Across streaming platforms, Christmas movies are given a seemingly endless budget. Each year, a new troop of quirky, snow-covered romantic comedies come out all revolved around a holiday most people don’t even celebrate. This year Netflix came out with Single All The Way, Love Hard, and The Princess Switch 3. It’s a wonder why the same attention is not given to New Year’s Eve.
Luckily, many great films have taken on the setting of an approaching new year, tackling themes of change, growth, friendship, and loneliness. They conjure tropes of wild glittery parties, the leading man racing to get the perfect midnight kiss, and the dramatic pressure of a crowd chanting “10! 9! 8!…”
10 Diner (1982)
This classic 1980s film revolves around a group of old friends facing the end of the 1950s and their plunge into adulthood. With its recognizable cast and intelligent commentary on bridging boyhood into adulthood, Diner has maintained its reputation as a New Year’s classic.
Barry Levinson’s semi-autobiographical writing brings an honest tone supported by the performances of a fresh-faced Mickey Rourke and a pre-Footloose Kevin Bacon. Although some fans argue this film ages poorly with its lack of diversity and outdated ‘humor’, the relatable story of old friends holding on to their youth as long as they can reflects the uncertainty of each new year.
9 Strange Days (1995)
Based on a story by James Cameron, Strange Days takes place in the final days of 1999 and sports an all-too-relevant plot surrounding virtual reality technology and corruption in the LAPD. What better way to ring in the new year than with a long-haired Ralph Fiennes and a gun-wielding, ass-kicking Angela Bassett fighting their way through the late-night streets of ’90s LA?
This action-packed thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow was snubbed at the box office due to Y2K panic, but later gained a cult following and major fan appreciation. It combines several genres together to create an exciting ride with something for every viewer, a crime drama about a government conspiracy fueled by a passionate romance that leads to a satisfying final kiss at the end of film as the characters are thrust into the 2000s. Although unavailable to stream even on Amazon, this incredible film serves as a time capsule for the political conflict plaguing LA as the world celebrated a new millennium.
8 More American Graffiti (1979)
As with most sequels, this film exists in the shadow of its beloved prequel, American Graffiti. Although George Lucas did not return to direct, this interlaced tale of four New Year’s Eves in the late 1960s still has a lot to offer, including the return of most of the iconic cast led by Ron Howard.
The ultimate goal here is to use the already-loved characters and tackle the social and political turmoil of the late-1960s. Each separate year is distinguished by a distinct style reflecting classic ’60s events like Woodstock and Vietnam, reminding the audience of an uncertain time in history. Most online reviews from Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes dismiss this film as too ambitious, difficult to follow, and lacking a central theme, but the intelligent use of ’60s pop music and memorable experimental scenes give the film a cult-classic feel.
7 200 Cigarettes (1999)
Released at the end of the millennium but set in 1981, 200 Cigarettes is a wild ride of a comedy features a star-studded cast as they navigate a New Year’s Eve night in New York City.
This almost feels like a precursor to 2011’s New Year’s Eve, combining so many big names into one film: Kate Hudson, Paul Rudd, Christina Ricci, and Ben Affleck, to name a few. It’s a loveable classic that unites the recognizable charm of the 1980s with the pop culture intelligence of the 1990s, and it’s a fun way to live through a complicated party-fueled night in the 80s New York City.
6 Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Generally speaking, New Year’s Eve conjures images of crowded parties covered in confetti and drowned out by paper party blowers. Sunset Boulevard turns this idea on its head by inviting the audience to an intimate night between a lonely, washed-up ex-Hollywood starlet and an unsuspecting journalist.
This Oscar-winning classic holds up through the decades on the back of Gloria Swanson’s haunting performance. Her increasingly unhinged behavior culminates in her saying the iconic line “Alright Mr. Deville, I’m ready for my close-up,” and stalking toward the camera as Franz Waxman’s powerful score plays. With its parody of old-Hollywood, this film serves as a nostalgic reminder of times gone by, perfect for reflecting on another year gone by.
5 Boogie Nights (1997)
While Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, a trip through the ’70s porn industry, doesn’t take place entirely during New Year’s Eve, it does feature one of the greatest New Year’s Eve scenes in film history. As the crowd chants the 10-second countdown at Jack Horner’s (Burt Reynolds) end-of-the-70s party, Little Bill (William H. Macy) shoots and kills his cheating wife and her lover.
This not only suddenly and violently ends the fun at the party, but signifies the fun is over in all of their lives, each taking a dark turn one by one as they move into the 80s. With its signature floating camera, endless memorable one-liners, and clever character names like Dirk Diggler and Rollergirl, this film is endlessly fun to watch from start to finish and serves as a cautionary tale for anyone entering a new year.
4 Fruitvale Station (2013)
Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Fruitvale Station tells the tragic story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old shot and killed by a transit police officer in 2009.
A film that unfortunately feels like it could’ve been released this year, it’s a heart-wrenching but important watch featuring incredible performances from Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer. As a reflection of the cell phone videos taken at the actual incident, writer and director Ryan Coogler chose to shoot the film at the BART station where Grant was shot, using Super 16mm format, according to studiodaily. It’s a great watch for meditation on the political conflict we’ve seen over the past year.
3 Four Rooms (1999)
What’s better than four New Year’s Eves? Four short films combined into one movie following a New Year’s Eve night in Hollywood’s strangest hotel. In Four Rooms, Tim Roth plays a bellhop working his first night at the Hotel Mon Signor who’s roped into four separate encounters with hotel guests, AKA four short films written and directed by different artists, most notably Quentin Tarantino.
His quarter of the film closes the night in typical Tarantino form: fast dialogue, money-fueled crime, and a severed pinky. While most are drawn to this film by that one unforgettable name, the other three quarters also offer engaging stories and strong characters played by familiar faces like Madonna, Antonio Banderas, and Jennifer Beals. With its genius structure linking together four distinct stories with the new year and a bellhop, this film takes the audience on a New Year’s Eve journey like no other.
2 Snowpiercer (2013)
In a post-apocalyptic world where surviving humans live on an ever-moving train separated by class-status, Curtis (Chris Evans), leads a revolution from the back of the train to the front on this world’s version of New Year’s Eve.
Snowpiercer is a masterclass in cultural collaboration. It’s based on a French graphic novel by Jacques Lob, directed by pre-Parasite Bong Joon-ho, and produced mostly in English for an American audience. This perhaps strengthens the film’s dismal themes of a post-climate disaster world, a problem that must be faced globally. From beginning to end, or back of the train to the front, this film provides an incredibly exciting journey that leaves the viewer with a motivation for the revolution.
1 Happy New Year, Charlie Brown (1986)
For decades, Charlie Brown and his cast of eccentric friends have been synonymous with the holiday season. This 24-minute special follows the gang through New Year’s Eve as they face required holiday reading, unrequited love, and Peppermint Patty’s can’t-miss party.
Even as adults we can appreciate the ageless humor: Charlie lugging around his copy of War & Peace, Rerun blowing up square balloons, the dramatically animated blushing cheeks. And while ringing in 2022 during a tumultuous time in world history, it’s refreshing to watch a classic cartoon with soothing background music and genuinely gentle children’s voices.
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