Backbeat (1994)

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The Beatles' early days as a struggling bar band are depicted in this fact-based drama, which tells the little-known story of original member Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff). A close friend of John Lennon, Sutcliffe acts as the band's original bassist, accompanying them on their early gigs in Liverpool and Hamburg, Germany. The friendship becomes strained, however, when Sutcliffe falls in love with a German art student and starts to question his commitment to the band. With Sutcliffe's story taking center stage, the stories of the more famous Beatles largely fade into the background. The exception is John Lennon, thanks to a fierce performance by Ian Hart, who had previously portrayed the musician in the more intimate and provocative The Hours and the Times. While Backbeat does provide a new perspective on the band's beginning, and numerous opportunities for a group of modern rock musicians to recreate the band's energetic early performances, it never makes Sutcliffe's story seem more than a footnote to musical history.

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Critic Reviews for Backbeat

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (11)

Get back, get back to where you once belonged, you want to shout. But the movie is stuck in the wrong groove.

Feb 13, 2018 | Full Review…
Newsweek
Top Critic

There's nothing very profound here, but we do at least get a nice handling of period and milieu, and pretty good performances of the songs.

Sep 10, 2007 | Full Review…

What pulls you over the bum spots is the electrifying immediacy.

Sep 10, 2007

The early, pre-fame days of the Beatles are a great subject for a film, but the potential has been only partly realized in Backbeat.

Sep 10, 2007
Variety
Top Critic

The music is loud and raw, but nevertheless evokes the excitement it generated.

Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

Backbeat, which for all its pretensions can often be impressively canny and affectionate about its subject, is helped enormously by newly recorded versions of Beatle records.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Backbeat

This is an admittedly highly fictionalized version of the Beatles early days in Hamburg, but that is not the central theme of the movie. It's really about a love triangle between two best friends, and the woman they both are drawn to. There are a few great characters brought to life by a few very good performances by the actors portraying them, and that is what really drew me in. That said, any Beatles fan will also dig the stylized look at their early days. You can't really take it as fact, but you can have a hell of a lot of fun imagining that this is sort of the way it might have been.

Cynthia S.
Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer

Not just another film or story about The Beatles, this is the story of Stuart Sutcliffe; the fifth Beatle, his relationship with John Lennona and their time with the rest of The Beatles in Hamberg. Whilst being a fan (although not a die hard fan) of The Beatles, I knew very little of Stuart Sutcliffe, so this made for interesting viewing and also showed John Lennon in a slightly different light to most portrayals and the obvsious bond between the two of them.

Lady D'arbanville
Lady D'arbanville

Super Reviewer

This is an OK movie. I suspect it had difficulty deciding whether it was made as a documentary about the Beatles early years, or a story about the unfortunate life of Stuart Sutcliffe.

Red Lats
Red Lats

Super Reviewer

Good true life and tragic story of a musician and artist Stuart Sutcliffe in the early days of The Beatles in Hamburg. He was known as the 5th Beatles.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

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