21 Best New Year’s Eve Movies to Ring in 2021
From classic rom-coms to holiday horror, celebrate the big night with these flicks that ring in the New Year in style.
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New Year’s Eve (2011)
The quintessential New Year’s Eve movie, this ensemble dramedy interweaves several smaller stories, Love Actually-style. Watch its many big-name stars race the clock to find love and peace in the Big Apple on New Year’s Eve. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele get stuck on an elevator. Sarah Jessica Parker feuds with daughter Abigail Breslin before a romantic meet-up with Josh Duhamel. Seth Meyers and Jessica Biel are having a baby and Jon Bon Jovi needs to kiss and make up with Katherine Heigl. The kicker is the sweet courtship between Michelle Pfeiffer and Zac Efron. Happy endings abound! Here are 11 of our favorite feel-good movie endings of all time.
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
One of the most romantic scenes of all time happens when Harry (Billy Crystal) races through the streets of Manhattan to pledge his love to Sally (Meg Ryan) on New Year’s Eve and lands with this iconic line: “Because 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.” As New Year’s revelers countdown to midnight, Harry and Sally are still squabbling. They finally get together around 12:01 AM while discussing what “Auld Lang Syne” means—a question we can answer!
While You Were Sleeping (1995)
This ’90s classic is the perfect throwback film to watch all holiday season long. It begins on Christmas even when Lucy (Sandra Bullock) saves the life of her longtime crush, Peter (Peter Gallagher), and is mistaken for his fiance in the hospital. Lucy is stuck with his family for the holidays while Peter is in a coma and she begins to fall for his brother, Jack (Bill Pullman). The tension between Jack and Lucy reaches a peak at a New Year’s Eve party.
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
In one of the infamous 1970s disaster spectacles, a tidal wave hits a cruise ship right during the big New Year’s Eve gala. The boat capsizes and that’s when the party really gets rolling. Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, and Shelley Winters fight to reach the surface and set things right again. But it’s a dangerous journey through the underbelly of the giant ship. The 2006 remake, Poseidon, also sets the big disaster right on New Year’s Eve!
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Billy Wilder’s classic noir film is an ode to silent Hollywood. During the famous New Year’s Eve scene, young William Holden discovers a “sad and embarrassing revelation”: that he is the only guest at Gloria Swanson’s extravagant New Year’s Eve party. Famous director and silent film actor Erich von Stroheim stars as the aging actress’s butler. He and the orchestra players watch on as the two dance alone in this paean to loneliness and nostalgia. He could have used some of these tips on great ways to spend New Year’s Eve alone.
Forrest Gump (1994)
When thinking about New Year’s Eve movies, this may not be your first thought, but we think it’s a perfect choice. This Oscar winner spans decades and checks off the inclusion of several historical milestones, but you may have forgotten that there’s a New Year’s Eve scene in there! On New Year’s Eve in 1972, Forrest (Tom Hanks) parties in New York City with his old war buddy Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise). Forrest ends up unintentionally ruining Dan’s planned romantic encounter, but friendship wins out when Dan loses it after the women they’re with call Forrest stupid.
The Godfather Part II (1974)
The “kiss of death” scene, which Bustle calls “probably the most memorable scene out of the entire three-film series,” occurs on New Year’s Eve! New Year’s Eve 1958, in Havana, Cuba, to be precise. Michael (Al Pacino) confronts his brother Fredo (John Cazale) for his betrayal—the first time the audience learns Fredo is the rat. He plants a kiss on him and says, “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.” It’s a major twist in the film as familial bonds are broken and Michael passes the point of no return. Despite it being The Godfather‘s choice, Havana doesn’t make our list of best cities worldwide to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Ocean’s 11 (1960)
Oh yes, this is the original Ocean’s 11, not the George Clooney-Brad Pitt version! Cinema buffs know that Frank Sinatra was the first Danny Ocean—he and his Rat Pack buddies decide to rob five Las Vegas casinos in a single night. And that night is New Year’s Eve, 15 years after the gang fought in World War II together.
Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway (2009)
Theater geeks are divided on the 2005 film version of Rent, partly because it removes some of the musical numbers that appeared in the 1996 Broadway production. One of those is the song “Happy New Year,” where the gang preps for New Year’s Eve. And while the film version includes a not-so-happy New Year’s Day scene, get the full experience by watching the final performance of the Broadway musical. The holidays are not the focus of this modern-day La Bohème adaptation, but the action starts around Christmastime and continues into the new year “at the end of the millennium.” If you just sang that line in your head, you probably don’t need us to tell you about these must-watch movie musicals.
The Apartment (1960)
This charming old-Hollywood classic is a staple on our list of great romantic movies that even non-romantics love. Shirley MacLaine is having an affair with Jack Lemmon’s skeevy boss but ends up falling in love with nice-guy Lemmon instead after unfortunate circumstances force them into close quarters. At the end of the film, MacLaine rushes to Lemmon’s apartment on New Year’s Eve after realizing that he’s in love with her—and gets an adorable surprise when she arrives. Fun fact: MacLaine was also in Ocean’s 11 in 1960, two films in the same year where her final appearance took place on NYE.
