The '90s was by no means the worst decade in cinematic history, though some duds definitely made it to the screen. Waves of nostalgia glamorizing an era of Beanie Babies and bootcut jeans can be deceiving, but in reality, even some of the highest grossing movies of the '90s were pretty bad.
But even the worst '90s movies had one thing going for them: the now-almost-obsolete soundtrack. If you're old enough to have cognitive memories of the '90s, chances are you can remember soundtracks as physical albums - CDs or tapes that had a smattering of contemporary hits featured in a major motion picture. And a lot of these soundtracks from the '90s were better than the films themselves; in fact, some of the best '90s albums might just be compilations pulled together for films. After all, the sheer volume of great music from the decade made it easy to put together a decent mix.
Bad '90s movies with great soundtracks span genres. Remember Batman Forever? You might not, but you've definitely sung along to Seal's "Kiss From a Rose." And what about Spiceworld, and its bubbly pop score? These good soundtracks for bad movies prove that even the worst film has a redeemable quality - even if you have to close your eyes to find it.
- "Lovefool" by The Cardigans
- "#1 Crush" by Garbage
- "Local God" by Everclear
Baz Lurhmann's films aren't for everybody, but 1996's Romeo + Juliet might not have been for anybody. A retelling of Shakespeare's classic tale set in a post-modern Verona, Romeo + Juliet finds megastars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes inexplicable trapped in a terrible movie. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle faintly praised the film as, "A monumental disaster."
But in the ashes of this theatrical tire fire lies a soundtrack that is remarkably good, which is not uncommon of Luhrmann films. Radiohead, Everclear, and Garbage all show up, plus the classic '90s track "Lovefool" from the Cardigans is front and center.
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Paul Rudd, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Pete Postlethwaite, + more
Initial Release: 1996
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
#22 on The Best Movies of 1996
#26 on The Best Teen Romance Movies
- "Breath" by Pearl Jam
- "Birth Ritual" by Soundgarden
- "Waiting for Somebody" by Paul Westerberg
Cameron Crowe's 1992 film Singles, a cartoonish portrayal of the Seattle grunge scene, was big on interviews as obvious plot devices, and light on just about everything else. Described by the Baltimore Sun's Stephen Hunter as "infernally precious," Singles was not, however, without value - it had a great soundtrack.
All the big bands of the Pacific Northwest are here: Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, and even a solo Chris Cornell. It also gets bonus points for having two tracks from a post-Replacements Paul Westerberg.
Actors: Paul Giamatti, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda, + more
Initial Release: 1992
Directed by: Cameron Crowe
- "Kiss From a Rose" by Seal
- "Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me" by U2
- "Where Are You Now" by Brandy
Batman movies were pretty bad in the 1990s, and the worst might just be Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever. An otherwise solid cast is pretty much torpedoed by Val Kilmer's version of Bruce Wayne, and critics resoundingly panned the film. Luckily, all is not lost, as the soundtrack for this movie is way better than it has any right to be.
Actors: Nicole Kidman, Drew Barrymore, Jim Carrey, Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, + more
Initial Release: 1995
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
#40 on The Best Movies of 1995
- "Under Pressure" by David Bowie and Queen
- "Blister in the Sun" by Violent Femmes
- "Live & Let Die" by Guns N' Roses
1997's Grosse Pointe Blank has a really great cast: both Cusacks, Dan Aykroyd, Minnie Driver, and the excellent Alan Arkin. What is does not have is a coherent plotline. Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader politely called the film an "Unholy mess," and it's hard to disagree.
The soundtrack to Grosse Pointe Blank, however, is pretty great. With songs from the Clash, the Specials, David Bowie, and the Violent Femmes, it's incredibly short on filler - a quality it sadly does not share the film.
Actors: Dan Aykroyd, John Cusack, Hank Azaria, Jenna Elfman, Minnie Driver, + more
Initial Release: 1997
Directed by: George Armitage
#33 on The Best Movies of 1997