Music in films are usually a tool that filmmakers use to highlight the drama and action happening in movies, especially if the lyrics fit the situation on screen.
It is fair to say that popular films and music often go hand in hand if one is connected to the other. While they both may be successful commercially, it is the lasting impact of either medium that ultimately counts, and quite often a film’s soundtrack will be far more remembered than the movie it was attached to.
This could be attributed to the fact that the general public are more likely to have more exposure to the songs when they listen to the radio rather than making the effort to watch the movie. But quite often the movies in question have a lot to be desired, whereas the soundtracks are music to people’s ears.
The songs, which will always be associated with these movies, may even make listeners enjoying the songs think that the movie must be really good too, only to be left disappointed after seeing it.
The below movies range from merely being average or forgettable to being plain terrible, but the soundtracks are sublime and totally make you feel nostalgic for a movie that you don’t remember for a good reason.
15. Dangerous Minds (John N. Smith, 1995)
Once you have seen one drama about a teacher trying to turn around the lives of disadvantaged and usually criminal students from a bad neighbourhood, you have seen them all.
Dangerous Minds is no different, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s teacher character is the stock character you have seen in all these type of movies. While the troubles the students face is tragic, it is still very much Hollywood’s version of “the hood”.
Its soundtrack, however, is a great collection of urban and hip hop music from the mid-1990s. The songs conveyed the feeling of the harsh realities of the ghetto to great beats.
The definite standout hit here is ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ by Coolio, easily the rapper’s biggest hit. Its dark, brooding tune mixed with Coolio’s angry and frustrated vocals about the perils of street life did more to convey the struggle the film’s characters faced than the film itself.
14. Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986)
With all the loud synthesized rock music blasting throughout the film, the now very cheesy Top Gun may be laughable and cringe worthy by today’s standards. It is pure Hollywood, and made purely for entertainment purposes (although that’s not always a bad thing). But its soundtrack has kept the film in the public consciousness in the 30 years after the film’s release.
Pumping rock songs like ‘Danger Zone’ by Kenny Loggins and ‘Mighty Wings’ by Cheap Trick pump you up for an intense film full of great fighter jet action and general 1980s coolness. Loggins’ other contribution to the Top Gun soundtrack, ‘Playing With The Boys’, has been criticised for making the film “really gay”, as its played when the pilots are playing volleyball without shirts on, but it’s an upbeat song nonetheless.
Top Gun is also known for its romantic subplot between Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Charlie (Kelly McGillis), and ‘Take My Breath Away’ by Berlin has since become one of the most memorable movie love songs ever made.
13. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)
Whether it was Luhrmann’s over the top and flashy direction or the confusing old Shakespearean English spoken that gave the film its mixed reviews is a matter of opinion. Shakespeare purists did not care for this very visual interpretation of the Bard’s most famous play, although it was a hit with general audiences.
The soundtrack’s track listing is very ‘90s and could not be mistakenly thought to have been made in another decade. Bands that will always be associated with the 1990s are included here, such as Garbage, The Cardigans, Radiohead, Everclear, and other acts whose contribution to the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack was probably the highpoint of their careers.
The film’s music highlighted the passion, the love and the tragedy between the doomed young lovers just as much as Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes’ performances conveyed.
12. The Beach (Danny Boyle, 2000)
British filmmaker Danny Boyle is usually highly praised for his work on hit movies like Trainspotting and 28 Days Later. However, in between making those films, many believed he made a huge misstep when he filmed The Beach.
The film was made shortly after its star Leonardo DiCaprio won both movie stardom and the hearts of teenage girls everywhere, the filmmakers felt the film would be a big hit thanks to its star. Despite that, the film was still panned.
The Beach’s soundtrack received much more praise than the film ever did though. The biggest hit from the album is ‘Pure Shores’ by All Saints, a sweet RnB song that is still popular.
The rest of the soundtrack consists of mostly house songs by the likes of Moby, New Order, and Underworld, and pop rock tracks from Blur and Sugar Ray that create the film’s tranquil yet partying atmosphere.
11. Empire Records (Allan Moyle, 1995)
Somewhat like a lesser version of Clerks, Empire Records is set entirely in a record store with a bunch of typical ‘90s slackers in the late teens or early 20s working while talking about music, love and growing up. The film definitely has its fan base, and has plenty of funny moments, but Empire Records’ soundtrack really supersedes the film’s popularity.
With bands that will always be associated with the 1990s, such as The Cranberries, The Gin Blossoms, Better Than Ezra, and other bands of their ilk, the Empire Records soundtrack really is a product of its time. The film’s record store setting allows these great songs to be heard loud and clear throughout the film, and that’s responsible for half of the film’s entertainment value in itself.
