Film and TV

The Best New Year's Eve Scenes in Film

Yesh, that'll make things better. Take a look back at some more optimistic end-of-year moments with the best New Year's Eve scenes from film.
Yesh, that'll make things better. Take a look back at some more optimistic end-of-year moments with the best New Year's Eve scenes from film. Malorny/Getty
The end of the year generally marks an exciting time for movie buffs, when fans can put together their yearly lists of favorite films, speculate on the offerings of the new year and dedicate some time to that stack of Blu-Rays gifted over the holidays.

“New Year’s Movies” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Christmas Movies” or “Halloween Movies,” unless you’re talking about the critically derided 2011 romantic comedy New Year’s Eve, which somehow starred Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Ludacris, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Héctor Elizondo, Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sarah Paulson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Til Schweiger, Jake T. Austin, Hilary Swank and Sofía Vergara. It could be on its own list, one about “the movies with countless famous people that you somehow have never heard of.”

Still, New Year’s Eve is often the centerpiece of pivotal scenes in film, generally revolving around key decisions or moments of sentimentality that guide characters to reassess their lives. There’s not exactly going to be a debate over whether or not The Apartment is a New Year’s Eve movie in the same way there is over whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but it's interesting to look back on how the final days factor into many great movies.

If you’re looking to leave 2020 on a high point, check out some of these great New Years film moments.

Phantom Thread
Daniel Day-Lewis’s presumably final acting performance was as maverick fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock in Paul Thomas Anderson’s modern classic Phantom Thread, and the idea that Day-Lewis starred as an isolated genius tortured by his striving for artistic perfection wasn’t lost on viewers. No scene encapsulates this better than the haunting New Year’s Eve sequence, in which Woodcock watches from afar while others celebrate.
When Harry Met Sally…

When Harry Met Sally… has often been parodied and been paid homage by other romantic comedies, but the sequence where Billy Crystal finds Meg Ryan at a New Year’s Eve party and lists everything he loves about her remains just as powerful as it did in 1989 — a reminder that even the funniest movies need a good deal of heart.

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump gets a lot more criticism today than it did at the time, most circulating around the depiction of mental illness and the nostalgic gaze in which the film depicts some of the uglier moments in American history. Still, the film has its share of darker moments, including the New Year’s Eve scene in which Forrest (Tom Hanks) and Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) return from war.
Rosemary’s Baby

If you’re looking for a film to cheer you up at the end of the year, don't turn to Rosemary’s Baby, which  is about as far from a “feel good movie” as you can get. Something about a woman’s deepest anxieties coming to fruition at the end of the calendar year hits differently in 2020, but if you can stomach the scare, Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most powerful horror films ever made.
About a Boy
A common criticism of Hugh Grant’s characters in rom-coms is that they’re nothing more than immature man-children, and thankfully, that is precisely what About a Boy is satirizing. After meeting Rachel (Rachel Weisz) on New Year’s Eve, Will (Grant) falls head over heels, all while trying to be a mentor to 12-year-old (Nicholas Hoult).
The Godfather: Part II
“I know it was you, Fredo. you broke my heart. You broke my heart.” Enough said.
Boogie Nights
If you can’t stomach attending any awkward New Year’s Eve parties in person, the deeply unsettling sequence from Boogie Nights should fill that gap. Here’s where Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) becomes fully exposed to the violence and drugs that surround his chosen profession.
An American in Paris
The dazzling dance sequence from An American in Paris’ New Year’s Eve party is one that can brighten up your end of year festivities. Nobody does it like Gene Kelly.
Here we have a film with a plot that hinges on how the New Year is counted; in this case, it’s by a train that circulates the globe in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth’s resources are depleted and class divisions are more defined than ever. Fans of Parasite won’t want to miss this action-packed satire from director Bong Joon-ho.
Radio Days
Often the New Year holiday offers some time for reflection on the times that have passed, and in this nostalgic tribute to the Golden Age of Radio, the coming of 1944 sees the end of an era. When the New Year arrives, the audience hears the voices of all the radio stars who lived larger than life fade into obscurity.
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Liam Gaughan has been covering film and television since before he had a driver's license, and in addition to the Observer has been published in, Schmoes Know, Taste of Cinema and The Dallas Morning News. He enjoys checking classic films off of his watchlist and working on spec scripts.