The new year at the movies

Not sure how to celebrate New Year's Eve this year? We take a look at some of the most memorable ways the movies have heralded a new year.

A scene from Peter's Friends, directed by Kenneth Branagh, centre. Renaissance / Zuma Press
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Not sure how to celebrate New Year's
Eve this year?
Jo Berry takes a look at
some of the most memorable ways
films have heralded a new year

If last year’s teeth-gnashingly saccharine movie New Year’s Eve is to be believed, we’re all destined to find love, adventure, happiness and a big dollop of schmaltz as the clock strikes midnight on December 31.

Take a look at some other movies set over the new year and the picture isn’t necessarily so rose-tinted, though – how would you like to spend the early hours of a new year battling Satan, trying to survive a ship sinking, or – horror of horrors – at a country retreat with a load of English university pals moaning about their various relationship issues?

To help your celebrations be a hit, check out these eight movies that feature the best and worst cinematic New Year’s Eve celebrations. (Tip: guns and life jackets are handy accessories.)

1. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

It Had To Be You sings Frank Sinatra over the soundtrack and Harry (Billy Crystal) realises that best friend Sally (Meg Ryan) is the “you” he wants to spend the rest of his life with in this terrific comedy written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner. Unfortunately, it doesn’t dawn on Harry that Sally’s the one until New Year’s Eve in Manhattan, so he has to dash through the streets to get to her before midnight to tell her how he feels. One of the loveliest declarations of love in the movies.

2. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowall and Shelley Winters are among the passengers and staff travelling from New York to Athens on the SS Poseidon in this classic disaster movie. It’s during the New Year’s Eve celebrations that an undersea earth quake causes the ship to capsize and a small group of survivors then have to make their way through the upturned, flooded ship if they are to stand any chance of rescue. Packed with classic moments, the film deservedly won an Academy Award for its visual effects.

3. End of Days (1999)

Nothing puts more of a downer on your New Year’s Eve celebrations than the possibility of a coming apocalypse. Satanists have decided that Christine (Robin Tunney) has been chosen to bear the devil’s (Gabriel Byrne) son on the last hour of New Year’s Eve 1999 – a suspicion that’s a bit scarier than the millennium bug the rest of us were worried about. The ex-cop Jericho (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is the man to stop the red-horned guy from finding his bride in this rather daft horror that had the honour of being nominated for three Razzie awards for Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Director (Peter Hyams).

4. Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

This remake of John Carpenter’s cult classic moves the action to a snowy New Year’s Eve. Detroit’s oldest police station is closing and there’s a skeleton staff on duty, including the cop Roenick (Ethan Hawke). He and his team have to guard a group of prisoners, including the crime lord Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), but that task becomes quite tricky when masked gunmen attack the station and the cops and prisoners inside find themselves under siege. The 1976 original is far more tense, but this is worth watching just to see how awful some people’s New Year’s Eve celebrations turn out to be.

5. The Godfather Part II (1974)

Poor Fredo (John Cazale). He doesn’t have much luck as the brother of “godfather” Michael Corleone. It’s at a New Year’s Eve party that Michael realises his older brother has betrayed him to a rival gangster (“You broke my heart!”), and from then on in Francis Ford Coppola’s superb mafia epic, you know the clock is ticking for Fredo. (Michael kindly tells an assassin that nothing is to happen to his brother while their mother is alive, but we all know what that means.) A superb moment from one of the greatest movies of all time.

6. Ocean’s Eleven (1960)

If you’re going to rob five Las Vegas casinos in one night, why not do it on New Year’s Eve? That’s what Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and his pals (Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin and Peter Lawford) decide to do in this fun heist movie that was essentially an excuse for Sinatra and his Rat Pack to party in Sin City while the movie was filming. While not the best crime movie ever, it’s worth watching with Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 remake, just to see how the city – and especially the Strip – has changed.

7. Peter’s Friends (1992)

Dubbed the British Big Chill, this movie directed by Kenneth Branagh focuses on a group of Cambridge University pals who gather together after a decade to share their relationship traumas over a New Year’s weekend at Peter’s (Stephen Fry) lush country house. It’s not a great movie by any means, but the cast is terrific: just having Fry, Branagh, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Rita Rudner and Thompson’s mum Phyllida Law all in one place is a treat.