Arguably the most influential, and popular, band in British music are sure to have a history that crossed over from music to cinema.
Danny Boyle’s Yesterday (2019) is just the latest in a long line of films about and starring the fab four. Their influence on film actually started much earlier when the band were still active.
During the band’s active years they played fictionalised versions of themselves in four feature films beginning with A Hard Day’s Night (1964). The film was loosely scripted and released at the height of ‘Beatlemania’. It gave fans a way to see the band in a narrative with them playing songs in between the plot points.
Help! (1965) followed this and then Magical Mystery Tour (1967), which was the only one of the four which The Beatles actually wrote themselves by writing down ideas as they went along, starting the production without an actual script completed beforehand to the annoyance of some of the other actors.
Perhaps the most well known of the Beatles starring films was Yellow Submarine (1968). An animated musical film which saw the Beatles in their titular submarine going against ‘The Blue Meanies’ with cheerful songs throughout. The film was critically acclaimed and last year celebrated its 50th anniversary with a rerelease in select cinemas.
The final film released during the Beatles’ active years was Let it Be (1970). This differed from the other films mentioned, as instead of a fictional narrative, this was a documentary project. After the band had a stressful time recording The White Album it was decided they needed to go back to their roots. The idea was to document the making of the album with it ending in a recorded live performance by the group. However, this would prove to be ill-fated and instead turned out to be almost a documented account of the start of the band’s breakup. The film did finish in a live performance, the famous rooftop gig, which proved to be the band’s final gig together.
The album recorded at the concert would not be released until after the band’s breakup, although they did go on to release Abbey Road after the filming of the documentary, they disbanded shortly after.
There have been many films based on The Beatles after their split. A large amount of which are documentaries about their time as a band and documentaries focusing on individual members of the group. Ron Howard’s The Beatles: Eight Days a Week (2016) is one of these as well as the TV series documentary The Beatles Anthology (1995) and George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011).
Several films have focused on the life, and death, of singer and guitarist John Lennon. The film Nowhere Boy (2009) starring Aaron-Taylor Johnson as Lennon focuses on his upbringing and his teenage years. The film follows his turbulent upbringing and his relationship with his mother and Aunt Mimi, who raised him. It also shows the start of his love with music and shows him meeting both Paul McCartney and George Harrison who he would later form the Beatles with.
Lennon’s murder has also been documented in film with The Killing of John Lennon (2006) and the Jared Leto starring Chapter 27 (2007). Both focusing on his killer, Mark Chapman, although The Killing of John Lennon focused on Chapman’s life prior to the shooting more than Chapter 27 does.
There’s also a film focusing on John Lennon’s relationship and eventual marriage to Yoko Ono in John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985), as well as fictionalised accounts of moments in The Beatles’ history such as The Hours and Times (1991) which speculates on a weekend Lennon spent with their manager Brian Epstein in Barcelona in 1963, and Two of Us (2000) which dramatised a meeting of Lennon and McCartney in 1976, six years after the band disbanded.
There has been a number of films that do not feature The Beatles but are based on their music or have the band as a theme throughout. I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978) is a film focusing on characters during Beatlemania, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) is a musical film based on the album and the Danni Minogue featuring Secrets (1992) which sees five characters get locked in a basement of a hotel that the band is staying at. This is just a snippet of the many films that utilise The Beatles as a plot point with Yesterday being the latest in the long list.
If you’ve got the desire for more Beatles themed films after Yesterday then there’s plenty to choose from. I’ve only discussed a few here, but if you want to look at the history of the fab four and its members there’s plenty to look for to keep you going eight days a week.