10 Movies & Documentaries to Watch to Get a Reel Feel for The Beatles

The Beatles Up Close and Personal

This is an excerpt from TV Guide Magazine’s The Beatles on TV Special Collector’s Edition, available for order online now at BeatlesonTV.com and for purchase on newsstands nationwide.

In light of the recent release of Peter Jackson’s new Disney+ docuseries, The Beatles: Get Back, we’re looking back at some of the great movies and documentaries that came before it highlighting the Fab Four.

Scroll down for 10 flicks and docs that will give you a reel feel for The Beatles.

The Beatles: Get Back, Documentary Premiere, November 25–27, Disney+

Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, T.V. Carpio in Across the Universe
©Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Across the Universe

Directed by Broadway veteran Julie Taymor (The Lion King), this 2007 rock musical fantasia employs 33 of the Beatles’ most indelible songs to take audiences on a magical mystery tour through the turbulent 1960s. Most of the cult favorite’s character names come from Beatles lyrics: Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), an upper-class suburban transplant in New York, falls into a star-crossed love affair with Jude (Jim Sturgess), a former Liverpool ship welder. Her brother Max (Joe Anderson) is a rebellious college student who is later drafted. The boundary-breaking film boasts a feast of ecstatic, hallucinatory music sequences, including an Uncle Sam poster coming to animated life, bleeding strawberries—and even Army recruits carrying the Statue of Liberty across a Vietnamese jungle in their underwear. Prime Video

The Beatles A Long and Winding Road

The Beatles: A Long and Winding Road

This five-episode 2003 docuseries is arranged chronologically, relying on recollections of family and friends of the Fab Four before they became legends. For “1940–58” (which includes the restless teenage years), the humble Liverpool lads come of age personally and musically amid the devastation of World War II. Episode 2, “1958–60,” digs into the formative years of the band, when they were honing their musical chops and playing shows in the cellars of Liverpool as the Quarrymen. In “1960–62,” the boys adopt the name the Beatles as they continue to scrape by, write songs and play pivotal gigs at places like the Cavern Club, where they were discovered by manager Brian Epstein. They take the world by storm in “1963–66,” while “1967–Present” paints a portrait of the band’s final years before they broke up in 1970 and also examines the Beatles’ enduring legacy. IMDb TV

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years
Abramorama/courtesy Everett Collection

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week—The Touring Years

“We were normal, and the rest of the world was crazy,” Harrison observes in this 2016 documentary, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard. The film examines Beatlemania at its peak in the mid-1960s as the quartet broke through in Britain and then America and began touring the world. Seminal moments are woven throughout, including the Fab Four’s first concert and TV appearances in the U.S. and their Shea Stadium show in 1965. Paul and Ringo offer fresh insights into the insanity that greeted the group wherever they went and the shock of suddenly being on top of the world; John and George are heard in archival interviews. Concert footage, including screaming fans, captures the raw power of the band’s live performances. As the Beatles staked out new musical territory in later albums, Lennon observes that they faced backlash but were intent to evolve with the times: “You can’t go on forever as four clean little mop tops playing ‘She Loves You.’” Hulu

The Beatles Up Close and Personal

The Beatles: Up Close and Personal

Weaving remembrances and insights from people who knew the Beatles personally, this doc focuses on the band’s creative process, their musical evolution and how their personal chemistry helped birth some of the greatest pop music of the 20th century. In addition to concert and TV footage, it features interviews with original drummer Pete Best; press officer Tony Barrow; Tony Bramwell, a childhood friend of George, Paul and John’s; and pop historian Alan Clayson. IMDb TV

