1. A Hard Day’s Night
The thing is, it wasn’t supposed to be great. The directive was for the Fab Four to knock out a jukebox musical, and to do it quickly enough that Beatlemania wouldn’t have ended by the time it galloped into theaters. United Artists only financed the picture so that they could get their hands on the certain-to-be-profitable soundtrack album. That combination of a need for speed and a shrugging, write-off attitude from the suits meant that, so long as they could do it quickly (cameras rolled less than four months before the film hit British cinemas), they could make just about whatever movie they wanted. And so they did, hiring quirky Richard Lester to direct and playwright Alun Owen to pen a script that wouldn’t ask the lads from Liverpool to do much in the way of acting; they would play fictionalized versions of themselves, riffing on their existing personas, in a “day in the life of the Beatles” narrative that Lester shot in cinéma vérité style (black and white, handheld, the works). In doing so, he gave the film a mobility and energy, but also the feel of a backstage pass; we’re along for the ride of being a Beatle, invited to an exclusive party with four cheeky, charming rock stars.