Trading Places (1983)
Merry New Year! Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy hatch a plan to take down the villainous Duke brothers who placed a bet on whether or not a street hustler and a successful stockbroker can trade places. To foil their plan, Ackroyd and Murphy will need to intercept a crop report being delivered via train on New Year’s Eve. This beloved comedy deals with classism and racism in corporate America, but the bad guys go broke while Ackroyd and Murphy get rich quick and end up sipping piña coladas on a sunny beach. For some more New Year’s laughs, check out these hilarious things people actually drop instead of a ball to ring in the new year.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
There’s nothing more romantic (and crazy!) than Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones tearing out into the snowy night in nothing but knickers and a sweater to chase down her love interest Mr. Darcy, played by Colin Firth. The couple meets on New Year’s Day and fully annoy each other, but by the time the next holiday rolls around, they’re declaring their love and kissing in the street. Did you know you can actually visit Bridget Jones’s hometown, in addition to these other popular Christmas movie filming locations?
Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Annie (Meg Ryan) and Sam (Tom Hanks) will eventually get together—on Valentine’s Day on the top of the Empire State Building. But on New Year’s Eve, they’re far apart. Annie is with Bill Pullman, who is clearly the wrong guy for her, and Sam is having a really sad and lonely fantasy about his deceased wife. She’s played by the lovely Carey Lowell, but the New Year’s scenes prove that it’s time for Sam and Annie to move on and leave the past behind so they can find each other. Find out the best American cities to spend New Year’s Eve with young kids.
The Gold Rush (1925)
Charlie Chaplin’s classic silent-era film has a perfectly melancholy New Year’s Eve scene. He invites the lovely Georgia Hale over for dinner, but she forgets to come. Forlorn, Chaplin performs his famous “bread roll” dance. It’s delightful and charming, but the girl isn’t there to see it. When she never shows, the Little Tramp walks alone into the snowy night just missing her. The couple gets reunited by the end though!
New Year’s Evil (1980)
This pun is just such low-hanging fruit that you knew someone had to make this movie. If you’re one of the people who balks at the idea that horror movies are only for Halloween, this one’s for you. A radio DJ finds herself the target of a deranged killer who calls into the show to promise that he’ll kill someone new right when the clock strikes midnight in each U.S. time zone.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
New Year’s Eve is the fateful night when Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant share a kiss. But since they’re each promised to other people they delay their romance and instead agree to meet six months later. But then Kerr gets hit by a car on the way to the meet-up. Prepare to cry, but there’s a happy ending because New Year’s Eve kisses always turn out right. Heads up, New Year’s enthusiasts—you may want to avoid making these 19 trendy resolutions.
Holiday Inn (1942)
You’d think this would be a Christmas movie, not a New Year’s Eve movie. And, well, it’s kind of both. The movie musical follows Bing Crosby’s Jim as he tries to open a hotel and theater that’s only open on holidays. New Year’s Eve is the night the inn first opens, and the action continues throughout the whole year—every holiday from Valentine’s Day to Independence Day to George Washington’s birthday gets a scene—before ending on New Year’s Eve again. “Let’s Start the New Year Right” is the final song of the film. So maybe it does deserve the designation of New Year’s Eve movie!
But at the same time, it’s best known for being the first film to include the Christmas classic “White Christmas.” (No, it wasn’t the actual film White Christmas—that wouldn’t come out until 12 years later, after the song’s unexpected massive popularity.) The first film to feature “White Christmas” is one of the pop culture questions everyone gets wrong.
Boogie Nights (1997)
This American classic features stellar performances by Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, and William H. Macy who plays a cameraman heartbroken because his wife won’t stop cheating on him. Set in the 1970s, Boogie Nights traces the emotional life of people in the porn industry. The 1979 New Year’s Eve party scene marks the end of an era. The tragedy that takes place that night lets us know that the eighties are about to get way more complicated, for the characters in the movie, and for the rest of us.
Ghostbusters II (1989)
True, the sequel isn’t nearly as well-known or beloved as the 1984 classic. But with a scene where a crowd of NYE revelers sing “Auld Lang Syne” to help the titular team defeat a baddie that feeds off negativity, how could we not put this on a New Year’s Eve movie list?
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Here’s another one for the crowd that would rather watch a demonic frightening flick than a rom-com on New Year’s Eve. The film takes place over the course of the protagonist’s entire pregnancy, of course, but the New Year’s Eve scene is disturbing and memorable. At her secretly-Satanist neighbors’ NYE party, the pregnant Rosemary (Mia Farrow) tells the in-on-the-haunting doctor about how painful her pregnancy has been. The host of the party toasts “to 1966! To Year One!” before the audience sees Rosemary eating raw meat in the kitchen—more clues that her unborn baby is far from a little angel. You’ll have to watch to see why Rosemary’s Baby makes our list of the 35 scariest movies ever.
OK, it’s not a traditional New Year’s Eve movie, but there’s something of a New Year’s theme to this post-apocalyptic flick. In a climate-change-ravaged version of 2031, survivors live on a train, called the Snowpiercer, that circles the globe. A “new year” starts every time the train completes a revolution. The upper class resides at the front of the train while the common folk slum it in the back—until Chris Evans decides he won’t stand for this system and starts forcing his way to the front. This was an under-the-radar gem, also starring Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris, that ended up garnering great reviews. Watching a movie is all well and good, but you should also consider trying out these lucky New Year’s traditions from around the world to ring in the new year right.