The reverberating effect of Beatlemania has spawned a whole host of films inspired by the Fab Four. The cultural phenomenon swept across the United Kingdom around 1963 and, by 1966, had travelled across the Atlantic and, indeed, all over the world.
There was something so intoxicating about The Beatles. They were the friends you wanted to have; charismatic and talented young men who upset parents and laughed in the face of all things ordinary and mundane. They bought colour to a black and white world and, with their earliest records opened a new chapter in the book of popular music. It is for these reasons, perhaps, that they have continued to be the perfect subject for the big screen. The Beatles themselves were larger than life, after all.
The Beatles have been a source of inspiration for countless directors. From Richard Curtis (Four Weddings And A Funeral) to Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump), they are symbolic of a certain type of friendship, a comradery that so many of us are familiar with from our own teenage years — they are the embodiment of nostalgia.
For some, however, it was not The Beatles friendship, but their rivalry that was most screen-worthy. Indeed, the band’s break up in 1970 had all the narrative power of a high-concept political drama and has since come to represent the pinnacle of music lore.
The movies on the list are the best picks of a stunning array of films, some of which are more worthy of your time than others. From jukebox musicals to biopics and gritty dramas, there’s something for everyone. So, if you’re on the hunt for a film to capture the spirit of The Beatles, look no further. We’ve got you covered.
The 5 best Beatles-inspired films:
5. Two Of Us (2000)
This fictionalised account of the hours following a Saturday Night Live broadcast in which Lorne Michaels offered The Beatles $3,000 to reunite is directed by Mark Stanfield, the documentarian who made Let It Be back in 1970.
The film’s action is based on true events. According to both John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the pair were actually together when Micheals made the startling offer. Stanfield traces what might have happened between the one-time bandmates after watching the live broadcast in this tasteful, speculative drama.
4. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)
Before Forrest Gump, Robert Zemeckis was introduced to the cinema-going public with a film set against the backdrop of Beatlemania. Witty and tender, I Wanna Hold Your Hand follows a group of teenage friends who are so determined to see The Beatles in person that they journey to the band’s New York City hotel and then the Ed Sullivan Theater where they are about to perform their first concert on American soil.
Zemeckis film perfectly captures both the spirit of the era and the unrestrained joy of music, foreshadowing films like 2012’s Spike Island and 2014’s Northern Soul.
3. Across The Universe (2007)
Released at the height of the jukebox musical era that saw films like Mamma Mia and Rock Of Ages hit the big screen, Across The Universe was largely overlooked. Julie Taymor’s sensitive portrayal of the lives of different New York residents during the height of the counterculture movement was inspired by The Beatles song of the same name and includes a selection of downbeat renditions of famous Beatles songs. It’s sort of like Rent for hippies.
Despite its box-office failure, Across The Universe, in retrospect, is one of the tenderest offerings from the ’00s screen-musical boom. Paul McCartney himself was a fan. Indeed, when Julie Taymor got the opportunity to ask Paul if there was anything he didn’t like about her film he replied: “What’s not to like?” High praise indeed.
2. Yesterday (2019)
Richard Curtis spent a career building up to this one. His love of The Beatles made its way into the DNA of many of his greatest films, but it was with Yesterday, that he finally bit the bullet and made an entirely Beatles-focused feature. Ironically, it is a film defined by an absence of the Fab Four, as Jack, a struggling musician, wakes up to find out that he is the only person on the planet who remembers The Beatles’ songs.
Like Across The Universe, Curtis’ offering features a number of acoustic covers of classic Beatles tunes. However, Curtis avoids the jukebox musical cliche of using one of these songs to cook up a tenuous narrative. At times the plot can feel a little half-baked, but, with the help of Hamish Patel’s heartwarming performance as Jack, it’s still a great watch.
1. Nowhere Boy (2009)
Chronicling the early life of John Lennon, this 2009 biopic, directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, is a fascinating exploration of the musician’s complex upbringing. The film works so well partly because it is based on a novel written by Lennon’s half-sister. As a result, Lennon is portrayed not as a mythologised genius but as a multilayered, and frequently flawed, individual.
The film also depicts the first days of The Quarrymen, the band that would become The Beatles. We see Lennon get suspended from school before going on to meet a pair of kindred spirits in the form of Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Of all the films about The Beatles, Nowhere Boy is, without a doubt, the most captivating.