When assembling this list, one must set out some criteria first. Will this focus on the best movies that feature The Beatles, or movies that have the best Beatles’ songs? Or is it the movies that make the best use of the music? Instead of narrowing things down, we’ve instead looked for the movies that combine a bit of each, with the movies that combine the three the best nearer to the top. Automatically eliminated are those that damage the reputation of the legendary band – namely All This and World War II and Across the Universe, for their crimes against pop culture.
10. Nowhere Boy
Song: ‘A Hard Days Night’
The only movie on the list that directly references The Beatles, ‘Nowhere Boy’ focuses on the early years of band founding member John Lennon as he discovers himself and his estranged family. Featuring Aaron Johnson – an actor known to teenage boys as ‘Kick-Ass’ and teenage girls as ‘the boyfriend from Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging’, the young actor puts in a performance that betrays his age in it’s skill and maturity and adds to the mythos of the celebrity. During the film very, very little reference is made to the discography of The Beatles, adding emphasis to the opening scene that uses the instantly familiar opening chord from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, signifying the beginning of a legend just as it did fifty years ago.
9. Sucker Punch
‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ – version by Allison Mosshart and Carla Azar
‘Sucker Punch’ is not a good movie. Snyder managed to bring strong adaptations of iconic comic books into visually striking movies, but was unable to meld that unique style into a story of his own creation. In spite of the hype, the trailers showcased the best parts of the movie with the full feature adding little more to the experience. One shining gem amid the slop bucket was this tripping and well performed cover by Allison Mosshart, from The Kills and The Dead Weather. A dark and talented singer, she added a sharp tone to this popular George Harrison piece.
8. Bowling For Columbine
Song – ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’
Michael Moore’s stock seems to dip the closer people look at his works. Yes, his films are very biased but considering that his intention is to present his viewpoint and argue a case. Criticising a documentary film-maker for such actions seems like a pointless activity. One thing that viewers simply cannot get around is that he knows how to generate an emotional response from the viewer. In a master-stroke, he uses Lennon’s ode to heroin as a cheerful and ironic reflection on American gun culture, with the up-beat tune backing a montage of people proudly showing of their firearms.
7. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Song – ‘Twist and Shout’
This classic of 1980s cool, Ferris Bueller is the kind of guy who is all about excitement and fun. Determined to show his sad-sack best friend Cameron a good time, he’s been rebuffed at every turn. For a final measure he crashes a parade that happens to be passing through town and launches into a song that outright defines Ferris’ attitude to life. A brilliant song used for an energetic madcap performance.
6. Children of Men
Song – ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ version by Junior Parker
The second appearance of this song on this list, but a completely different approach to the material. Whilst both the Allison Mosshart and original versions of the song are seeped in surrealism. Parker takes a different tack, creating a grittier, far more melancholic version of the song that reflects the bleak visuals and oppressive themes of the movie whilst retaining the strength of the original song. A wonderful companion piece to a masterful movie.
5. American Beauty
Song – ‘Because’ – version by Elliot Smith
John Lennon once said that ‘Because’ required no imagery because ‘the lyrics speak for themselves’. Whatever he may say the song evokes a strong series of images that thematically parallel this Alan Ball and Sam Mendes cinematic masterpiece. Kevin Spacey’s character Lester is a man who’s let the years of his life pass him by, only in his later years does he begin to see the simple beauty in the world around him.
Song – ‘Across the Universe’ version by Fiona Apple
‘Pleasantville’ is a movie that doesn’t generate much discussion but is otherwise well loved by viewers and critics. Beginning as regular teen drama, the young cast get sucked inside the 1950’s black and white world of an old sitcom only, leading to a deeper exploration of modern consumerism and sexuality in the media as well as race relations. A deftly handled and often funny film, the remarkably balanced tone and wonderful images are perfectly accompanied by Fiona Apple’s hauntingly beautiful rendition of one of The Beatles’ final hits.
3. The Royal Tenenbaums
Song – ‘Hey Jude’ version by The Mutato Muzika Orchestra
A suitably quirky version of the classic McCartney tune for the quirky pioneering hipster Wes Anderson. The viewer joins the Tenenbaum family during a low time in the family’s history. We are treated to a snappy introduction to the Tenenbaum children, former geniuses now damaged adults, with a sense of mirth and pathos. ‘Hey Jude’, written by McCartney about Julian Lennon’s strained relationship with his father, invokes the very tone required to feel sympathy for these odd characters.
2. The Social Network
Song – ‘Baby You’re a Rich Man’
It goes without saying that Fincher’s latest (excluding his recent foray into stories of girls with tattoo’s, possibly of dragons) is carried by a brilliant soundtrack. Trent Reznor is well deserving of the praise and accolades that have been heaped on his for his original score, and weight to the already dramatic proceedings. The most poignant moment, however, is saved until the closing scene. Dejected and alone, Mark Zuckerberg has seen each of his friends, colleagues and mentors either turn against him or be cut loose. With nothing left but his reputation as the worlds youngest billionaire, he his left along attempting to make contact with a girl long lost to him, a figure in stark contrast to the cheery and happy-go-lucky ditty being pumped over the fade to black.
1. I Am Sam
Song – Various covers recorded by a range of talents.
Sean Penn is an excellent actor, and this is a powerful role for him to sink his teeth into. Such Oscar bait, however, does little to interest me. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is unmitigated joy. Classics by The Beatles are given fresh perspective by some of the most talented singers working. With tracks including ‘Let It Be’ by Nick Cave, ‘Across the Universe’ by Rufus Wainwright, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ by Ben Harper, ‘You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away’ by Eddie Vedder, ‘I’m Looking Through You’ by The Wallflowers and many, many more, there’s really nothing else to say to explain why this is #1 on this list.