Imagine Batman and Robin being in the same sentence as Citizen Kane… Of course, there are times when we all collectively decide that this film or song is objectively bad. It’s oddly unifying, but for the most part, it’s just a matter of opinion. Sometimes the songs from movies are better than the films themselves.
When the world of film meets the world of music, the two can help produce an all-time classic.
A terrible soundtrack can’t necessarily save a terrible film, but a great soundtrack can bolster a good film into greatness. Oftentimes we’re met with a fantastic soundtrack that outweighs the film and our senses are put into conflict.
Great song, forgettable movie, here are 9 songs far better than the movies they appeared in.
1. Another Way to Die – Jack White and Alicia Keys
From Quantum of Solace (2008)
James Bond films are synonymous with their theme tracks and so many music icons have carried the mantle. And more than one of the songs has been better than their movies. Louis Armstrong, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, and a woefully misjudged A-Ha, have all taken up the reins for the esteemed Bond song.
The second film in the most recent Daniel Craig reboot of the much-loved franchise took the disparate duo of Jack White and Alicia Keys. And managed to flounder whatever goodwill they’d set up.
“Another Way to Die” had a mixed critical reception and some believed it didn’t feel like a Bond song, but that’s exactly the point! It wasn’t just another tedious, ouch-my-ears-are-bleeding Bond song.
Unfortunately, it was tacked on to a less than stellar Bond film, which indeed was just another Bond film. Hmm, I think I can see the correlation here…
2. Flash – Queen
From Flash Gordon (1980)
Flash Gordon falls into the territory of it’s so bad that it’s good. Yet asides from the terrible acting, the main thing we all took away from the film was the theme song. Flash! Ah-ah! Saviour of the universe.
Cheesy dialogue, laughable costume design and a typical good triumphs over evil plot, Flash Gordon is so ’80s that it hurts! That doesn’t mean that the film is unwatchable by any means, but it’s certainly good for all the wrong reasons.
With stadium-rock legends Queen at the helm of the soundtrack, the film had to do a lot to fail. It’s doubtful that Flash Gordon could’ve ever matched the star quality of Queen. Though nobody could have foreseen just how much of a commercial and critical flop Flash Gordon would be.
On paper, Queen was a perfect fit for the film, and indeed they were – when you think garish sci-fi opera, who else but Queen? Sadly, they couldn’t save the film, unlike Flash who, as we all know, saved every one of us so this ends up on our list of songs better than their movies.
3. Heart of Glass – Blondie
From Anger Management (2003)
When you use Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” to open your film you better damn well hope that it lives up to such a classic song – spoiler: it didn’t!
Obviously it would be difficult to match the success of an iconic 1979 number one single, “Heart of Glass”. But Anger Management was yet another throwaway Adam Sandler film. Oh, and they dragged Jack Nicholson into it too.
Granted Adam Sandler films have a love or hate quality to them, but the lukewarm reception to Anger Management speaks for itself. The film had its moments – it certainly wasn’t quite Jack and Jill, though comparatively, “Heart of Glass” is a ’70s gem that weirdly sounds like an ’80s gem.
4. Korn – Did My Time
From Lara Croft: Tomb Raider The Cradle of Life (2003)
Another one from back in 2003 when nu-metal was still a thing, Korn’s “Did My Time” was something of a positive to come out of the Razzie winning Tomb Raider film, The Cradle of Life.
Okay, so “Did My Time” is a little of its time, but it did earn them a Grammy nomination, whereas The Cradle of Life won awards but not ones to pop champagne to.
Funnily enough, punching sharks underwater and fending off shadow monster trees don’t make for a great film. Hence the aforementioned Razzie and Golden Schmoes award for worst movie of the year.
The Cradle of Life was yet another showcase of video games rarely translating well to the silver screen. “Did My Time” was a notable success for Korn, so at least there’s that.
5. In the City – Joe Walsh of The Eagles
From The Warriors (1979)
The Warriors is a cult classic, and for the record, I really like the film, but the sensible part of my brain knows that it’s more than a tad silly.
But, it did give us a favourite of classic-rock radio stations, “In the City” by ex-Eagles guitarist, Joe Walsh.
The entire film centres on a gang-member (Luther) killing a gang-leader (Cyrus) who was trying to broker peace between all the gangs of New York City. Yet in the chaos the matching sleeveless leather jacket wearing, the Warriors are blamed.
The Warriors have to make their way back to Coney Island with all the also matching uniform wearing gangs on their tale – it’s riveting stuff.
Luther’s justification for such a central plot point: he just likes doing stuff like that. If you were looking for deep forays into character psychology then you are in the wrong place.
