The Best New Year’s Movies of All Time

Ewen Bremner, Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Ko Asung, and Luke Pasqualino in Snowpiercer (2013) tilda swinton movies

Every holiday has its fair share of movies to enjoy when the season rolls around. For Halloween, viewers might pop in such horror classics as Scream, The Exorcist, or A Nightmare on Elm Street. For Christmas, they might sit around a roaring fire while delighting in Home Alone, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, or It’s a Wonderful Life. Like every holiday, New Year’s has its own contingent of films to see as everyone bids the past year goodbye, including romantic comedies, murder mysteries, dystopian thrillers, and everything in between. So, prepare to pop the bubbly and snuggle up with the best New Year's movies ever.

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Perhaps the most famous New Year’s movie of them all, When Harry Met Sally… also ranks among the most well-known romantic comedies ever made. Tracing the development of a couple’s (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan) relationship from mutual dislike to friendship to deep-seated romance, the events of the film come to a dramatic head on New Year’s Eve. A joyous romcom for any time of the year, When Harry Met Sally… also hammers home the idea of how change characterizes everyone’s lives, our view of others evolving on a year-to-year basis.

Trading Places (1983)

Trading Places Movie (1983)
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Just as much a New Year’s movie as a Christmas film, Trading Places features some of the sharpest comedic banter imaginable, utilizing the wondrous talents of its two main leads (Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd). With a pivotal segment of the film taking place on a New Year’s Eve, Trading Places also marks one of the few New Year’s movies to feature a train heist and a rampaging gorilla, which makes about as much sense as it sounds.

Ocean's 11 (1960)

Ocean's Eleven (1960), Frank Sinatra, Patrice Wymore
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Speaking of New Year’s heists, audiences might have a hard time finding a more worthwhile crime film to rein in the holiday than the 1960 classic, Ocean’s 11. Like its later George Clooney-led remake series, the original Ocean’s 11 reads like a who’s who of Hollywood talent, casting everyone from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to Sammy Davis Jr. and Angie Dickinson. With a lineup of actors like that, fans never have reason to wonder why Ocean’s 11 continues to rank as a staple of ‘60s cinema and New Year's movies.

Carol (2015)

Carol 2015
Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

A pitch-perfect romance film for the winter season, Carol also makes for the ideal film to coincide with every viewers’ New Year’s celebration. Set in 1950s New York, the film follows the forbidden love affair between two women from opposing social backgrounds (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara). As their romance grows more and more intense during the holiday season, the two soon share their first dramatic kiss to celebrate New Year’s Day, kicking off a heated romance that only grows steamier and more turbulent moving forward.

Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones's Diary Renée Zellweger
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Believing herself in a personal and professional rut, 32-year-old publishing assistant Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) uses the pretext of the new year to make her own meaningful resolution. Choosing to document all her thoughts in an honest and pragmatic way, Bridget chronicles the complex romance that forms between herself and two opposing partners (Hugh Grant and Colin Firth). A funny and thoughtful contemporary take on Pride and Prejudice, this 2001 adaptation makes for a sensational romcom to watch for those interested in making their own resolutions whilst watching New Year's movies.

An Affair to Remember (1957)

An Affair to Remember Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Like Carol, An Affair to Remember focuses on a romance seemingly doomed to failure. Meeting by chance on New Year’s Eve, a wealthy aristocrat (Cary Grant) and a mild-mannered young woman (Deborah Kerr)–each trapped in an unfulfilling relationship–agree to reunite in six months’ time at the top of the Empire State Building. A key influence on the similarly-veined Sleepless in Seattle, An Affair to Remember will leave viewers with damp eyes and lovesick hearts.

The Apartment (1960)

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in The Apartment (1960)
Image Credit: United Artists.

Another movie with a final act set on New Year’s Eve, The Apartment also exists as one of the greatest films from the legendary filmmaker, Billy Wilder. In it, a low-level insurance worker (Jack Lemmon) strikes a friendship with his boss’s (Fred MacMurray) office crush (Shirley MacLaine), leading to a sticky love triangle between the three. A buoyant romantic comedy with sharp writing and memorable performances, the film remains as popular now as in 1960, as it has become a staple of New Year's movies.

After the Thin Man (1936)

After the Thin Man (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

A better-than-average sequel to the already enjoyable 1934 film, The Thin Man, After the Thin Man introduces a mystery every bit as humorous and stimulating as its preceding entry. With Nick and Nora (William Powell and Myrna Joy) returning to San Francisco in time for New Year’s, the couple find themselves in another taut whodunit, this time involving Norma’s potentially murderous cousin (Elissa Landi). Characterized by its hilarious back-and-forth banter, After the Thin Man stands tall as a must-see for any and every fan of Clue or Agatha Christie in the audience.

