5 Great Musical Scores for 5 Disappointing Movies

A lot of work goes into movies, even bad ones. It seems that so often some great artist or craftsman pours himself (or herself) into his work, only to have it buried under a crappy movie that nobody cares about.

Today’s unsung heroes are the composers who wrote brilliant, snazzy, or just plain fun scores for movies that didn’t deserve them.

(And just so you know, I haven’t seen even a single minute of Cutthroat Island, so I can’t count that one.)

Horton Hears a Who

Being a fan of Dr. Seuss, movies, and storytelling in general, I was rather frustrated by the recent adaptation of Horton Hears a Who. The people behind this project somehow managed to make Dr. Seuss less subtle and more political — two things I scarcely dreamed were possible. But no, they managed to take some rather inspired visual design and a crystal-clear narrative and muck up the proceedings with uninspired hysterics and typical animated-movie nonsense.

At least the music is good, eh? John Powell’s on hand to lend his talents to a faltering narrative. He doesn’t manage to save it, of course, but I’ll be darned if he doesn’t produce some fun music along the way.

Sample Track:

Sample Movie Quote:
“So Jojo, what’s uh, what’s shakin’? What’s happenin’? What’s the word?”

Van Helsing

Truth be told, I find this movie to be good clean fun, even if it is rather, uh, stupid. For me, a lively supporting cast helps bolster an overwrought narrative, dull main characters, and dodgy special effects. Even so, you’re left with the problem of a horror adventure mashup that contains very little horror and relatively pedestrian adventure (at least a lot of the time).

Naturally, this is where Alan Silvestri’s booming score does a lot of heavy lifting. He comes in hot, laying down one memorable theme after another. From the bombastic opening at Dracula’s castle, to the insanely cool “Journey to Transylvania” theme, to the serene-yet-creepy ballroom cue, Silvestri plugs a good many holes on this sinking ship.

Sample Track:

Sample Movie Quote:
“Why does it smell like wet dog in here?”

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Ha! Just kidding; this movie rocks.

X-Men: The Last Stand

The X-Men movies stood among the very first to kick off the new wave of successful comic book adaptations. Their smart plotting, realistic tone, and cool style set the stage for a genre renaissance that still shows no signs of slowing down. The third movie in the series, X-Men: The Last Stand, took all that goodwill and — ugh. No. I don’t even want to talk about it. Screw this movie.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, though. John Powell’s score (oh look, there he is again) is one of the few things deeply RIGHT about this troubling film. His Phoenix theme is something to behold, and the cues he pulls out for the X-Men, Angel, and the end credits don’t slouch, either. Top it off with some huge choral pieces in the climax, and you’ve got one of the best superhero movie scores to date — accompanying one of the absolute worst superhero movies ever made. Life isn’t fair.

Sample Track:

Sample Movie Quote:
“Oh. I get it. Your girlfriend. I figured she’d want the cure. She’s pathetic.”


Really, the film adaptation of Eragon never stood a chance. Christopher Paolini’s novel blatantly pilfered material from pop fantasy mainstays like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, gussying it up with a bunch of shallow fan-fiction cliches. Hey, it worked for Avatar, right? Guys?

Patrick Doyle, hot off the series-best Goblet of Fire, does the most for this misguided adventure tale. His main theme is one of the great “soaring” pieces of recent year; it’s just as inspiring as anything from the somewhat kindred spirit How to Train Your Dragon.

Sample Track:

Sample Movie Quote:
“I suffer without my stone. Do not prolong my suffering.”

The Da Vinci Code

As with Eragon, the source material really prohibits this movie from being all that good. Unfortunately, The Da Vinci Code enjoys a great deal more popularity than Eragon, so some of you are probably mad at me now. But I think we can all agree, book fans or not, that the movie really wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Alternating between way too fast and make-it-stop slow, this hyped-up thriller was DOA. (Apparently the extended version is somewhat improved, but the theatrical is the one with the original score anyway.)

The music, on the other hand, is straight incredible. For me, the lack of an Oscar nomination for this score is still one of the darkest black marks on the Academy’s history. It’s truly sublime stuff from fan-favorite Hans Zimmer. He imbues the music with tortured history, haunting discoveries, and stunning revelations.

Basically, everything the movie lacked.

Sample Track:

Sample Movie Quote:
“Why is it divine or human? Can’t human be divine?”

So what about it, guys and girls? Any great tunes stuck behind drab movies that need a little recognition? Sound off below.

  • Michael Bluth

    Hans Zimmer is awesome. His work on the Nolan Batman films truly was one of the highlights of an unforgettable trilogy. And let’s not forget he won his Oscar for The Lion King. People might remember Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “The Circle of Life” but Hans Zimmer made an almost perfect score for this movie.

  • KnowItAll

    When I read the title, “Suspiria” was the first thing that came to mind. Surprised not to find it on this list.

  • monstrinho

    SuckerPunch as one of the best soundtracks for one of the worst movies ever.

    Tron Legacy is a pretty amazing soundtrack for a mediocre film as well.

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    I’ve always thought John Barry’s work on THE BLACK HOLE was far better than the film deserved (thanks for that, Disney); the central problem with Barry is that so much of what he wrote was a bit repetitive. Same thing with James Horner.

    BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS had a pretty good soundtrack, though it’s a bit dated for the time. Nice stirring main title.

    ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK had a nice, lean, synthetic sound that worked.

    I could talk genre soundtracks all day. Better stop now.

  • Armorcladinosor

    Maybe it’s just my love for Clint Mansell, but The Fountain (a movie that I actually like, but a lot of people hate) has a terrific musical score.

  • Todd X

    I was thinking about some older flicks, like Pussycat Pussycat I Love You and Bedazzled. Two great soundtracks from unlikable movies. Heck there are a ton of great soundtracks from forties through the eighties that seemed to cobble a story just to have a soundtrack before CDs, video, and the internet changed music accessibility. Beat Street is an awesome soundtrack but the movie reminds me of a high school drama club production..

  • james

    most people hate shyamalan movies, but the scores are out of this world.

    the village & the lady in the water, particularly.

  • BZA

    # Armorcladinosor – agree. movie + music are awesome.

  • Stxtfr

    I agree with #monstrinho on Tron Legacy having a supremely awesome soundtrack for a not so supremely awesome movie

  • Bethany

    I personally really love the Road to El Dorado but not many others do. The score is amazing though. Hans Zimmer and John Powell (I really love that guy). Here’s a great sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObPzP7YUnuA

  • KHysiek

    You should add Tron Legacy, this is my definition of perfect musical score and crappy movie.