“In the City” was later re-recorded by the Eagles for the album The Long Run, but the song was never released as a single.
6. No Shelter – Rage Against the Machine
From Godzilla (1998)
If you ever wanted proof that a good soundtrack cannot save a terrible film, then look no further. And no, the P Diddy and Jimmy Page collaboration is not included in that. Godzilla (the Matthew Broderick one) hosted more than a few reputed musicians. Who no doubt vehemently kicked themselves after watching the film. Foo Fighters, Green Day and Rage Against the Machine? Where did they go wrong?
“No Shelter” marked a strange contribution to the film’s soundtrack. Considering that the song was an attack on the world of Hollywood and films. Stranger still, “No Shelter” seemingly attacked the very film it featured in with the line, “Godzilla, pure motherf**king filler, to keep ya eyes of the real killer”. Either the irony was lost on them or this is pure genius I’m not sure. Nevertheless, the song was certainly something to take away from an otherwise abysmal film.
Godzilla was a resounding commercial failure and any pipe dreams of a sequel were quickly abandoned. Maybe Rage Against the Machine were happy about this? Again, I’m not sure, all this irony is overwhelming.
7. Wild Wild West – Will Smith
From Wild Wild West (1999)
Though it would be difficult to produce anything quite as terrible as the film Wild Wild West. Will Smith’s song of the same the name just oozes light-hearted ’90s fun. It’s slightly cringe-worthy granted, but maybe after a few drinks, it’s enough to get to you on your feet. Not convinced? Maybe it’s a generational thing…give me that at least.
“Wild Wild West” hearkens back to a time that Will Smith would rather forget with him being a serious actor now, but we remember the real Will Smith. Silly yet fun music, Fresh Prince, and some less than great films, Smith has certainly come a long way since then.
For the ’90s kids, “Wild Wild West” still pops, though as one of those songs better than their movies. For everyone and their dogs, the film was a car crash. Will Smith is genuinely embarrassed by the film, what’s more to say? Erm… more than a few Razzie awards… ouch!
8. Living in America – James Brown
From Rocky IV (1985)
Although grossly patriotic, James Brown’s “Living in America” is a feel-good song of the highest degree. Though sensationalist and a little gaudy. I’m not even from the US and yet somehow I feel like donning a star-spangled jumpsuit when I hear this classic hit. And what could be a better fit for a dire film that has a less than inconspicuous subtext of ‘America is the greatest!’?
If you like half-baked political discourse. Or borderline Russiaphobia and endless montages then Rocky IV might just be for you. Clearly Stallone had the mounting tensions between Russia and the US in mind when he penned the screenplay for Rocky IV in 1985. But it came across has somewhat tone-deaf. The infamous line, “I can change, and you can change, everybody can change…” as he looks over a mostly Russian crowd is vomit-inducing. Somehow I don’t think a film about boxing is enough to ease years of political strife. Perhaps don’t use “Living in America” in your film if you’re trying to broker good relations between these two countries? Maybe I’m reading into this too much.
Of course, the Rocky franchise was and is extremely successful having grossed over one-billion pounds. Despite peaking at number five “Living in America” was James Brown’s biggest single in the UK. You can always trust us self-loathing Brits to celebrate a song about living somewhere else, “Living in the UK” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. In the US “Living in America” did one better and peaked at number four.
9. Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith
From Dazed and Confused (1993)
Put your pitchforks down, step back and re-watch Dazed and Confused… Is it really that great? Is it maybe just nostalgia that’s making you believe that it’s great? We get it! The ’70s is over…man.
Dazed and Confused had a monumental soundtrack with Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, and Bob Dylan all making a musical appearance. But, the opening “Sweet Emotion” was a particular high of songs better than their movies. And yes, high is italicised because unless you grew up in the ’70s. Or are/were incredibly high when watching Dazed and Confused the film had very little to offer. There’s a certain boyish charm to the film, but it really hasn’t aged well at all. Case in point: Matthew McConaughey’s character, Wooderson…ugh!
Upon its release, Dazed and Confused garnered moderate commercial success though it since went on to be a household teen movie. The opposite was true for “Sweet Emotion” which was the first of a string of hits for Aerosmith before they go a bit…you know, ballady…
Teen movies always come off as somewhat cheesy especially after a re-watching them as an adult, but nostalgia is a helluva drug. The soundtrack was undeniable, but the film is a little tired… and hungry!
Hey-ho, when all is said and done, as I mentioned, art is subjective. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s true that a good song can help nudge a film into something brilliant, but what that song is still down to opinion.
And that’s our list of 9 songs better than the movies they appeared in. Are we wrong? Are there any we missed out that you would like to have seen on the list? If so, leave us a comment below.
