6 Movie Soundtracks That Put the Actual Movie to Shame

I bought a lot of soundtracks in the 1990s. My two favorite CDs with pictures of movies on them were The Jerky Boys and Mortal Kombat, because 12-year-old Tom had an odd fascination with techno music and Collective Soul. While those two feature films and the albums they spawned have long since fallen victim to the amnesiac nature of pop culture, there are a handful of mediocre-to-terrible '90s movies that are only remembered fondly (or remembered at all) because they had hugely popular soundtracks.

#6. Dangerous Minds

Hollywood Pictures

Dangerous Minds was based on a relatively light-hearted memoir that Hollywood snatched up and beat with a tears-and-action stick until one of the characters died for maximum dramatic potential. Michelle Pfeiffer plays a no-nonsense former Marine turned English teacher, and you can tell she doesn't take any sass by the way she stands around crossing her arms in a leather jacket all the time.

Hollywood Pictures via YouTube
And by her proficiency in leather jacket karate.

Michelle tries to teach a bunch of teenage rap fans in the mid-'90s about poetry by using Bob Dylan as her talking point, instead of, say, Tupac, because apparently people stopped writing song lyrics in the 1960s and she really only wants to reach out to these kids if she can do so without familiarizing herself with their interests on even a superficial level. It's like Stand and Deliver if Edward James Olmos tried to connect with Lou Diamond Phillips by speaking to him in nothing but quotes from the movie Grease.

Hollywood Pictures via YouTube
"'Shoot a homeboy.' This is how you cats jackjaw, right?"

Dangerous Minds was a big commercial hit but was almost universally derided by critics for taking an uplifting story about inner city kids and turning it into a movie about a bunch of improbably attractive juvenile assholes and their patronizing asshole teacher.

The Soundtrack:

The Dangerous Minds soundtrack album went triple platinum thanks to "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio, and almost 20 years later we still know all the words to that goddamn song. It was everywhere -- the video was in constant rotation on MTV, and it got played twice an hour on literally every radio station. I'm pretty sure Billy Graham's radio ministries were taking breaks to spin that jam. Everyone walking the planet in 1995 loved "Gangsta's Paradise."

MCA Records/Hollywood Pictures via YouTube
Although I am convinced the video's popularity had more to do with L.V.'s impassioned sweaty goldfish face.

The song went on to sell over 5 million copies worldwide, earning Coolio a Grammy and a permanent place on the back of a Trivial Pursuit card.

MCA Records/Hollywood Pictures via YouTube
And a rare immunity to leather jacket karate.

Coolio tried to repeat this success two years later with "C U When U Get There" on the Nothing to Lose soundtrack, but that paradisiacal gangsta lightning bolt would only be trapped inside a bottle one time. "C U" still went gold, but it was arguably overshadowed by the late 1990s' fascination with writing terrible lyrics to Pachelbel's "Canon in D Major" (see also "Graduation" by Vitamin C) and never reached the heights of "Gangsta's Paradise." Within that same year, Coolio also hosted an art deco motorcycle race for Alicia Silverstone in Batman and Robin and issued a bitter public denouncement of Weird Al Yankovic, which is something only monsters do.

MCA Records/Hollywood Pictures via YouTube

#5. Batman Forever

Warner Bros.

Batman Forever was a big financial success, and the critical response at the time of its release was evenly divided among people who liked campy ridiculous nonsense and people who liked good movies. But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who will defend Batman Forever nowadays, particularly in the wake of Batman and Robin, when Joel Schumacher definitively proved that, unlike Ben Affleck or Zack Snyder, he really was trying to make Batman as stupid as he possibly could.

Warner Bros.
Exhibit A.

The Soundtrack:

However, everyone, without exception, loves the Batman Forever soundtrack, because of these four words: "Kiss from a Rose."

Warner Bros./Atlantic Records via YouTube
Four sexy words.

