As if The Beatles contribution to pop-culture wasn’t enough, their musical triumphs have also resulted in some of the most scintillating soundtrack moments to hit the big screen. It’s one of the great assets of cinema that it can encapsulate every other art form in glossy sound and vision. “When you take songs and put them in a sequence in a movie right, it’s about as cinematic a thing as you can do,” once said director Quentin Tarantino. “You are really doing what movies do better than any other art form. And the effect is you can never really hear this song again without thinking about that image from the movie.”
A Beatles song could just about imbue a dental appointment with at least a smidgen of pleasure, so using them to back a scene is a little bit of a failsafe, but deploying the right song at just the right time can catapult a movie moment to memorable heights.
Beyond their obvious contribution to cinema with outings like Yellow Submarine or Yesterday, the movie that imagines what it would be like if no one had ever heard of The Beatles, there’s a slew of times they’ve been smashed onto soundtracks to cracking effect.
If it hasn’t happened as much as you’d like, there’s a reason for that too; licensing a song from the Fab Four would blow most Hollywood budgets. Several sources widely estimated that the music for Yesterday set the production companies back around $10 million, a simply astonishing figure.
However, as these movie-making musical moments prove, it’s an investment worth making if a studio can afford it. The Beatles have broken boundaries of what a band can be, forging out their own little artistic museum, and these artefacts are parts of Beatles history that the band would be proud to exhibit.
Below, we’re taking a look at seven times that The Beatles made films better with their songs.
The best Beatles moments in movies:
‘Twist and Shout’ – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
There’s scarcely been a more feel-good song in history than the hip snaking ‘Twist and Shout’. It implores you to do exactly as the title suggests, and the people on the streets of Chicago, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are more than happy to heed the Fab Four’s advice.
For Ira Newborn, who curated the music for the film, this track seems like the obvious choice. If you’re trying to think of a song that could get an entire city grooving then ‘Twist and Shout’ is smashing the nail right on the head. One of The Beatles finest results in undeniably one of the most cinemas greatest musical scenes. You’d have to be in the darkest of all moods to watch what seems like an entire city riving in pleasure and not smile.
‘I Saw Her Standing There’ – Rain Man
When it comes to soundtracks, some songs play nicely over scenes, others crop up in the background of a bar, but sometimes the music itself is woven into the plot. Although the scene in Rain Man may only be a single verse long, it represents a pivotal moment in the movie, and it highlights just how much of an impact The Beatles have had on our daily lives.
Though the dialogue is very case-specific, I’m sure that similar conversations have been had many times over as the songs of the Fab Four are inexorably woven into our yesterday, our today, and likely our tomorrow too..
‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ – Withnail and I
It was not surprising when this song wormed its way onto the soundtrack considering George Harrison is a credited producer on the movie. Withnail and I is a tale of chronic excesses which Harrison would have been more than familiar with. However, Harrison’s artistic integrity would mean that the song isn’t just dropped in for the hell of it; the cascading melody perfectly matches the sleep-walking decline of the film’s protagonists.
The film as a whole has undoubtedly on of the greatest compilations of rock music ever put to film, with King Curtis and Jimi Hendrix also featuring on the soundtrack bolstered by score movements from David Dundas and Rick Wentworth.
There’s no doubting that ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ is an artefact of beauty, but it is all the sort of beauty that seems to have been put through a Hunter S. Thompson-esque ringer too, making it ideal for this riotous British comedy.
‘Yesterday’ – Yesterday
Of course, something from Yesterday would have to feature because its beauty is that it shines a beaming light on the beauty of the songs. In much the same that a song that you love will hit you differently when it jumps out of the radio, the big screen makes them soar.
Himesh Patel’s performance is brilliant but it’s the lyrics that steal the show here. Part touching tribute, part illumination of the band’s impact and legacy, in this scene director Danny Boyle captures it all. It’s captivating, moving and worth re-watching again and again.
‘I Want You She’s So Heavy’ – Across The Universe
The Beatles music and the Vietnam War form the backdrop to this entirely original take on an upper-class girl / working-class boy love story. This groovy interpretation of oozes with the original attitude but transposes it nicely to fit a new setting.
The brooding guitar that drives the song along as the scene takes a weird and surreal turn as actor Joe Anderson is cast into a bizarre Kafkaesque choreography. It’s the sort of weird and wonderful thing the Fab Four might have imagined after a particularly colourful trip during their heyday and one that ensures a captive audience.
‘Because’ – American Beauty
The ethereal tones of Elliott Smith combining with The Beatles is a dreamy combination for the get-go, but the way it is deployed in American Beauty elevates the cover to a whole new level. This hilarious lament of suburbia is fantastically fitting for one of The Beatles most wistful Abbey Road masterpiece. This is not only one of the best Beatles moments in movies, but also one of the most captivating covers of their work.
Sam Mendes creates a prosaic masterpiece with the film, and the soundtrack is a central component of this. Like any good auteur, Mendes uses the song at hand to shape his scene, forever branding it with The Beatles timeless talent.
‘Come Together’ – A Bronx Tale
De Niro chose a safe bet to soundtrack the fight scene in his directorial debut. The song itself sounds like a punch up, cut quietly under the background at first, the bass illustrates what’s coming and then the “now you’s can’t leave” line arrives. The song eventually transitions into The Moonglow’s, ‘Ten commandments of Love’, but not before ‘Come Together’ has reached its violent, visceral conclusion, in what is otherwise quite a sweet and pleasant movie, by contrast.
De Niro and The Beatles is a meeting of minds that we can surely all appreciate. The movie is excellent but it is the deployment of this song in all its riotous glory that breaks-up the flow in the best possible way.