Total Recall: New Year's Eve Movies

With New Year's Eve hitting theaters, we take a look at some memorable movies set on December 31.

New Year's Eve

The words "from the makers of Valentine's Day" may not fill you with excitement, but judging from the star-studded cast of Garry Marshall's New Year's Eve, most of Hollywood felt differently: this weekend's biggest wide release features a Who's Who of famous faces, including Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Abigal Breslin, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Hilary Swank. Naturally, we knew we had to dedicate this week's list to New Year's Eve movies. Those of you with sharp memories may remember that we did a New Year's Eve list just a couple of years ago, but as a number of commenters were all too happy to remind us at the time, it only scratched the surface -- so here's another batch of films for your 12/31-centric viewing pleasure. From comedies to dramas, from sci-fi to romance, there's something here for cineastes of all tastes. Let's watch the ball drop together, Total Recall style!

About a Boy

93%

While it could be argued that this 2002 Hugh Grant dramedy hit isn't exactly a "New Year's movie," it's certainly true that the holiday represents a significant turning point for the main character, Will Freeman (Grant), whose journey from shallow layabout to feeling adult human begins when he meets the luminous Rachel (Rachel Weisz) at a New Year's Eve party. Toss in the warm-hearted Christmas finale, and About a Boy is a film with enough holiday spirit to make the cut. As Manohla Dargis wrote in her review for the L.A. Weekly, "There's not much more to this adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel than charm -- effortless, pleasurable, featherweight charm."

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Assault on Precinct 13

60%

Jean-François Richet's remake of John Carpenter's 1976 thriller retains the same basic gist of the original -- a straight-arrow cop (Ethan Hawke) joins forces with a crook (Laurence Fishburne) to defend his shuttered precinct against a gang of criminals -- while moving the action to New Year's Eve. Not exactly the most festive way to spend the last night of the year, but the updated Assault on Precinct 13 proved entertaining for critics like Daniel Etherington of Film4, who called it "A dark, exciting and enjoyable action-thriller for adolescent boys of all ages."

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Better Luck Tomorrow

81%

Think you've been to some pretty terrible New Year's Eve parties in your day? Just be glad you weren't invited to the bloody beatdown that transpires during the climax of Justin Lin's Better Luck Tomorrow. A desperately grim look at the lives of overachieving suburban teens, Luck drops its protagonists into a downward spiral of drugs, crime, violence, and jealousy...and when that midnight kiss finally comes, it's less a celebration of the new year than a doomed attempt to cling to some sense of normalcy. "It's not a perfect work," admitted Tom Long of the Detroit News, "but it is so filled with energy, angst, talent, authenticity and passion that it stands heads above most supposed youth-culture releases."

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The Gold Rush

100%

Like most holidays, New Year's Eve is meant to be spent with friends and family -- and in the movies, any character who spends the evening alone is more than likely feeling pretty melancholy. Charlie Chaplin's 1925 classic The Gold Rush provides a particularly poignant example with its classic New Year's Eve sequence, in which Chaplin is duped into believing the object of his affection will be stopping by his poverty-stricken cabin to celebrate, only to be stood up -- and eventually fall asleep at his table, dreaming he's the life of the party after all. Calling it "the outstanding gem of all Chaplin's pictures," Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times wrote, "Here is a comedy with streaks of poetry, pathos, tenderness, linked with brusqueness and boisterousness."

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The Hudsucker Proxy

58%

Put the Coen brothers together with Sam Raimi and a top-shelf cast that included Paul Newman, Tim Robbins, and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and what do you have? Well, a huge box office flop and sort of a critical misfire, actually -- but beyond all that, The Hudsucker Proxy is one of the more unusual comedies to make its way into theaters during the 1990s, boasting a screwball plot about a corporate mailroom worker (Robbins) who's used as a patsy by a duplicitous board member (Newman) in a convoluted scheme that eventually leads to the invention of the hula hoop. Oh, and did we mention that the film's climax takes place on a skyscraper ledge on New Year's Eve? It's easy to see why folks didn't know what to make of Hudsucker when it was released, but over time, more than a few have come to agree with Chris Hicks of the Deseret News, who wrote, "This wild-eyed, sentimental, old-fashioned comedy is definitely parked in Frank Capra-Preston Sturges-Howard Hawks territory, but it is also imbued throughout with the Coens' own brand of genre-tweaking and sly, winking humor."

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Comments

Dave J

Dave J

The Last Time I Saw Paris, The Godfather Part II, The Apartment to name a few...

Dec 7 - 05:00 PM

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles

A couple of those were on the first list (linked in the intro paragraph).

Dec 8 - 07:44 AM

Dave J

Dave J

You're right - I shoulda clicked onto the link!

Dec 8 - 06:51 PM

Dave J

Dave J

Let's try this again, "Horns Blows At Midnight", "Holiday", "Bridget Jones Diary" and "Sex & The City The Movie" to name a few!

Dec 9 - 12:27 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Trading Places!

