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Christmas gets all the love at the movies, while New Year’s Eve often gets pushed aside and overlooked for holidays in cinema. But there have been some big films throughout history with big scenes and moments hinging on New Year’s Eve. Of course, there have been films that focus specifically on the night, though not near as many as Christmas.
Here are nine examples where film paid attention to that other December holiday (and don’t expect me to include the atrocious New Year’s Eve ensemble movie)…
The Apartment – Billy Wilder followed up his classic comedy Some Like It Hot with another classic, this time on the darker side of humor. In The Apartment (which won the 1960 Best Picture) Jack Lemmon stars as a lonely pushover who lets his bosses use his apartment for trysts with their mistresses. As certain complications unfold, the whole thing winds up on New Year’s Eve when Lemmon’s character finally tries to make a stand.
When Harry Met Sally – This meandering (in a good way) film classic stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as friends who finally become lovers over the span of many years of friendship. Rob Reiner’s legendary film, most well known for the “orgasm” scene, has two pivotal scenes that take place on New Year’s Eve. One is when Crystal’s Harry realizes he has true feelings for Sally, and another at the end when he finally does something about it.
The Godfather Part II – Where, do you say, is New Year’s Eve in this, of all films? Well, do you remember arguably the most famous confrontation in the trilogy, where Michael confronts his dimwitted brother, Fredo, for double-crossing him? “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart,” Michael tells Fredo, as a New Year’s Eve celebration goes on all around them.
Boogie Nights – Paul Thomas Anderson’s stunning 1997 film completely changes gears after one fateful New Year’s Eve party goes horribly awry. Things are sailing along for our characters, Dirk Diggler is on top of the world, and then a murder-suicide from William H. Macy’s character at a 1979 New Year’s shindig brings on the 80s and the downfall of seemingly every character involved.
The Poseidon Adventure – This original film is far superior to the 2005 remake, Poseidon, though both films take place on a cruise ship on New Year’s Eve. As the 1972 film kicks off, the cruise ship is capsized by a tidal wave and a scattered bunch of crew and passengers, led by Gene Hackman, try and escape through the bottom of the ship. Happy New Year.
Trading Places – This zany comedy is often overlooked in the early years of Eddie Murphy’s rise to stardom. Murphy and Dan Aykroyd take on some unforgettable hijinks on New Year’s Eve that eave on man in a gorilla suit paired up with an actual gorilla.
200 Cigarettes – 200 Cigarettes is arguably the only worthy film to fully focus on this holiday. The ensemble comedy bounces from a floundering party to a number of groups either looking for love, friendship or a ride to said party. With an expansive cast of colorful characters, including Christina Ricci, Ben Affleck, Paul Rudd, and Dave Chappelle, there is nary another film that focuses solely on New Year’s Eve that is worth your time.
Sunset Boulevard – Billy Wilder makes yet another appearance on this list. In another classic film, Gloria Swanson plays fading movie star Norma Desmond, who plans on throwing her own New Year’s Eve Party. The only problem is, nobody is going to come to this party except her, and the man (William Holden) she has somehow seduced into dancing with her.
About A Boy – Nick Hornby’s novel and the film adaptation starring Hugh Grant, revolves around a meeting between Grant’s aimless man-child and Rachel Weisz.