Music has long been a vital part of movies. Movie scores can underline and accentuate the action of a film to give it more dramatic heft. That can go for lyrical music too—just look at how directors like Martin Scorsese or Baz Lurhmann have used existing music to make their films soar.
Of course, a song does not need to exist independently of a film to be great. How many great songs have come from movies? “You Got a Friend In Me, “The Theme from Shaft”, “Over the Rainbow”. These movie songs have helped shift the cultural zeitgeist, not to mention become karaoke standards the world around.
On the other hand, not every movie theme song becomes a great tune that plays at proms and weddings. Some fail miserably, becoming embarrassments to the films or even the artists that recorded them. Others are just plain weird… like this bunch of ditties composed for movies. While some experienced wild success in their day, others became immediate jokes, leaving audiences to wonder just what the producers were smoking when they added the songs to a soundtrack. Submitted for you reading pleasure—though not necessarily your listening joy—find here the 15 Weirdest Movie Songs to Ever Grace a Soundtrack.
15. “The Morning After” – The Poseidon Adventure
The Poseidon Adventure qualified as a guilty pleasure even upon release in 1972. With a premise beyond absurd—a wave tips a cruise ship upside down—and an all-star, soaking wet cast led by a huffing and blubbering Shelly Winters, the movie became a titanic box office success. It even spawned a sequel several years later… though the less mentioned about that, the better.
True to form of 1970s blockbusters, The Poseidon Adventure came complete with a touching ballad theme song to help promote the film on the music charts. “The Song From The Poseidon Adventure,” better known as “The Morning After”, became an unlikely hit following the film’s release. The tune nabbed the Best Song Oscar, and smelling profit, Fox ordered aspiring singer/actress Maureen McGovern to record the song as her debut single. It became an even bigger hit, staying at #1 on the US pop charts for two weeks. Not bad for a song about a sinking ship and the tortured passengers trying to flee…
14. “Ghostbusters Rap” – Ghostbusters 2
It might seem corny now, but the original Ghostbusters theme song by Ray Parker Jr. became a smash hit in 1984. Though best remembered as a cartoon theme song and one of those random hits that only gets played at Halloween time (see also: “Monster Mash”), “Ghostbusters” stayed at #1 on the US charts for three weeks, and racked up a nomination for the Best Song Oscar. Ray Parker Jr. later got smacked with a lawsuit from fellow pop artist Huey Lewis, who claimed Parker had plagiarized his song “I Want a New Drug.”
The same however cannot be said for the Run-DMC remake recorded for the 1989 sequel, Ghostbusters II. Remixed as a rap song, “Ghostbusters” went from wacky to just plain odd and, much like the film that inspired it, seemed like a withering imitation of the original. Run-DMC released it as a single and on their appropriately titled album, Back from Hell to critical and audience indifference. To date, fans still prefer the original Ray Parker Jr. recording to the odd rap version… though even the head-scratching response to the Run-DMC remake pales in comparison to the bizarre Fall Out Boy/Missy Elliot team up that accompanied the 2016 reboot.
13. “Ben” – Ben
Why do producers think horror films need beautiful love songs to help promote the movie? Has anyone ever gone to a horror film expecting epic romance… the kind that doesn’t happen in the back row anyway?
Ostensibly a sequel to the thriller Willard, about a man that trains an army of rats to do his bidding, Ben picks up after the action of the first film, where the “lead rat” of the title befriends a little boy and mayhem ensues. Said little boy turns Ben and his army of rats on school bullies as a reporter begins making the connection between the recent wave of rat attacks and the events of Willard.
Much like The Blob, Ben featured a weird theme song by a major star—Michael Jackson—which actually became a bigger hit than the film! Jackson’s recording of the tune went to #1 on the charts, and even earned Jackson an Oscar nomination! Coincidentally it lost to another weirdo song on this list: “The Morning After” from The Poseidon Adventure.
