Movies for New Year’s Eve: Fifteen Film Favorites

Trading Places 1983

Here are 15 movies, some more popular than others but all good choices for New Year’s Eve viewing with a friend…and just as worthwhile even for those finding themselves home alone when the glitter ball drops at midnight in Times Square. Presented for your consideration in no particular order, these are just a few random choices. Feel free to add your suggestions for the nostalgic holiday.

Trading Places (1983)
It’s New Year’s Eve on a train ride from Philadelphia to New York with Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy, Denholm Elliott and Jamie Lee Curtis, along with her “Swedish meatballs.” This movie is all about big money and how easy it is to get some, especially when the big money guys cheat. Old-time Hollywood stars Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche steal every scene they’re in. Lots of fun!

Someone Like You (2001)
TV talk show assistant Ashley Judd gets dumped by creepy boyfriend Greg Kinnear — hard to believe, but in this movie it’s true. It’s almost New Year’s Eve and gorgeous Ashley realizes her womanizing co-worker, hunky Hugh Jackman, is the man of her dreams. Ellen Barkin helps move the story along and as standard Hollywood fluff goes, this one is a pretty darn good romantic comedy.

Susan Slept Here (1954)
Can anyone imagine releasing a movie in today’s world about a teenaged girl juvenile delinquent and a 40-year old man falling in love? Not until Kubrick’s Lolita in 1962 or Clint Eastwood’s 1973 Breezy would this be a possibility but in 1954, RKO did in fact release Susan Slept Here. The holiday connection is that said delinquent teenager is dumped on an Oscar-winning screenwriter in search of a story — and it all starts on Christmas Eve and continues through the holiday season. Debbie Reynolds was really 22 at the time and Dick Powell was 50 but they both looked younger to make this work (and legal enough to pass censors). This was Powell’s final movie before channeling his talents toward television. Folks who like movies from the ’50s will be delighted with the on-screen antics and will be convinced there’s no hanky-panky going on. Hear Don Cornell sing his big 1950s hit, “Hold My Hand.”

The Apartment

The Apartment starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine

The Apartment (1960)
Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine have never been better. Jack’s trying to succeed in business and really trying when his bosses each want to use his pad for foolin’ around before they go home to their wives. Sweet, lovable Shirley also wants to rise above her elevator-operator gig so she’s easily sweet-talked into giving everything she has to one of the sleazy corporate types upstairs — and the meeting place turns out to be Jack’s apartment. This movie has a little bit of everything, including everyone’s favorite Mr. Nice Guy Fred MacMurray, who turns out to be a real stinker in Billy Wilder’s Academy Award-winning classic. For comedy, romance, drama and tragedy, don’t miss this one. Spaghetti, anyone?

After the Thin Man (1936)
It’s The Thin Man but with more laughs. William Powell and Myrna Loy are back as husband-wife sleuths Nick and Nora Charles, getting mixed up in a murder on New Year’s Eve. Everyone eats Chinese food on New Year’s Eve, don’t they? It is so much fun — and with so many red herrings, you’ll think you’re in a fish store. If you like reading about The Thin Man, check out my article, The Thin Man: How I Learned to Love Nick & Nora Charles.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Here’s a great New Year’s Eve scene and great everything else, too. Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher and the ever-brilliant Bruno Kirby live and laugh along the way to finding out about love and all that other complicated stuff — supposedly based on true events. Directed by Rob Reiner, who cast his real-life mother in this movie. After Meg fakes an orgasm in a restaurant, Mom Reiner gets to say one of cinema’s greatest lines, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

About a Boy (2002)
Hugh Grant is a guy who has never grown up trying to meet the grown-up woman of his dreams. He thinks he meets her on New Year’s Eve but this is a guy with mucho problems. Will it take Toni Collette to set him straight or does he really need gorgeous Rachel Weisz? By the end of the movie, everyone figures it out, even the boy this movie is about.

Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds (1956)

Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds (1956)

Bundle Of Joy (1956)
When RKO paired Debbie Reynolds with her then husband, crooner Eddie Fisher, they had an inspired idea to remake Bachelor Mother, an old Ginger Rogers chestnut from 1939. The movie works if you go for all that lovey dovey stuff. It was advertised as their first movie together, which was also their last. Lots of fun including Eddie singing six songs and they even get to dance — and anything with Debbie Reynolds can’t be too bad.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Renée Zellweger, wanting to take control of her not-so-perfect life, decides to keep a diary starting on New Year’s Eve. The plan is to document her every move and make positive changes so she can show the audience she’ll be faced with choosing between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, both at their British best. Renée has to sport a British accent as well but that has nothing to do with this funny and romantic movie.

Holiday Inn (1942)
Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby are buddies, but as often happens in the movies, they both love the same girl. There’s two shots at New Year’s Eve in this one and a whole calendar of holidays to keep this musical comedy-romance-drama doing its paces. Fans of 1954’s White Christmas will recognize the story, which was filmed 12 years earlier and includes the Irving Berlin lyrics made so famous by Bing when he sang, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” It’s a classic!

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Find out how some of old Hollywood’s elite (and not so elite) spend New Year’s Eve together aboard a cruise ship that develops a slight problem — so the ship takes in a little too much water and their Christmas tree is upside down — hey, it could be worse! Shelley Winters, Gene Hackman, Roddy McDowall, Ernest Borgnine, Stella Stevens, and the list goes on… get the picture?

Affair To Remember starring Deborah Kerr & Cary Grant

Deborah Kerr, Cary Grant (1957)

An Affair to Remember (1957)
This is one of Cary Grant’s most popular movies with a nice New Year’s Eve connection. Career bachelor Cary meets gorgeous Deborah Kerr and they fall in love. Of course, there are slight complications — but nothing that director Leo McCarey can’t fix in 119 minutes in beautiful Technicolor. McCarey knows the script backwards since he made the same story before as 1939’s Love Affair with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. His magic is back with the aid of a stellar supporting cast including Cathleen Nesbitt as Cary’s sweet grandmother, and two stars that really click on screen. Sleepless in Seattle fans know this movie by heart.

The Horn Blows At Midnight (1945)
Jack Benny’s career from 1945 on and continuing on for his entire public life, became forever aligned with this Warner Brothers little gem. Jack is a trumpet player for a radio show sponsored by Paradise Coffee, “the coffee that makes you sleep” and sleep he does as he dozes on the job and dreams up the idea that he is an angel sent from Heaven to destroy Earth by blowing his horn exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Corny, yes but a lot of fun and in support of Benny, the two heavenly bodies in the film (Alexis Smith and Dolores Moran) more than make up for any shortcomings.

The Time Machine (1960)
This H.G. Wells story is indeed timeless on many levels… for one, it has been pleasing movie fans for more than 50 years. Rod Taylor is a scientist and inventor who creates a fantastic gizmo which can transport people thousands of years into the future. The movie begins a week into the new year at the turn of the 20th century and through a flashback, the audience learns that Taylor has shown his amazing invention to five of his closest friends on New Year’s Eve, a week earlier. The George Pal special effects can be outdone today with CGI technology, but for most viewers, this is very effective stuff. Have fun and enjoy dazzling Yvette Mimieux in this timeless adventure.

Boogie Nights (1997)
Okay, so it’s not a movie for all family members, but there is a holiday connection. William H. Macy offs his wife and her boyfriend on New Year’s Eve before doing himself in. This is the steamiest and seamiest side of life as stars Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman and young starlet Heather Graham re-enact the beginnings of the after-dark world of stag films. After seeing it, you’ll try to figure out something redeeming about this sometimes brilliant film from Paul Thomas Anderson. Hailed by some, derided by many, this is one movie that won’t be forgotten. If you remove all the sex, violence, foul language and decadence, you’ll have roller skating and a lot of people having fun.

Now, get a glimpse of the past with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in the theatrical trailer from 1960’s Best Picture of the Year, The Apartment:

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