George Harrison: Living in the Material World
HBO/courtesy Everett Collection

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

As Roger Ebert wrote in his review of this Emmy-winning 2011 documentary, “George was the most defiantly individual” of the Beatles, and indeed, the enigmatic Harrison is perhaps the most underappreciated member. This two-parter from Martin Scorsese traces his life story (during his school days, George auditioned for John and Paul on the top deck of a city bus!), devoting the second episode to the post-Beatles years: travels in India; the influence of Eastern spirituality and Krishna consciousness on his music; the love triangle between him, first wife Pattie Boyd and Eric Clapton; and his spearheading of the 1971 benefit Concert for Bangladesh. The so-called Quiet Beatle sometimes felt his contributions—which include “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”—were undervalued, though he later found great success as a solo artist, which gets plenty of screen time. Among the interviews: second wife Olivia, son Dhani, Paul, Ringo, Clapton, producer George Martin, Yoko Ono and Terry Gilliam. HBO Max

How the Beatles Changed the World

How the Beatles Changed the World

Directed by music documentary veteran Tom O’Dell, this nonfiction film examines the seismic impact of the Beatles on rock ’n’ roll, the music landscape and the wider culture, along with how they ushered in the British Invasion and their place in history today. According to the 2017 title, coming of age during rock’s early years and the advent of youth culture helped sow the seeds for their meteoric rise and their desire to keep pushing the musical envelope. Free on Tubi and Vudu; rental on Prime Video and Apple TV

John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky

John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky

This 2018 documentary gives viewers a fly-on-the-wall look at how John and Yoko’s love and creative connection impacted the 1971 writing and recording of Lennon’s landmark Imagine album at the couple’s Tittenhurst Park home in Ascot, England. Thanks to Yoko’s insistence that the project be captured on film, the documentary is a treasure trove of home videos. (She wanted the public to “get a chance to see John again”; in fact, glimpses of the two may overturn preconceptions about the relationship.) A scruffy Lennon is seen recording with Harrison (reconciled after the tumultuous Let It Be sessions of 1969–70) and nattily dressed producer Phil Spector. At one point, Lennon says of the work, “I don’t know whether it’s any good”—quite possibly the understatement of the century. Netflix

McCartney 3, 2, 1
Hulu

McCartney 3, 2, 1

Two men and a mixing board: In this six-part documentary series, shot in black-and-white in 2020, then-78-year-old McCartney and music superproducer Rick Rubin, a longtime Beatles fanboy, listen to the original Abbey Road recordings, fiddling with knobs to isolate tracks as they discuss the genesis of various elements, plus the band’s inspirations and influences. McCartney is full of anecdotes, like this one about how he and Lennon proved to be a perfect musical yin-yang: “I would write, ‘It’s getting better all the time.’ And [John] would go, ‘It couldn’t get much worse.’ Which is the perfect foil. I loved the way that he would always add a little cynicism to the songs.” The barefoot, bearded Rubin listens intently and helps deconstruct the work, including the insight that “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is “like two songs happening simultaneously…right on top of each other.” Fascinating. Hulu

Paul McCartney’s Get Back

This 1991 concert film—directed by Richard Lester, who helmed A Hard Day’s Night and Help!—chronicles the McCartney world tour of 1989–90. The set list includes songs from the artist’s solo career and with his band Wings (“Band on the Run,” “Live and Let Die”) but largely focuses on showstoppers and ballads he wrote with the Beatles, such as “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday.” Woven throughout is a kaleidoscope of ’60s footage, highlighted by clips of the Fab Four in all their vintage glory. DVD; YouTube

Lily James, Himesh Patel in Yesterday
Jonathan Prime / © Universal / courtesy Everett Collection

Yesterday

What if the Beatles never existed? That’s the premise of this 2019 comic fairy tale from director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) that tells the story of struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel). He’s hit by a bus during a global power outage caused by some kind of break in the space-time continuum. Given a new guitar post-recovery, Jack croons “Yesterday” to his awestruck friends, who’ve never heard the song before. He discovers he’s the only person on earth who knows the Beatles and begins passing off their songs as his own, gaining fame in the process. Ed Sheeran even invites him to perform as an opening act! Eventually, Jack meets John Lennon (Robert Carlyle), who’s lived a long and happy life out of the spotlight (no Beatles, no assassination). John offers an honored Jack some advice that strikes just the right chord. Rental on Prime Video and Apple TV