New Year’s Eve has always been a great time to set a movie in. Here are some of our favorite cinematic ringing-ins of the new year.
When Harry Met Sally (1989) – New Year’s Eve is a very symbolic holiday. It is the event when we ring out the old and ring in the new. It is also a very romantic holiday, where you celebrate a year spent with the one you love or one where you are reminded of your pathetic loneliness. While When Harry Met Sally isn’t exclusively a New Year’s Eve movie, the holiday plays a role in the plot in the symbolic and romantic sense. Here is a Spoiler Warning for anyone who has yet to see the film, all two of you — the ending is going to be discussed. Harry and Sally are best friends for years, defying the belief that a man and a woman can’t be friends without sex getting in the way. When Harry hooks up with a vulnerable Sally and then bails, that belief seems to be confirmed. However, it takes one lonely New Year’s Eve night for the pair to realize that they really love each other and were meant to be together. – William Gatevackes
After The Thin Man (1936) – When the first of five sequels to the classic mystery comedy The Thin Man was released Frank Nugent of The New York Times hailed it by saying “and William Powell and Myrna Loy still persuade us that Mr. and Mrs. Nick Charles are exactly the sort of people we should like to have on our calling list on New Year’s Day.” And some seventy years later, that assessment remains true. Powell and Loy’s performances are as crisp as in their predecessor films and Hackett and Goodrich’s script, from a story by Thin Man novelist Dashiell Hammett, is equally satisfying as both a mystery and as a comedy. Returning to their home in San Fransico following their Christmas adventures of the previous film, Nick (Powell) and Nora (Loy) Charles find a swinging New Year’s Eve party going on in their home. The problem is that they don’t know any of the partiers! But an escape to a rather more staid and stuffy dinner at Nora’s affluent family is no better as the meal ends with a murder and Nora’s cousin (Elissa Landi) looking like the guilty party. A fun, twisty mystery, After The Thin Man is also one of the first roles for a young Jimmy Stewart, who plays a character a bit different from the type of roles that built his career. – Rich Drees
The Poseidon Adventure (1972) – It has been said that Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was so terrifying to moviegoers that it actually impacted beach tourism for a few years after its release. I have to wonder if this disaster film classic, in which an ocean liner’s New Year’s Eve party is interrupted by a “rogue tidal wave” that flips the ship upside down, had a similar effect on cruise lines. Coming right in the midst of the disaster film boom of the early 70s, The Poseidon Adventure’s ensemble cast boasts five Oscar winners – Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Jack Albertson and Red Buttons. And while ultimately, The Poseidon Adventure is nothing but big-budgeted B-movie fun, but it still managed to snag eight Academy Award nominations , winning for the “The Morning After” as well as receiving a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects. Avoid the sequel Beyond The Poseidon Adventure as well as the 2005 remake. – RD
200 Cigarettes (1999) “Where is everyone? Are they just out walking the streets out there?” cries Martha Plympton in her spacious, but empty SoHo loft of her missing-in-action New Year’s Eve party guests. Of course, that’s exactly what they are doing, with the movie cutting back and forth between pairs of characters trying to work out their love lives while wandering the streets of 1981 downtown Manhattan and trying to avoid making the most unforgiveable of social faux pas, arriving first at a party. I suppose this could be the indie predecessor of this year’s New Year’s Eve and like the more recent film, 200 Cigarettes is not entirely successful. What it does have is an ensemble cast of (at the time) up and coming indie actors including Ben and Casey Affleck, Paul Rudd, Christina Ricci, Courtney Love, Jay Mohr and Janeane Garofalo with the likes of Dave Chappelle, David Johansen and singer Elvis Costello popping in small supporting bits, all of whom are worth watching. A bonus is the film’s soundtrack which is virtually wall-to-wall hits from 1980 and 1981. – RD
The January Man (1989) A young woman is murdered in her apartment coming home from a New Year’s Eve party, the latest victim of a New York City serial killer. Under extreme political pressure, the Chief of Police (Harvey Keitel) is forced to reinstate Nick Starkey (Kevin Kline), his genius detective brother who had resigned from the force years earlier amidst a scandal. Starkey seems to be at least as equally interested in annoying his brother and the Mayor (a scenery chewing Rod Steiger) as he is in solving the case. Joining him on the case are his anti-social artist friend Ed (Alan Rickman playing against the type) and the Mayor’s daughter (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). While some of the relationship backstory between the main characters is a bit soapy, Kline’s performance as the delightfully quirky Starkey carries the film. And extra points for the script’s incredibly bizarre method of how the killer chooses his victims. – RD