More from our music pages HERE.
9 Bands You Forgot Played Themselves In Movies
There are more bands than you think that played themselves on the big screen. Here are nine bands you might’ve forgotten appeared in movies.
1. Alice Cooper – Wayne’s World (1992)
Being a teenager in the nineties was great for many reasons. Two of those being the release of the Wayne’s World movies. The genius that is Mike Myers created one of the best music-based films of all time. Plus, he convinced one of the greatest rock musicians of all time to be in it. If you’re not a geek like me, you may have forgotten that Alice Cooper was featured in the film. It had the iconic scene of Wayne and Garth meeting, Alice, backstage on bent knees. We’re not worthy, indeed. Alice himself pulls off the diva Rockstar brilliantly, even though he’s a genuine, down-to-earth guy who plays a lot of golf.
2. Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Let’s try and erase the recent Bill & Ted movie from our memory and head back to 1991 for their bogus journey. They come from the future to kill the non-robot versions of themselves and ruin their performance at a Battle of the Bands competition. What’s cool is the band who are playing before them. Californian alt-metal kings Primus. Although the clip is only short, they play themselves and sound as you would expect. Epic.
3. Fall Out Boy – Sex Drive (2008)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting about this one. The teen sex comedy from 2008 is forgettable and won’t really appeal to anyone apart from its teen target audience. If you can sit through all the cringe-inducing moments, you will spot pop-rockers Fall Out Boy. They are performing in a barn in front of some drunk Amish teenagers. There’s a reason for that, but I won’t bore you with it here. What is good, is the soundtrack of the film. As well as Fall Out Boy, it features Airbourne, AC/DC and weirdly, Kenny Loggins.
4. Twisted Sister – Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)
Paul Reuben’s character Pee Wee Herman made his big-screen outing in 1985. The children’s show star had a scene where he is being chased through a studio parking lot. Unbeknown to him, glam rockers Twisted Sister are recording a music video on a car. Lead singer Dee Snider is always up for a laugh, so it’s no surprise they’re featured. The clip is brilliant. Pee Wee’s prop-laden bike is just about to crash into Twisted Sister and the look on Dee’s face is genius. Go check out the clip.
5. David Bowie – Zoolander (2001)
Who can forget the brilliant Zoolander? Starring Ben Stiller as the dippy model, it’s one of the funniest comedies ever made. One of the best scenes of the film is the walk-off. This involved Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson’s characters doing a catwalk-off. Of sorts. Can you remember who refereed it? The legend himself, David Bowie. It’s not the first time Bowie was in a movie – remember Labyrinth? But this time, he plays himself. And does it with all the cool swagger you would expect.
6. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Clueless (1995)
I can’t say that I was a massive fan of this teen comedy at the time. The plot revolves around Alicia Silverstone’s character giving her friend a makeover. The premise doesn’t sound like it lends itself to a cool band cameo. You’d be wrong, though. There’s a scene where the lead characters go watch a gig. The band that are playing are The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The Boston ska-punk legends are only on stage for a moment, but it’s a slick clip. It certainly brings the film up a level on the cool stakes.
7. Daft Punk – Tron: Legacy (2010)
This sequel to the original sci-fi classic is a cracking movie. The visuals and effects are stunning, as is the atmosphere of the film. The music to the film is also rather special. A futuristic and dystopian movie could only have one act doing the score, and that’s Daft Punk. It works a treat. The music is intertwined into the movie and becomes a part of it. The delicious electronica is the perfect complement to the visuals. The French electronic masters also have a cameo at the end of the movie. They’re spinning the decks in a blink-and-you-miss-it scene.
8. Aerosmith – Wayne’s World (1993)
We’ve already had an appearance from the first film further up our list, and the second doesn’t disappoint either. The plot revolves around Wayne and Garth putting on their own music festival. Book them and they will come, is the advice given. And they certainly did. The headline band for the festival were none other than Aerosmith themselves. They do a sterling effort on stage as performers. And Steven Tyler also shows that he can handle his own on the acting front too.
9. Reel Big Fish – BASEketball (1998)
Trey Parker and Matt Stone star in this bizarre and hilarious sports comedy. Written by the king of spoof David Zucker, it’s become a cult classic. The soundtrack heavily features ska-punkers Reel Big Fish. They do a brilliant rendition of A-HA’s Take on Me, which they also perform in the movie. The band are the entertainment at the stadium where Parker and Stone are competing. You can tell by the footage that the band are clearly enjoying themselves. They add a touch more fun to an already hugely funny film.
That’s our list of nine bands who played themselves in movies. Did we miss any of your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out our list of actors in bands HERE.
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