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The Beatles Get Back documentary: How to watch it and what people are saying about it

the Beatles
(Image credit: Disney+)

Back in 1970, director Michael Lindsay-Hogg released Let It Be, an 80-minute documentary that captured the making of The Beatles' last album and their dissolution. Anyone who’s seen Let It Be will remember it for one thing: it's a colossal downer. 

How Peter Jackson has managed to scrape up the pieces from Lindsay-Hogg’s cutting-room floor and transformed them into the most exciting and often feelgood music documentary of 2021 is a miracle that has to be seen to be believed. 

At the time of writing, Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) has scored Get Back 88% (critics) and 90% (audience) and the only way to see it is by subscribing to Disney+ (opens in new tab)

If paying for yet another streaming service feels painful, then here’s the good news: At $7.99/£7.99 for a month, that you can cancel at any time (paying just for that first month), Get Back works out at $1/£1 an hour, even if you don’t watch another thing on the channel. 

And what you’re getting is access to the music TV event of the year: 55 hours of unseen footage,  140 hours of unheard audio, edited together over two years to create an eight-hour doc that does nothing less than bring The Beatles back to life.

All three episodes are available to stream now.

Disney Plus (opens in new tab) gives you access to Get Back and the entire Disney vault. That doesn't just mean kids classics, but also newer hits like Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian and scores of classic movies from Alien to The French Connection, Deadpool and more. In the US you can get the most value with the $13.99 bundle (opens in new tab) that throws in Hulu and ESPN Plus.

Responding to comments that the film would be “a whitewash” because it was authorised by The Beatles, Jackson commented: “Actually it’s almost the exact opposite. It shows everything that Michael Lindsay-Hogg could not show in 1970. It’s a very unflinching look at what goes on.”

Reviewers have mostly agreed, finding it as much a fascinating look at the creative process as it is an insight into the personalities of four men who have been deified so much that it's astonishing to see them goofing around with each other and coming up with parts for songs that are such a huge part of our collective consciousness. 

“It’s funnier, louder, sadder, realer than anyone even hoped. But it’s not really about the making of an album or a concert. It’s a stunningly intimate portrait of a friendship — the world’s favourite foursome,” said Rolling Stone (opens in new tab).

“In Get Back,” commented Variety (opens in new tab), “we’re not seeing grainy old footage with a fake contempo gloss. We’re seeing the footage de-aged, so that it looks like it was shot yesterday, and so we feel like we’re right there in the room with the Beatles, who look and sound just like themselves. As an act of restoration, Get Back is a marvel.”

The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) called it "joyous, tedious, euphoric and fab, The Beatles: Get Back feels like a documentary made yesterday rather than 52 years ago, an epic reimagining-cum-excavation

One of the few negative reviews came from The Guardian (opens in new tab), who found it too long and often boring: “The moments of inspiration and interest are marooned amid acres of desultory chit-chat (“aimless rambling”, as Lennon rightly puts it) and repetition. There is a point, about five hours in, when the prospect of hearing another ramshackle version of Don’t Let Me Down becomes an active threat to the viewer’s sanity. That is doubtless what recording an album is like, but for an onlooker it is – to use the language of 1969 – a real drag.”

But we're more in agreement with New York’s Observer (opens in new tab), who called it “sweet Yukon gold, a gentle wildlife documentary about waiting for songs and working with friends.”

Subscribe to Disney Plus for $7.99/£7.99 a month (opens in new tab). The Beatles Get Back book is currently 35% off at Amazon. (opens in new tab)

Tom Poak has written for the Hull Daily Mail, Esquire, The Big Issue, Total Guitar, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and more. In a writing career that has spanned decades, he has interviewed Brian May, Brian Cant, and cadged a light off Brian Molko. He has stood on a glacier with Thunder, in a forest by a fjord with Ozzy and Slash, and on the roof of the Houses of Parliament with Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham (until some nice men with guns came and told them to get down). He has drank with Shane MacGowan, mortally offended Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and been asked if he was homeless by Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch.