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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  • John Primavera

    How can you include junk like Boogie Nights and
    Bundle of Joy while overlooking a gem like Jack
    Benny’s THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT? This is the
    perfect movie to enjoy when your attention level
    is low and you just want to lie back and laugh
    yourself silly at one of Hollywood’s guilty pleasures. Just dig the giant spoon, tons of
    sugar, and the quakes!

  • margaret

    Most of all, I like Bridget Jones’s Diary with Renée Zellweger! This film, I suppose, is worth seeing!!! Great download, good quality and sound keep up the good work

  • JUanita Curtis

    You have certainly chosen an eclectic range of films here. The TIme Machine has got to be one of the best sci-films ever made and at the other end of the spectrum Bridget Jones Diary for the delectable Colin Firth and the always amusing Hugh Grant.

  • Kai Ferano

    I wouldn’t recommend “Boogie Nights” for New Year’s Eve, but I don’t agree it’s a junk movie. It’s a serious movie about an underbelly slice of American life. Reynolds was brilliant in it. I would recommend for New Year’s Eve either a zany movie like, “Tom Jones” or a tearjerker like, “The Ghost & Mrs. Muir.” I think “Captains Courageous” would be heartwarming, too.

  • Marjorie

    The Cutting Edge has a new years moment and is a easily a better movie than Someone Like You. As romantic comedies go, it’s also a bit more guy-tolerable than most of the others.

  • MrMovieClassics

    How about including the original Ocean’s Eleven (1960) with the Rat Pack and boys knocking over five Las Vegas casinos on New Years Eve (actually at the stroke of midnight New Years to be precise)?

  • Audrey

    John P is so right about A HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT – it is my all time favorite New Year’s Eve movie. The segment on the coffee advertisement on the side of the building is the absolute best. I don’t agree that Boogie Nights is junk, or even that Susan Slept Here is (it’s a cute movie), but don’t relate either to New Year’s Eve (don’t think I’d have included a few of the other movies either, but I can see that others may like them). Yes, The Horn Blows at Midnight is the absolute best and the writer was totally remiss in not including it.

  • Dennis Harrington

    No one is permitted to mention Bundle of Joy in the same sentence with a brilliant screwball. Its holiday connection is mostly due to its being a turkey. Worse yet is calling Bachelor Mother a “chestnut”. I can’t believe Frebowitz has ever seen it. Judging from other items on his list, he hasn’t seen much.

  • Tom Ciorciari

    No Radio Days? For shame. Woody’s warmest flick comes to its loving conclusion atop a Times Square rooftop as the New Year rings in.

  • Margaret Mitchell

    It took me years of searching for Bundle of Joy and I finally found it and its a great movie I just love Eddie Fisher singing what a voice and Debbie Reynolds wasn’t bad either but I have watched it many times and still get enjoyment out of it

  • Martin Stumacher

    I think that The Apartment stand out of all of the others. Fran and Baxter together on New Years Eve. What could be Better? Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

  • Barbara Atkinson

    Hey, I really like Bachelor Mother! You should try it… Yes, it’s a “chick flick,” but for those of us who are “Cool Chicks,” it’s great! Perhaps the best performance by a baby on film! Lots of fun with stellar actors – Ginger Rogers, David Niven, and Charles Coburn. Neither heavy nor complex, it’s just great fun all around. Sometimes light is good!

  • Max Gantt

    Well folks, I’ll be watching “Ticket to New Years Eve”, starring The Grateful Dead!

  • Frank Guerrasio

    You forgot the ideal film: “Repeat Performance” (1947) with Joan Leslie & Louis Hayward. Woman gets to turn back the clock a whole year on New Year’s Eve !

    • Carol331

      I’ve been trying for years to find “Repeat Performance” on DVD. It is such an excellent movie, but seems to be completely unavailable now. Any ideas about where to find it would be very much appreciated.

      • hopeful

        Love this film, too. It was included in last year’s line-up of films for the Noir City program (film festival?), put on by The Film Noir Foundation. Caught it as part of their program on a trip to Seattle early last year. (I think their “home base” is San Francisco, though.) It may be worth posing the question to the foundation. They may know if it’s available on DVD or if it scheduled for release in the future.

    • kp22kc

      I believe they remade this as a TV movie called Turn Back the Clock. It sounds exactly the same and I didn’t know there was an original movie of it. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for this. Connie Selleca was the leading lady in the TV movie.

  • Wayne Tanner

    Right on, Tom Ciorciari! “Radio Days” is not only warmly funny about growing up in the ’40s, but its New Year’s Eve conclusion on that rooftop has some bittersweet comments about the passage of time.

  • Marian Lang

    How about “Happy New Year” with Peter Falk? A movie that has been under-rated and overlooked.

