Top 10 Worst Movies Named After Songs

by Andrew Reed on June 16, 2015

in Top 10s

Welcome back to Part 3 of our series on the best and worst collaboration between music and movies. We recently covered the Top 10 Movies that Stole the Song and the Top 10 Songs that Overwhelmed the Movie. This edition was intended to be a lighthearted cautionary tale about one of Hollywood’s telltale failings, but as you will see it is not for the faint of heart.

Worst-Movies-Named After-Songs-List

As excited as we all get for new movies, there are many ways in which a new release can warrant skepticism. For instance, in Trey’s review of The D Train, he said to beware of films with “bankable stars that received little to no promotion.” Another warning sign would be any film not screened for critics. Or those sequels inexplicably missing the lead actors from the earlier films. Or anything starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. I’m sure you have your own rules which guide your viewing principles. One that always rings alarm bells is when the studios can’t think of a decent title for their film, so they just name it after a hit song. Why do I call this a telltale failing? Because there are hundreds of examples with scant few exceptions. Narrowing this list down to just 10 was torture. I feel artistically corrupt and a wee bit depressed. But I do hope you enjoy it and add your own (least) favorites in the comments.

Note – there are spoilers all over the place here, but to be fair, these movies were spoiled as soon as they were made.

10. Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

The Song: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most popular song was made in response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man.” It is without question the most ubiquitous southern rock song ever made.

The Movie: After establishing herself as a New York City socialite, Reese Witherspoon goes back home to Alabama because she still has a husband there she never divorced. Later, her smug fiancé (Patrick Dempsey) follows her to find out what’s taking so darn long. After the brief return to her roots, she ends up staying with the original husband after all. I honestly can’t remember more of the details aside from the fact that this was one of the most boring movies I’ve seen in recent years.

The Connection: The term “Sweet Home Alabama” is meaningless without the song. If the song were never made, this movie probably would have been called “Free Bird.” The song is on the soundtrack, but they couldn’t even get the original Skynyrd version.

The Critical Comment: Robert Gonsalves reacted this way: “Watching Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama is like looking at a daisy floating in a toilet: She’s the best thing in it, but you wonder what she’s doing there.”

9. Save the Last Dance (2001)

The Song: The Drifters were one of the most popular acts in the country in the late 1950s and early 1960s. “Save the Last Dance for Me” was the title track of their third release and one of their biggest hits. Written by wheelchair-bound Doc Pomus for his wife, it may well be The Drifters’ best song, which is saying something.

The Movie: Julia Stiles moves to a rough part of Chicago where she encounters African Americans. She dances with them, dates one, and they all sort out their differences. There’s a lot of dancing and fighting. Then she gets into a prestigious school of dance. I’m sorry I can’t recall more details for you, but it’s simply because I have tried my best to forget them. Since Julia Stiles is involved, you already know the acting is terrible. Also, the film pretends it’s trying to say something, but has nothing at its core. There are very few scenes where anything important happens.

The Connection: The only way this title makes any sense at all is if they’re referencing the song. There’s nothing in the movie about saving dances or the last dance. I do think they should have called this “Dirty Dancing 3: Dancing in the Streets.” It still would have been named after a song, and not made any damn sense, but at least people would have known what to expect, a horrible movie.

The Critical Comment:  From Eugene Novikov: “It’s not courageous enough to deviate from the teen movie formula more than a smidgeon.”

8. Fools Rush In (1997)

The Song: You’ve likely heard of Elvis Presley. He’s rather famous. And this is one of his most famous songs. Except its title is technically “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

The Movie: I get all those Matthew Perry movies from the height of his Chandler Bing era mixed up. This is the one where he marries Salma Hayek after a one night stand results in pregnancy. Not the one where he pretends to be gay, and not the one where he is Bruce Willis’ next door neighbor. Unfortunately, because those all seem like one big lousy movie to me, I can’t remember too many specific things about this one. It’s something about how Hayek’s family gets really mad at her for marrying a gringo, especially since it was done so hastily.

The Connection: What a dumb name for a movie. The Elvis song in question is on the soundtrack as well as two of his other big hits. You’ll want to avoid this movie. Avoid those other Chandler Bing pictures as well.

The Critical Comment: Mick LaSalle was not impressed: “Its plot is a catalog of unpleasantness. Its characters are repellent. The idea of anyone seeing this movie and feeling amorous afterward makes me nervous”

7. Bye Bye Love (1995)

The Song: The Everly Brothers became household names thanks to this sweetly melancholic pop tune about being on the wrong end of a breakup making you feel so badly you want to cry and furthermore feeling like dying. Perhaps it was the dichotomy of those perfect Everly harmonies vs the blow of such sad news that made this such a lasting hit. In fact, Rolling Stone named it the 210th best song ever.

