The Courier: 30 days of film - day 8

Our writers share movies in which the soundtrack was better than the film itself.

multiple writers
22nd April 2020
image credit: youtube
For day eight of the challenge, our writers offer their picks of movies in which the soundtrack was better than the film itself.

Suicide Squad (2016)

The film Suicide Squad wasn't all bad, there were some great scenes (mainly involving Harley Quinn!), however, the soundtrack definitely beats the film itself.

From 'Gangsta' to 'Sucker For Pain', 'Purple Lamborghini' to 'Heathens', and great artists like Twenty One Pilots, Imagine Dragons, Kehlani and Panic! At the Disco. For a film that the critics tore to pieces, and didn't get rated very highly the soundtrack did not disappoint. The soundtrack received a lot more recognition than the film itself, with it going on to have nominations in 2017 for Grammy Award for Best Compilation Soundtrack, Billboard Music Award for Top Soundtrack and American Music Award for Favorite Soundtrack. Then winning the Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Soundtrack.

When I saw the film I did enjoy it the first time, however, the more you watch it the more you realise how bad the storyline is and the disappointment with the characters (again, except Harley Quinn!). So, this is one of those films where people only remember it for the great soundtrack and not the amazing plot and character development. I've listened to the soundtrack many more times than the film and it never disappoints quite as much as the film does.

Amy Harris

Baby Driver (2017)

Music rules this Edgar Wright film: it’s what drives it forward. I enjoyed this film, but it’s the eclectic music that I enjoyed more. The driving scenes that were put to- no, almost choreographed to music were the most memorable part of this film, the roaring of the engines providing a backtrack to what turned out to be banger after banger. Baby, our protagonist, is a get-away driver who after developing tinnitus plays music 24/7. The music he plays varies from The Beach Boys to Blur and everything in-between, the best of the best. The music provides rhythm and flow to this film making it one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time.

Eve Ducker

Boyhood (2014)

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this film (I cried most of the way through), but past the first hour or so it just didn’t have the impact on me I was expecting as someone who adores coming-of-age films and lives for nostalgia, and notably whose favourite album is Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs (of which not one but two songs are featured).

That’s where the soundtrack comes in: the songs from Boyhood have stayed with me and become a part of my life more than the slightly disappointing film itself, evoking this sense of youth and memory in a more sustaining and personal way. I’m thinking particularly of 'I’ll Be Around' by Yo La Tengo and 'Hero' by Family of the Year, the perfect generically wistful looking-out-of-the-bus-window, “yes I’m an indie kid” anthems.

The vague mix of universality and straight white American boy personal story that Boyhood captured left me feeling unsure of my relationship to it, but now with my own slightly cliché memories soundtracked by those songs, it has allowed the feelings that I think the film was aiming for to live on separately in a more meaningful context.

Leonie Bellini

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

In 2017 we got the controversial and problematic Call Me by Your Name. It’s definitely a slow burn making it seem a lot longer than its two-hour 12-minute runtime. The acting is impeccable with Timothee Chalamet’s best performance to date and the cinematography makes the watch visually stunning, even if it is a bit boring. Call Me by Your Name is by no means a bad film, it’s great in fact, but I feel there are some shortcomings, like its problematic themes and how it drags at times.

The soundtrack, however? Brilliant. The music perfectly captures the endless 1983 Italian Summer the film is set in with the warm and minimalistic songs played throughout. Deservedly, the film got a nomination for the best original song with 'Mystery of Love' by Sufjan Stevens. It’s only right that the visual brilliance of the film can only be matched by the excellently constructed soundtrack. I’m not a fan of this film but I definitely wouldn’t say no to sitting in the sun listening to its songs. Just please, please keep any peaches away from me.

George Bell

I want to start day 8 off by saying I do not like Timothee Chalamet - there's something about his persona that bugs me. That doesn't mean he isn't a brilliant actor because he truly is - his role in Little Women had me going crazy and yet, I still don't like him. Therefore, Call Me by Your Name, a film in which he is one of the main roles was never going to be a favourite of mine.

Then there's the problematic aspects of the film - one being the clear age difference between Oliver and Elio. Yes, I know there are heterosexual couples who have similar age couples - Dirty Dancing, Casablanca... But for me, this film made it a level that was extremely uncomfortable. That, alongside the sheer length of this film in which NOTHING happens makes Call Me by Your Name not one of my favourite films ever.

Despite this, I can appreciate the beautiful picturesque aesthetic and soundtrack of the film. In particular, the soundtrack helps to create the clear Italian summer atmosphere the film longs to present. While the little dialogue in this film will send you into a snooze, it does increase your appreciation for the soundtrack. For example, the soundtrack features 80s pop songs alongside delicate classical melodies. One that stands out for me the most is at the end of the movie where we see Elio crying, a scene that is well-discussed when you mention this film. The song that is gently playing in the background ('Vision of Gideon') will make you cry if Elio doesn't.

