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Beatles, The


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This phenomenally successful four-piece rock band from Liverpool comprised Paul McCartney (b. 1942), John Lennon (1940-80), George Harrison (1943-2001) and Ringo Starr (b. Richard Starkey, 1940). One of the defining cultural entities of the 1960s, with an extensive back catalogue of now-classic songs, they also made a memorable contribution to British cinema.

After many television appearances as both performers and interviewees (their live appearance on the popular Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 kick-started their transatlantic fame), they made their big-screen debut with A Hard Day's Night (d. Richard Lester, 1964). Intended as a quickie cash-in, the film displayed visual and verbal invention out of all proportion to its budget, and proved much more than a mere showcase for their songs.

The band reunited with Lester for the far more lavish Technicolor spectacle Help! (1965), more of a slapstick comedy than its predecessor, with Ringo pursued by a cult bent on human sacrifice. The band themselves directed Magical Mystery Tour (co-d. Bernard Knowles, 1967), a made-for-TV movie that wrapped a near-incomprehensible plot around inventive song stagings. The Beatles were not directly involved with the psychedelic animated fantasy Yellow Submarine (d. George Dunning, 1968), though it drew heavily on their work and featured them as lead characters (albeit voiced by others). Finally, Let It Be (d. Michael Lindsay-Hogg, 1970) was an elegiac documentary about the recording of what proved to be their final album.

Following the band's 1970 breakup, individual members continued to work in film, with Harrison becoming a major force in 1980s British cinema through his production company HandMade Films. Lennon and Starr played several acting roles from the late 1960s onwards, and though McCartney's film contributions were mostly musical, he wrote and starred in Give My Regards To Broad Street (d. Peter Webb, 1984), an expensive vanity project.

Michael Brooke

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From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Hard Day's Night, A (1964)Hard Day's Night, A (1964)

The Beatles star in one of the defining films of the Swinging Sixties

Thumbnail image of Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (1964)Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (1964)

'Little Children' performed at Wembley

Thumbnail image of This Week 409: Beatlemania (1963)This Week 409: Beatlemania (1963)

Interviews with John, Paul, George and Ringo in the back of a car

Related collections

Thumbnail image of MusicalsMusicals

Song and dance on the big screen

Thumbnail image of Made in LiverpoolLiverpool: Made in Liverpool

Commerce and culture

Thumbnail image of Sounds of the CityLiverpool: Sounds of the City

Merseyside in voice and music

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Harrison, George (1943-2001)Harrison, George (1943-2001)

Musician, Producer, Actor

Thumbnail image of Starr, Ringo (1940-)Starr, Ringo (1940-)

Musician, Actor