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10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

More specifically, those released during this young century...

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How many of you grew up on film soundtracks? For some people, especially those who grew up in markets where radio was stale and toxic, they were often the most accessible gateway to discovering new music. Speaking personally, I can’t tell you how many afternoons I wasted in Blockbuster Music (RIP) after seeing films at the nearby theater, trying to find the handful of songs that tickled my fancy on the silver screen. It was always a very cathartic experience when I did find the song and usually led to a purchase, even if I didn’t particular care for the film. Isn’t that funny?

Well, it used to happen all the time. Growing up in the ’90s, the Internet was still a budding thing, and going to the movies on a weekly basis (even if it was to see absolute shit) was much more common than it is today, so there was a rare agency to soundtracks. They were not only an enriching part of music discovery, but a popular one, which is why studios would pump millions of dollars into promoting big accompanying releases full of original music, major hits, or new gems, and they would do this with just about everything. That’s why I owned soundtracks for blockbuster hits like Batman Forever and Twister and for more agreeable alternative flare like Empire Records and 200 Cigarettes.

Here’s the thing, though: Despite the proliferation of digital music, it’s not like soundtracks just up and vanished. This past century has seen some excellent compilations, and not just for great, timeless films like Drive, Adventureland, or Lost in Translation. No, the trend of shitty movies and great soundtracks is a thing that continues even today; you just don’t have the CD stores to promote the albums, which means they’re traditionally relegated to the back end of iTunes and Amazon. That seemed like an interesting little challenge for us, which is why we’ve assembled this list, a collection of 10 really amazing soundtracks that were tied to some pretty miserable movies. Who knows, you might disagree — shocker — but in an era where bad movies will certainly render these soundtracks almost non-existent, we felt the need to shed some light on them.

So, grab some headphones, a bucket of popcorn, and listen up.

–Michael Roffman
Editor-in-Chief

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I Am Sam (2001)

i am sam 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 34%

With each passing year, Jessie Nelson’s I Am Sam looks worse and worse, a treacly affair that suffers from a paper-thin script and an overrated Oscar-nominated performance by Sean Penn, which is now best remembered by being lampooned and criticized in Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. The film’s inspired soundtrack, however, has some of the greatest Beatles covers of all time, and to think, it came together by accident. Originally, the producers attempted to get the rights to the original recordings, but since The Fab Four are particularly stringent about their work, they said no, which led to this assembly of magnificent covers. A few highlights include selections by Aimee Mann and Michael Penn (“Two of Us”), Eddie Vedder (“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”), and especially Paul Westerberg (“Nowhere Man”). Granted, nobody will ever sing “Across the Universe” better than Fiona Apple, but Rufus Wainwright comes close. A couple we could do without, namely The Black Crowes’ tawdry rendition of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, but the rest are primed for a pleasant afternoon drive. –Michael Roffman

Tracklist:
01. Aimee Mann and Michael Penn – “Two of Us”
02. Sarah McLachlan – “Blackbird”
03. Rufus Wainwright – “Across the Universe”
04. The Wallflowers – “I’m Looking Through You”
05. Eddie Vedder – “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”
06. Ben Harper – “Strawberry Fields Forever”
07. Sheryl Crow – “Mother Nature’s Son”
08. Ben Folds – “Golden Slumbers”
09. The Vines – “I’m Only Sleeping”
10. Stereophonics – “Don’t Let Me Down”
11. The Black Crowes – “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
12. Chocolate Genius – “Julia”
13. Heather Nova – “We Can Work It Out”
14. Howie Day – “Help!”
15. Paul Westerberg – “Nowhere Man”
16. Grandaddy – “Revolution”
17. Nick Cave – “Let It Be”

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Wicker Park (2004)

wicker park 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 25%

Chicago’s Wicker Park used to be a cool, edgy neighborhood. Today, it’s overrun by the upper class angling for a bit of hip credibility and stroller-pushers who grew out of their starving artist days and into a healthy salary. The proverbial shark was jumped even before the 2004 release of Josh Hartnett vehicle Wicker Park, a stinker of a psychological drama based on L’Appartement. Though Hartnett’s take lacks any of the energy or style of its French predecessor, the soundtrack is stacked with hazy dream. From the tense build of Mogwai to the last wisps of fading sweetness of Mazzy Star, to the music box twee of múm, to the tingly fuzz of The Shins (from a film released only two months after Garden State, no less), there’s a palpable vibe and cool cohesion to the soundtrack for a film that just falls completely flat. –Lior Phillips

