Noovie 9: The Best Uses of Beatles Songs in Movies

We acknowledge the anniversary of John Lennon's death and take in Peter Jackson's "The Beatles: Get Back" with a look at the Fab Four's influence on cinema.

Matt Lissauer

By Matt Lissauer

The Beatles in "A Hard Day's Night."

© United Artists / Courtesy Everett Collection

This week marks the 41st anniversary of one of the most shocking and tragic events in music history: the slaying of John Lennon outside his New York City apartment. This event was later dramatized in 2008's "Chapter 27," with Jared Leto, who disappeared completely into the role of crazed fan and perpetrator Mark David Chapman. The anniversary of this event also coincides with director Peter Jackson's epic rockumentary, "The Beatles: Get Back," now streaming on Disney+. The doc paints a different picture of the Beatles in the final weeks of their time together as the Fab Four. It's also a fascinating fly-on-the-wall style look at how the Beatles could still produce amazing work, even under all different kinds of stressors.

As we acknowledge this anniversary and jam out to Jackson's doc, we can't help but recognize how impactful the Beatles were on music. It's no hyperbole to say the Beatles influenced nearly every modern music genre from pop, rock, and metal to even rap and R&B (not to mention their impact on in-studio production). Just as their influence on music is beyond question, so too is their influence on cinema. Here we highlight ten movie scenes that became completely transcendent by a song (or songs) from John Lennon and the rest of the Fab Four.

9 / "All You Need Is Love" from "Love Actually"

© Universal Pictures

© Universal Pictures

Covered by Lynden David Hall and played at the wedding of Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Juliet (Kiera Knightly), along with horns, flutes and a full choir, John Lennon's call for peace and love works perfectly not just as a wedding procession piece, but also as an overarching theme for the movie itself. After all, love is all you need.

Love Actually Poster

Love Actually

R

Holiday

November 26, 2003

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8 / The Soundtrack from "I Am Sam"

The film follows the story of Sam (Sean Penn), a mentally disabled father who fights to retain custody of his bright daughter, Lucy (Dakota Fanning). Writer/director Jessie Nelson made Sam a die-hard Beatles fan after observing just how much those who resided at L.A. GOAL (a center for people with developmental disabilities) loved the Fab Four. Nelson included many other Beatles references in her screenplay and shot the film with certain songs in mind. However, the cost of acquiring the rights to the actual tunes was too high. So producers commissioned popular musicians of the day to cover the tunes. Despite the film's critical reception, its soundtrack did go on to win a Grammy.

I Am Sam Poster

I Am Sam

PG-13

Drama

January 25, 2002

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7 / "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from "Across the Universe"

© Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

© Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Jukebox musical "Across the Universe" takes the Beatles' songbook and uses it to tell the story of six individuals navigating life and love through the turbulent '60s. Slowing down the tempo and dropping the key, Paul McCartney and John Lennon's rousing tune about a boy eager in love turns into a melancholic ode to yearning and unrequited passion. The song becomes more impactful when Prudence (T.V. Carpio), a girl unsure of her own sexuality, soulfully sings it as she gazes over to another girl. The film has many songs to choose from, but none were more transformative from its original piece than this one.

Across the Universe Poster

Across the Universe

PG-13

Musical

September 21, 2007

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6 / "Hey Jude" from "The Royal Tenenbaums"

A horn-heavy orchestral version of Paul McCartney's "Hey Jude" plays in the background as narrator Alec Balwin introduces us to the Tenenbaum kids. We're given some backstory and learn more about the family dynamics. It's a perfect marriage of music and scene-setting. When plans fell through to get the rights to the original song, composer Mark Mothersbaugh employed his own band to cover the song. Director Wes Anderson also wanted to have the film end with "I'm Looking Through You," but sadly, that fell through as well. Nevertheless, the cover and scene still work as pure Wes Anderson in full effect.

The Royal Tenenbaums Poster

The Royal Tenenbaums

R

Comedy Drama

December 14, 2001

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5 / "Come Together" from "A Bronx Tale"

© Savoy Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

© Savoy Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

In Robert De Niro's directorial debut – written by and starring Chazz Palminteri – a young Bronx teen, Calogero (Lillo Brancato), becomes a protege to local gangster Sonny (Palminteri). This is much to the chagrin of his father (De Niro, playing against type). The Beatles play in the background as we learn more about Sonny and his temperament. In this scene, a motorcycle gang stops by the mob-owned bar for some beers. But instead of "coming together," the bikers' bad manners end up being too much for the gangsters. De Niro certainly picked up a thing or two from his own director-mentor, Martin Scorsese. The song cuts off just as a biker lands on a jukebox. Was that tune actually playing in the bar?

Watch the scene

A Bronx Tale Poster

A Bronx Tale

R

Drama

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4 / "Baby, You're a Rich Man" from "The Social Network"

John Lennon's ode to the emerging hippie movement, combined with Paul McCartney's chorus that reportedly was about band manager Brian Epstein, suggests that we're all rich and beautiful people, whether spiritually, materialistically, or both. David Fincher turns the song's meaning on its head, aptly applying it to the final scene in "The Social Network." After Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) wins his case, he logs onto his social network. There he sends a friend request to the girl who initially walked out on him at the movie's start. It's a perfect bookend, even if it didn't really happen. Still, we watch as Zuckerburg morosely reloads his site, hoping the girl grants his request in real-time. As this goes on, the movie informs us about what happened to the other key figures from the film that Zuckerburg supposedly stiffed during Facebook's founding. Certainly, the price paid for Silicon Valley glory.

The Social Network Poster

The Social Network

PG-13

Drama

October 1, 2010

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3 / "Twist and Shout" from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

© Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

© Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection

For all that Ferris Bueller goes through to get out of school, you'd think he'd want to keep a low profile, especially if Principal Rooney is on the hunt. But, in this era before cell phones and Instagram, perhaps we can suspend our disbelief just enough to think he'd get away clean. After all, the whole city of Chicago does join him in a rousing lip-sync of the Beatles' famous Isley Brothers cover.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off Poster

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

PG-13

Comedy

June 11, 1986

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2 / "Happiness is a Warm Gun" from "Bowling for Columbine"

Filmmaker Michael Moore knows how to make an entertaining documentary. Part of that comes from his clever use of needle drops that marry themselves almost too perfectly to his scenes and montages. Here we find John Lennon's satirical take on gun culture (or were his lyrics a metaphor for something else?) being used to perfect effect in a montage that mixes the sport of owning a gun with the darker consequences of gun ownership laws. It all fits so well, especially considering that Lennon conceived the song and its title from an issue of "American Rifleman."

Bowling for Columbine Poster

Bowling for Columbine

R

Documentary

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1 / "A Hard Day's Night" from "A Hard Day's Night"

Ok, we're cheating here, but could there be any other number one? With a single chord – a chord whose notes are lost to music history – so begins a movie, and a soundtrack, that completely transformed the pop culture landscape. "A Hard Day's Night," which was how Ringo Starr once described their hours-long recording process, kicks off the movie. The opening scene puts us smack-dab in the middle of Beatlemania, as the Fab Four run, duck and hide from swarming fans. The fast tempo song, along with the mad-cap scene, makes for a sequence that gets you in the right frame of mind for this equally mad-cap adventure.

A Hard Day's Night Poster

A Hard Day's Night

G

Comedy

August 11, 1964

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Matt Lissauer

Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.

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