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Play the Album, Burn the Film: 20 Great Soundtracks From Bad Movies

From disco fevers to drive-in-movie homages, we sift through those musically blessed movies that were better heard than seen

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Fox Seachlight/courtesy Everett Collection; 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images; Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; Universal/Getty Images

If one were to judge a movie based purely on its soundtrack, then Purple Rain — Prince's breakthrough film, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary  — would possibly trump Citizen Kane on just about every "best movie" list there is. "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "Darling Nikki," "I Would Die 4 U," "The Beautiful Ones," the title track: these songs are all on one album, people! Unfortunately for the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, great music can't hide, say, some less-than-stellar acting, shaky direction, and/or a shoddily written script. No offense, Prince fans, but even the purifying waters of Lake Minnetonka can't cure everything. 

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But Purple Rain is hardly the first "bad" movie to boast a killer soundtrack, nor will it be the last. In honor of the Purple One's film hitting the big 3-0, we're counting down 20 other bad movies with great soundtracks. Open your ears, cover your eyes, and read on. By Jennifer Wood

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‘Marie Antoinette’ (2006)

Sofia Coppola went the postpunk-pomo route with the two-disc New Wave soundtrack to her energetic, if frustratingly shallow and superficial, biopic on the life of Marie Antoinette (played by Kirsten Dunst) in the years leading up to the French Revolution. Sure, watching the Queen work her magic to New Order's "Ceremony," Bow Wow Wow's "Aphrodisiac," Gang of Four's "Natural's Not In It" or the Strokes' "What Ever Happened" may be anachronistic, but it makes the 127-minute running time vastly easier to digest.

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‘Grindhouse’ (2007)

Quentin Tarantino has largely avoided the many pitfalls that accompany the typical filmmaker's rise from obscurity to the Hollywood A-list. But he let his ego get the best of him when he and his buddy/frequent collaborator Robert Rodriguez decided to put two movies in one for this ode to exploitation cinema. Rodriguez composed the bulk of his own soundtrack (including the John Carpenter-inspired score) while Tarantino, true to form, relied on vintage tracks like Smith's "Baby It's You" and The Coasters' "Down in Mexico" for his half, titled Death Proof. What this D.O.A. homage to drive-in car-chase movies and slasher flicks lacks in quality, it makes up for in choice Sixties and Seventies jukebox cuts.

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The ‘Twilight’ Movies (2008-2012)

A funny thing happened as this megapopular franchise moved along over the years: The movies got worse as the soundtracks got better. Which isn't to say that the franchise's music didn't start out strong; music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas spent years cultivating a signature sound style for the supernatural tween series, which helped to launch the careers of several musical newcomers. Maybe that's simply because the budgets grew, too, which allowed Patsavas to enlist the likes of better known artists as the series unfolded. The franchise's second film, New Moon, may be the best example of that, with a fatter wallet allowing for contributions from Thom Yorke ("Hearing Damage"), the Killers ("A White Demon Love Song"), Muse ("I Belong To You"), and Bon Iver ("Roslyn").

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‘Tron: Legacy’ (2010)

Entrusted with fashioning a long-awaited sequel to the original 1982 video-game-cinema landmark/cult classic, director Joseph Kosinski called upon EDM pioneers and Seventies-disco revivalists Daft Punk to help bring the cyber-updated Tron 2.0 into the new millennium. It worked: The mysterious French duo took a more orchestral road to creating the film's soundtrack, utilizing a 100-piece orchestra for many of the album's 22 tracks, and creating one of this lackluster movie's only bright spots. With any luck, its lasting legacy will be its man-machine, future-funk score.

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