The Beatles’ infamous ‘Let It Be’ movie finally available to stream

May 10, 2024
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In May 1970, The Beatles released two powerful closing statements: their final album Let It Be and the documentary film of the same name. 

While the album took its place in rock history, the movie had a far more mixed reception. Following a home video release in the early 1980s it was quietly shelved, remaining out of official circulation for more than 40 years — until now.

Let It Be is now legally available to stream on Disney+, looking and sounding far crisper than the worn-out bootlegs many fans are accustomed to, thanks to a restoration effort led by filmmaker Peter Jackson.

Originally known as Get Back, the project was Paul McCartney’s attempt to bring the band back to their live rock ‘n’ roll roots, setting aside the melodic and technical complexity of their later records. 

Film director Michael Lindsay-Hogg was charged with documenting the lead-up to a concert; the band’s first since they quit touring several years prior.

The cameras captured many moments that would become iconic: arguments and tensions between band members, the sight of Yoko Ono quietly watching from the sidelines, the famous impromptu rooftop concert, and John Lennon’s famous closing quip “I hope we passed the audition”. 

Both album and film spent the following year in limbo, during which the band enjoyed one final period of creativity and finished their last recorded album, Abbey Road.

Read more: Listen to ‘Now and Then’, the Beatles’ final song

When the Let It Be project finally saw release, McCartney had just publicly announced his departure from The Beatles. As such — though it was never intended as a swan song — many critics and fans came to see the movie as a document of the band’s breakup; an association that grew considerably in the decades since.

This reputation was challenged in 2023 when Peter Jackson released his own documentary of the same sessions, the eight-hour companion series Get Back, also on Disney+. Charting every day of the process, it offered far more context than the disjoined original film, revealing the period to be a largely joyful period of creativity between friends, if interspersed with moments of tension. 

The new restored film opens with a short conversation between Jackson and original director Lindsay-Hogg, who explained he felt the original film “never got a fair shake” due to bad timing. 

“Finally it’s going to get a chance to be embraced for the curious and fascinating character that it is.”

Just days after re-release, the original film is already being viewed in a new context by fans and critics.

“In 1970, it looked like a portrait of the Beatles breaking up,” wrote Variety. “Now it looks like the first rock ‘n’ roll reality show — and a vision of them coming together.”

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