Burn your Retinas, Soothe Your Ears: Terrible Movies with Great Music

Apr 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Prose

Have you ever met someone super hot, or something super hot (what up, objectum-sexuals!), and thought to yourself “I know as soon as you speak you’re going to ruin this beautiful picture you’ve presented, because you’re probably super into politics, or clog dancing and Warren Beatty, or misogynistic film plots with needless explosions and women who don’t wear bras.”

The above (terrible) example is how I feel about a lot of films that have bad ass soundtracks/scores, but tend to be just terrible in general (re: misogynistic film plots with needless explosions and women who don’t wear bras). Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of the greatest music (EVER), which unluckily found himself (music is a man and he is attractive), married to something not so great.

So lets break into this shit like a diabetic robbing a candy store! (in alphabetic order because I hate numbers):

Rubber nipples never sounded so good!

Batman Forever (Various Artists)

When this film came out, I developed a huge crush for Val Kilmer. That was wrong. What isn’t wrong: INXS’s dearly departed Michael Hutchence’s cover of Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger.” People often reference the big hits from this soundtrack, like U2’s “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me,” (this song is quite prophetic to me, as it was the last time U2 thrilled me), or Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” (yes, I listened to this song on repeat. I still don’t know how a rose can kiss from the grave, but I’m not that into perennials). With music by artists such as PJ Harvey, Nick Cave and Everything But the Girl’s Tracey Thorn, the Batman Forever soundtrack was more varied than Jim Carrey’s facial expressions. While it is definitely a late 90s soundtrack, the songs remain as timeless as Nicole Kidman’s forehead.

Flowers in the Attic (Composer, Christopher Young)

No one saw this movie but me. Twice. But I believe I made Genevieve see it just as further proof that it’s very hard to adapt a novel to film: especially a novel about incest and child abuse with tasty arsenic cookies. Anyways, my thoughts on V.C. Andrews have already been made clear. But what isn’t clear is how great this score is, which features lovely string arrangements, a boy’s choir and SADNESS. I basically had to sell a kidney to get my hands on this score (fuck you, regulation of electrolytes!). But it was worth it. Let us hope Christopher Young will continue to work on good projects (Drag Me to Hell) and not “good projects” (Tales from the Hood).

The Fountain (Composers, Clint Mansell, Kronos Quartet, and Mogwai)

I refuse to see this movie because the score is so amazing and the reviews for this film were so terrible. Genevieve summed it up quite nicely by defining the film as “a glorious mistake.” She also added, “it was pretty much: awful, awful, AMAZING awful, awful AMAZING awful, awful, huge tree.”

Got it. Failed film conceptualization, excellent meeting of great musical minds. Seriously: Clint Mansell, Kronos Quartet AND Mogwai?! Did my inner choir girl just get laid?! Answer: Yes.

There is some masterful piano soloing going on in this bitch, as well as some super duper fantastic percussion.

Great Expectations (Various Artists)

Well at least Ethan Hawke isn’t wearing eyeliner in this one (re: Hamlet), but he’s all frowny face and Paltrow is in this one as well, sucking up everyone’s life force. But that’s okay because Tori Amos has two songs on this soundtrack to make it all better! Man, remember when Tori Amos wasn’t so content with her life and that led to great music! Stupid happiness ruins everything.

Lost Highway (Various Artists)

For years I’ve refused to see this film because of how much I love the soundtrack. David Bowie! Angelo Badalamenti! Trent Reznor! Barry Adamson! Marilyn Mans–forget that last one!

Recently, I broke down and decided to see this one. How bad could it be? It’s David Lynch! It’s gained cult status! The music is so great it couldn’t be that bad!

Not even the Bowie could save this one. I don’t care if this is supposed to be some sort of dream within a dream within a nightmare something something. There is no way that a saxophone player receives a standing ovation unless he’s in the Dave Matthews Band (RIP LeRoi Moore). That alone makes this film awful (except for Robert Blake’s character, he was pretty neat-o), and it makes my goth side somewhat sad when I watch NIN’s awesome video “The Perfect Drug,” because I realize that the pimp at my laundromat was right: there is no such thing as a perfect drug, and the washing machine will never accept your leftover Euros.