10. Godzilla (Roland Emmerich, 1998)
Godzilla recently received a remake, perhaps to help the world forgot about the 1998 bomb of a film. It seriously is terrible; stereotypical characters (specifically being very “New York”), clichéd romantic subplot, and the action is just plain boring. For a summer blockbuster film, Godzilla really has no entertainment value whatsoever, not even in an “it’s so bad it’s good” way.
Despite Godzilla being utterly pathetic, its soundtrack is quite strong, full of popular acts from the era who contributed great songs. Believe it or not, these songs by Green Day, Ben Folds Five, Foo Fighters, Fuel, Silverchair, Rage Against The Machine and others are far more entertaining than seeing a giant lizard destroy New York City.
The soundtrack’s highlight is definitely ‘Come With Me’ by Puff Daddy, which was a huge hit, and rightfully so. Its powerful music (sampled from the Led Zeppelin song ‘Kashmir’) with his quick and angry rapping really create a sense of intensity that the film simply could not do.
9. Queen Of The Damned (Michael Rymer, 2002)
A spinoff of the 1994 hit movie Interview With The Vampire, Queen Of The Damned went in a completely different direction and new cast from its predecessor.
The film cast Stuart Townsend as Tom Cruise’s tormented vampire Lestat, and made him a cocky goth rock star who no longer lives in secret and is conquering the world one rock song at a time. The acting is melodramatic, and the plot thin and even teenyboppy (in its own “dark” way). Both fans of the first film and general audiences did not care for this take on Anne Rice’s novel.
The film tries too hard to be edgy and dark for the sake of it, and it comes across as very lame. However, the songs Lestat’s band perform are definitely not lame. The soundtrack was produced by Jonathan Davis of Korn, so it is no surprise that the soundtrack consists entirely of dark, gothic rock songs, and it is simply a thing of gloomy wonder.
Although Davis could not perform on the soundtrack himself due to contractual reasons (although his own take of the song ‘System’ is in the film, and is far superior to Chester Bennington’s featured version), the soundtrack is a who’s who of the goth and heavy metal world circa 2002. With bands such as Marilyn Manson, Deftones, Disturbed, Static X and more contributing their dark music to the soundtrack, it is a great angsty, angry rock album in its own right.
8. Singles (Cameron Crowe, 1992)
While not a bad movie by any means, the movie itself has more or less been forgotten. The acting from all the cast is good, but there are simply too many characters and plots going on at once, all in some way revolving around relationship problems.
It probably would have been completely wiped from pop culture conscious if it weren’t for its grunge heavy soundtrack. The Singles soundtrack is indeed a snapshot of the early 1990s grunge scene happening in Seattle at the time.
A lot of the bands on the soundtrack became huge around the time Singles and its soundtrack were unleashed unto the world. The soundtrack contains songs from song of the biggest rock bands of the 1990s, such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains, and more. It is definitely an album you would want to listen to if you want to feel like you were part of the notorious grunge scene.
7. Garden State (Zack Braff, 2004)
Upon its release, Garden State was critically acclaimed and shined new light on its star, writer and director Zach Braff’s career. However, in hindsight, at times it feels like the film is being quirky for the sake of being quirky, and even inspired the trope of the “pixie girlfriend”, played here by Natalie Portman.
Garden State’s soundtrack is rightfully considered one of the most memorable movie soundtracks ever released. Braff commented on the soundtrack by saying, ‘Essentially, I made a mix CD with all of the music that I felt was scoring my life at the time I was writing the screenplay’. The connection between the music and the film’s story is definitely a strong point throughout Garden State.
The soundtrack includes great indie artists such as The Shins and Remo Zero (the soundtrack putting them closer to the limelight), while also including some more mainstream artists like Coldplay and Simon & Garfunkel. The songs on the soundtrack all have a pretty mellow sound, reflecting the film’s mood.
Perhaps the film’s musical highlight is ‘Let Go’ by Frou Frou, which is used in the final scene. It sums up the protagonist finally starting to let go of the pains of his past and ready to start anew with his new girlfriend. It creates a great ending with the perfect song to project this feeling.
6. Space Jam (Joe Pytka, 1996)
Space Jam itself is basically a very ‘90s cartoon featuring Michael Jordan showing off his signature basketball moves to the Looney Toons at the prime of his career. There’s a bunch of funny cameos throughout, but being a Looney Toons movie, the story is very simplistic. The soundtrack, however, still stands out to this very day.
The Space Jam soundtrack is very much a time capsule of mid-‘90s RnB in the genre’s heyday, and it is glorious. It has songs from the likes of Seal, Coolio, Salt-N-Pepa, Monica and many more, including Bugs Bunny himself (yeah…).
However, it is R. Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ that is the standout song from the soundtrack. It has gone far beyond its Space Jam roots and is often cited as one of the most inspirational songs ever made.