Tracklist:
01. Stereophonics – “Maybe Tomorrow”
02. Lifehouse – “Everybody Is Someone”
03. Death Cab for Cutie – “A Movie Script Ending (Acoustic)”
04. Snow Patrol – “How to Be Dead”
05. Broken Social Scene – “Lover’s Spit”
06. The Stills – “Retour a Vega”
07. Mazzy Star – “Flowers in December”
08. The Legends – “When the Day Is Done”
09. The Shins – “When I Goosestep”
10. Jaime Wyatt – “Light Switch”
11. Mates of State – “These Days”
12. +/- – “All I Do”
13. múm – “We Have a Map of the Piano”
14. The Postal Service – “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)”
15. Aqualung – “Strange and Beautiful”
16. Mogwai – “I Know You Are But What Am I?”
17. Johnette Napolitano & Danny Lohner – “The Scientist”
18. Stereophonics – “I Miss You Now?”
19. The White Stripes – “Good to Me”

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Open Season (2006)

open season 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 48%

Look, there’s nothing wrong with Open Season, per se; it’s just not very good, and there are countless other animated films featuring talking animals that are well worth you or your child’s time. (Then again, the three direct-to-video sequels suggest there’s a rabid Open Season fan base out there, so who knows.) As the great film critic Kevin Smith proudly exclaimed while subbing in on Ebert and Roeper, “If your kids like poop jokes as much as I do, Open Season will put a big smile on their faces,” so there you are. Whatever the case, it doesn’t deserve such a hip soundtrack, especially one full of some of the best songs that Paul Westerberg has written this side of the century. And considering the majority of the singer-songwriter’s post-2000 output has been recorded in his basement on scrappy four-tracks, his work here is one of his last outings in an actual studio. Even better, it’s conceivably the closest thing fans got to a Replacements reunion record as bassist Tommy Stinson helped carve a few of these out, and you can tell. Songs like “Love You in the Fall”, “I Belong”, and “Whisper Me Luck” feel like they could easily fit into the band’s late-era records, sprouting with sharp hooks like grass through an old shoe. If that weren’t enough, the album includes one of Talking Heads’ grooviest songs in “Wild Wild Life”. Again, a lotta hip for a lotta lame. –Michael Roffman

Tracklist:
01. Paul Westerberg – “Meet Me in the Meadow”
02. Paul Westerberg – “Love You in the Fall”
03. Paul Westerberg – “I Belong”
04. Deathray – “I Wanna Lose Control (Uh-Oh)”
05. Paul Westerberg – “Better Than This”
06. Talking Heads – “Wild Wild Life”
07. Paul Westerberg – “Right to Arm Bears”
08. Paul Westerberg – “Good Day”
09. Paul Westerberg – “All About Me”
10. Deathray – “Wild As I Wanna Be”
11. Paul Westerberg – “Whisper Me Luck”
12. Pete Yorn – “I Belong (Reprise)”

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Marie Antoinette (2006)

marie antoinettte 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 55%

When Sofia Coppola released the Kirsten Dunst-starring Marie Antoinette in 2006, it boldly aimed to modernize the iconic royal in order to portray exactly how unique and ahead-of-her-time the French queen truly was. And while that aim wasn’t translated entirely successfully (the line between historical inaccuracy and intentional stylistic blending seemed fuzzy at best), the soundtrack nimbly darts between baroque compositions, thrilling ‘80s new wave and post-punk, and the wide-eyed electronics of Aphex Twin and Squarepusher — even finding a surreal middle ground in Kevin Shields’ remixes of Bow Wow Wow. Coppola has directed a handful of music videos — including for both Shields and fellow soundtrack contributor Air — and it’s clear she has a close connection with music. As a long, stretchy music video, the film finds plenty of inspiration in the fascinating soundtrack. –Lior Phillips

Tracklist:

