Cue the Confetti: Movies' 12 Greatest New Year's Eve Scenes
Should auld acquaintance be forgot - or if you forgot to make plans for the evening -- don't forget that there are lots of cinema New Year's Eve scenes worth celebrating. Pop a cork and ring in the New Year and lots of yesteryears with these flicks. (Hey, it's more fun than watching poor old Dick Clark to croak out a greeting at midnight on TV's Rockin' Eve. Really, Seacrest, it's just getting cruel.)
1. The Godfather Part II (1974). This prequel-cum-sequel finds favored Corleone son Michael (Al Pacino) expanding the family business to Vegas, Hollywood and Havana in the 1950s. Discovering the source of a murder plot against him, Michael takes brother Fredo (the late, great John Cazale) out with mobster cronies for a night of partying in the Cuban capital. At midnight, in the middle of a lavish New Year's Eve ball, Michael confronts his younger brother. "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart," he says. One kiss of death later, Fredo flees for his life. The brothers reunite briefly years later at their mother's funeral. But when Michael sends Fredo fishing with a bodyguard, the latter is soon sleeping with them. The New Year's Eve scene in Cuba is one of the first indications that Michael will be the coldest Corleone of them all.
2. When Harry Met Sally (1989). From foes to friends to lovers, the relationship of Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) in Rob Reiner's film (screenplay by Nora Ephron) is fraught from the start. It all comes together in Manhattan on New Year's Eve. Sally is dancing forlornly with a date in a ballroom. Harry is munching Mallomars in his apartment. Suddenly he bounds up, sprints uptown to find Sally and to proclaim his love. Her response is bitter but sweet: "You see, that is just like you, Harry. You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you. And I hate you, Harry. I really hate you. I hate you." And then the big smooch. They could be grandparents by now, these two.
3. Boogie Nights (1997). The tense atmosphere of the New Year's Eve party scene in Paul Thomas Anderson's movie about the 1970s-to-1980s porn movie biz hits a brutal high point as the characters played by Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly and Heather Graham get higher, wilder and more out of control. Serving as a metaphor for the end of an era, the sudden gun-in-mouth suicide of William H. Macy's character is a shocking cinematic substitute for a cliché countdown to the dawn of a new year.
4. The Gold Rush (1925). Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp falls in love with a pretty dance-hall girl (Georgia Hale). She accepts his invitation to New Year's Eve dinner, but only as a joke. The tramp is seen making preparations for what he thinks will be a romantic date ̶ lighting candles, setting the table and placing a "To My Love" card at Georgia's plate. Then he falls asleep and dreams of an evening that will never happen. At midnight he wakes to noises from a nearby celebration and goes outside to watch that party through a window. As the guests sing "Auld Lang Syne," the tramp looks on sadly, knowing his dream is dashed.
5. Radio Days (1987). The final scene of this fine Woody Allen comedy (co-starring Mia Farrow) about the early days of radio takes place on a Times Square rooftop on New Year's Eve, 1943. Narrating over images of partygoers gathering to ring in 1944, Allen delivers a closing speech about his childhood. "I never forgot that New Year's Eve when Aunt Bea awakened me to watch 1944 come in. And I've never forgotten any of those people or any of the voices we used to hear on the radio. Although the truth is, with the passing of each New Year's Eve, those voices do seem to grow dimmer and dimmer."
6. Sunset Boulevard (1950). Director Billy Wilder's film noir about a reclusive silent-film star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson, then only 50), and the starving young screenwriter (William Holden) she seduces has a marvelously dark New Year's Eve scene. Dressed in white tie and tails Norma has bought for him, Joe Gillis (Holden) comes down the stairs of Norma's Beverly Hills mansion to find that he's the only guest at the party. As a tango orchestra plays, Norma drags Joe drunkenly around the polished dance floor, telling tales of Rudolph Valentino. The scene leads to an argument and Joe bolts for a "shindig" with his young Hollywood friends, who've been wondering where he'd disappeared to. When Joe returns to Sunset Boulevard, he finds that Norma's tried to kill herself. He decides to stay with her. When the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" waft up from downstairs, and she says "Happy New Year, darling," we know he's made a fatal mistake.
