Imagine: John Lennon (1988)

R  |   |  Documentary, Biography, Music  |  7 October 1988 (USA)
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A biography of the rock music star.



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Credited cast:
Himself / Narration (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Cynthia Lennon ...
Herself - John Lennon's first wife
Al Capp ...
Himself (archive footage)
May Pang ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself (archive footage)
Gloria Emerson ...
Herself, New York Times reporter (archive footage)


This "biography" evolves around the nearly 240 hours of film and videotape fortuitously taken by Lennon of his life. The archive footage is transformed into a fascinating life story of one of the most complex and fascinating men of the modern music era. This effort includes a 36 song soundtrack. Includes some very personal and insightful footage, never before made available to the public. Written by Todd Tidyman

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

song | scandal | 1980s | 1970s | 1960s | See All (45) »


Discover John...the angry youth, the musician, the radical, the husband, the father, the lover, the idealist...through his own words and personal collection of film and music.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 October 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imagine  »

Box Office


$3,753,977 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The producers transferred all available footage and recordings to laser discs, logged each one into a database and used a computer to access cuts and assemble the edit. This was an early version of non-linear editing. See more »


John Lennon: All we are saying is give peace a chance.
See more »


Referenced in Rewind This! (2013) See more »


Written by John Lennon
Published by Lenono Music
administered by SBK Blackwood Music Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

Imagine: John Lennon (1988) ***1/2
8 December 2005 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

IMAGINE: JOHN LENNON is a very personal and emotional scrapbook that takes us right into the mind and soul of the great artist who departed this world much to early. Largely comprised from hundreds of hours of Lennon interviews and personal home movies, this feature is narrated in John's own words, giving us a bird's eye view of his life and experiences before, during, and after The Beatles. It's a candid and close look at Lennon the musician, the husband, the father and, most significantly of all, the Man.

The documentary begins in 1971 at Tittenhurst Park in England, where John and Yoko lived and were then working on John's great IMAGINE album in a studio adjoining their home. Through John's own memories we then go backward in time to his birth, his rise to fame with the Beatles, the breakup of the group, his key meeting with Yoko Ono, all the exploits of John and Yoko through the late sixties and seventies, Lennon's retirement to raise his son Sean in 1975, and ultimately his happy comeback into the limelight in late 1980, when he was tragically assassinated and the entire world came to a screeching hault for millions.

For rabid Lennon fans there are very juicy segments included, such as John recording "How Do You Sleep" (his infamous swipe at Paul McCartney) with the assistance of George Harrison on slide guitar. We see the very candid and human sides of John from inside the glass of the recording studio as he swears at an engineer for not being able to send forward the proper pre-recorded verse of "Oh Yoko" so that Lennon can add his backing harmonies to it. A real treat is a lengthy segment from the 1969 "Bed-In" period where we get to see a visibly perturbed Lennon trying to maintain his peaceful stance while sparring with ultra-conservative artist Al Capp while the man continually attacks and insults John and Yoko right to their faces. Another key bit of business features Lennon storming into a newspaper office to confront a journalist who's just written a seething article denouncing the Lennons. A real gem of a clip concerns a scruffy hippie who's camped out at Lennon's garden overnight and tried to meet the famous ex-Beatle. With the cameras capturing their confrontation, John tries to explain to the far-out young man that he's just a regular guy who writes songs, some of which don't really mean anything special, and that he's only human. After this, John invites the hungry man into his home to give him breakfast.

John Lennon's appeal to the true fan was that he was very honest about who he was and what he believed in, and we could always relate to him and feel he was as real a person as we were. This film manages to capture the essence of John and it's a job very well done by director Andrew Solt, who had to plow through hundreds of hours of material, most of which must have been indispensable, to try and form a definitive representation of Lennon's whole life. If there is a tiny flaw in the film at all, it may be because John's life was so extraordinary that it's virtually impossible to get it all together in such a short space of running time; there is a sense of everything being squeezed together rather quickly (especially the Beatle years), where several hours would probably have been more adequate!

Yoko Ono has gotten such a bad rap over the decades, and that's a real shame, as it's so obvious through her own observations and actual on-film reactions here that she was as in love with John and as respectful of him as he was toward her. It should be understood and accepted that John wanted to be with Yoko and that she "saved him from a kind of death" (as he once said). It may be difficult for some to accept that Lennon drifted away from the idea of being "one of the boys" with the Beatles and getting married and devoting his life to his relationship with Yoko, but it's what made him feel happy and fulfilled. As John himself said in one of his very final interviews for PLAYBOY in 1980:

LENNON: "Listen, if somebody's gonna impress me, whether it be a Maharishi or a Janov or a Yoko, there comes a point when the emperor has no clothes. Because I do stupid things, I've done stupid things. I am naive but I'm also not stupid. So there comes a point where I will see. And nobody can pull the wool that long. So for all you folks out there who think that I'm having the wool pulled over my eyes, well, that's an insult to me. Not that you think less of Yoko, because that's your problem; what I think of her is what counts! But if you think you know me or you have some part of me because of the music I've made, and then you think I'm being controlled like a dog on a leash because I do things with her, then screw you, brother or sister... you don't know what's happening. I'm not here for you. I'm here for me and her and now the baby. Anybody who claims to have some interest in me as an individual artist or even as part of the Beatles has absolutely misunderstood everything I ever said if they can't see why I'm with Yoko." ***1/2 out of ****

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