CATEGORIES FeaturesWhether it's about fresh starts, uncertain futures or the end of an era -- or, more importantly, who's kissing who at midnight -- New Year's Eve is inherently cinematic with its showers of fireworks, confetti and balloons. No wonder so many films fade out with a countdown, a kiss and the implied "... and they lived happily ever." Of course, not all new years begin in a lip lock with the love of your life; sometimes all that merriment is just a set-up for epic-sized disaster.
So bring on the kazoos and pop that champagne: We've rounded up 10 of the best New Year's Eve scenes in movie history. Happy New Year!
'The Gold Rush' (1925)
The first image that comes to mind when we mention Charlie Chaplin? Probably the Little Tramp's immortal "dinner roll dance" scene, or at least Johnny Depp's loving homage in 'Benny and Joon.' But we'll bet you didn't know that joyful bit of improv is a fantasy sequence in which the lonely Chaplin pretends to entertain the handful of guests he's invited -- but who don't show up -- to celebrate New Year's Eve with him. Chaplin always did have a knack for rendering the bittersweet beautiful, and vice versa.
Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant were never more charming and heartbreakingly gorgeous than they are here as wealthy Linda and not-so-well-off Johnny. The two are clearly meant for each other, even though he's engaged to her sister, Julia. On New Year's Eve, Julia's engagement is supposed to be announced to their society friends, but Linda is boycotting the lavish party put on their father. She'd wanted to host a small gathering in her old playroom for just Johnny and Julia, but her party ends up with the right guests after all when Johnny arrives. He, Linda and his Vaudevillian friends show us what a real New Year's party looks like.
'Holiday Inn' (1942)
Bing Crosby picks New Year's Eve to debut his new inn, which, as the name says, is only open on holidays. Sure enough, it's a hit -- but when best friend Fred Astaire drunkenly crashes the party, Bing's romance with his star employee looks doomed. Does it all wrap up happily by the next New Year? Can Bing sing? The best clip we could find is (gasp!) colorized, but if you want to see Bing crooning about "kissing the old year out/kissing the new year in," in his original black-and-white glory, here's a shorter clip.
'The Apartment' (1960)
You have to love a New Year's romance that isn't sealed with a kiss, but with a game of gin rummy. The clip of the film's finale begins with Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) hearing a loud bang and assuming it's nice guy C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) ending it all. Nope, he's just popping open a bottle of champagne to celebrate standing up to his heel of a boss. Good thing he's got an extra glass. After hearing that she's ditched her married boyfriend for him, C.C.'s declaration of love is met with the immortal words, "Shut up and deal."
'The Poseidon Adventure' (1972)
Just as a band of revelers ring in the New Year aboard the Poseidon, a rogue wave flips their luxury liner. (Yes, that's Leslie Nielsen, dead serious before his 'Airplane' days, and just plain dead as the doomed captain.) The resulting chaos is disaster-movie gold as survivors scramble to make it to the surface, led by Gene Hackman, whose quick thinking includes using that upside-down Christmas tree as a ladder out of the flooded ballroom. We're guessing New Year's Eve cruises took a dive after this movie hit theaters.
'The Godfather: Part II' (1974)
This is one kiss at midnight no one ever wants to get: It's New Year's Eve in Havana and the Corleones are on top of the world. Except that Fredo (John Cazale) has just made a slip that confirms brother Michael's (Al Pacino) fears that he's the traitor in the family. "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart," says Michael (like we need to repeat dialogue you already have memorized) before giving him the notorious kiss of death in one of cinema's most riveting -- and most unforgettable -- scenes.
'When Harry Met Sally' (1989)
After Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) finally hook up, Harry does the classic guy thing and freaks out afterward. No wonder then that Sally keeps walking when he tells her, out of the blue, that he loves her. As Harry so eloquently puts it, "It's not because I'm lonely and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. ... When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." And New Year's is as good a time as any, right? Which leads to the classic discussion about what the heck 'Auld Lang Syne' means anyway, because these two are pretty darn sure about everything else.
'Strange Days' (1995)
Although this flick came out a few years before it was set, it perfectly captures the anxiety and panic that preceded the millennial changeover. On a chaotic last day of the 20th century, Lenny (Ralph Fiennes, terrific against type as a scuzzy hustler) and bodyguard Mace (Angela Bassett) are caught up in a violent murder conspiracy. In the end scenes, Lenny and Mace can't quite believe they survived, and we can't quite believe that 1999 rolled over to 2000 with as little fuss as it did, although it's a gas to see everyone partying, one last time, like it's 1999. Did we mention the high-powered talent behind the camera: James Cameron ('Avatar') co-wrote the script and 'The Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow directed.
'Bridget Jones's Diary' (2001)
When else would you end a movie chronicling the year in the life of one v. v. single Brit but on New Year's Eve? It takes all year for Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger at her most endearing) to realize that pompous jerk Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) is actually Mr. Right. Too bad he finds her diary before they get things started and reads entry after entry about how "rude, unpleasant and dull" he is. When he runs out into the snow, she runs after him, wearing little more than her leopard-print undies. But it's a happy ending after all as he reveals he was merely buying her a new diary, so she could start the year off fresh. We'd say a kiss in the snow (in front of scandalized old ladies) is a pretty perfect way to begin.
'Sex and the City: The Movie' (2008)
While nearly everyone ends up happily ever after romance-wise, this big-screen adventure was, just like the series, more a celebration of true friendship than anything else. Take this scene, in which Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) journeys across town in the freezing snow to surprise Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) on New Year's Eve. Carrie arrives just as the ball drops in Times Square and the two stay up talking and laughing long into the morning. If that's not a Happy New Year, we don't know what is. (This clip is dubbed in Italian, but the Celtic 'Auld Lang Syne' on the soundtrack is all you really need to listen to.)