11 On-Screen Portrayals of the Beatles
In honor of the 70th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth and the opening of his biopic Nowhere Boy this weekend, watch video of 11movie versions of the Beatles.
Beware the Bad LSD Trip
In 2007’s Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, fictional music icon Dewey Cox and his bandmates head to India for a spiritual rendezvous with the maharishi. Instead of meditation, they find the Beatles—that is, Jack Black as a slightly plumper version of Paul McCartney and Paul Rudd as John Lennon, along with Justin Long and Jason Schwartzman. In their short time on screen, the Beatles continuously refer to themselves in the third person and work their public personas into the conversation. But alas, no trip with the Beatles is complete without a quick (and cartoon) journey to another dimension, via LSD. Unless, as Cox finds out, it’s a bad LSD trip.
High School Musical 1950s Edition
Despite Nowhere Boy’s good reviews, this 2009 telling of John Lennon’s early days failed to generate much buzz for its American release—perhaps because the film contains no mention of the Beatles. The movie shows Lennon, in a life-changing role for Aaron Johnson, and his relationship with his Aunti Mimi and mother Julia. On the musical side, we see the evolution of his first band, the Quarrymen, into the Beatles. In this scene, a baby-faced Paul McCartney has a jam session at Lennon’s house. Aunt Mimi is not impressed.
The Beatles’ Universal Appeal
Across the Universe revolved around the story of a character named Jude who travels from Liverpool to the United States, and finds revolutions and love in the late ‘60s. Basically, any other plot point that can be tied to a Beatles song is fair game. While some critics disliked the sometimes literal translations and wished producers just let the Beatles’ songbook be, the 2007 film was a lively interpretation of the Fab Four melodies, set against the backdrop of a pivotal time in American history.
VH1 Reality Show: Bro-ing Out With The Beatles
The 2000 VH1 television movie Two of Us takes place six years after the band broke up. Paul McCartney makes a surprise visit to John Lennon in New York City and they nearly decide to go on Saturday Night Live after being offered $3,000 to reunite. When it comes to getting to know the two most famous Beatles intimately, this film is tops, because most of it consists of conversations between the two. Watch as Lennon discovers that McCartney has brought him a smokable gift, and they discuss their past, and possible future, as Beatles.
Help! What Is This Movie About?
From their debut in 1964’s comic mockumentary A Hard Day’s Night, the Beatles (the real ones) had a prolific movie career for musicians. They followed their first film with the James Bond-ish caper Help!, the odd Magical Mystery Tour, the animated Yellow Submarine, and the documentary Let It Be. The films were a bizarre mix of frantic comedy, LSD trips, confusing plots, and pure nonsense. Yet they were always entertaining. This clip from Help! involves an epic fight scene and the “exciting adventure of Paul on the ground.”
Lennon Gets Naked With Yoko and Balloons
This 2010 BBC movie spurns Team McCartney and sides with Team Lennon in all of its eccentric, tormented, imaginative glory. The film spans 1967 to 1971, or the period in which Lennon transformed himself from a Beatle to a solo icon with a woman in his life. Though Christopher Eccleston was clearly about 20 years older than the Lennon he was playing, he received rave reviews. Watch as Lennon “the Liberator” and Yoko Ono battle with the press and set some balloons free.
Epstein Lennon Barcelona
The Hours and Times was a 1991 movie based on a trip John Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein went on together in 1963. The romp is not just a buddy movie about the pair’s journey through Barcelona. Instead, it’s a close examination of their complex relationship. And by complex, we mean possibly homosexual. While news that Epstein was gay spread publicly after his death by accidental overdose in 1967, Lennon said that the relationship was never “consummated” and only “intense.”
Bare Necessity: The Beatles
It just makes sense for beetles to be in Disney’s The Jungle Book. But John, Paul, Ringo, and George? That’s what almost happened. The song “We're Your Friends" was originally meant to be a rock 'n' roll tune sung by vultures voiced by the Beatles. Unfortunately, because of scheduling conflicts (or Lennon’s disgust with the idea), the plan was canned in favor of a barbershop quartet. The famous Beatles hair, however, stayed on the birds.
Who Is Stuart Sutcliffe?
Backbeat follows the early days of the Beatles in Germany and focuses on Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon. While the 1994 film’s tagline was, “He had to choose between his best friend, the woman he loved… and the greatest rock & roll band in the world,” Paul McCartney did not agree. He said that the film took his “rock and rollness off” and was a sugar-coated version of Beatles history. Well, it’s hard to get more saccharine than scenes of saying goodbyes before boarding a ship and taking the stage after a naked dancer.
Only Originals Please
Released in 1979, The Birth of the Beatles was one of the first biopics of the band and the only one made while Lennon was still alive. The film dealt with the idea that original drummer Pete Best’s rabid fanbase was a point of contention for the other band members. Best, however, did have an influence on the movie’s plot. Watch as the Beatles revolt against famed record producer George Martin (who made all but one of their albums) and his request for them to cover a hit song.
Bob Dylan Meets the Beatles
In 2007’s I’m Not There, Cate Blanchett’s version of Bob Dylan, Jude Quinn, comes across the Beatles. Take the scene that follows as a meditation on the way the British press greeted the Fab Four with open arms and treated Dylan with disdain, or as a scene of some high folks rolling down a hill together.
Sujay Kumar works at The Daily Beast. He's written for MTV Splash Page and The Daily Illini.