Disc 1:
01. Siouxsee and the Banshees – “Hong Kong Garden”
02. Bow Wow Wow – “Aphrodisiac”
03. The Strokes – “What Ever Happened?”
04. The Radio Dept. – “Pulling Our Weight”
05. New Order – “Ceremony”
06. Gang of Four – “Natural’s Not in It”
07. Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy” (Kevin Shields Remix)
08. Adam and the Ants – “King of the Wild Frontier”
09. Antonio Vivaldi – “Concerto in G”
10. Windsor for the Derby – “The Melody of a Fallen Tree”
11. The Radio Dept. – “I Don’t Like It Like This”
12. The Cure – “Plainsong”

Disc 2:
01. “Intro Versailles”
02. Aphex Twin – “Jynweythek Ylow”
03. Dustin O’Halloran – “Opus 17”
04. Air – “Il Secondo (Instrumental)”
05. The Radio Dept. – “Keen on Boys”
06. Dustin O’Halloran – “Opus 23”
07. Patricia Mabee – “Les barricades mystérieuses”
08. Bow Wow Wow – “Fools Rush In” (Kevin Shields Remix)
09. Aphex Twin – “Avril 14th”
10. Patricia Mabee – “K.213”
11. Squarepusher – “Tommib Help Buss”
12. Agnès Mellon & Les Arts Florissants – “Tristes apprêts, pâles flambeaux” (from Castor et Pollux RCT 32, Act I, Scene III: Air de Télaïre’)
13. Dustin O’Halloran – “Opus 36”
14. The Cure – “All Cats Are Grey”

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The Last Kiss (2006)

the last kiss 2006 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 45%

Zach Braff’s follow-up to Garden State was a dicey move, and although he didn’t write or direct The Last Kiss, it felt like it was cut from the same cloth that kept everyone warm around rainy ol’ New Jersey. That’s because he pieced together the entire soundtrack, which serves as an emotional palette for Tony Goldwyn’s misguided drama about men who are in miserable relationships with great women. Hey, you might say the soundtrack is a character in itself. All joking aside, if you can stomach a dubiously optimistic ending and look past a bunch of Midwestern yuppies sulking from too much comfort and money, then the film’s an amicable afternoon view. But really, it’s mostly due to the soundtrack, and say what you will about The Braffster, but damn does he know how to piece together a chummy collection of songs. This one’s got Peak Snow Patrol (“Chocolate”), Peak Coldplay (“Warning Sign”), Peak Imogen Heap (“Hide and Seek”), and Peak Remy Zero (“Prophecy”). Look a little deeper and there’s a solid slice of Fiona Apple with “Paper Bag”, a reprise of Rufus Wainwright’s ever-iconic “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk”, and one of the most underrated gems of the last 20 years in Aimee Mann’s “Today’s the Day”. A more cursory glance will confirm that, yes, this was most definitely culled together in 2006, and yes, Braff was really, really into Joshua Radin, but it’s a pleasant soundtrack that works, especially for childish men caught between marriage and divorce. –Michael Roffman

Tracklist:
01. Snow Patrol – “Chocolate”
02. Joshua Radin – “Star Mile”
03. Turin Brakes – “Pain Killer”
04. Coldplay – “Warning Sign”
05. Cary Brothers – “Ride”
06. Athlete – “El Salvador”
07. Imogen Heap – “Hide and Seek”
08. Rachael Yamagata – “Reason Why”
09. Ray LaMontagne – “Hold You in My Arms”
10. Remy Zero – “Prophecy”
11. Fiona Apple – “Paper Bag”
12. Aimee Mann – “Today’s the Day”
13. Amos Lee – “Arms of a Woman”
14. Rufus Wainwright – “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Reprise)”
15. Schuyler Fisk and Joshua Radin – “Paperweight”

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Good Luck Chuck (2007)

good luck chuck 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 5%

America’s failed experiment of Dane Cook as leading man happily lasted only briefly. For those that might not remember, the poster for Good Luck Chuck acts as a good reminder of exactly why: He and costar Jessica Alba look Photoshopped together, and they still have more chemistry on paper than they do on celluloid. Roger Ebert very astutely summed the film as “potty-mouthed and brain-damaged.” And yet there’s some genuine cool here with a simple formula: Combine one part legitimately great ‘80s cheese (Olivia Newton John’s “Physical”, The Cars) and one part 2007 hip (Shout Out Louds, Art Brut, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings). The Dandy Warhols offer up a stupid-goofy theme song and there’s a brief snippet of a capella “Crazy in Love”, but those are excusable in the big picture when it’s juxtaposed by Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. Seriously, how did this soundtrack happen? –Lior Phillips