The Movie: The film presents itself as divorce comedy focusing on the breakups of various Los Angeles families from the perspective of the men going through the divorces. A divorce comedy! What could be better? How about if the whole film was underwritten by McDonald’s in exchange for heavy product placement? To take it one step further, the most featured main character is portrayed by Paul Riser.

The Connection: There are three Everly Brothers songs on the soundtrack, including the title. Also, just to lay it on even thicker, they also included a version by The Proclaimers.

The Critical Comment: Time Out’s official blurb says “It’s hard to be much concerned about these plastic people and their travails.”

6. Material Girls (2006)

The Song: One of the big hits from her second album, “Material Girl” played a big role in Madonna’s ascendance to the top of the pop music world.

The Movie: The rich and famous Duff sisters stretch their acting chops to play rich and famous sisters who are heiresses to a cosmetics company magnate. When their father dies, they are visited by some contrived legal problems which cause the girls to lose their money and move in with their housekeeper. Then they investigate the problems and resolve them so they can be rich again.

The Connection: In an attempt at cross-marketing, Hilary Duff recorded a cover for the soundtrack. At press time, she has not yet ascended to the top of the pop music world.

The Critical Comment: Anton Bitel did not enjoy himself one bit: “Forced to endure such casually offensive nonsense, the viewer ends up slumming it far more than the duff protagonists.”

5. Soul Man (1986)

The Song: Sam and Dave’s biggest hit, the tune was also borrowed by The Blues Brothers and used in their movie. It has energy and spirit, and I know you love it because everybody does. Sing it at your next karaoke party, why don’t you?

The Movie: C Thomas Howell has the grades to get into Harvard Law School, but not the cash. He finds a scholarship available for African American students, puts on a bad wig, overdoses on tanning pills, and manages to win the scholarship under false pretenses. But get this: he’s really bad at basketball! Will anyone discover his ruse? He falls for Rae Dawn Chong, and eventually gets in trouble because people realize he is actually white. The truly sad thing is that James Earl Jones appears in a picture attempting to bring back blackface as a viable comedic premise. Howell and Chong later married in real life, so at least something good came of this.

The Connection: If they’re not referencing the song, then the title of the movie is even more racist than its stupid jokes. But hey, good news! The song is on the soundtrack, but for some reason they used a new version performed by Sam Moore, but with Lou Reed instead of Dave Prater. That’s right; they even found a way to whitewash the title song here.

The Critical Comment: Rita Kempley summed up the plot thusly: “Of course, simply everyone is completely bamboozled by our hero’s disguise, even though he now looks like a Ken doll with liver disease.”

4. Happy Together (1989)

The Song: Far and away the biggest hit for The Turtles, junior high kids all across the country have performed this tune on talent night since it was released in 1967.

The Movie: Due to a glitch in the campus housing assignments, aspiring writer and incoming freshman Patrick Dempsey is assigned to room with a boisterous female played by Helen Slater. She’s a theater major and acts as silly and outlandish as possible – partly to needle Dempsey. Dempsey is irate at the situation, particularly when Slater brings Brad Pitt (in his big screen debut) home to spend the night. Eventually, they find a way to manage, then find a way to screw, then find a way to fall in love. One could say they even become happy together. Ugh, is this an awful film. And worse yet, it is not even one of those movies so-bad-it’s-funny because its badness is so mundane.

The Connection: The song is on the soundtrack and ham-fistedly shoved into the viewer’s ears during a ridiculous montage.

The Critical Comment: Searching high and low on the internet revealed scant few critics who have seen it (lucky them), but Entertainment Weekly provided the following: “Happy Together is Breakfast at Tiffany’s reconstituted for mall brats —it’s Holly Go-Lite.”

3. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986)

The Song: Huge hit for the Rolling Stones. You know it. It’s a gasgasgas.

The Movie: While working as a technical analyst at a big bank, Whoopi Goldberg randomly stumbles onto a British secret agent in need via the bank’s online system. The agent is in big trouble, embedded with the KGB, and desperately in need of help. Then there is a long, convoluted plot involving various spies and computers and all kinds of other 1980s era nonsense. In the end, as you can well guess, Whoopi saves the day and returns to her job at the bank. Then everybody applauds for some reason.

The Connection: Not only is the song on the soundtrack, it is a major plot point as the secret agent tests Goldberg by using the song as a clue which she must decipher in order to figure out what is going on. Imagine if they couldn’t have gotten the right to the song… Actually never mind. It’s likely they got the rights before they sat down to write the script.

