Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credits: Far Out / Alamy / Press)

Film

The 10 times Paul McCartney's music made movies better

@Russellisation

Few artists are truly unique and even The Beatles drew from several creative inspirations, including the Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott and the classic novelist Lewis Carroll to name just two. Paul McCartney also recently revealed on the radio show ‘John Lennon at 80’ that he, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Lennon had been greatly influenced by the work of Bob Dylan.

Speaking on the show, McCartney stated, “Yeah, we certainly got a lot from Dylan, and I know I had one of his first LPs at home before The Beatles. I used to play that quite a lot so I was steeped in him”. 

Mostly, however, it was McCartney and the Beatles who did much of the mid-20th century inspiring, eclipsing the entire concept of a rock band by embodying the spirit of an ever-changing western world. As such, they have gone on to influence some of the finest minds in music and cinema, including the likes of Dave Grohl, Brian Wilson, Billy Joel, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen and Noel and Liam Gallagher. 

With Paul McCartney hitting his 80th birthday on June 17th, we thought we’d take a look back at some leftfield ways in which the Scouse icon has inspired the world of cinema, analysing ten times that he made movies better. 

10 times Paul McCartney’s music made movies better:

American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

With a star-studded lead cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, American Hustle was David O. Russell’s Hollywood statement piece with a glitzy storyline that involved the FBI, powerbrokers and the Mafia. Nominated for a total of ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Russell’s punchy, stylish crime drama is a Hollywood powerhouse.

The film was made all the better by one scene in which Russell uses ‘Live and Let Die’ by The Beatles when Jennifer Lawrence’s character is cleaning the house. Writing the scene with this particular song in mind, the moment stands out as one of the very best in this Oscar-nominated drama. 

Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)

One of the best scenes in Richard Linklater’s largely forgettable coming-of-age drama comes when Ethan Hawke’s character gives his son a specially made CD of The Beatles’ solo careers, naming the collection, The Black Album. “There is no favourite Beatle. It’s in the balance,” Hawke’s father character utters after the young protagonist names Paul as his outright favourite. 

It’s a heartwarming moment that The Beatles themselves would be proud of, particularly as it’s topped off by the McCartney song ‘Band on the Run’.

The Killing Fields (Roland Joffé, 1984)

A classic biographical movie from Roland Joffé, The Killing Fields follows a journalist who is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot’s bloody ‘Year Zero’ cleansing campaign, which led to the death of two million civilians. What follows is a tense drama as the journalist seeks safety in a land that is quickly losing control of its sanity and humanity. 

Though it’s not the first song you might think of to appear in such a dark film, it is the Paul McCartney and the Wings song ‘Band on the Run’ that elevates this 1984 classic, providing an eerie mood to the dramatic proceedings. 

Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021)

Like many of the films of Paul Thomas Anderson, Licorice Pizza gives audiences an objective, atmospheric impression of a certain place and time. His latest film is no different, following two young individuals as they navigate their lives under the glitz, sun and eccentricity of the San Fernando Valley in LA. Infused with a passion for the 1970s, Anderson’s nostalgic tale is a joy to behold. 

Ever the creative contrarian, Anderson used the lesser-known love song ‘Let Me Roll In’ for his unconventional coming-of-age movie, suggesting that the relationship between the two leads is anything but normal.

Live and Let Die (Guy Hamilton, 1973)

The clue’s in the title of this 1973 James Bond classic. Giving the franchise one of its very best themes, ‘Live and Let Die’ is a rousing, dramatic piece of music that perfectly underpins Guy Hamilton’s bombastic adventure starring Roger Moore. Standing alone as a great song, as well as an iconic Bond tune, this song is a favourite for many Paul McCartney and Wings fans across the world. 

The film itself is one of Bond’s craziest adventures, with the British spy sent to stop a diabolically brilliant heroin magnate armed with a complex organisation and a reliable psychic tarot card reader.

Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)

Sergio Leone’s final film before his death five years later is in many ways an ode to his past career. Pioneering a spaghetti western genre punctuated by violence and savage individuals, Once Upon a Time in America illustrates the personal sorrow that such a criminal life can bring, showing, in this epic tale of endearing nostalgia, how the ghosts of the past can return to possess you. 

It’s also made all the better by a brief but brilliant use of The Beatles song ‘Yesterday’ when the protagonist, played by Robert De Niro is thinking back to a time long gone. It’s a poignant and emotional moment.

The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2021)

It’s no secret that Wes Anderson loves a good musical score, with The Royal Tenenbaums featuring one of the very best of his entire filmography. Including the likes of Nico, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan, each of these musical moments are eclipsed by the use of ‘Hey Jude’ over the film’s opening sequence, though this version isn’t performed by The Beatles, it’s more of an atmospheric take. 

Originally using The Beatles version for the test screenings, certain complications meant that they had to record a cover for the release of the final film, with no ounce of quality being lost from this decision. 

The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)

The invention of social media is one of the most culturally significant moments in all of modern history, and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is one of the leading voices in this field, responsible for much of the madness we see on similar platforms. David Fincher’s semi-fictional retelling of Zuckerberg’s life details the education of the Harvard student, creating the social media site on a whim one day as a result of his own social dissatisfaction.

Using the song ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’ from the B-side of All You Need Is Love just before the credits roll, Fincher’s choice of music here is impeccable, heightening the film’s triumphant and melancholy finale. 

Vanilla Sky (Cameron Crowe, 2001)

Considered something of a cult classic, Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky stars Tom Cruise as a former publishing magnate who recounts his life before prison, with a few fantastical details added in. The strange fantasy movie was the perfect film for Paul McCartney to jump onboard for and write an original piece of music, writing ‘Vanilla Sky’ specifically for the 2001 Hollywood movie.

With bizarre dreamlike lyrics like ‘Melted tin beads cast your fortune. In a glass of wine. Snail or fish, balloon or dolphin,’ Paul McCartney proved an excellent choice to score the movie.

Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2014)

Nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Reese Witherspoon, Jean-Marc Vallée’s 2014 film Wild is a biography that tells the story of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike, undertaken as a way to get over personal tragedy. Beloved by both critics and audiences, Wild was unfortunate to walk away with nothing at the 2015 Academy Awards. 

One moment in the film utilises the classic Paul McCartney song ‘Let ‘Em In’, with the song perfectly capturing the optimism of the story at hand, as well as the need to accept life and move on.