They were the Fab Four, gave birth to Beatle Mania, and were the cause of a mass hysteria never before seen. They also created a record number of chart-topping hits that defined a generation. In this wonderfully crafted Ron Howard film, we get an inside story on the biggest ever pop band—The Beatles—in a way that will give a new generation an understanding of what ‘big’ really meant, well before social media.
To imagine the task of creating a film about The Beatles, in itself feels daunting. What Ron Howard has achieved here is quite remarkable. By weaving together interviews with the band members (both living and passed), collating and curating the masses of historical footage and recordings, he has provided an insight to what was and remains one of the most significant cultural phenomena of the 20th century.
Whether you’re a baby boomer or a millennial, you cannot help but gain an appreciation for how this band not only changed music, but brought people together—across continents and generations, and even by breaking down racial divides.
It was the early 1960s. These were politically volatile and even violent times, with the band emerging in the US within weeks of President Kennedy’s assassination, and during a period where racial tensions were high as an era of segregation began to end.
Four white boys from the UK with pudding bowl haircuts seem unlikely unifiers, but for a generation where the teenage population comprised greater numbers than ever before, when religion itself was being questioned and sexual freedoms exploding, their strong stance on love, unity and peace was quite revolutionary, and commanded a fanatical following.
Their music too, the sheer volume of hits and harmonies, is quite astounding. From their simple and catchy early work, to their more experimental albums, The Beatles single-handedly changed pop music, and paved a path for all the great bands that have come since. To appreciate this shift, you need to be reminded of the context and the times—which Howard does magnificently.
Like with many other great bands, how they eventually came to an end has often been the focus of The Beatles’ narrative. As is the sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll that typically accompanies the narrative of a musician’s life. Thankfully, here it bears little emphasis at all.
Rather, this film chooses to focus on the bromance (to use modern parlance) that underpinned a seminal moment in popular culture. It follows the band from its early days playing local gigs in Liverpool, to the last live concert they ever played together (a random and humble rooftop performance at their offices in London, that stands in stark contrast to the monumental arena concerts performed to hordes of hysterical fans).
It shares their highs, as they climb to the top of the charts; and their lows, as the success they created entraps them in a never-ending cycle of fan mobbing and concert tours that seem to displace the music behind the spectacle and clamour.
We experience their story not just through the archival footage, and memories of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, but also through their fans (at least, the very famous ones)—with the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Whoopi Goldberg and Elvis Costello sharing their own Beatles memories.
Giles Martin, son of George Martin (the legendary producer of the Beatles) served as the music producer on this film. It includes personal footage, and carries an air of intimacy about it that feels genuinely authentic.
All in all, it’s a brilliant film. Whether you’re a fan, you’ve only ever experienced them through your parents’ memories or record collection, or you just passionately love music history—this is a film worth watching. It’s about a band; but it’s also about western culture, fandom and an era that changed the way we experience music forever.
The Beatles Eight Days A Weeks #thebeatleseightdaysaweek
Official Beatles website: The Beatles
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison
Runtime: 138 mins
Release Date: Sept. 16
Reviewer Rating: 5/5