You would be hard pressed to find a music act that has had as big of an influence as The Beatles. Being active as a band for just ten years, the variation and massive success of their work (that experimented with pop ballads, hard rock and psychedelia) has led to their immortal and untouchable stature within the history of music and culture.
In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity led to the emergence of Beatlemania, but as their music evolved into a more sophisticated and mature style, they came to be perceived as an embodiment of the counter culture movement. From the small time clubs in Liverpool to their massive international success and leading the forefront of the British invasion, there’s not a lot the fab four didn’t achieve in their decade of producing music.
It should hardly be considered a surprise then, that their music has permeated the medium of film to a massive extent. Numerous filmmakers have incorporated The Beatles’ music into their work to reflect the style, mood or atmosphere of their movies.
The use of an original Beatles song in a movie can be incredibly expensive, which is why so many often resort to cover versions, but there have been a few notable uses over the years. This list only includes films that The Beatles did not star in, otherwise virtually all of this list would consist of the various songs from Help, Yellow Submarine, Let It Be and A Hard Day’s Night.
10. ‘Girl’ – Mask
This underrated Bogdanovich directed biopic about Roy L. “Rocky” Denis (played by Eric Stoltz) who suffered from a cranial enlargement disease has a soundtrack with some of the biggest musicians of the 60s/70s era, including Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and Little Richard as well as two standout Beatles songs. One is their early hit I Want To Hold Your Hand and the other is the last complete song recorded for the acclaimed Rubber Soul album, Girl.
The song is used to its full charming and uplifting effect, but was also used to pack an odd emotional punch. His appearance leads Rocky to be skeptical if anyone will ever love him, but one night he secures a dance with the girl of his dreams, accompanied by The Beatles’ delightful, hopeful and endlessly enjoyable song.
The moment has such a profound effect on the main character as from that moment on Rocky keeps a message reading “Thank You Beatles” on his wall.
9. ‘In My Life’ – Little Manhattan
Few things say more about how timeless The Beatles music is than the fact that it can be used in a film made exactly forty years after it was first recorded and still fit the tone, themes and messages of said film perfectly.
Mark Levin and Jenifer Flackett’s romantic comedy/coming of age tale is about a pre-teen and his first love in modern day New York. It’s endearing, often affectionate and utterly genuine, never resorting to manipulative tactics to provoke an emotional response.
There’s a certain innocence to the scene but one that slowly evokes deeper emotions of friendship, its loss and its gain over the course of time. It really is the perfect accompaniment piece to this wonderfully charming film.
8. ‘Come Together’ – A Bronx Tale
Robert De Niro’s directorial debut saw the actor at the helm of a very funny, touching and complex movie. It’s a coming of age tale infused with gangster drama as a young Italian-American finds himself guided by two father figures, played by De Niro as his biological father and Chazz Palminteri as a local mafia boss.
A Bronx Tale also lacks none of the grit and brutality of a standard gangster movie and one scene in particular exemplifies that. As a pair of Mafioso’s rough up a few boisterous yet ultimately unfortunate bikers as they happen to stumble across their bar, the jukebox fires up with Come Together.
The slow rhythmic beat of the song works perfectly to build tension as the two sides converse, but the short snare bursts and bridging guitar solos act as an excellent counterpart to the sudden burst of violence the mafia lay down the law and teach the bikers not to mess with the wrong people.
7. ‘While My Guitar Weeps Gently’ – Withnail and I
It’s hardly surprising that a film produced by HandMade Films utilised a song from the fab four, after all its founder was none other than George Harrison. Among the titles that HandMade produced are classics like Life of Brian, Time Bandits and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels as well as this dark comedic classic.
Based on Robinson’s life in London in the late 1960s, the plot follows two unemployed young actors, Withnail and “I” (portrayed by Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann) who live in a squalid flat in Camden Town in 1969 while squandering their finances on alcohol. Eventually they decide they need a holiday and make their way north.
The film uses what many regard as Harrison’s finest song writing achievement with the group for just a brief stint, but it sure is a memorable one. Having returned to their flat Withnail and “I” returning to their flat to find a man they’ve never met before relaxing in their bathtub.
It’s an oddly surreal yet also high energy moment, caught in utter surprise and confusion to the point where as an audience member, all you can do is marvel at the situation, and the use of Eric Clapton’s lyrical solo combined with The Beatles’ own sublime harmonies capture it perfectly.
6. ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ – Bowling for Columbine
Regardless of what you think of Michael Moore, you have to admit he has a unique and effective way of tapping into human emotions in a way that few other documentary filmmakers can. About 20 minutes into the film, a montage with various images of gun violence and usage while The Beatles’ Happiness is a Warm Gun, a song that may or may not be about the use of a dangerous substance that damages those around it.
As Lennon’s vocals snarl give the scene an added sense of viciousness and the song continues to have a profound effect on the images being shown, further conveying the point of view Moore was trying to get a across. As the song ramps up even further, the sequence also escalates to its violent and nerve shredding conclusion. It’s hard not to be affected by it.