Seal's magnum opus, the song that most people aged 25 to 40 know every single word to, was first unleashed on the world at large as a single off of the Batman Forever soundtrack. I have no idea what schizophrenic marketing genius assembled this record (it contains songs by PJ Harvey, the Offspring, and Brandy, three grossly disparate entities apparently united by their common passion for Batman), or who thought the best way to promote their retooled superhero franchise was to take a British R&B vocalist with a more prominent facial scar than the one Tommy Lee Jones wears in the fucking movie and have him sing a love ballad in front of the Bat signal with his shirt blowing around like a wailing poltergeist.

Warner Bros./Atlantic Records via YouTube

Whoever it was, that person hit a home run of pure victory, because "Kiss from a Rose" was a goddamned monster. The next time you have a group of friends gathered at your house, just start playing "Kiss from a Rose" without preamble or context and try to count the frowns. You can't, because there won't be any. (If by some freak occurrence someone does make a sad fart-crease with their face, kick them the hell out of your house, because that person is likely a robot.) That song won Seal three Grammys, millions of dollars, and Heidi Klum (although he eventually had to give Heidi Klum back, because he's apparently kind of an asshole).

Warner Bros./Atlantic Records via YouTube
"Don't cry, Seal. We'll let you keep the shirt."

Batman Forever: Original Music from the Electrifying Motion Picture Masterpiece also has "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2, a much less ubiquitous song that still managed to sell enough copies to be certified gold. That's two No. 1 singles on one soundtrack, and it was for a Batman movie that most Batman fans prefer to pretend never existed.

#4. Space Jam

Warner Bros.

Space Jam is one of those rare movies that manage to be utterly psychotic both on paper and in execution. There were no "Oh, it'll make sense once you see the finished product" conversations held about Space Jam. The initial pitch was never distilled into anything more coherent than "Michael Jordan teams up with a bunch of licensed cartoon characters to defeat aliens at basketball" and was only ever revised to include the addendum "And also Bill Murray is in it, as Bill Murray." In fairness, Michael Jordan was little more than a licensed character himself at this point in his career, so most of us weren't that surprised to see him in a 90-minute commercial with Bugs Bunny.

Warner Bros. via YouTube
"OK, everybody's wearing their Hanes now, right?"

Also, there's an interesting Space Jam dichotomy I have noticed among my peers -- everyone I know either watched it once and then forgot about it or has an aggressive fondness for the movie that borders on combative (I'm not naming any names, but if you go to the search bar in the upper right hand corner of the site and type in "space jam," you will notice that three quarters of the results were written by Dan O'Brien).

Warner Bros. via YouTube
This is probably what it looked like when Michael tried to cash his Washington Wizards paycheck.

The Soundtrack:

I am convinced the reason this fondness exists is because of the Space Jam soundtrack.

Warner Sunset/Atlantic Records
Released in a time when Jay-Z got second-to-last billing right before Bugs Bunny.

Think about it -- when you hear someone say something positive about Space Jam, the conversation usually goes something like this:

PERSON ONE: Hey look. Space Jam is on television, or is otherwise being referenced in some immediate way.

PERSON TWO: Oh, I love Space Jam!

PERSON TWO begins singing R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly," or alternately "Space Jam" by the Quad City DJ's.

That soundtrack went platinum six goddamned times. It was like a lightning rod for successful '90s soundtrack contributors -- Seal recorded a respectable cover of a terrible Steve Miller Band song, and Coolio lent his voice to two different tracks (see "trying desperately to replicate 'Gangsta's Paradise,'" above). More importantly, it turned R. Kelly into a worldwide star, throwing wide the doors of possibility for his face-pissing antics and earning him three Grammy awards, which he has probably also peed on.

Warner Sunset/Atlantic Records via YouTube
Presumably while making airplane arms.

If Space Jam hadn't given us all those songs we still enjoy singing, nobody would be talking about Space Jam anymore, and R. Kelly could never have released a 33-chapter music video about hiding from a cuckolded husband in a closet full of his own sex mist.

Warner Sunset/Atlantic Records via YouTube
But he'd still have his airplane arms. Nobody can take those from him.

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Tom Reimann

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