Top 10 Badass Songs The Movies Have Ruined

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Some songs are just plain cool, invoking images of aggression, testosterone, passion, sex, or just a general eff-you attitude toward the world.  But ion the wrong hands, the song can become a parody of itself.  Those hands are usually found on the bodies of people that make movies and the trailers that hype them.  If your four year old can watch a movie, hear a song, happily clap along, and have nobody object to this, then the song is officially a marshmallow.

10. “Born to Be Wild” Steppenwolf

This song helped spearhead the hard-rock genre and introduced us all to the term “heavy metal.”  Sure, it didn’t mean then what it means now (“heavy metal thunder” is the lyric, so Steppenwolf basically invented slang to aptly describe how awesome his motorcycle is) but, since it works, all’s good.  If left alone and only played on classic rock radio fifty times a week, it’s perfectly acceptable music.

The problem comes when every movie trailer on the planet uses it to showcase a character racing, driving, jogging, crawling, or doing anything that requires them to “get their motor running.”  Using this song to advertise movies about rapping houseflies, zebras that think they’re horses, and rock monsters taking their baby for a leisurely bicycle ride to the store, does little but strangle the song to death.

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9. “Bad to the Bone” George Thorogood

George Thorogood’s ode to being born with attitude is naturally a little silly (a doctor is likely not going to be scared of a newborn after two minutes of life), but we can chalk that up to poetic license.  It’s an awesome song with an iconic guitar riff that all can recognize and learn to play in ten minutes at the local Guitar Center.

Sadly, it’s that instantly recognizable riff that causes “Bad To The Bone” to be done to death in the movies.  And not cool films either; we’re talking movies like Joe Dirt.  In case you’ve forgotten, and there’s no reason why you should remember, Joe Dirt was a flop where David Spade wore a mullet and did David Spade things.  That’s really all you need to know.

Perhaps the worst offender is Disney, who uses the song when introducing almost any character with anything slightly resembling an attitude.  Or, failing that, any movie with dogs.  Because dogs like bones, you see.  This is supposedly clever, but somehow ends up almost tragic.

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8. “Back in Black” AC/DC

Honestly, we could plug damn near any AC/DC song into this list and it would work, as the band is overplayed, period.  They are the go-to group for testosterone and ugly male aggression, and roughly 23,548,271 movies follow suit.  But Back In Black, one of the band’s biggest hits, seems to be used more than others, so it gets the nod.

Once again, an iconic and fairly simple guitar riff plays throughout the song, which instantly alerts moviegoers to one of two things: this film has ATTITUDE, or Jack Black’s in it.  It’s a little-known law, passed by Congress in early-2000, that if Jack Black appears in a movie, this song must either be featured or, at the very least, the title must be exploited to remind us his last name is Black.  Failure to comply will result in lost revenue, water boarding, and a disapproving raise of Jack’s eyebrow, Rock-style.

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7. “Bad Reputation” Joan Jett

Joan Jett’s ode to not caring that people hate her is a great rock anthem for both genders.  The idea of brushing aside the reputation that other people have carved out for you is a wonderful lesson for both boys and girls.  So naturally, Hollywood mucks it up by focusing entirely on the girl-power part and turning the song into one big headache.

If you have a movie, and your movie has a girl, and the girl gets in trouble, and the girl wants to confront her trouble head-on, you can damn well expect Bad Reputation to start playing.  And this goes for girls of all shapes and sizes, from pre-pubescent superheroes (Kick-Ass) to big green ogres who used to be princesses (Shrek).  Fans of cute little Shirley Temple should be thankful her movies came out 80+ years ago, or she likely would’ve been tap-dancing to this song as well.  In an adorable way, of course.

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6. “Bodies” Drowning Pool

Drowning Pool’s first, and basically only, hit song is just ten years old and has already been played to comical oblivion by macho action flicks.  On its own, it’s a very cool song with driving guitars, catchy riffs and aggressive drumming.  Also, the lyrics are incredibly easy to sing (or rather, yell) along to, provided you paid attention during Sesame Street and can count to four.

Thanks to a ton of incredibly questionable film placement, such as Jason X, XXX, and Daredevil (shockingly sans X), Bodies has become a clichéd “angry loud” song perfect for any angry loud movie with angry loud people.  Though the angriest and loudest people of all are likely the film company’s accountants, once they realize how much money a lot of these meathead films lost.

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5. “O Fortuna”from Carmina Burana

This is the eerie Latin chant that you hear in every trailer to every disaster movie ever.  If you don’t know which one we’re talking about, click the Youtube link below.  You’ll recognize it almost immediately.

Surprisingly, a lot of ominous Latin chanting, when translated to English, is kinda stupid.  The spooky words suddenly become awful pre-teen poetry agonizing over petty annoyances in life.  But O Fortuna’s lyrics are a legitimately ominous ode to being enslaved and ruined by one’s uncontrollable fate.  Which, we admit, does sound less than fun.

Because it sounds scary, and few people understand Latin outside of doctors and people who translate O Fortuna on the Internet, it has become an overused piece of stock music for whenever something wicked this way comes.  Unfortunately, when used for movies like Jackass, where three idiots attempt to destroy themselves in hilarious ways, the power simply ceases to be.  O Fortuna now exists as little more than a silly parody of pending doom.

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4. “Let’s Get It On” Marvin Gaye

Not all songs are badass because it sounds spooky or the singer wants to punch you.  This song is badass because it’s one of the sexiest songs of all time.  Marvin Gaye could’ve gotten anybody into bed with this song, including you.  And me.