Dec 7 - 05:02 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Going out on a limb, I have to defend what I think is one of the most unfairly unloved films of the 90s and its tale of New Year's Eve shenanigans: "FOUR ROOMS". Coming out during the first full flare of Tarantino backlash, it had far more slapstick than jaded QT watchers wanted to fathom. The 'cool' kids lavished their praise on "Killing Zoe" instead, a great film that isn't quite as funny (don't act like it wasn't trying) as the Rubberized Tim Roth, the Macheesiest Antonio Bandera, the Giddy Sigfried-iest David Proval, the sexiest witchiest Ione Skye, what may be the most hilarious 4 minutes in any movie ever (from Rodriguez's brilliant room "Misbehavers", his greatest achievement and a sad reminder that he would never do a full-length comedy, and, no, Spy Kids do not count), and the Man From Hollywood himself ready to keep it all on ice. "ICE!" Yes, many people loathe this movie, but, then again, many people will be actually PAYING to see "New Year's Eve", so it all comes down to the precious grains of worthy salts. I'll take "Four Rooms" with an egg and Bloody Mary, thank you.

Dec 8 - 06:12 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I agree, there was a certain almost Sellers-esque quality to Four Rooms which was just brilliant. I didn't even hate Madonna in it which is a huge achievement almost unprecedented in cinematic history.

Dec 8 - 06:35 AM

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles

"Trading Places" was on the first list.

Dec 8 - 07:45 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Thanks, you old broad. I noticed there was one lonely commenter back then who shares the rare rare love for "Four Rooms". It's a very exclusive club.

Dec 8 - 08:19 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

**Spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen** When Roth cuts off his finger at the end, scoops up his money and penguin walks out I almost pissed myself. The people I was with were aghast. I also loved it because I remembered the Peter Lorre/Steve McQueen scene they were talking about from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Dec 8 - 09:27 AM

doomzdavo

Doomz Davo

aside from Strange Days that is one weak list

Dec 7 - 05:08 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Love Strange Days. Classic '90s movie with great ensemble cast. Great soundtrack, also.

Dec 8 - 12:40 AM

Vitto

nick vitto

When Harry Met Sally? Anyone? Anyone?

Dec 7 - 05:19 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

THat was my first thought, too, but I guess it's really just the ending. "Can't Buy Me Love" came to mind also, when douchey Dempsy blows it at the big NYE party and winds up walking home alone and sleeping in the garage. Again, that's just the ending.

Dec 7 - 06:24 PM

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles

"When Harry Met Sally" was on the previous list.

Dec 8 - 07:46 AM

John Matrix

John Matrix

Where is New Years Evil? Also, Strange Days is tremendously underrated.

Dec 7 - 05:24 PM

jrod1978

jarrod taylor

Thank you! Strange Days is very underrated and it's a shame.

Dec 7 - 06:06 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Yea, that's a great movie. It deserves a good Blu-ray release.

Dec 7 - 07:25 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Strange Days has always been one of those movies I have admired more for ambition than execution. It has moments of absolute brilliance (opening scene, overall concept, and several others) and is very imaginative while still keeping its feet firmly placed in reality. I loved the gritty, noir mixed with the apocalypse feel it had. That said, some things in it were distracting and/or did not meet their full potential. The most distracting thing was Sizemore's horrendous, laugh inducing wig. (Semi-SPOILER in the next sentence) Besides simply looking ridiculous, it also telegraphs a rather big twist in the movie. Ralph Fiennes has always seemed a little miscast to me, as well. He was not bad, but did not really seem like the kind of guy he was supposed to be. The rapper plot-line also was not as engaging as other elements to the movie. Finally, the ending just sort of gets a little absurd for my liking. (Another SPOILER) I like that the movie sort of twists convention by having the hero not get the girl he wants at the end, especially since she was a bitch, but the plot sort of climaxed in a bit of ludicrousness that had a lot to do with that wig I mentioned earlier. All in all, I think it is definitely a movie worth watching, and that it is rather underrated (despite all my complaints), but I think it would have turned out better had James Cameron directed it in addition to writing the script; no disrespect to Bigelow.

Dec 7 - 06:49 PM

John Matrix

John Matrix

Weird. As much as I love Cameron (pre-Titanic, at least), I'm glad he didn't direct it. I loved Bigelow's visualization of the whole movie, from the future-noir setting, to the cinematography. Cameron is great at visuals, but I think even he would have a hard time topping how Bigelow executed that movie.

Dec 7 - 06:58 PM

Logan L.

Logan Locke

Not to mention Cameron is lacking in the writing department...

Dec 8 - 06:13 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

@Logan - Cameron may not be the best with dialogue, but he is excellent when it comes to structure and ideas. Cameron has written or cowritten every film he has directed, so that includes Terminator, T-2, and Aliens; all of those have great screenplays. Also, Strange Days was cowritten with Jay Cocks; he did The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York for Scorsese as well.