    • Jackie

      OMG I have always adored Peter..I really do not remember that one,Marian. Who was his co-star?

  • Natalie

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention 200 Cigarettes!!! It takes place all on New Year’s Eve and is hillarious! Great actors include: Christina Ricci, Ben Affleck, Paul Rudd, Janeane Garofalo, Kate Hudson, Dave Chappelle, and Jay Mohr. Check it out!!!

  • version

    Radio Days -should be in the top 20. Was the begining of “Topper” taken place on New Years? Could swear there must me a dozen more movies – good call on 200 Cigarettes! Not that I’d put them up , but there must a few bad horror movies.

    Oceans Eleven – is another classic.

  • version

    alright its a stretch, but Godfather II – in Cuba – Michael and Fredo out on the town!

  • Hank Zangara

    I would program a double feature of “11:59” (2005) with Chris Kelly and “12:01” (1993) with Helen Slater and Jonathan Silverman.

  • Marie

    My all time favorite movie for New Year’s Eve is “Happy New Year” (La Bonne Annee) a 1973 French film (the Peter Falk might be a remake?). This film never fails to delight — a makeup artist criminal being pardoned for the holiday thinks back on his last heist and his great love — a real grownup film to view with a glass of champagne and grilled shrimp.
    p.s. thanks for the “Horn Blows” suggestion – never saw it

  • Wil

    Forrest Gump should be included as an all emotion element film. You know the drill circles/cycles, peaks and valleys, new beginnings/resolutions. Laugh, cry, feel good/redemption, it’s all here.

  • Hank Zangara

    On second thought – tonight, “2010: The Year We Make Contact.”
    Tomorrow morning, “The Hangover”!

  • liznytx

    The Apartment is one of the best in my opinion, of your entire list! Its a long-time favorite of mine and one I watch every year!

  • Susan

    Love Susan Slept here have waited years for it to come out on dvd, got a copy for Christmas and I did watch it on New Years Eve !! I also love Bundle of Joy, When Harry Met Sally, An Affair to Remember and The Apartment, I like to watch movies to be entertained and take a break from real life !! A few I would add just because, The Facts of Life with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, Desk Set Tracy and Hepburn at their best, Oh and Splendor in The Grass and it even has a New Years Eve scene !!

  • noel baker

    You gave me the idea to watch
    the poseidon adventure tonight
    Saw it in the theatre in my home
    town in vancouver bc
    already watched white christmas
    have both films on dvd

  • DIRK

    I have to agree with the Original OCEAN’S 11 with the Rat Pack. Excellent! And quite a New Years Eve treat!

  • Butch Knouse

    On New Year’s Eve 1999, I watched The Road Warrior. Given the hysteria surrounding the new Mileniem, (sp?) it seemed the ideal choice.

  • Tlynette

    “How about including the original Ocean’s Eleven (1960) with the Rat Pack and boys knocking over five Las Vegas casinos on New Years Eve (actually at the stroke of midnight New Years to be precise)?” and “…while overlooking a gem like Jack Benny’s THE HORN BLOWS AT MIDNIGHT? This is the perfect movie to enjoy when your attention level is low and you just want to lie back and laugh yourself silly at one of Hollywood’s guilty pleasures. Just dig the giant spoon, tons of
    sugar, and the quakes!”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  • Jim

    Every year at our house on New Year’s Eve, we used to watch all of the Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Road films as well as the Marx Brothers marathon of films. I know, not much to do with New Year’s Eve, but WGN in Chicago used to run these every year so it became a tradition. They were always a hoot to watch.

  • joycewr

    My New Year’s Eve movie is Holiday, with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Great chemistry and story! The high point occurs at the lavish New Year’s Eve party when he realizes he’s engaged to the wrong sister.

    • kp22kc

      Holiday is a great movie for New Year’s Eve! I love that movie!

  • polliwogg

    “When Harry Met Sally” and “The Apartment” are the two I watch every year. Jack Lemmon should have won the Oscar that year. It was, IMO, his best role.

    • Jackie

      I have always adored Jack Lemon,But so far as Oscars go,he should have won an Oscar for”Days of Wine and Roses”,or maybe he did..He and Lee Remic were absolutely spectacular in that film. They were so believable,it was like watching your next door neighbor having an alcoholic meltdown.

      • polliwogg

        I haven’t watched that film in 20+ years. Maybe I should give it another look.

      • Bruce Reber

        Lemmon didn’t win the Best Actor Oscar in ’62-Gregory Peck did, for his great performance as Atticus Finch in “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Lemmon got a BAO nod in ’62 for DOWAR, and 2 years earlier in ’60 (“The Apartment”), but lost to Burt Lancaster (“Elmer Gantry”). He did win in ’73 for “Save The Tiger”.