12. “Beware the Blob” – The Blob
The 1950s featured B-movies a-plenty swarming drive-ins and attacking smaller theaters around the country. One film has transcended its schlocky origins, however, courtesy of two special talents, The Blob. As the goofy name implies, The Blob concerns an alien blob that comes to Earth and begins devouring everything in sight (such as a blob can actually see, anyway), and growing to epic size. A pair of teenage lovers try to alert the world to the creeping terror of the blob, which looks like a big hunk of Jell-O, as it begins to devour their entire hometown.
A young Steve McQueen played the lead role in The Blob, which helped keep the movie in circulation for years to come. The film also inexplicably had a theme song titled “Beware the Blob”, written by another up and comer: Burt Bacharach. Said tune matches the film’s tone in goofy weirdness, and went on to become a nationwide hit! The tune helped raise Bacharach’s profile as a songwriter, and he would go on to compose hits like “The Look of Love” and “Close to You”. Go figure that he seldom, if ever, performs “Beware the Blob” in concert.
11. “Where Do We Go From Here” – Eraser
Eraser marked the continued decline of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career in the late 1990s. Eventually, the actor would give up films in favor of politics, only to leave the California governor’s mansion in disgrace, and return to movies.
Eraser cast Schwarzenegger as John Kruger, a federal agent who specialized in erasing the identities of witnesses going into witness protection programs. Singer/actress Vanessa Williams plays Lee Cullen, a corporate executive placed in protection after blowing the whistle on her employer for illegal weapons sales.
Eraser embodied the kind of dumb mayhem that had made actors like Schwarzenegger stars in the ’80s, only to see them looking ridiculous compared to sci-fi action heroes like those of The Matrix in the late ’90s. In an even more outdated move, Williams recorded a theme song for the film, “Where Do We Go From Here,” which seemed better suited to a Michelle Pfeiffer-Robert Redford romantic comedy than an action picture. The music video featured Williams singing on a dock set as well as scenes from the movie. To see said video is to understand the weirdness of it all: Williams crooning about love and loneliness, as scenes of her and Schwarzenegger fighting hungry alligators (seriously) and dangling from rooftops! Needless to say, the song didn’t exactly become a pop hit…
10. “Addams Family (Whoomp)” – Addams Family Values
The original The Addams Family had an unlikely hit song tie-in courtesy of flash-in-the-pan rap star MC Hammer. “Addams Family Groove” would become Hammer’s last big hit on the US charts, and help propel the film to megahit status. It also nabbed a Razzie Nomination for Worst Song. An Addams Family sequel became a foregone conclusion, and of course, it would need a hit sequel to boot.
This time Paramount tapped pop rappers Tag Team, who had just had a hit with “Whoomp, There It Is” to record a new single for Adams Family Values. “Addams Family (Whoomp)” essentially remade “Whoomp, There It Is” to include strains of the Addams Family theme song, and a few new lyrics. Perhaps sensing their one-hit wonder status, Tag Team recorded the song, along with a video that included clips from the film and appearances from several cast members. The song peaked at #85 on the charts, and would go on to actually win the Razzie Award for Worst Song. In a weird way, that’s appropriate: the real Addams Family would have welcomed such a stinking distinction!
9. “Flash” – Flash Gordon
Star Wars borrowed elements of the old Flash Gordon serials and went on to become the biggest movie in history. Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before a big movie producer actually tried to remake Flash Gordon on the big screen in the Star Wars vein.
In this case, Dino De Laurentiis is the producer in question. Noted for his big-budget and often misbegotten would-be sci-fi blockbusters (see also: Barbarella and Dune), De Laurentiis spared no expense in bringing Flash Gordon to the big screen. He also made a critical mistake by playing the film as camp, which would later harm its box office prospects. To underline the silliness factor, De Laurentiis also contracted popular rock band Queen to compose the soundtrack.
The resulting music only adds to the weirdness and silly tone of the finished movie. “Flash”, the lead single and opening credits track, embodies Queen’s bombastic, synthesized sound at the time, as well as the campiness of the movie itself. The tune peaked at #42 on the US charts.
