Act Naturally: The Beatles Movies In Review

Aaron ConnMovies, MusicLeave a Comment

Beatles in chairs

Beatles in chairsWhile best remembered for their music, the Beatles are no strangers to film. In their time together, the Beatles were involved in the production of five movies. With the new Peter Jackson directed Get Back mini series dropping on Disney Plus this week, here’s an overview of the Fab Four’s adventures on film.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)Beatles Hard Day's Night
The plot: The Beatles are scheduled to appear on a television show in the next few days. With Beatlemania at its peak and Paul’s grandfather traveling with the band, hilarity and hijinks ensue.

Directed by Richard Lester, A Hard Day’s Night took many by surprise. The movie, for all tense and purposes, was made as a cash grab to help promote a new album. However, the band were smart in wanting to make a movie that wasn’t rushed. With this movie, the band were given some creative control in working with Lester- who had worked with comedians such as Peter Sellers. The movie is almost a time capsule of that moment in time, filled with  great sequences: the scenes on the train, the band running around a field to “Can’t Buy Me Love” just to name a few.  The band are all fine actors while Wilfrid Brambell almost steals the show as Paul’s grandfather. Even nearly 60 years after its release, A Hard Day’s Night is a still a funny feel-good music movie.

Rating: 10/10

Help! (1965)
Help Beatles posterThe plot: The Beatles find themselves on the run from a religious cult, who have their eyes set on a sacrificial ring that Ringo can’t get off of his finger.

Released just one year after A Hard Day’s NightHelp! is another solid movie. While directed by Richard Lester again, Help! pales in contrast to A Hard Day’s Night. The plot, which might be seen as problematic by today’s standards, is a little too basic: everyone is out for Ringo’s ring and it doesn’t really go anywhere else. Criticisms aside, Help! is still a fun movie. Whereas A Hard Day’s Night was more realistic fiction, Help! is an action packed comedy movie- taking some inspiration from the James Bond movies. The movie also seems the band traveling all over the world, which is a feast for the eyes during the musical sequences. The movie is also very silly, perhaps even more so than A Hard Day’s Night. The cast are all great and overall, Help! is another good movie.

Rating: 8/10

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

The plot:
The Beatles and a group of people travel on a surreal and psychedelic bus trip/tour for the day.Beatles Magical Mystery Tour

While considered a Beatles movie, this is really a made-for-TV movie that aired on the BBC on Boxing Day in 1967. Filmed after the sudden death of Brian Epstein, it was deemed to be the band’s first all-out flop: the movie has little to no plot and was too weird for audiences. While easily the weakest of the band’s five movies, Magical Mystery Tour isn’t all that bad. Yes, it is plotless and very bizarre but the movie does have a charm to it. Some scenes are nicely shot and the musical sequences are brilliant. Overall, Magical Mystery Tour is worth at least one viewing.

Rating: 6/10

beatles yellow submarineYellow Submarine (1968)
The plot: When the land of Pepperland is under attack by the Blue Meanies, the Beatles are called upon- journeying their way in a yellow submarine to help save the day.

Produced by King Features Syndicate (who also distributed the animated Beatles TV show), Yellow Submarine is different from the other movies here due to the fact that its animated. Believe it or not, the Beatles were skeptical  of the movie and didn’t want to be involved in the movie’s production- considering their disappointment with Help! from 1965. However, the band eventually saw that the movie was good and decided to take part in it. Although they do not voice their own characters, the band do appear at the very end. As for the movie itself, it’s a wonderfully psychedelic delight. The animation from Heinz Edelmann is surreal and unique, perfectly fitting with the music of the Beatles. If one was looking to get a child into the Beatles, look no further: have them watch Yellow Submarine.

Rating: 8/10

beatles let it be Let It Be (1970)
The plot:
In this documentary feature, the Beatles work on new material for their next album in January 1969- originally under the title Get Back.

Of the band’s five movies, Let It Be is easily the band’s most controversial. While the new Get Back mini series will show otherwise, the original Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed feature has this legacy of being a documentary that showed the seeds of the Beatles’ split being sown. While the members of the Beatles have all associated bad memories and tensions during this time, we really don’t see this in the final product. Okay, so we do see the now infamous scene involving Paul McCartney and George Harrison “arguing” over a guitar part. Other than that, the band seems pretty relaxed and happy to play the music. To be honest, this is probably the least exciting of the five movies. Still, the movie manages to fall back on the strength of the music. This is especially during the iconic Rooftop Concert scene that serves as the movie’s finale. While not a perfect product, Let It Be is still a solid feature.

Rating: 7/10

How to watch
With the exception of Let It Be, all of the main Beatles movies can be purchased on DVD and Blu-ray.

Let It Be was briefly released on all of the 1980s home video formats until they were pulled from the market. The movie has been bootlegged many times over the last few decades and can be easily found for online viewing through a simple Google search. According to one recent source, Let It Be will finally receive an official DVD and Blu ray release in 2022.

The Beatles: Get Back will drop its three episodes on Disney Plus from November 25-27.

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Aaron ConnAct Naturally: The Beatles Movies In Review