The Beatles: Influence on Film

This is the final segment of our three-part series. We’ve discovered 33 films in the series, with 11 films each over the past three days — at 3 PM — as part of our third “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” installment.

The films are listed by year of release.

“Rubber Soul Black & White” image courtesy of Veronica Kim-Pinterest (pinimg.com) via Esty/logo courtesy of 60s Girl Deviant Art/banner design by R.D Francis

Nowhere Boy (2009)

Imagine This: Growing Up With My Brother John Lennon by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird fuels this tale. Sam Taylor-Johnson — who earned a Golden Raspberry nod for Worst Director on her sophomore film, Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) — makes her directorial debut with this examination of John Lennon’s (an excellent Aaron Taylor-Johnson) adolescence, his relationships with his aunt Mimi Smith, and his mother Julia Lennon, and the creation of his first band, the Quarrymen, and its evolution into the Beatles.

Lennon Naked (2010)

After watching the early years of Lennon in Nowhere Boy, and one’s left wondering what the final year of Lennon’s life was like in the Beatles, this BBC-TV produced TV movie, which ended up on the U.S. pay cable network Showtime as a first-run movie, answers those questions. Christopher Eccleston as Lennon is excellent throughout, as this clips proves. Chilling.


George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)

Look, Hollywood is too busy mucking up the histories of Elton John, Freddie Mercury, and Nikki Sixx to give “The Quiet Beatle” a bioflick or Netflix mini-series proper. Besides, when Martin Scorsese takes a break from the mobster flicks to pay tribute to the life and times of George Harrison, you break editorial rules and include the documentary on the list.

This is buoyed by Paul and Ringo showing up, along with Harrison’s widow Olivia, and his son Dhani, as well as Tom Petty and Eric Clapton. Not only do we learn about George’s time with the Beatles; the seven-years-in-the-making film delves deeply into his solo career, including his work with the Concert for Bangladesh and the delightful Traveling Wilburys project.

Good Ol’ Freda (2013)

The subject matter here is such an out-of-left field twist in the history of Beatles flicks, we had to break editorial policy for a third time to mention this fascinating documentary on the life of Fredy Kelly: a fellow Liverpudlian hired by Brian Epstein as the Beatles’ Fan Club secretary. What makes this all work is the lack of sensationalism, courtesy of Kelly’s humble soul in respecting the privacies of her world-famous friends, but still telling us many things we did not know.

Danny Collins (2015)

In 1971, 21-year old Bristol, England, folk musician Steve Tilston released his critically acclaimed debut album, An Acoustic Confusion, and the 1972 sophomore follow up, Collection.

In a 1971 ZigZag magazine interview, Tilston admitted — inspired by the editor/writer’s accolades for Tilson’s work — that he feared wealth and fame might negatively affect his songwriting.

Inspired, John Lennon wrote to Tilston — in care of ZigZag — to offer the upcoming musician encouragement, “. . . Being rich doesn’t change your experience in the way you think,” Lennon wrote. It was signed, “Love, John and Yoko.” It turned out that, upon receipt of the letter, the magazine’s editor, believing Lennon’s letter “had value,” greedily kept the document; it was never turned over to Tilston.

How wicked the Fates: If the Lennon letter had been turned over to Tilston, would he and Lennon have forged a friendship? Would Lennon’s words have encouraged Tilston not to give up on the music business?

Tilston did not become aware of the letter’s existence until 2005, when a collector contacted him to verify the document’s authenticity. When the story was officially reported in the music trades in August 2010, it inspired this 2015 Al Pacino-starring film.

While the movie has it charms, and Pacino is endearing as a non-folkie, but poppy-ersatz Neil Diamond (check out the great original, “Hey, Baby Doll,” which was purposely crafted as a Diamond soundalike to “Sweet Caroline”), the excitement over a movie with such an obscure Beatles connection quickly fades due to us being treated to a film “based on Steve Tilston’s life” and not about Steve Tilston.

No, we don’t see Lennon or Yoko, either.

The Lennon Report (2016)

Pair this Beatles flick with either of the Mark David Chapman flicks to learn of the aftermath of Chapman’s motives. It purports to be the “true story” of the moments after John Lennon was shot. Lennon’s murder is seen through eyes of a young news producer poised to break the biggest story of the year, and the emergency room staff of Roosevelt Hospital realizing the true identity of their “John Doe,” and their race against time to save his life, all the while keeping his identity, private.

Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (2017)

Okay, so we’re doing Ron Howard solid by mentioning his documentary because of his rock flick pedigree with the very cool NBC-TV movie Cotton Candy (1978). Howard explores the Beatles’ touring years and answers the questions as to why they stopped touring in 1966 to focus solely on recording in the studio. Its expertly assembled, as expected with a Ron Howard production, and well worth the watch, even for those who eschew documentaries of any subject.

Paul Is Dead (2018)

Paul McCartney didn’t die in a car crash, as commonly rumored, in this comedic “What If . . .” flick. And he wasn’t murdered by Billy Shears, either. Paul simply died from a drug overdose during an experimental, countryside musical retreat — the drugs were George’s — and replaced by the look-alike, local sheep herder, Billy Shears.

You can learn more about the film and free-stream it on the film’s official website, or watch it on Vimeo. There’s also two, wonderful fiction books that play with the myth of Billy Shears: The Memoirs of Billy Shears (2018) by Thomas E. Uharriet, and Billy Shears: The Secret History of the Beatles (2020) by Bruce “Doctor” Lev. Either book would make for a wonderful feature film.

Scrambled Eggs (2019)

Produced as part of the U.K.’s SKY Network’s Emmy Award-nominated series Urban Myths, the installments delve into fictionalized stories about the legends of the acting and music industries. Writer Simon Nye (who also wrote the Season 2/Episode 8 installment, “The Sex Pistols vs. Billy Grundy“) weaves this tale (Season 3/Episode 7) based on interviews Paul McCartney has given over the years about how he developed the melody to “Yesterday.” In comical twist: Paul is so dumbfounded that he came up such a mature melody, he drives everyone crazy over his paranoid that he “stole” the melody from another, popular song.

You can learn more about the Urban Myths series at Sky.com. You can also stream it on U.S shores via Showtime and Hulu. You can also stream the full 20-minute film on You Tube, and sample the with film with the highlight reel, below.

Yesterday (2019)

So, was it worth shelling $10 million dollars for the rights to the Beatles’ catalog in this Richard Curtis-penned romantic comedy (Love Actually and The Boat that Rocked) directed by Danny Boyle (Oscar-winner Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting)?

Yes. We said “romantic comedy.” Yes, by Richard Curtis, who gave us Bridget Jones movies and hooked up the likes of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.

And “the Beatles” . . . well, an actor portraying John Lennon (John Lennon scene/You Tube) shows up. But he’s not the “John Lennon” we know: he lives a quite, non-musical life as an artist (at the age of 78) in a beach side cottage sipping tea. Why? Because we’re in an alternate timeline (caused by a bump on the noggin’ during a worldwide blackout) where the Beatles don’t exist . . . but struggling musician Jack Malik, does. And he records a worldwide smash, debut album comprised of Lennon-McCartney compositions, well Jack Malik compositions.

The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

Yeah, we know we said “no documentaries.” But after breaking policy for Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard with their high-quality theatrical documents, how can we pass up Lord Peter Jackson restoring and reediting Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s Let It Be (1970) for a reissue under its original work title. And, as it turns out, in Jackson’s cut, the Beatles were getting along better than we were lead to believe.

Seriously, which you would want: the Beatles getting the “Freddie Mercury” or “Elton John” treatment, or a Peter Jackson document on the Beatles?

If only George and John were here to experience it with Paul and Ringo.

Courtesy of 1000 Logos.

Thank you for joining us in our three part series on the influence of the Beatles on cinema.

Here’s the complete list of the films we reviewed in the series:

Part 1

Yellow Submarine (1968)
All this and World War II (1976)
All You Need is Cash (1978)
I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
Birth of the Beatles (1979)
Beatlemania: The Movie (1981)
John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985)
Concrete Angels (1987)
The Hours and Times (1991)
Secrets (1992)

Part 2

Backbeat (1994)
That Thing You Do! (1995)
The Linda McCartney Story (2000)
Paul Is Dead (2000)
Two of Us (2000)
I Am Sam (2001)
The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch (2002)
Across the Universe (2007)
Chapter 27 (2007)
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
The Killing of John Lennon (2008)

Part 3

Nowhere Boy (2009)
Lennon Naked (2010)
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)
Good Ol’ Freda (2013)
Danny Colllins (2015)
The Lennon Report (2016)
Eight Days a Week — The Touring Years (2017)
Paul Is Dead (2018)
Scrambled Eggs (2019)
Yesterday (2019)
The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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