvage the artistic credibility that the movie so nonchalantly tossed aside. And what the album lacks in nippled breastplates, it makes up for in Method Man.
15. “Spawn” (1997)
Most of the tracks on this album matched a hard rock act with a techno act, so we got pairings like Korn & The Dust Brothers or Tom Morello & The Prodigy. The result is like listening to two late-’90s music fads making vigorous, screamy love to each other. For an hour.