Yesterday, Hey Jude, All you need is love – no band in music history has made a cultural impact quite as broad and long-lasting as The Beatles. Some even say they were bigger than Jesus. Here are the 6 best movies ever made about The Beatles…
April 10th, 1970 was a sad day for any Beatles fan. It was on this day that John, Paul, George and Ringo announced that they would go their separate ways from then on, thereby putting an end to one of the greatest bands of all times. Their music and lyrics changed the history of pop music and to this day remain crowd pleasers as each new generation is swept off their feet by the timeless appeal of “Yesterday”, “All you need is love”, or “Hey Jude”. If this post is dripping with cheesy phrases and starry-eyed adoration, I am not sorry.
I say this with utmost conviction and passion because my mother, a quasi-contemporary of the Fab Four and massive Beatles fan herself, has instilled in me a deep and undying appreciation of both the band and their music from birth: I’ve been to exhibitions, I’ve gone on walking tours, I’ve heard all the albums, I’ve read several books dedicated to their myth, I’ve seen lengthy documentaries and, of course, I’ve watched every movie ever made about them or by them. So my gift to you on this saddest of anniversaries, is this list of the 6 best movies ever made about The Beatles. Check them out if you can.
1. Nowhere Boy (2009)
Directed by Sam Taylor Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey); running-time 1h 38mins; starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Savages, Avengers: Age of Ultron), Thomas Brodie Sangster (The Maze Runner, Love Actually), Kristin Scott Thomas (The Horse Whisperer, The English Patient), Anne-Marie Duff (Shameless, Suffragette).
What’s it about? Nowhere Boy is a chronicle of John Lennon’s early years, particularly his strained relationship with his stern aunt Mimi (Thomas), who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia (Duff), whom he loved to pieces and who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.
Why should you watch? Aaron Taylor Johnson does a phenonemal job of oscillating between Lennon’s arrogance, which oftentimes borders on dickishness, and his heartbreaking vulnerability that shines through every time he is with his mother. In the end, you just want to give the boy a big hug.
2. Across the Universe (2007)
Directed by Julie Taymor; running-time 2h 13mins; starring Jim Sturgess (One Day, 21), Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood, The Ides of March), Joe Anderson.
What’s it about? Across The Universe is a fictional love story set in the 1960s, between an American upper-class girl (Wood) and a struggling Liverpuddlian artist (Sturgess). The film combines live action and animation and features musical numbers based on famous Beatles songs.
Why should you watch? If you’re a die-hard Beatles fan, you will appreciate all the nods to their songs and the characters in them: the main couple is named after “Hey Jude” and “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” respectively.
3. I am Sam (2001)
Directed by Jessie Nelson; running-time 2h 12mins; starring Sean Penn (Milk, 21 Gramm), Dakota Fanning (Push, War of the Worlds), Michelle Pfeiffer (Dangerous Minds, Stardust).
What’s it about? A mentally handicapped man (Penn) who works at Starbucks and is obsessed with The Beatles fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter (Fanning), and in the process teaches his cold hearted lawyer (Pfeiffer) the value of love and family.
Why should you watch? Aside from outstanding performances by Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer and Dakota Fanning, the movie boasts a transcending soundtrack that pairs gorgeous covers of classic Beatles songs, such as Nick Cave’s “Let it be” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Blackbird”, with lesser known tunes such as “Two of us” and a great version of “I’m only sleeping” by The Vines.
4. Yellow Submarine (1968)
Directed by George Dunning; running-time 1h 30mins
What’s it about? Yellow Submarine is an animated musical fantasy comedy. The Beatles are recruited to bring joy (and music) back to Pepperland which has been taken over by the sinister Blue Meanies.
Why should you watch? Because I reckon that watching this film gives you an idea of what people experience when they take LSD. It is the very definition of psychodelic, in tune with the mental pictures evoked by iconic songs such as “Lucy in the sky with Diamond” (which was notoriously rumoured to stand for LSD, but John Lennon never admitted to it) and the eponymous “Yellow Submarine”. If anything, you’ll never watch another movie like this, cause there is none.
5. Help! (1965)
Directed by Richard Lester; running-time 1h 32mins; starring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison.
What’s it about? In The Beatles second feature film, Ringo finds himself the target of an Indian cult that needs him as a human sacrifice and the band must try to protect him from it.
Why should you watch? Because it’s batshit crazy – if you’re a fan of refined British humour, witty puns and cheeky comebacks, random (pop) cultural references such as an entire pub performing “Freude schöner Götterfunken” to appease a majestic tiger, or a diver that keeps getting lost on his way to the white cliffs of Dover, you are going to love every minute of this musical joyride.
6. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Directed by Richard Lester; running-time 1h 27mins; starring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison.
What’s it about? A Hard Day’s Night is a pseudo-documentary of “a typical day in the life of the Fab Four”, arguably the biggest band in music history. It follows John, Paul, George and Ringo as they travel from their home town of Liverpool to London to perform in a television broadcast.
Why should you watch? Richard Lester’s iconic “rockumentary”is often credited as the father of MTV, since many of the scenes he created in AHDN set the tone for early music videos and established many conventions that still hold with regard to how pop groups are framed in their videos. Plus, it’s really fun to see the Beatles play themselves. And you will find yourself trying to discern how accurate a portrayal the film is of their actual lives in the spotlight, as they flee from a mob of ecstatic, screaming fans, as they give an impromptu concert in the luggage carriage of their train, as they are pestered by the press in the hotel lobby (fun fact: the film is based on real events during the Beatles’ first ever visit to America).