Consider New Year’s Eve a fine time for romance … or for knocking over several casinos at once … or for crawling through an upside-down ocean liner.
Movies have long used Dec. 31 as an element in certain stories, and some are so popular that they turn up regularly on television throughout the year. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable, as 2018 hands off the calendar to 2019.
Citing some of the screen’s best Dec. 31 stories
“The Apartment” (1960): Director Billy Wilder’s Oscar-winning comedy-drama concludes on New Year’s Eve, as elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) makes her romantic choice between corporate executive J.D. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray) and his subordinate C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) — resulting in one of the most famous movie lines ever, and one of the coziest welcomes to a new year ever shared by two screen characters.
“Ocean’s Eleven” (1960): The lights go out throughout Las Vegas when midnight hits on New Year’s Eve, thanks to the ex-military buddies led by suave Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) in the ultimate “Rat Pack” movie. Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford play some of the other pals who are in on the simultaneous robbery of several casinos. However, we love that Martin almost misses out on the crime since – cast perfectly as a lounge entertainer — he’s still singing “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” 20 minutes after he started it.
“The Poseidon Adventure” (1972): Not only does an enormous tidal wave overturn the S.S. Poseidon on New Year’s Eve, the cruise ship’s passengers are merrily crooning “Auld Lang Syne” at the moment the vessel begins to capsize. Like many other locations, the Poseidon hasn’t yet gotten rid of its Christmas tree, which comes in lucky for the Gene Hackman-led group that has to climb it to survive. A great, ideally understated moment: The captain (Leslie Nielsen) wishes a tight-jawed “Happy New Year” to a fellow crew member as they’re waiting for the water to hit.
“About Last Night … “ (1986): As evidence that almost anyone’s New Year’s Eve has to go better, take Danny and Debbie (Rob Lowe, Demi Moore), whose live-in relationship hits the skids amid a huge holiday crowd at their favorite Chicago bar. While she wants to comfort a girlfriend (Elizabeth Perkins) who’s just suffered a trauma in love, he wants to party, and the rest pretty much spells itself out – thus making for excellent eye-rolling by the Lowe character’s brazen, devoutly noncommittal pal James Belushi.
“When Harry Met Sally … “ (1989): Although the picture has a postscript beyond it, this modern-classic comedy’s pivotal scene is set at a New Year’s Eve party where hopeless — and hapless — romantic Sally (Meg Ryan) isn’t feeling very celebratory, until longtime confidant Harry (Billy Crystal) shows up and finally professes the feelings for her that took so long to develop. Crystal, Ryan and director Rob Reiner are slated to present a 30th-anniversary screening of the movie at the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival.
“Peter’s Friends” (1992): Along the lines of “The Big Chill,” this engaging, British-made comedy reunites a group of college chums at one’s (Stephen Fry) English estate on New Year’s Eve. A couple of the film’s other actors directed (Kenneth Branagh) and co-wrote (Rita Rudner) the picture, which also features Emma Thompson (who was the real-life Mrs. Branagh at the time) and Hugh Laurie, well before he became an American television star in “House.”
“Entrapment” (1999): The dawn of the millennium is a big factor in this heist caper, as an insurance investigator (Catherine Zeta-Jones) tries to entrap a master thief (Sean Connery) by joining his scheme to swipe billions of dollars while just about everyone else is cheering the arrival of the 21st century. A good tip offered by the film: If at all possible, try to avoid dangling from a string of lights high above Kuala Lumpur.
“Sex and the City” (2008): One pivotal sequence of the HBO-series-inspired film shows how the female quartet sees in a new year, with a reunion of the friendship-strained Carrie and Miranda (Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon) particularly affecting … as a gorgeous rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” by Scotland’s Mairi Campbell plays.
“New Year’s Eve” (2011): Well, sure. There are loads of stories and stars in director Garry Marshall’s star-packed ode to Dec. 31, but arguably the most affecting segment teams Robert De Niro and Halle Berry as a cancer patient and his nurse, who await the legendary midnight ball drop together. We’re also partial to Hilary Swank as the person in charge of organizing said ball drop in New York’s Times Square. (Who ever knew that person would be Hilary Swank?)