7. The Apartment (1960). Billy Wilder's up to lighter romance in his black-and-white comedy about a company ladder-climber, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon), who lends his apartment to bosses (including Fred MacMurray) for extramarital whoopee with secretaries. When Baxter discovers one of the diddlees is the girl he likes, an elevator button-pusher named Fran (played by a kittenish Shirley MacLaine), he stands up to the honchos. In the final scene, it's New Year's Eve and Baxter is alone, having quit his job. At a Chinese restaurant with MacMurray (in a terrifically sleazy role), Fran feels her love light go on for Mr. Baxter and rushes up the street to his brownstone. There's no big kiss, not even a hug. Just MacLaine and Lemmon sitting down to play gin rummy. "Shut up and deal," she purrs. Roll credits.
8. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001). After chubby British book editor's assistant Bridget Jones makes a New Year's resolution to keep a diary, all sorts of new men pop into her life. A year later, her sexy boss (Hugh Grant) and the elegant Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) fight over her on a snowy, cobblestoned London street as Bridget looks on, wearing a sweater and cotton underpants. All in all, not a bad way to start a new year anywhere.
9. Rosemary's Baby (1968). She doesn't know it yet in the New Year's scene, but Rosemary (Mia Farrow, sporting that shocking Sassoon haircut) has been impregnated by Satan at the behest of her devil-worshiping neighbors, the Castavets (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). At a New Year's Eve party in the spooky old building where they all reside (actually the Dakota apartments in Manhattan), Rosemary informs her doctor (Ralph Bellamy) that she's in intense abdominal pain. "It's like a wire inside me, getting tighter and tighter," she says, not knowing that the ob/gyn, the old couple and her own husband (John Cassavetes) are in league with the dark side to produce a baby anti-Christ. The New Year is rung in by Roman Castavet, shouting "To 1966! To Year One!" Directed by Roman Polanski, based on a novel by Ira Levin, this one still holds up as a creepily stylish thriller.
10. The Poseidon Adventure (1972). The best of a wave of 1970s disaster epics, this Irwin Allen movie gathers all sorts of A- and B-level actors for the tragedy of the cruise ship Poseidon, flipped upside down by a rogue wave during a New Year's Eve party onboard. Ten survivors must crawl through fire, swim and otherwise haul ass to the bottom of the boat to get to the top of the water. Cast includes Gene Hackman (as a hollering preacher), Shelley Winters (she swims!), Roddy McDowall, Ernie Borgnine, Red Buttons, Pamela Sue Martin (hey, whatever happened to her?), Stella Stevens and Jack Albertson. Best line is by Stevens, referring to Winters: "I'm going next. So if ol' fat ass gets stuck, I won't get stuck behind her."
11. Holiday (1938). George Cukor, the 1930s' best director of women, found a dream cast with stars Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in this funny-sad film about New York society types dealing with a newcomer in their midst who has unconventional ideas. Johnny Case (Grant, never more beautiful than in black and white films of this era) gets engaged to a wealthy deb (Doris Nolan). But he finds himself falling for her counterculture-loving sis (Hepburn). Most of the movie happens during a New Year's Eve party where Johnny is supposed to announce his engagement to one girl, but instead falls in love with another. His speech to his snooty fiancée about money and "blind faith" could be the rallying cry for today's #Occupy protesters.
12. After the Thin Man (1936). The second installment in the film series about sophisticated crimes-solvers begins at a New Year's Eve party. Nick and Nora Charles, played with effortless grace and subtle wit by William Powell and Myrna Loy, were so believable a couple, many fans thought that the actors were married in real life. The bonus in this picture is the presence of the young Jimmy Stewart. If only our Second Great Depression were represented by movies with this much style.
Get the Arts+Culture Newsletter
Receive exclusive announcements and discounts from the Dallas Art Scene directly to your inbox!