Top 10 Legendary Audio Demos from Bad Movies

It’s a shared joke in the audio world that some of the best demos in music and movies come from malodorous content. A spirited debate recently erupted in the SVS offices over movies that deliver powerful and immersive audio demos, but are sunk by wretched acting and plot holes you could drive a tank through. Despite some heated exchanges over what qualifies a movie as bad, we all agreed the audio effects and soundtracks are the far and away best part of all these flicks.

Disagree or have a suggestion we missed? Drop it in the comments.


1. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull 2008

The heroic Indiana goes from seeking out the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, to racing with the Russians to discover a hypnotic, predator deterring crystal skull that holds the key to world domination. And don’t forget the aliens. Roaring motorcycle engines, raging river rapids and the grand John Williams score are the best thing about this adventure.


2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 2009

What could go wrong when Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are the leads? Lots. Pretty much any Transformers movie fits this list, but Revenge of the Fallen overly relies on CGI to make up for woeful acting, lazy directing and a plot with more holes than a fishnet stocking. Not to mention dialogue and jokes that feel like they were written by 12 year-old. Of course, if you love high impact action scenes that rattle, slam, thunder and zing you in every direction, and a great subwoofer workout, this fits the bill.


3. Godzilla 2014

For a movie called “Godzilla” it’s unfortunate the title character only appears onscreen for about 15 of the painful 138 minutes. We came to watch a monster movie and got the story of a family coping with calamity, which is funny, because it does a terrible job of character development and the only saving grace (Bryan Cranston), is killed off way too early. That said, the ear-shattering primal screams and gunfire rip effortlessly from every channel, and military vehicles unleash intense sonic mayhem throughout the second half of the film, if you make it that long.


4. The Day After Tomorrow 2004

The ultimate predictable, stereotypical disaster film. Lone scientist predicts world’s demise and no one believes him. Destruction and redemption ensues. With the flimsy script and sleep-inducing dialogue, it could easily have been 40 minutes shorter and more enjoyable. The barrage of tornados, hail storms and other destructive forces don’t disappoint sonically and parts of it actually sound as catastrophic as the film itself.


5. After Earth 2013

While our VP of marketing would argue this father/son Jaden and Will Smith bomb doesn’t belong here, the ridiculous premise and complete disregard for the viewer’s intelligence, amplified by Jaden Smith’s offensively bad acting and long stretches of dull storyline “development” actually make you want to side with the enemy. The soundtrack does make great use of all channels to emphasize sensations like walking through a forest while a predator is stalking you, but Will Smith may think twice about ever casting his son again.


6. The Haunting 1999

The plot, character development and premise of this paranormal stinker are on par with a typical episode of Barney, and certainly not worthy of lead actor Liam Neeson, but the bass is mixed very high in level and goes extremely deep to create ominous, fear-inducing feelings with chest-thumping effects.


7. Tron: Legacy 2010

We demo Lightcycle Battle from this movie at almost every audio show we attend, so we know this one well. The Daft Punk soundtrack and stunningly impactful LFEs are the highlight in a movie that offers no interesting story advancement from the much edgier original. It’s lethargic pacing is in stark contrast to the speed and intensity of the light bike races and it would’ve been better if Jeff Bridges reprised his role as The Dude from The Big Lebowski in a futuristic digital world.


8. 2 Fast 2 Furious 2010

Fast cars, fast women and enough cheesiness to fill Wisconsin. Something just feels off without Vin Diesel and having models and rappers acting in his place. The masterfully recorded screeching tires, bending fenders and punishing levels of bass get your attention, but the races get monotonous for the even the most ardent motor heads.


9. Batman & Robin 1997

It’s impressive when you have a career low point for multiple blockbuster actors (George Clooney, Uma Thurman, Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the same movie. Devoid of the darkness Batman movies are supposed to have, it’s loaded with corny one-liners, goofy, unrealistic action and tries it’s best to bury the franchise. On the plus side, its jarring instrumentals and sound effects keep you ducking and flinching for most of this Dark Knight dud.


10. San Andreas 2015

The most recent attempt to make a disaster movie that isn't awful doesn’t succeed. The Rock busily works to save a handful of his family and friends while millions of Californians die in collapsing buildings that often reappear later in the movie, due to careless editing. Ah but the demos almost save it, with a lively Dolby Atmos soundtrack that almost makes you wish you were there…


Do you have a favorite bad movie with great audio we missed? Share it in the comments.

Looking for system optimization tips? Check out these additional articles from SVS.

Introduction to Dolby Atmos | Why go Dual? | The Art of Speaker Placement | Digital Bass Management

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