Ugh, talk about a wrong turn. ZING!

Mary Reilly (Composer, George Fenton)

Genevieve has already brilliantly dissected this film. All I can say is the score, and George Fenton, deserved so much better. So so so much better. There is nothing sadder than a waste of an orchestra. And this wasn’t just wasting an orchestra like a Mafia hit, this was wasting it like flushing the whole ensemble down the toilet. No one wants that. Not George Fenton and certainly not the janitor.

Plunkett and Macleane (Composer, Craig Armstrong)

Horrible! And that’s just for Liv Tyler! But the score was (and is) so so great, as it is a fantastic blending of classical music and modern percussion. If you have to watch this movie, just skip to when Captain James Macleane (Johhny Lee Miller) is walking to the site of his execution. Bask in the lovely choir music of “Escape,” and cry when JLM escapes death yet again. Your time is soon, hacker!

Romeo + Juliet (Various Artists)

I think this soundtrack was the pinnacle of “big film + big soundtrack with big artists.” But while the movie suffocates under its own weight (or Claire Danes’s death stare), the soundtrack is both somber (Radiohead’s “Talk Show Host”), sexy (Garbage’s “#1 Crush) and fun (Gavin Friday’s “Angel”).

The Saint (Various Artists)

Hahaha! It’s my girlhood crush Val Kilmer again! This album made me feel so edgy when I bought it and it still holds up with tracks from Daft Punk, Sneaker Pimps and Chemical Brothers. What hasn’t held up: Val Kilmer’s face and sanity (also Elizabeth Shue’s career).

Swordfish (Composer, Paul Oakenfold)

The “Halle Berry Shows her Berries” film was a disaster, but it was also Paul Oakenfold’s opportunity to showcase his DJ-ing talents before he faded from relevancy. Before you beat me to death with your glowsticks, take a listen to his latest ventures. You’re welcome.

The Village (Composer, James Newton Howard)

Oh, M. Night Shamalamamamamamamamaama. I, like so many others, hate your smugness and your lame plot twists. But what I really hate is how you got THE HOWARD (James Newton Howard), to waste his beautiful climactic score to this preposterous piece of clap-trap.

Wicker Park (Various Artists)

Uhhhhh. Let me see here. The soundtrack has: Postal Service, múm, +/-, The Shins, The Stills, Death Cab for Cutie, Broken Social Scene and Stereophonics. The film has: squinty-eyed Josh Hartnett and mood lighting. Tough call.

There you have it! My list of great soundtracks/scores that have been paired with some awful train wrecks of cinema. Oh, you haven’t had enough (I get that all the time)? Well here are some “films that didn’t make the cut because they are so unintentionally hilarious they side on camp.”

Abandon (Composer, Clint Mansell)

Katie Holmes trying to act! Benjamin Bratt pretending to believe Katie Holmes can act! Clint Mansell, again proving to be too good for a film. Don’t take these films’s phone calls if they can’t treat you right, Mansell!

Cruel Intentions (Various Artists)

A bastardization of the magnificent film Dangerous Liaisons, but it’s still funny to watch Ryan Phillipe try to be magnetic. The soundtrack introduced suburbia to modern post-punk (Placebo) and British electronica (Faithless), and featured some great love songs (“This Love” by Craig Armstrong and “Colorblind” by Counting Crows).

Hackers (Various Artists)

This movie deserves an Oscar. An Oscar made of cheese. The soundtrack was so great they made a sequel to the soundtrack. Carl Cox, Leftfield and Kruder & Dorfmeister? Hell yes! They should make a sequel to the sequel. Oh wait, they did.

I hope they make a Hackers 15.

Underworld (Various Artists)

Say what you will about Kate Beckinsale’s cat suit movie, but do not damn the soundtrack! Featuring Lisa Germano, A Perfect Circle, Skinny Puppy and Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano, this one will warm your black black heart.

Happy listening! But always remember to cover your eyes (it always sounds better that way).


Eileen has a Master’s Degree in Professional Writing and Editing from George Mason University. Frequent target of fallen angels, Eileen hides from their seductive wrath in the hallowed confines of Defenestration HQ, where she hopes to erect a wall of words between herself and the forces of evil.

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