8 quite terrible movies completely outshone by their brilliant songs

Luke Stevenson is one of the hosts of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast. He is only serious about Bee Movie.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades Freed
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades Freed

Movies, like fruit, football stadium hot chocolates and the warm embrace of a loved one, can be comforting and wonderful when good, but disappointing and lingering for too long when they are bad. Outside of pestilence and dogs, there isn’t much that’s worse in this world than a bad movie, or just a disappointing movie if you’ve carved out three hours of a day and remortgaged your house seven times to buy a ticket.

There are some movies, though, which can disarm you, like an Expelliarmus spell or a relatively out of place Harry Potter reference. This disarming comes through their command of excellent songs that far outshine the movie you are watching.

Here are some examples of movies completely outshone by the songs they feature.


‘For You’ – Fifty Shades Freed

Any song from the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise would have fit nicely in this list. It’s a great example of how you can make utterly dire movies but give them uplifting numbers from some of the best pop acts of the decade – Ellie Goulding, The Weekend, Taylor Swift and The Betrayer.

The best, however, is the most recent one from Rita Ora – who appears in the franchise in a performance so forgettable that she must be ecstatic that this song is a banger – and general heartthrob and Girls Aloud botherer Liam Payne.

Such is the impact of this song that, when it plays over Fifty Shades Freed‘s final montage sequence, where you are asked to look back joyfully on the memories this couple has shared, it is almost impactful enough to inject some life and feeling. After all, this is just a franchise 90% of people only watched because they thought it might be a good excuse to see a butt plug without their internet service provider knowing about it.


‘Kiss Me’ – She’s All That

You will soon discover that the rules of the premise that this listicle is built on are on thinner ground than this movie’s assurances that its main female character isn’t actually stunningly beautiful. Yes, ‘Kiss Me’ was a single long before She’s All That, and yes, this song also features prominently in another 90s movie where they played clips from that movie over the same video they did for She’s All That, but it still counts because ‘Kiss Me’ is one of the top five songs ever written and She’s All That is an utter monstrosity that I think people should be more aware of.

This song features prominently in the transformation scene, where our ramshackle female lead – who is considered ugly because she wears overalls and glasses, whereas in this decade she’d be an Instagram influencer – comes down the stairs dressed in all of the finery you can imagine. It’s a wonderfully crap film that uses a song which is just wonderful. Easy entry on the list.


‘Crash’ – Mr Bean’s Holiday

Matt Willis is, of course, best known for his work bringing back the spirit of The Beatles in 00s punk-rock sensation Busted, but he lent his immense vocal talents to this – a truly, atrociously not good Mr Bean movie.

Mr Bean’s Holiday is poor and bizarre in equal measure. It was made so far after Bean-mania (was that a thing? I was a child) that it just feels odd to witness, and it lacks humour in every moment. However, ‘Crash’ is a perfectly-spun song for a movie about mishaps, anarchy and – errmm – hilarity. In fact, the music video featuring Mr Bean might just be the best thing about it.


‘Can’t Fight The Moonlight’ – Coyote Ugly

It’s a stretch really to consider Coyote Ugly a poor movie. It’s actually one of the past 50 years’ most defining critiques of the American Dream. A small-town girl leaves her small-town to go live in a big-town where things aren’t as she hoped and she ends up dancing on tables for tips – and Tyra Banks is there.

However, no amount of sex with Adam Garcia can successfully overshadow what is this movie’s great final number. For people watching at a later date, it’s made all the better because you’re having to search for a time where LeAnn Rimes was a big and influential enough star to make an aspiring songwriter excited that she would sing her song.


‘Footloose’ – Footloose

The song ‘Footloose’ from the movie Footloose is a film website’s SEO dream, but also a good example of how a great song to dance to is almost ruined by very bad dancing. Footloose isn’t a bad film, but can anyone say they prefer the film to the feeling of this song coming on the radio? Or to the feeling when you set your SEO keyword as Footloose and you’ve said it six times in less than 200 words? Magic.


‘Holding Out For A Hero’ – Footloose

You’ve got me. This whole listicle is a smokescreen for a deep-state plot to undermine the legacy of Footloose.

Realistically though, ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ is a song so good that it can make any moment impactful. Its use in a short-lived BBC show about celebrities doing gymnastics gave me goosebumps. In Footloose, it’s used while two teenagers drive tractors at one another. Now I grew up in the countryside, that’s not what people do. Is there a more egregiously poor use of a song this good?


‘Heathens’ – Suicide Squad

Ah yes, we do have a more egregiously poor use of a good song in a movie. In all fairness, any song in Suicide Squad could make this list because the film is an abominable mess that rams in semi-edgy songs so ham-fistedly they might as well have added a scene where Professor Pyg was the film’s DJ. That is both a pig/ham joke and a deeply bad DC villain reference. I’m pointing it out so you can shower me with praise for how smart and talented I am.

‘Heathens’ outstrips the rest though because 21 Pilots had to suffer the ignominy of having written this song, apparently, for the movie and had a music video set in the prison where the movie starts. The song was, by many standards, a smash, while the movie was, by any standard of decency, complete rubbish.


‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ – Trolls

Trolls is a lovable, if problematic, animated feature which succeeds because it doesn’t seem to hate your children as much as other animated movies released in the last few years. I’m looking at you, Emoji Movie.

However, its Oscar-nominated – yes, really – main song became the feel-good song of the summer, brought Justin Timberlake back to pop music before he bloody went and ruined it again and reminded us all what it was like to be happy without feeling the need to eat and digest colourful, pocket-sized creatures.


Do you agree with this list? Can you think of any other examples of great songs that shine in bad movies? Let me know in the comments section.

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