The Critical Comment: Despite loving Whoopi, Roger Ebert felt let down:  “What’s surprising about Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which had no fewer than four screenplay writers, is that anybody was interested enough in this material to even write it in the first place.”

2. Addicted To Love (1997)

The Song: Robert Palmer enjoyed a long career, putting out albums for thirty years. Far and away his greatest success, “Addicted to Love” was a smash hit, largely thanks to a video featuring five sleek models clad in black and pretending to play instruments. In case you weren’t alive yet, just trust me that the song and video were everywhere for the entirety of 1986.

The Movie: Matthew Broderick’s girlfriend leaves him for a chef. Broderick decides to move in next door to the chef’s apartment and so he can spy on their activities. All of their activities. Meg Ryan is the chef’s former girlfriend. She and Broderick team up to try to separate the new, happy couple via some zany stalking. Wouldn’t you know it, they fall in love. Each step of the movie is less believable than the one that came before it, and all of the characters are complete idiots. Aside from that, it’s very boring.

The Connection: I think it’s fair to say that none of the characters in the movie are actually addicted to love. Broderick is addicted to pain. Ryan is addicted to revenge. The other two lovers just seem happy together. The title was clearly chosen because there was nothing else to call this dumb piece of nonsense, so they named it after a song. And just to close the deal, a Neneh Cherry cover of the Palmer original appears on the soundtrack.

The Critical Comment: Entertainment Weekly gave it a D+: “there’s only so much director Griffin Dunne can do with a twisted script that should’ve been called Stalkers: A Love Story”

1. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)

The Song: Huge hit for the Beatles from their 1964 album, A Hard Day’s Night. The song is superb.

The Movie: Patrick Dempsey is a lawn-mowing nerd who pays a popular cheerleader (Amanda Peterson) one thousand dollars to be his girlfriend for a month, hoping that it will make him more popular. It works! So he shits on his best friend’s house and generally starts acting like a jerk. However, in a drunken tirade calling out her friends, Peterson reveals their contract and Dempsey finds himself even less popular than before. After much sulking, his former best friend finally decides to sit with him at lunch leading to a jerky football player being decked. What follows is the worst slow-clap in the history of cinema. Yes, worse than Lucas. I know, your sense of nostalgia is telling you that this was a great movie. You have not seen it in quite a while. Your sense of nostalgia is misleading you. Don’t believe me? Watch the most important scene in the movie, and see if you still trust nostalgia.

The Connection: The song is played over the opening credits, which also means the best moment of the film comes and goes very early.

The Critical Comment: Roger Ebert summed this one up better than I can: “It doesn’t have a thought in its head and probably no notion of the corruption at its core.

There are a lot more examples that could have vied for this Top 10. Let us know in the comments which awful movies should have made this list. And which ones miraculously turned out to be good even though they couldn’t bother to come up with an original title?

Andrew Reed has an exciting day job in market research, but still tries to make time for reading, writing, and rock n’ roll. He currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland. His hibernating blogs on the following subjects can be found sleeping here: music and movies, , college football, , personal miscellany.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew Reed June 16, 2015 at 3:47 am

A partial list of the ones that just weren’t bad enough to make the cut:
Down to Earth
Dead Man’s Curve
Let’s Talk About Sex
Love Don’t Cost a Thing
Some Kind of Wonderful
A Thin Line Between Love and Hate
Loverboy
Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Feeling Minnesota
Eve of Destruction
Something to Talk About
In the Mood
Jersey Girl
Love Potion #9
Wedding Bell Blues
What a Girl Wants
Dream a Little Dream
Chances Are
You Can’t Hurry Love
Take This Job and Shove It

And a handful of “exceptions”:
Stand By Me
American Pie
Boys Don’t Cry
Lean On Me
What’s Love Got to Do With It
Coal Miner’s Daughter
Only the Lonely
La Bamba
Pretty Woman (if you’re into that sort of thing)

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2 Andrew Reed June 16, 2015 at 3:57 am

Some others:
My Best Friend’s Girl
Take Me Home Tonight
I Want Candy
Stacy’s Mom
Jack & Diane
In Your Eyes
Walking on Sunshine (not yet released in the US you lucky people)

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3 Paul Mazzoni June 16, 2015 at 7:32 am

Julia Roberts has a 3rd to add to the list – “Satisfaction” (also with Justine Bateman), that just might crack the Top 10. Not so good.

Ughh….never heard of “Stacy’s Mom” or “Jack & Diane”, but they don’t sound like they warrant looking into.

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4 PS October 14, 2015 at 4:47 am

Outside of Neneh Cherry I found Addicted to Love’s music to be particularly enjoyable, with everything from Cake’s Nugget to MC Solaar’s Victime de la Mode.

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