Variety has just put out a special issue commemorating the Top 100 Icons of the past century, and the number one slot goes to those four fab Liverpudlians otherwise known as The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo, like pop stars from Billie Holliday to Frank Sinatra before them, also made films; though most of them have some merit, their first, A Hard Day's Night, is an undisputed classic. No discussion of The Beatles-as-icons could be complete without heavy reference to Richard Lester's day-in-the-life comedy; to borrow a line that George uses to talk about Ringo's relationship with his drums, A Hard Day's Night "looms large in [their] legend."

Coincidentally, Lester's accidental masterpiece happens to be screening tonight at midnight at the IFC Center here in New York, as part of their Waverly Midnights series of rock films. Lester went on to direct the only successful filmic adaptation of a Stephen Sondheim musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and he also infamously replaced Richard Donner on Superman II. Hard Day's is the furthest thing from an auteur effort, but it's a perfect, early example of the cheeky wit and infectious energy that ran rampant through Lester's best films.