Tracklist:
01. The Flaming Lips – “I Was Zapped by the Lucky Super Rainbow”
02. The Honorary Title – “Accident Prone”
03. The Dandy Warhols – “Good Luck Chuck”
04. The Feeling – “Love It When You Call” (Cherrytree House Version)
05. Art Brut – “Good Weekend”
06. Shout Out Louds – “Hurry Up Let’s Go”
07. Aidan Hawken – “Shut Me Out”
08. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – “You’re Gonna Get It”
09. Pepper – “The Whistle Song”
10. The Cars – “You Might Think”
11. Olivia Newton-John – “Physical”
12. Bauhaus – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
13. Antique Gold – “Crazy in Love”

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Southland Tales (2007)

screen shot 2017 02 27 at 6 20 57 pm 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 36%

Southland Tales was so bad it made me wonder if [Richard Kelly] had ever met a human being.” No critic has ever written a funnier and more abrasive takedown of a film than The Observer’s Jason Solomon did following the film’s notorious debut at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. If you couldn’t gather from that choice piece of prose, Kelly’s maligned follow-up to his 2001 cult masterpiece Donnie Darko is a fucking mess. Not only was it designed with the conceit that viewers would read a multi-volume comic book, but the whole thing’s hamstrung by misguided (albeit totally inspired) casting and an asinine (albeit totally inspired) narrative that could give you an aneurysm if you chew on it for too long. But it’s ambitiously strange, and there are certain sections of the film that hearken back to the same genius that fueled Donnie Darko.

And like that film, it’s elevated by a very emotional soundtrack that’s chock-full of alternative heroes. Not since its inclusion on the Pump Up the Volume soundtrack has the UK surf version of Pixies’ “Wave of Mutilation” received notoriety. Never has Black Rebel Motorcycle Club proven as useful as they do here with their extended version of “Howl”. Nowhere else can you hear Sarah Michelle Gellar sing about sexual promiscuity. Okay, maybe skip that last one, but the rest is gold, especially Moby’s Flight of the Navigator-esque suite of tracks (“Look Back In”, “Chord Sounds”, “3 Steps”, “Tiny Elephants”) and his magnum opus B-side, “Memory Gospel”. In hindsight, it’s a shame they couldn’t pimp out The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” or Blur’s “Tender”, but what can you do? Pimps don’t commit suicide. –Michael Roffman

Tracklist:
01. Pixies – “Wave of Mutilation” (UK surf version)
02. Bertha Tillman – “Oh My Angel”
03. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Howl” (extended version)
04. Moby – “Look Back In”
05. Waylon Jennings – “Me & Bobby McGee”
06. Moby – “Chord Sounds”
07. Roger Webb – “Lucky Me”
08. Moby – “3 Steps”
09. Big Head Todd and the Monsters – “Broken Hearted Savior”
10. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Abbey McBride and ClarKent – “Teen Horniness Is Not a Crime”
11. Moby – “Tiny Elephants”
12. Elbow – “Forget Myself”
13. Rebekah Del Rio & the Section Quartet – “The Star-Spangled Banner”
14. Jane’s Addiction – “Three Days” (live version)
15. Moby – “Memory Gospel”

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The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

new moon 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 28%

There are plenty of bad movies with surprisingly good soundtracks (pulling together a handful of good tracks is a lot easier than making a great movie driven by an equally good soundtrack), but a bad movie with a soundtrack for which great musicians actively got involved? That’s considerably more rare. For the second installation of teen vampire series Twilight, composer Alexandre Desplat scored an original track from Deathcab for Cutie written for the film, as well as unique collaborations between Grizzly Bear and Beach House vocalist Victoria Legrand, as well as St. Vincent and Bon Iver. There’s a lot of acoustic prettiness and sleepy beauty, but with a good amount of depth and sincerity — especially when compared to the sparkly, beautiful blood-sucking monsters that the soundtrack scores. –Lior Phillips

Tracklist:
01. Death Cab for Cutie – “Meet Me on the Equinox”
02. Band of Skulls – “Friends”
03. Thom Yorke – “Hearing Damage”
04. Lykke Li – “Possibility”
05. The Killers – “A White Demon Love Song”
06. Anya Marina – “Satellite Heart”
07. Muse – “I Belong to You” (New Moon Remix)
08. Bon Iver and St. Vincent – “Roslyn”
09. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Done All Wrong”
10. Hurricane Bells – “Monsters
11. Sea Wolf – “The Violet Hour”
12. OK Go – “Shooting the Moon”
13. Grizzly Bear feat. Victoria Legrand – “Slow Life”
14. Editors – “No Sound but the Wind”
15. Alexandre Desplat – “New Moon (The Meadow)”
Digital Bonus Tracks
16. Lupe Fiasco – “Solar Midnite”
17. The Magic Numbers – “All I Believe In”
18. APM Orchestra – “Die Fledermaus – Duettino: Ach, ich darf nicht hin zu dir”

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Sucker Punch (2011)

sucker punch 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%

Sucker Punch is nothing but style and special effects.” Somehow, that’s become both the most common defense and the most common criticism of Zach Snyder’s 2011 film about a group of comely young women who rebel, in a series of pricey-looking fantasy sequences, against being forced into servitude (and worse) in an art-deco asylum. Of all of Snyder’s stylistic flourishes that he pours over what’s ultimately a pretty vapid take on liberating oneself through the imagination, the soundtrack lands as its most memorable aspect. (The role of imagination in the film is interesting, at least, given that this is the director’s only film to date that isn’t based on an existing property.) The covers are on the nose (get it, Emily Browning’s Babydoll sings “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” because she is herself dreaming?), but they work in Snyder’s Bioshock-influenced, perpetually grimy world. And hey, where else are you going to hear Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac duet on a Roxy Music classic? –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Tracklist:
01. Emily Browning – “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” (Eurhythmics cover)
02. Bjork feat. Skunk Anansie – “Army of Me” (Bjork cover/Sucker Punch Remix)
03. Emiliana Torrini – “White Rabbit” (Jefferson Airplane cover)
04. Queen feat. Armagedon aka Geddy – “I Want It All/We Will Rock You” (Queen cover/mash-up)
05. Skunk Anansie – “Search and Destroy” (Stooges cover)
06. Alison Mosshart and Carla Azar – “Tomorrow Never Knows” (Beatles cover)
07. Yoav and Emily Browning – “Where is My Mind?” (Pixies cover)
08. Emily Browning – “Asleep” (Smiths cover)
09. Carla Gugino & Oscar Isaac – “Love is the Drug” (Roxy Music cover)

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The Great Gatsby (2013)

the great gatsby 10 Great Soundtracks for 10 Awful Movies

Rotten Tomatoes: 48%

Baz Luhrmann’s oft-debated 2013 take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel is at least forthcoming about how much more interested the director is in the aesthetic trappings of 1920s New York City than it is the story itself. From its spotty casting (Carey Mulligan is as perfect a Daisy as Tobey Maguire isn’t for Nick Carraway) to its lavish, excessively 3D-friendly sets and blocking, everything about The Great Gatsby is over the top. That absolutely includes the anachronistic soundtrack, an approach Luhrmann first took to greater effect with his utterly late-‘90s take on Romeo + Juliet. It’s at once wholly tethered to a very specific moment in pop culture (hey, Gotye) and an interesting take on what a period piece can and should sound like. Plus, Luhrmann hits this one out of the park just for the inclusion of Lana Del Rey, who’s basically a walking Great Gatsby partygoer trapped in our time as it is. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer

Tracklist:
01. Jay Z – “$100 Bill”
02. Beyoncé x André 3000 – “Back to Black” (Amy Winehouse cover)
03. will.i.am – “Bang Bang”
04. Fergie, Q-Tip, and GoonRock – “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)”
05. Lana Del Rey – “Young and Beautiful”
06. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – “Love Is the Drug” (Roxy Music cover)
07. Florence + the Machine – “Over the Love”
08. Coco O. – “Where the Wind Blows”
09. Emeli Sandé feat. The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – “Crazy in Love” (Beyoncé cover)
10. The XX – “Together”
11. Gotye – “Hearts a Mess”
12. Jack White – “Love Is Blindness” (U2 cover)
13. Nero – “Into the Past”
14. Sia – “Kill and Run”
15. Jay Z and Kanye West – “No Church in the Wild”

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