8. “Sledgehammer” – Star Trek Beyond
Star Trek Beyond debuted just months before Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. Beyond, as part of the “Kelvin Timeline” reboot series took the approach had helped make both the 2009 Star Trek reboot and abysmal sequel Into Darkness into solid box office hits, substituting philosophy for noisy action. With Star Trek Beyond, Paramount decided to take the pop sensibility one step further by adding a pop single to the soundtrack.
No doubt inspired by the hit soundtrack of Guardians of the Galaxy, Paramount enlisted popular singer Rihanna to record a single—a first for a Star Trek film—to help promote the movie’s release. “Sledgehammer” became one of the decidedly weirdest songs to ever grace a sci-fi film, peaking at #17 on the US charts. Much like Star Trek Beyond itself, it met with listener indifference, despite major promotions, including a music video shot in IMAX. Perhaps Paramount noticed the diminishing returns to their approach: the studio announced after the release of Beyond that a fourth film would close out the Kelvin Timeline, and that the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery TV series would return to both the timeline and tone of the original films. Don’t count on any Rihanna follow-ups!
7. Any Given Theme song from a Nightmare On Elm Street movie
Seriously, why does a horror movie need a tie-in single? The greedy producers over at New Line Cinema recognized that their cult hit/blockbuster A Nightmare on Elm Street series had moved out of the shadows and into mega-hit territory by the time the third film hit screens. In accord with their success, the producers began releasing theme songs to tie-in with the release of the movies.
The first Nightmare tie in came from heavy metal band Dokken. Titled “Dream Warriors”, the song became an ironic metal hit, peaking at #22 on the charts. New Line decided to continue the approach, with A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master actually featuring two tie-in singles, one from actress Tuesday Knight, and the other from rap group The Fat Boys. Neither single charted, which makes Will Smith’s recording for Nightmare on Elm Street 5 even more inexplicable! As the Nightmare series wound down in the 1990s, even the Goo Goo Dolls got in on the game, with “I’m Awake Now” released with the film Freddy’s Dead. Even more bizarre than the idea of releasing a song to tie-in with a horror movie: releasing a bunch of them!
6. “Lethal Weapon” – Lethal Weapon
Popular Canadian band Honeymoon Suite tried to emulate Harold Flatermyer, who’d had a surprise hit with the theme to Beverly Hills Cop several years before. Honeymoon Suite agreed to record the title track to the Lethal Weapon soundtrack, a film which too would try to emulate the success of Beverly Hills Cop and would not just succeed, but actually surpass that franchise in terms of box office receipts and sequels.
Composer Michael Kamen wrote the music and lyrics to “Lethal Weapon”, which Honeymoon Suite recorded in spring, 1987. Lethal Weapon would become a major hit film, and the soundtrack would sell well as a tie-in. Unfortunately, the tie-in single didn’t fare as well. ”Lethal Weapon” failed to chart and delays on Honeymoon Suite’s next album, slated to record in late 1987, helped doom the song to obscurity. It’s just as well: the dated power ballad plays more like a joke than a classic movie tie-in. No doubt fans of Lethal Weapon would rather just listen to the Michael Kamen score than this bizarre track.
5. “Ninja Rap” – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2
Vanilla Ice had a brief but memorable career as an early-’90s rap artist. His film career, however, has fewer hits than his recording work… which, for the record, only had one hit in the first place. After Vanilla Ice’s album To the Extreme proved successful, he decided to try out his acting chops in the film Cool as Ice. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the same level of acclaim for his acting debut. Vanilla Ice had a second big-screen outing in the much anticipated sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze.
The first Ninja Turtles film had shocked the world be becoming a surprise smash, and the highest grossing independent film of its time. The follow-up looked to become a sure-fire success, and as such, New Line (see the entry on Elm Street singles) decided to put more effort into building a soundtrack album. Vanilla Ice signed on to contribute a song, which he would also perform in the film.
“Ninja Rap” may have played well to kids in the theatre, but music critics attacked the song as a banal and trite. It routinely makes lists of worst ever movie songs, though for our listening discrimination, the song is more weird than anything else… and okay, it’s also pretty awful.
