There are any number of movies detailing the improbable, heart-warming rise of scrappy, earnest bands — The Commitments, School of Rock, Almost Famous, even Rock Star, to name a few — and good for them. Everybody loves a winner. But what about the also-rans? Those bands who arrive on the big-screen only to make you cringe? Inspired by the battle-of-the-bands plot of Bandslam, here’s a scribbled set list of the worst movie bands.
11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
musicians see themselves in the foibles and epic failures of Spinal Tap that
they tend to overlook the fact that their leather-clad heavy-metal heroes just
aren’t that good. The Stonehenge-intensive stagecraft may be hilarious,
but Tap has a serious drummer-retention problem and their so-called
profound lyrics are absolutely awful. Which is why this list is extended to fit in the best of the worst at — where else? — eleven.
10. Ranchbone, Tapeheads (1988)
Plenty of questionable fake bands appear in this cult classic starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins and directed by Monkee Michael Nesmith. Musicians from Doug E. Fresh to the one and only Ted Nugent pop up in cameos playing record execs and FBI agents. But the band that’s a shoo-in for the last spot on this list is Ranchbone, the legendary punk-funk-ska band Fishbone reconfigured as… a country-western act?
9. PoP!, Music and Lyrics (2007)
Hugh Grant started rocking his floppy-haired shtick back when George Michael ruled the charts, so it makes a sick sort of sense that in the aughts Grant would end up cast as washed-up Alex Fletcher, the less-talented half of a Wham!-like synth-pop duo. The New Wave musicians the movie spoofs were frequently better at hairstyles than at hooks, but the hit single “PoP! Goes My Heart” and its cheesy video are almost too authentically awful, earning PoP! a nine.
8. Citizen Dick, Singles (1992)
In this grunge-era romance, which came out only a year after “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” six Seattle-ites look for love to a wall-to-wall soundtrack of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and… Citizen Dick? Matt Dillon plays Dick drummer Cliff alongside real-live members of the other bands, but their cover of Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” (or “Dick,” in this case) just smells like cashing in, rating this band an eight.
7. Hey That’s My Bike, Reality Bites (1994)
Ethan Hawke’s Troy is an aloof lay-about who is actually perfect for our
heroine (Winona Ryder), even though he can’t hold down a day job.
Here’s hoping he isn’t counting on making a living as a musician.
Troy’s able to carry a tune (called “I’m Nuthin,” naturally), but his
lackluster band Hey That’s My Bike comes off as Hollywood’s tone-deaf
version of hipster affectation in
this cynical comedy.
6. The Barbusters, Light of Day (1987)
Poor Michael J. Fox. This movie, written and directed by Paul (Taxi Driver)
Schrader, must have seemed so promising on paper: A
scrappy sibling act dreams big in a dead-end town; Fox’s mom is
played by gritty Gena Rowlands; and Springsteen wrote one of the songs.
Alas, Fox is way out of his league, while as his sister, Joan Jett has
all the rocker charisma Fox lacks and none of his acting chops.
Together, the Barbusters suck at sixth.
5. The Fabulous Stains, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)
the Fabulous Stains land on a tour with the Looters (the Sex Pistols’
Paul Cook and Steve Jones and Clash bassist Paul Simenon), despite
having no idea how to play. Teen hopeful Corrine (Diane Lane) and her
band may be hard on the ears, but these proto-riot grrls have style and
attitude to spare. The Stains break into the top five for
(spoiler alert) stealing the Looters’ tune and making it their awful
4. Sadie’s band, Georgia (1995)
Sadie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has got the drive, the style, even the substance
abuse problem it takes to make it big in the music world. The only
thing she doesn’t have? Talent. It all went to her sister Georgia. She sings like a country angel, whereas Sadie shrieks like a
banshee — whether she’s covering the Velvet Underground or performing
“Hava Nagila” at a bar mitzvah. Not even her bandmate, X’s John Doe, can save Sadie from herself, or from fourth place.
3. Wyld Stallyns, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
(Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) have a dream: To open for Iron
Maiden. Neither metal-head can actually play guitar, but that doesn’t
stop them from practicing daily in the garage. They should really be studying: If they fail
history, Ted goes to military school, breaking up the band — which
would be bad, because in the future the Wyld Stallyns’ music apparently
brings peace to the entire universe. In the present, though, their
talentless jamming comes in third.
2. The Mystery, Satisfaction (1988)
Lee (Justine Bateman) is the lead singer of the Mystery, five teens
(including Julia Roberts in her debut) striving for rock stardom. They
land a gig as the house band at a beach bar, where Jennie falls for the
owner (Liam Neeson!). Then the band is invited to tour Europe. Will
they make it to the top? Satisfaction wants the answer to be
“yes,” but thanks to the sorry talent on display and the random covers
that fill their set, the Mystery don’t even top this dubious list.
1. Du Jour, Josie and the Pussycats (2001)
Jour, the pitch-perfect, perfectly awful boy band, is the latest
sensation from MegaRecords. What the foursome doesn’t realize is that
MegaRecords is behind the subliminal messages they discover embedded in
the mix of their prefab songs. Just what is their
super-catchy track “Backdoor Lover” selling? Du Jour is first of the
worst for performing their homo-riffic hit single with conviction — and
choreography — without ever catching on to its double meaning.