When Bad Movies Happen to Great Soundtracks

The Great Gatsby

Tobey Maguire, Leonardo Dicaprio, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton in The Great Gatsby. 

While it’s rare that a soundtrack can break an otherwise good movie, a great one can certainly make a bad movie infinitely better.

Whether it’s the perfect song swelling at just the right moment to elevate some so-so acting or a collection of greatest hits for a flick you forgot about the instant the lights went up, some superb soundtracks have been attached to some awful movies.

On the plus side, these soundtracks can make your movie-going experience worthwhile; on the downside, you may forever associate a pitch-perfect collection of tunes with the corresponding cinematic dud.

Here’s what happens when bad movies happen to great soundtracks.

Twilight: New Moon

This is universally known as the worst movie in the entire Twilight saga. It’s not only boring as all hell, but the whole thing serves as a setup to the Team Edward vs. Team Jacob drama that engulfed tweens in 2009. It’s slow-paced and dreary, but the soundtrack is, perhaps, the best of the series. With a lovely score from Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat (Grand Budapest Hotel) and eclectic tracks from the likes of Grizzly Bear, Lykke Li, and Thom Yorke, the soundtrack -- unlike the film itself -- cannot be skipped over.

Jennifer’s Body

It sucked that the Diablo Cody/Megan Fox horror comedy was a bust, because if anyone can do offbeat and sexy, it’s those two. Thankfully, this critical and box office dud had a soundtrack that left its mark. Kicking things off with Florence + the Machine’s no-holds-barred “Kiss With a Fist,” the soundtrack is a non-stop badass ride. From radio hits by the Black Kids (“I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You”) to lesser-known tracks from favorites like Hayley Williams (“Teenagers”), it’s a shame the movie didn’t have as much bite as the soundtrack.

Fifty Shades of Grey

For anyone who read Fifty Shades of Grey, it was no real surprise that the source material would make for a pretty terrible (and shockingly unsexy) movie. While the movie did produce a hell of a lot of weird tie-in products and rumors of on-set drama, its biggest achievement was its chart-topping soundtrack. From the Oscar-nominated (yep, that’s right) “Earned It” by The Weeknd to the ubiquitous “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding, the soundtrack pulled off what the movie and book could not: legitimate sex appeal. While the soundtrack doesn’t have a weak spot in the mix, it’s Beyonce that steals the show (of course) with her haunting “Crazy in Love” remix.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

If Ben Stiller had just released that awesome The Secret Life of Walter Mitty trailer set to Of Monsters and Men’s “Dirty Paws” instead of the entire movie (which was a slog), everyone would have been better off. Then again, without the full flick, we wouldn’t have a remix of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” featuring none other than Kristen Wiig.

Wicker Park

What’s Wicker Park, you ask? Well, kids, it was a crappy 2004 American remake of the not-crappy French film L’Appartement. It starred Josh Hartnett and Rose Byrne and Diane Kruger, but, luckily for them, no one saw it. However, for those who did give the movie a go, at least they got to experience the underrated gem of an indie rock soundtrack, which has some decidedly very not crappy tracks from The Postal Service, Broken Social Scene, Mates of State, and more.

The Great Gatsby

Has the tone of a book ever been so lost in a movie adaptation as with Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby? Sure, it looked spectacular and Leonardo DiCaprio was a top notch Jay Gatsby, old sport, but Luhrmann is better with Shakespeare than he is F. Scott Fitzgerald. But he still knew had to make a perfect soundtrack. Take your pick from Jack White’s heart stopping “Love is Blindness”, Lana Del Rey’s swoony “Young and Beautiful”, or Jay Z’s “$100 Bill.” Individually, they can stand on their own; together, they make for a pitch-perfect soundtrack.

The Beach

Okay, so Leonardo DiCaprio may have some misfires here and there, but at least he still has some good soundtracks to keep him company. Case in point: The Beach, a terrible thriller that couldn’t ride any post-Titanic waves. And while its soundtrack wasn’t as big as the former, at least the latter is one you’d actually want to listen to on a beach thanks to chill-ass tracks from Moby, Blur, and even Sugar Ray.

Tron: Legacy

There’s no question that Tron: Legacy captivated on the big screen thanks to its stunning visual effects. Still, what could have been a game-changer more or less evaporated from our memories. Well, except for the soundtrack. Released three years prior to their proper comeback LP Random Access MemoriesDaft Punk's score updated the retro sounds of the original for a soundtrack that warrants repeated visits... unlike the film itself.

Garden State

Look, we all loved Garden State when it came out in 2004. It was twee, it was hipster before hipster was omnipresent, and it featured pre-Big Bang Theory Jim Parsons as a Medieval Times knight. Fact of the matter is: the movie has not aged well. At all. Truth be told, it’s really obnoxious. But you know what holds up? The iconic, moody, and Grammy-winning soundtrack that featured The Shins, Colin Hay, Frou Frou, Iron & Wine, and Coldplay, among others, is basically a time capsule of 2004. It might not change your life, but it is damn good. 

Batman Forever

What may be the ultimate example of a classic soundtrack set to a terrible movie is Batman Forever. The '90s were a prime time for awesome movie soundtracks, and this one was a must-have thanks to Seal’s “Kiss By a Rose” and U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.” Hey, at least they weren’t on the Batman & Robin soundtrack.


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