All of the music in Call Me by Your Name are about the highs and lows of love — the kind of music a teenager would listen to on a lonely night when they need a little cry. It's such an important part of this film that it almost becomes a character itself and for the soundtrack alone, I do appreciate Call Me by Your Name.

Lucy Lillystone

La La Land (2016)

La La Land was one of those films that really got my hopes up, from its great critical acclaim and box office reviews to the beautiful theatrical release poster, only to then crush these hopes when I actually watched the film.

Maybe it's my own fault. As a rule, I don't like musicals very much - or at least when they're on screen and not on stage, and I somehow had failed to realise prior to watching La La Land that it was actually a musical too. This meant that, as soon as I got into the first scene, I realised my mistake and was instantly disappointed. The film, however, had many opportunities to redeem itself throughout - but it didn't.

The film somehow really didn't hit the stop for me. Maybe the plot was lacking, maybe I just don't understand the hype around Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but I think that it was most likely the sheer scale of the buzz created around the film. I expected perfection, and I was disappointed. That's not to say that the film was awful, but after hearing so much about it my hopes were perhaps ungodly high. What I do admit, however, is that the soundtrack is great. Musical films face a difficult balancing act - do they prioritise the musical or the cinematic elements? - and I feel like here, while the soundtrack is great, the film and plot itself just don't quite hit the spot.

Grace Dean

Good Time (2017)

To say I prefer the soundtrack of Good Time to the film itself would be little much; Good Time is one of my favourite films, one that I’ve written about previously for The Courier. I think a great soundtrack elevates a film, so it’s very rare to find music that is better than the full package. 

The Safdie Brothers’ 2017 Good Time is a high energy and claustrophobic crime thriller about a morally grey Nick Nikas (Robert Pattinson) who must make money to bail his developmentally disabled brother from jail after a botched bank robbery. Much like last year’s Uncut Gems, Good Time is an extremely stressful journey through the criminal underworld of New York. 

This stress and energy, a Safdie trademark, is owed in no small part to the frantic, almost psychedelic electronica of Daniel Lopatin, aka. Oneohtrix Point Never. Drawing on prog influences such as Tangerine Dream but encouraged to make it sound ‘more fucked up’ by the directors, Lopatin created a dense and erratic soundscape that sits tightly with the neon-tinted visuals. A stand-out is the closer, featuring of all things a vocal appearance from Iggy Pop on the track 'The Pure and the Damned', an emotionally fitting underscore to the final scenes of the film. 

Tom Leach

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 (2017)

I had quite a few on my mind for this (Bohemian Rhapsody, Frozen 1 & 2, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules and Camp Rock) but the film that disappointed me the most is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

I was so excited for this film to be released because the original GOTG is my favourite Marvel film (could be different in retrospect, but certainly was at the time of its sequel's release) and I was so let down. The plot, although it has some nice messages about complicated familial relationships, is weak. I hate it except for one of the final scenes of the movie. I hate what they did to the characters (Drax is super annoying in this one, and everyone else's obnoxiousness seems to be turned up a notch too) and "I am Groot" gets extremely repetitive. Actually, I hate everything that Disney has done to the characterisation of the Guardians since the first film, because I hated Peter Quill more after Infinity War. Instead of well-timed humour, GOTG2 turned into 'who can say the best one-liner?' and when every line turns into a bad punchline, it quickly loses the charm that the first film had.

The soundtrack, however, slaps. 'Mr Blue Sky' and 'The Chain' on the same soundtrack? Sign me up. However, even then, the first soundtrack was better. I almost feel like (well, it definitely is to be fair) it's just a gimmick so Marvel can make some extra cash alongside the film. I mean, that's what made the first film so iconic- it wasn't the plot as such, but the soundtrack that left the longest lasting impression. So, when they came to making this soundtrack they had a lot of pressure. It's still great, but just another reminder that this film, and its soundtrack, just aren't as good as the first. It was always going to be hard to top 'Moonage Daydream' and 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough', to be fair.

Sophie Hicks

Soundtracks can often make or break a film, right? So Marvel were tasked not only with going about creating a sequel to Guardians of The Galaxy – but creating an equally banging soundtrack. Thank succeeded in the latter; the opening fight sequence to Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ is one of my favourite scenes ever, and George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’, as well as Cat Stevens ‘Father and Son’ have become firm favourites of mine. But the film was… well, it fell short.

Where was the character development? Sure, we all love the banter between Rocket and Quill but are they ever going to grow the hell up? And can Gamora and Quill just make a decision already? Geez. Baby Groot might be adorable but Guardians 2 just drags – it’s quicker (and more enjoyable) just to listen to the soundtrack. I’ll take the 4minute 30seconds of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ instead, thanks.  

Harriet Metcalfe

All images credit: IMDB

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