  • Norman Gillen

    Yes, the Rat Pack “Ocean’s 11” should be at the top of the list, but among the 15, I would include “Starstruck,” a 1981 Australian rock musical about an obscure punk band that performs at the Sydney Opera House on New Year’s Eve and becomes the hit of the evening. The film ends with an impressive array of fireworks interspersed with the end titles.

  • dirkwrestler

    And of course the Original OCEAN’S 11 with the Rat Pack robbing Las Vegas Casinos at midnight on New Years Eve!

  • flyingtoupee

    SUNSET BOULEVARD has an unforgettable scene that happens on New Year’s Eve.

    • dirkwrestler

      Right! Complete with a Party at Jack Webb’s house!

      • flyingtoupee

        And Norma Desmond throws a catered party but the only people attending are her and a reluctant William Holden.

        • dirkwrestler

          “Don’t race up the stairs, the band must’nt know”!!!
          The only time Norma and Joe Gillis kiss (kinda on screen — fade out) is on this New Years Eve!

      • Bruce Reber

        Complete with punch made from cough drops and warm grape juice!

  • BarbinOK

    Hey, I recommend you skip “Bundle of Joy” and stick with the original, “Bachelor Mother.” The latter is much more watchable than the former. Another holiday pick for a pic is “I’ll Be Seeing You,” a 1944 WWII Ginger Rogers romantic drama. This one is very interesting from an historical standpoint, while having good scenes for the principals, which also include Joseph Cotten, Spring Byington, and a teenaged Shirley Temple. Try it!!

  • rapalmi

    Those with a taste for foreign films might want to check out the Russian equivalent of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or A CHRISTMAS STORY. It’s a New Year’s Eve movie the Russians like to watch every year at this time. It’s long (3 hours) but quite entertaining; it’s a romantic comedy with a touch of melancholy called THE IRONY OF FATE. It’s a good way to spend the evening if you’re home alone on the eve of the New Year.

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  • Johnny Sherman

    What about the elaborate–bordering on gaudy–New Year’s Eve party from ‘Ragtime’ ? Mostly set in New York City at the turn of the 19th century, this was the last film appearance of Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Cagney.
    I’ll never forget the opening lines and tune from one of the songs: “One last hour, one last day….”.

  • dberkin

    Radio Days and Entrapment are two movies that I watch on New Year’s Eve/Day

  • da Doctah

    The ultimate New Year’s movie is Charlie Chaplin’s THE GOLD RUSH. The picture of him entertaining his guests with a pair of dancing dinner rolls before heading off to the big party (all of it taking place in his imagination) is one of moviedom’s “postcard” images.

    Another topical choice would be THE LEGEND OF 1900, which tells the life story of a baby born during a New Year’s Eve party on a liner in the mid-Atlantic on the last night of 1899, then found abandoned the next morning and raised by a laborer from the ship’s engines, never able to bring himself to get off the ship.

    (Was also going to suggest NIGHT OF THE COMET, but apparently mistakenly remembered that the comet passed on New Year’s Eve instead of Christmas.)

  • HelenS1

    I like Bell, Book and Candle for Christmas and/or New Year’s viewing.

    • NJ Lady

      HelenS1 — I agree with you 100%! It’s a magical movie that features whimsical romantic seduction. Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon (hope I got that right) play so well “against” each other, as they try to “one up” each other while falling in love. Isn’t there an older woman “pulling strings” like a puppeteer to ensure the romance?

      • virginia28

        Wasn’t it Jimmy Stewart??

        • NJ Lady

          I don’t think so, but I could be very, very wrong.

      • Wendy M

        NJ Lady–this is one of my favorite Christmas/New Year’s movies, too. Jack Lemmon is in this film, but he plays Kim Novak’s brother. Nevertheless, I agree that they both play against each other very well. Kim tries to seduce James Stewart. Hermione Gingold is an “older” woman (a witch) whom James visits, along with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovaks in the hope that she can undo the spell that Kim Novak has cast over him.

  • QB59

    One of my favorite movies to watch around New Years is DINER. I love it anytime of the year but it takes place between Christmas 1959 and New Years 1960 (and I would have been 6 months old in real life). It gives a glimpse of a simpler time and what life was like then, with the fashion, cars and music. Love the ensemble cast also.

    • Bruce Reber

      The “Diner” scene where Bagel (Michael Tucker) eats every sandwich on the menu of the Fells Point Diner (in one sitting!) – that is truly classic!

  • Martin Stumacher

    Without a doubt!! Apartment is a national treasure and especially on News Year Eve. What a wonderful cast, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred Macmurray and led by the genius of a fllm maker, Billy Wilder.

  • Bruce Reber

    “Splendor In The Grass” has a NYE party scene where drunk bad girl Ginny Stamper (Barbara Loden) gets out of control and yells “all you boys only like nice girls, nice girls!” IIRC.

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