So it’s a shame that roughly 14 billion wacky comedies have been released with this song used in as unsexy a manner as possible.  The iconic wah-wah guitar opening used to signify legitimate sexual passion.  Now, it lets us know comically ugly people are in love, a wacky main character sees a pretty girl who only talks to him because the script demands it, or a woman is hilariously groping a man who does not like her.  Films such as Austin Powers and High Fidelity have guaranteed that any real-world attempt to seduce somebody using this song will earn uproarious laughter at best, a brick to the face at worst.

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3. “Hallelujah Chorus” Handel

The Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah piece is an epic tale of Jesus’ birth, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and eventual return to judge us all.  We’re pretty sure Handel did not intend it to be used every time a film’s goofy male lead sees a hot babe (or, in the case of Dumb and Dumber, a bus full of them).

Sadly, that’s exactly what has happened.  Chanting HAAAALELUJAHHH every time something remotely cool happens is a cliché that movies have utilized for years; it’s certainly a lot easier than coming up with a new way to react to good news.  A quick list of corny movie subjects that have squat to do with the Revelation, but use its anthem anyway: brides that don’t want to get married, The Spice Girls, talking newborns, and men who put other men’s faces over their own.  Perhaps this is why Jesus is taking his time to return.

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2. “We Will Rock You” Queen

Queen’s hooligan soccer chant is a timeless rock-radio classic.  But everywhere else, it has mutated into a humongous joke, due to every genre using it for when any sporting event of any kind is featured.  Perhaps producers like the simplicity; stomp-stomp-clap, stomp-stomp-clap, over and over again.  A child does that when denied candy, only sometimes with rhythm.

But aside from just using the song endlessly, movies (particularly comedies) like to play with the song’s title in what is supposedly a clever manner.  A Knight’s Tale, which involves Heath Ledger before anyone knew he could act, uses not just the song, but changes it in the movie’s poster, letting us know that “he will rock you.”  Cerebral.

Kung Fu Panda 2 uses the song, but changes it to “we will wok you.”  Because a wok is an Asian thing, you see.  And so is kung-fu, which is what the panda does.  And pandas are Asian too, and…yes, somebody got paid a lot for this idea.

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1. “I Got You (I Feel Good)” James Brown

James Brown is funky badass personified; on a related note, it sure feels nice to type a sentence that nobody will argue without coming across like an utter doofus.  I Got You is one of Brown’s most famous tunes, though it’s likely only because they added “I Feel Good” to the title.  Having the most famous part of a song not be the title can cause confusion and require some thought from the listener, many of who desire neither.

That being said, if one more movie has a character celebrate being happy by dancing to this song or, Heaven help us, belting it out, it’ll be too soon.  If it’s a wacky comedy starring Eddie Murphy, you can bet your life savings, with almost no risk whatsoever, that the song will be there.  Non-Eddie, but still extremely non-funky, movies such as Garfield and Home Alone 4 (yes, FOUR) also delegate the song into goofy eyeball-roll territory.

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Jason Iannone


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19 Comments

  1. Oh my lord, this is one of the funniest but absolutely on the money top 10 lists in recent weeks.

    I was just thinking about this, and indeed what annoys me most about the music on this list is how incredibly cliched it has become to use it.

    Numbers 10 and 9 especially SO many movie trailers use it. And the Drowning Pool song, I swear, if I see one more Youtube video clip of war scenes with this song in the backdrop, I’m going to put my foot through the computer screen!

    Seriously, people need to get original sometimes!!

  2. I appreciate this list, and totally understand where it was coming from. My only complaint is, I enjoyed the movies that did it “the right way”, and feel that idea should have continued throughout the list, opposed to just posting the music video. If a movie showing the “correct” way to use a video had been posted for each song, and used as an argument, this list would have been golden. Still a good job, though!

    • I guess the right way for James Brown would be in Good Morning Vietnam where he whacks it on the station stereo and shows everyone how it should be done.

  3. If you are going to include classical music, then Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy), Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyrie, and Rossini’s William Tell Overture have also been ruined by movies, radio, and TV. I totally agree with you about Carmina Burana and the Hallelujah Chorus. The other’s that I mentioned should probably be included as well.

      • I have to agree with you on that one. Unless you consider having overdue library books, squeezing the tooth paste from the middle of the tube, or not washing your hands after using the washroom to be badass then chances are you wouldn’t consider “Walking on Sunshine” as being badass.

  4. I know quite a few people wo are upset about the Hallelujah Chorus being used for everything from a terrible romcom soundtrack to selling toilet paper.

  5. theintegrator on

    Don’t forget “Born in the USA”

    The right way: Bruce
    The wrong way: every single politician celebrating the greatness of the US of A

  6. I would say AC/DC has best been used in movies with the two Iron Man movies, I’ve header a few of their songs in that and they’re well used

  7. Nocturnesthesia on

    That conductor means business. Seriously, if I were to try and follow along with him I’d probably dislocate every joint in both my arms. Not that I tried, mind you…

  8. Bodies I could care less about it being poorly used in movies.

    If I had a nickel every time I heard it on youtube……

  9. Peter Boucher on

    My favorite was the use of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata & Fugue in D Minor” at the beginning of the original make of the movie “Rollerball”

  10. to this day I still can’t think of We Will Rock You without picturing the scene from Mighty Ducks… I thought for sure that was going to be the reference of it being used the wrong way but I have no disagreements with it being Kung Fu Panda…lol

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