Dec 8 - 07:39 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

@Matrix - I think Bigelow did an excellent job with the visual execution of the movie, I just think Cameron's perfectionism would have made him rethink/write some of the parts that were not as effective. Also, I feel that Bigelow was channeling some of Cameron's Terminator 2 style in Strange Days, with the cinematography heavy on the blues.

Dec 8 - 07:43 AM

JC Martel

JC Martel

200 Cigarettes is good fun. I don't give a crap what the critics say.

Dec 7 - 05:36 PM

redrooster0

Charlie Voelker

The only one Iv'e seen on this list is the original Oceans, God that's sad.

Dec 7 - 05:59 PM

nongshim

Kathryne C

you have to watch the gold rush.

Dec 7 - 07:31 PM

jrod1978

jarrod taylor

Thank you! Strange Days is very underrated and it's a shame.

Dec 7 - 06:06 PM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Yea, that's a great movie. It deserves a good Blu-ray release.

Dec 7 - 07:25 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

THat was my first thought, too, but I guess it's really just the ending. "Can't Buy Me Love" came to mind also, when douchey Dempsy blows it at the big NYE party and winds up walking home alone and sleeping in the garage. Again, that's just the ending.

Dec 7 - 06:24 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Strange Days has always been one of those movies I have admired more for ambition than execution. It has moments of absolute brilliance (opening scene, overall concept, and several others) and is very imaginative while still keeping its feet firmly placed in reality. I loved the gritty, noir mixed with the apocalypse feel it had. That said, some things in it were distracting and/or did not meet their full potential. The most distracting thing was Sizemore's horrendous, laugh inducing wig. (Semi-SPOILER in the next sentence) Besides simply looking ridiculous, it also telegraphs a rather big twist in the movie. Ralph Fiennes has always seemed a little miscast to me, as well. He was not bad, but did not really seem like the kind of guy he was supposed to be. The rapper plot-line also was not as engaging as other elements to the movie. Finally, the ending just sort of gets a little absurd for my liking. (Another SPOILER) I like that the movie sort of twists convention by having the hero not get the girl he wants at the end, especially since she was a bitch, but the plot sort of climaxed in a bit of ludicrousness that had a lot to do with that wig I mentioned earlier. All in all, I think it is definitely a movie worth watching, and that it is rather underrated (despite all my complaints), but I think it would have turned out better had James Cameron directed it in addition to writing the script; no disrespect to Bigelow.

Dec 7 - 06:49 PM

John Matrix

John Matrix

Weird. As much as I love Cameron (pre-Titanic, at least), I'm glad he didn't direct it. I loved Bigelow's visualization of the whole movie, from the future-noir setting, to the cinematography. Cameron is great at visuals, but I think even he would have a hard time topping how Bigelow executed that movie.

Dec 7 - 06:58 PM

Logan L.

Logan Locke

Not to mention Cameron is lacking in the writing department...

Dec 8 - 06:13 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

@Logan - Cameron may not be the best with dialogue, but he is excellent when it comes to structure and ideas. Cameron has written or cowritten every film he has directed, so that includes Terminator, T-2, and Aliens; all of those have great screenplays. Also, Strange Days was cowritten with Jay Cocks; he did The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York for Scorsese as well.

Dec 8 - 07:39 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

@Matrix - I think Bigelow did an excellent job with the visual execution of the movie, I just think Cameron's perfectionism would have made him rethink/write some of the parts that were not as effective. Also, I feel that Bigelow was channeling some of Cameron's Terminator 2 style in Strange Days, with the cinematography heavy on the blues.

Dec 8 - 07:43 AM

John Matrix

John Matrix

Weird. As much as I love Cameron (pre-Titanic, at least), I'm glad he didn't direct it. I loved Bigelow's visualization of the whole movie, from the future-noir setting, to the cinematography. Cameron is great at visuals, but I think even he would have a hard time topping how Bigelow executed that movie.

Dec 7 - 06:58 PM

Logan L.

Logan Locke

Not to mention Cameron is lacking in the writing department...

Dec 8 - 06:13 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

@Logan - Cameron may not be the best with dialogue, but he is excellent when it comes to structure and ideas. Cameron has written or cowritten every film he has directed, so that includes Terminator, T-2, and Aliens; all of those have great screenplays. Also, Strange Days was cowritten with Jay Cocks; he did The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York for Scorsese as well.

Dec 8 - 07:39 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

@Matrix - I think Bigelow did an excellent job with the visual execution of the movie, I just think Cameron's perfectionism would have made him rethink/write some of the parts that were not as effective. Also, I feel that Bigelow was channeling some of Cameron's Terminator 2 style in Strange Days, with the cinematography heavy on the blues.

Dec 8 - 07:43 AM

David Tanny

David Tanny

Yea, that's a great movie. It deserves a good Blu-ray release.

Dec 7 - 07:25 PM

nongshim

Kathryne C

you have to watch the gold rush.

Dec 7 - 07:31 PM

Jacob H.

Jacob Holmes

Ghostbusters II?

Dec 7 - 07:48 PM

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