4. “There You’ll Be” – Pearl Harbor
Disney tried to build their own Titanic with the flag-waving would-be megahit Pearl Harbor in 2001. Late ’90s hunk Ben Affleck was paired with up-and-coming hotties Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett to fan the flames of romance, while employing director Michael Bay would satisfy the action crowd. Disney hoped that the film would emerge as a perfect blend of war action, romance, and patriotism, enough to earn Oscars and a major box office haul.
“My Heart Will Go On” had become a runaway hit when released on the Titanic soundtrack, and Disney too hoped to copy the song’s success in their Pearl Harbor barrage. The studio called in acclaimed country singer Faith Hill and noted songwriter Diane Warren to record “There You’ll Be”, which immediately went into heavy radio rotation in the lead up to Pearl Harbor’s release. Much like the movie, though, the song didn’t meet expectations. Despite an Oscar nomination for Best Song, “There You’ll Be” faded quickly to silence and, like the film, is today remembered as a painfully transparent attempt to manipulate an audience.
3. “Gotham City” – Batman & Robin
Well, it had worked for the first Batman. When that film hit screens in 1989, mega-producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber convinced artist Prince to compose several songs for the film and assembled an odd concept album of pop songs to accompany the release of the soundtrack. Warner Bros. would continue the same strategy to varying effect with the Batman sequels: tracks from Siouxie and the Banshees, Seal, and U2 all had varying degrees of success on the charts, though the singles did help sell soundtrack albums and boost ticket sales.
Then came Batman & Robin, the movie that almost killed onscreen Batman. Brutal reviews from critics and negative word of mouth convinced audiences to stay away. The movie soundtrack, despite a great rock track in the Smashing Pumpkins’ “The End is the Beginning is the End”, also tanked. By far the strangest track included on the album, “Gotham City” found hip-hop artist R. Kelly sporting a ten gallon cowboy hat and waxing philosophical about justice and peace. Even weirder, the single went to #1 on the hip-hop charts and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100! All but forgotten today, the wacky gospel-rap mash up represents one of the strangest hit songs to ever come out of a film!
2. “You Can Be a Garbage Pail Kid” – The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
The Garbage Pail Kids trading cards subverted the Cabbage Patch Kid craze of the mid-1980s with disgusting and crude humor. A lawsuit by the creators of Cabbage Patch Kids helped raise the profile of the Garbage Pail Kids, which took off into a full-blown phenomenon, big enough to rival that of their Cabbage Patch predecessors.
In a way, the Garbage Pail Kids actually outdid the Cabbage Patch Kids too: they ended up with their own big-screen movie. The Garbage Pail Kids Movie cast dwarves in crude animatronic masks as the title characters, and added the human stars Mackenzie Astin (Sean Astin’s younger brother) and, of all people, former musical staple Anthony Newley. Panned by critics, audiences stayed away in droves, and the movie became an enormous bomb.
Thinking they had a sure-fire hit, however, the producers added in a theme song, “You Can Be a Garbage Pail Kid”, as if that were anything to aspire to. Composer Michael Lloyd wrote the track which played over the closing credits, performed by Jimmy Scarlett & The Dimensions. Never heard of them? Maybe there’s a reason…
1. “City of Crime” – Dragnet
Here’s an idea: take a beloved TV series and turn it into a movie. Instead of following the same serious tone though, make fun of the beloved trademarks of the show at every opportunity. Here’s another brilliant idea: use the two comic stars of the film as rap artists and record a tie-in single for the movie!
Yes, it happened. Dragnet parodied the popular cop drama of the 1960s with popular comedians Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd stepping into the lead roles. Though it opened in 1987 to negative reviews, the film became a solid hit. Less successful, however, was the tie-in single released to promote the film. “City of Crime” used Hanks and Aykroyd as rappers, and even had them performing in a music video to help promote the movie. Today, those who even remember the song at all recall it as a horrid moment for hip-hop, not to mention Hanks and Aykroyd. Horribly dated, surreal, and just plain unlistenable, it makes for one of the worst—and weirdest—movie songs ever.
Know a weird single we overlooked? Tell us in the comments!