In 1955, young Paul McCartney joined a music group called The Quarrymen led by a rebellious teen named John Lennon. Paul's friend George Harrison joined as guitarist and the group evolved into The Beatles (named in tribute to Buddy Holly's Crickets), playing in local clubs and gaining notoriety in Hamburg, Germany, for their anti-authority attitudes and hardrocking music. By the time Ringo Starr became the group's permanent drummer, Beatlemania was on the rise in Britain and, eventually, the U.S. The Fab Four went on to change the sound of popular music, and along the way, made some enduring contributions to the movies as well. Their debut film, A Hard Day's Night (1964), was a low-budget project intended to capitalize on the quartet's early fame, nothing more. The final product stunned critics as much as it delighted audiences: a pseudofictional look at a day in the Beatles' lives, which wonderfully captured their irreverent, anarchic energy (thanks to the Beatles' on-camera presence, Alun Owen's Oscar-nominated script, and Richard Lester's direction). Help! (1965, also directed by Lester) was not quite as well received, but was still a madcap, colorful romp. The lads directed and produced their next project, Magical Mystery Tour (1967), a made-for-TV movie that was mostly improvised-and savaged by critics. Their next "appearance" was much more successful, in the imaginative, psychedelically designed ani mated feature Yellow Submarine (1968). (The Beatles did not participate in the film's production-except for an appearance at the end-and the voices for their animated characters were spoken by actors.) Their last film together was the documentary Let It Be (1970), a painful look at the group's disintegration as they worked in the studio; the film's music won an Oscar for Original Song Score.
Individually, the Beatles pursued widely varying careers. Lennon was the first to appear in a movie without the other three-in Richard Lester's dark comedy How I Won the War (1967). He and wife Yoko Ono worked together on many experimental films including Bottoms (1967, a pastiche of various human derrieres), Number 5 (1968, a slow-motion record of Lennon's facial expressions), and Fly (1971, an examination of a nude woman from a fly's point of view). Ono later provided some of this material for inclusion in the documentary Imagine: John Lennon (1988). Ringo, hailed as the "natural" of the group, enjoyed some fame as an actor, with appearances in Candy (1968), The Magic Christian (1969), 200 Motels (1971), Son of Dracula (1974), Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975, as the Pope), and proved himself an engaging leading man in the prehistoric comedy Caveman (1981).
Paul McCartney scored The Family Way (1966), earned an Oscar nomination (with wife Linda) for writing the title song of the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973), which they performed on the soundtrack, and starred in Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), an excuse to showcase a series of musical numbers and some Beatles songs. In 1991 he asked director Richard Lester to direct a documentary of his current group's tour, which was released as Get Back. Surprisingly, it was George Harrison, the "quiet" Beatle, who made the biggest splash in the film world. His production company, HandMade Films, was originally founded to enable the Monty Python movie Life of Brian (1979) to secure a release. Since then, Harrison has served as executive producer, along with partner Denis O'Brien, on a number of unusual and eclectic films, including Time Bandits (1981), The Missionary (1982), A Private Function (1985), Mona Lisa and Shanghai Surprise (both 1986), Withnail & I (1987), How to Get Ahead in Advertising and Track 29 (both 1988). He has also made cameos in some of the aforementioned films and contributed songs to their soundtracks. In 1978 Harrison made a cameo appearance in the uproarious madefor-TV satire The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash proving that his sense of humor extended to the subject of The Beatles.