In fact, it could very easily be argued that Space Jam has remained known in pop culture mostly because of this song. This soundtrack could easily be dismissed for being associated with a kids movie, but they would be missing out on some really great songs.
5. Reality Bites (Ben Stiller, 1994)
Whenever the cynical and disenfranchised Generation X comes up in pop culture, often Reality Bites will be mentioned, or more specifically its soundtrack. Some may claim that the soundtrack is very “MTV”, but usually in a good way. The movie’s plot is a pretty standard story of how some 20-somethings finding life after college difficult and going through the perils that come with work, relationships, drugs, sticking to your principles, and growing up.
Although the soundtrack contains songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s like ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack and ‘All I Want Is You’ by U2, it is often listed as a staple of ‘90s movie soundtracks. With popular ‘90s acts the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and Lenny Kravitz on board, you know you will be hearing tunes from the last decade of the 20th century.
However, Lisa Loeb’s one hit wonder ‘Stay (I Missed You)’ was definitely the biggest hit and most memorable song from the Reality Bites soundtrack. Loeb’s career bloomed because of her inclusion in this film, and it is a wonderful song.
4. Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977)
Saturday Night Fever is one of the most popular films from the 1970s, and most definitely a snapshot of the disco scene. The film also made the Bee Gees arguably the most popular disco act of the decade and John Travolta a huge movie star. His role in this film earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination. The soundtrack is not only one of the most popular soundtracks ever made, but also one of the highest selling albums of all time.
The plot, however, is mostly a coming of age story about a young man wanting to get out of his crummy neighbourhood and make his dreams come true. That story has been used in many films, which is perhaps what made Saturday Night Fever’s plot and characters not so memorable.
It is the movie’s disco soundtrack that has kept the film in the public eye nearly 40 years later. Some of the Bee Gees’ biggest hits, including ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and ‘More Than A Woman’, were made famous thanks to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Despite the thin plot, the film was always about capturing the feeling of being a part of the disco scene, the sense of euphoria when dancing the night away to these songs, and it certainly achieved that goal.
3. Purple Rain (Albert Magnoli, 1984)
If you were to utter the words “Purple Rain” to anyone, they are far more likely to think of Prince’s hit song rather than his dud movie of the same name. The film’s lame plot about an up-and-coming musician facing the perils of a struggling relationship, problems with his band, and an abusive family life did not help Prince have much of an acting career after Purple Rain.
While the film is more or less showcasing Prince’s musical talent, rather than an engaging plot, at least the film knows its strengths. Containing classic Prince songs like ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘I Would Die 4 U’ and, of course, the titular ‘Purple Rain’, the soundtrack was an instant classic. The film also won the Best Original Song Score Oscar, the last film to ever win this award. While the film is not memorable, its soundtrack still lives on in infamy.
2. Batman Forever (Joel Schumacher, 1995)
Many movie buffs cringe at the mere thought of Joel Schumacher’s Batman films, and for the most part they have every right to. Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were cheesy, over-the-top and simply goofy Batman movies that infuriated fans of Tim Burton’s previous two darker films in the Batman series. However, no one can fault Batman Forever’s awesome soundtrack.
The soundtrack is a crazy melting pot of musicians that were popular in the 1990s whose music had no business being on the same album otherwise. It contained songs from acts like The Offspring, Michael Hutchence, Brandy, The Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, Method Man, and many more.
The soundtrack makes listeners pumped for both a thumping party and want to watch a dark, brooding Batman film that unfortunately does not exist.
The soundtrack’s two biggest hits, for both the soundtrack and the bands, were ‘Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me’ by U2 and ‘Kiss From A Rose’ by Seal, the latter song making Seal an international star. It was one of the most successful love ballads of the 1990s, and for good reason.
1. The Bodyguard (Mick Jackson, 1992)
The film’s plot is very simple, where the titular bodyguard (Kevin Costner) is hired to protect a pop star (Whitney Houston) from an obsessed stalker, and her protector becomes her lover. While the plot is very cheesy and Houston’s acting career did not take off, her efforts on The Bodyguard soundtrack is very much Houston showcasing her singing abilities when she was at the top of her game.
The soundtrack had songs from other artists as well, but it was really all about Houston. While the soundtrack had other successful singles for Houston, such as ‘Run To You’ and ‘I Have Nothing’ that were both nominated for the Best Song Oscar, it is ‘I Will Always Love You’, a cover of a Dolly Parton song, that really shines. It is not only the most popular song from the soundtrack, but perhaps the biggest hit of Houston’s career.
It holds the record for being the best-selling soundtrack of all time. The soundtrack was number one on the charts and sold over 45 million copies worldwide, which would far surpass the film’s VHS and DVD sales.
Originally published here at tasteofcinema.com on Monday 15 August 2016