Music and movies are more intricately connected than we often give them credit for. Music may exist perfectly fine on its own without any attachment to a movie, but a movie would not be a fraction of its final product without accompanying music to set a mood. Music alone can give a movie scene a lighthearted tone, an eerie mysticism, or an inspirational spirit, even if the actual footage and dialogue used in the scene is the same regardless of the music choices. It also makes a difference to the audience whether the song is well-known or not, as the sudden appearance of a classic rock song, for example, in a movie is likely going to create a different reaction among an audience than a modern indie track.
It’s no surprise to me that many movies over the years have famously featured Beatles songs. The Beatles’ lyrics, especially for songs such as “Eleanor Rigby” and “A Day In The Life,” tell stories akin to how a movie strings together a narrative about characters, places, and hardships. This makes their songs well equipped to accompany movie scenes. In addition, many opening riffs to Beatles songs are so iconic that the audience immediately recognizes them, adding a sense of familiarity to a scene in a movie that, by endearing itself to the audience in this way, allows the audience to sympathize with or relate more to the character in question than they may otherwise. I am more knowledgeable about music than I am about movies, but several notable examples of this beautiful marriage between Beatles songs and movies come to mind, which I’ll share with you here. Feel free to comment with any additional examples that may be close to your heart.
This is one of the more critically acclaimed uses of a Beatles song in a movie that I can recall in recent memory, and with good reason. This song, which was originally directed by the Beatles towards their manager Brian Epstein regarding his hedonistic lifestyle, fits in perfectly to question Mark Zuckerberg at the end of this movie. If you’ve never seen The Social Network, during the scene with this song, Mark Zuckerberg is sitting in a conference room, on the cusp of Facebook’s truly explosive breakthrough into mainstream culture that is about to make him a billionaire. However, the movie ends (spoiler alert? this has been out for several years…) with him being put in his place by his constant refreshing of his friend request to his ex-girlfriend, and by this song playing in the movie’s background. I love how the song speaks directly to the listener, asking “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? How often have you been there?” The way the scene is shot, it seems like the song speaks directly to Zuckerberg. It’s a sharp critique of upper-class social life that remains relevant today, as do so many Beatles songs. I’m glad to see that an underrated song like this one received well-deserved attention for its feature in The Social Network, an excellent movie in its own right.
This is a more lighthearted addition to this list, which warrants a place mostly because of Jennifer Hudson’s incredible voice. I loved the movie Sing largely for how it celebrated an unbridled love for music, theater, and the arts in general. This song features in both the beginning and end of the movie, initially as a rather diva-esque moment for Jennifer Hudson’s character, and later as a satisfying moment of closure for the characters after the emotional roller coaster that they have all gone through. I cannot recall another animated movie in recent memory that used a Beatles song in as effective moving a manner as this one. Especially near the end of the movie, when the heartfelt characters are finally having their moment in the sun and singing their hearts out, I teared up a bit as this song played again in the movie’s background. Songs such as this from the second half of Abbey Road have a unique power to signify closure, in my opinion because they were among the last songs on the official last Beatles album. I always associate this song with the end of that fantastic album, and featuring it at the beginning and end of a heartwarming movie such as this created a familiar sonic pleasure for myself, and hopefully for other Beatles fans at the movie theater.
Despite being the major Beatlemaniac that I am, I honestly don’t think I noticed that the version of this song in the movie is actually a cover, sung by Elliott Smith, until I looked it up. It sounds nearly identical to the original Beatles version, minus the instrumentation present on the Beatles’ version. This particular Beatles song is known for being one of their most beautiful and also most haunting songs, with which I completely agree. It perfectly complements the themes of the ultimate banality of American suburban life, and also the remarkable qualities present in every aspect of our lives, that this movie features. I find American Beauty a bit scary at times, especially at the very end, and this song plays perfectly into the slightly eerie tone of the entire movie.
This is one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies of all time. The marriage of song and scene here perfectly captures the universal appeal of the Beatles and how they manage to bring diverse crowds together all over the world, nearly 50 years after they split up. One thing interesting about this scene is how it begins with just Ferris singing along on the parade float, but gradually the entire crowd joins in until the entire street is singing along, young and old, to this classic song. This also illustrates to me the power that Ferris wields throughout the movie to bring people together who may have never associated with each other before, such as his sister Jeanie and Charlie Sheen’s character in the police station. “Twist and Shout” also captures the carefree, happy-go-lucky spirit of the entire movie that defines Ferris’s free spirit on his day off. Out of all of the iconic scenes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, this scene stands out as perhaps the most iconic precisely for the use of this song.
Last, but certainly not least, is a wonderful scene from another one of my favorite movies, which is perhaps the most literal interpretation of a Beatles song on this list. This scene, like American Beauty, features a cover of a famous Beatles song, this time by a joyful choir in the church during a wedding ceremony. I love how the traditional organ music after the couple exchanges vows quickly segues into the opening chords to “All You Need Is Love,” which begins an even more ceremonious rendition of the song when groups of instrumentalists suddenly stand up from their pews and play the song’s familiar riffs, in my opinion one of the most charming parts of this entire enchanting movie. I love most how delighted Keira Knightley’s character is by the whole affair, though frankly I don’t blame her. If I was surprised on my wedding day with a gospel choir singing a Beatles song, I think I’d react similarly. Anyway, this short scene always sticks out to me as a particularly effective use of a Beatles song to communicate the message most prominent throughout their musical catalog: love.
Notice how I did not include any songs from the movie Across The Universe, a 2007 movie which featured entirely Beatles songs and which I have not seen. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this movie in particular, and I’ve also only listened to several of the tracks from the movie, which are all sung by cast members. From what I’ve heard, I don’t really love these versions of some of my favorite songs, though perhaps in the context of the movie they leave a different impression. But that’s for another blog post to hash out.
I may do a sequel to this post in the future if I think of any more movies I love that feature Beatles songs, or if a new movie comes out with a Beatles song I love. That’s all for now!