top of page
backbeat, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Backbeat (1994) 

Backbeat is a biopic of two parts. The first focuses on the friendship between John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, set against the backdrop of the Beatles’ formative years. This section gleefully captures the frenetic energy of the band’s time in Hamburg and surmises how that experience transformed them from John Lennon’s skiffle band into a group that was ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, the dominant section of this film focuses on the relationship between Sutcliffe and photographer Astrid Kirchherr. Set against the backdrop of Sutcliffe’s burgeoning career as an artist, this section is both boring and pretentious.

Despite not being much of a singer or musician, Sutcliffe agrees to join Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Pete Best on a trip to Hamburg where they will perform in that city’s red-light district. Taking to the stage between (and sometimes during) strip acts, the quintet is forced to maintain a gruelling schedule while living in squalid conditions. Before long, tempers start to fray as McCartney grows frustrated by Sutcliffe’s lack of musical talent. Lennon’s anger runs deeper. Though he threatens to quit the band if his friend is forced out, Lennon becomes increasingly jealous of Sutcliffe’s budding romance.

Ian Hart’s captivating portrayal of Lennon dominates this film, so much so that whenever he is offscreen Backbeat struggles to maintain interest. Herein lies the biopic’s quandary. John Lennon is a supporting character, the remainder of The Beatles even more so. The main subject Stuart Sutcliffe, while competently assayed by Stephen Dorff, pales in comparison to his quick-witted friend. While there is some fun to be had in the recreations of Kirchherr’s photos of this period and discovering the genesis of the ‘mop top’, the further the story drifts from The Beatles, the more humdrum Backbeat becomes.


Gary Bakewell also impresses with his limited opportunities as Paul McCartney. He would get another chance at the role six years later in The Linda McCartney Story.

Ian Hart, John Lennon, Gary Bakewell, 	Paul McCartney, Chris O'Neill
fact check, fact vs fiction, inaccuracies, true story

Biopic depicts all The Beatles being deported from Germany because George Harrison was underage. While Harrison was deported for this reason, Paul McCartney and Pete Best were deported for arson, after they set a condom on fire. John Lennon was not deported but left anyway.

“One of my annoyances about the film Backbeat is that they've actually taken my rock 'n' rollness off me. They give John the song "Long Tall Sally" to sing and he never sang it in his life.”

Paul McCartney

George Harrison, Kai Wiesinger, Klaus Voormann, Paul Duckworth, Ringo Starr
bottom of page