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

    I Am Sam (2001)


    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

    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”

    Wicker Park (2004)


    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

    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”

    Open Season (2006)


    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

    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)”