Forrest Gump (1994)

forrest gump 1
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Given how many topics Forrest Gump covers in its expansive two-and-a-half-hour runtime, fans shouldn’t find it surprising to see a New Year’s celebration pop up every so often. Most noticeably, Forrest (Tom Hanks) joins his former lieutenant Dan Taylor (Gary Sinise) for a drink to commemorate the start of 1973 in New York City. A joyous love letter to life and living in general, Forrest Gump also enforces the wondrous possibilities that comes with everyday existence, asking viewers to ponder what marvels the next year has in store for them every Near Year’s Eve.

The Fifth Cord (1971)

Franco Nero in the Fifth Cord
Image Credit: Arrow Films.

A vintage giallo film from the genre’s golden age in the 1970s, The Fifth Cord uses the premise of a New Year’s party as a jumping-off point for an intense murder mystery. Matching the earlier genre films of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, the resulting film comes packed with twists and turns, leading viewers (and the lead characters) on a madcap odyssey to determine the guilty party responsible.

About Time (2013)

Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in About Time (2013)
Image Credit: Murray Close/Universal Pictures.

Troubling plot holes regarding its implementation of time travel aside, About Time nevertheless features a fanciful enough premise for a sci-fi romantic comedy. Learning that he has the power to travel back in time, a romantic-minded young man (Domhnall Gleeson) uses his newfound abilities to relive a powerful memory involving the girl of his dreams (Rachel McAdams). An entertaining time travel story, About Time also forces viewers to wonder what personal episodes from their past they might return to if they had the chance.

Strange Days (1995)

Angela Bassett, New Year's scene in Strange Days (1995)
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Underrated among dystopian murder mysteries and New Year's movies, Strange Days revolves around the final days of 1999, with the eccentric residents of a steampunk Los Angeles bracing for the end of the millennium. A sci-fi film rooted in such topical themes as police violence and societal addiction to technology, Strange Days makes for one of the more engrossing whodunits to watch on as everyone readies themselves for the Time Squares Ball Drop.

Phantom Thread (2017)

Vicky Krieps and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Boasting one of the most vivid and stylish New Year’s parties in all of film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s ambiguous psychological drama, Phantom Thread, may not appeal to a universal audience. However, between its immaculate set design, meticulous costuming, and the fascinating dynamic between its two lead actors (Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps), Paul Thomas Anderson enlivens more patient viewers with his gothic romanticism and idiosyncratic narrative. 

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Sleepless in Seattle Tom Hanks
Image Credit: TriStar Pictures.

Like each of their collaborations, fans tend to view Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s work on Sleepless in Seattle with complete and total admiration. Taking inspiration from An Affair to Remember, the movie follows the budding romance between a lonely widower (Hanks) and a Baltimore reporter (Ryan). What Hanks and Ryan managed to do for Thanksgiving with You’ve Got Mail, they do for New Year’s here, constructing a balanced, emotional romcom in the process.

Ghosbusters II (1989)

Rick Moranis in Ghostbusters II
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Ghostbusters II seldom ranks in the same favorable light as the original 1984 Ghostbusters, but it remains worth seeing for dedicated fans of the franchise. When a menacing 16th-century occultist (Wilhelm von Homburg) rises from the grave on New Year’s Eve, the Ghostbusters unite the citizens of New York in a city-wide rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” to banish the creature back to the afterlife.

Silly? Yes. Yet even the harshest critics can’t help but hum along to the seasonal holiday tune in the movie's epic climax. Besides, who doesn't like a little ectoplasm with their New Year's movies

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

The Poseidon Adventure, Carol Lynley
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

How many New Year’s movies feature a luxury cruise ship capsized on her final voyage from New York to Athens? One of the better disaster films of the 1970s, The Poseidon Adventure combines a massive ensemble cast with a high-stakes plot for maximum effect, leaving audiences on the edge of their seats throughout (as well as second-guessing any cruise vacations they have planned for the next year).

Bachelor Mother (1939)

bachelor mother
Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures.

Among the most underrated screwball comedies to come out of the genre’s peak period in the 1930s, Bachelor Mother pits Ginger Rogers with the loquacious charisma of David Niven. Led by the light-hearted jubilance of its two lead cast members, Bachelor Mother measures up to both Niven’s or Rogers’ standout romantic comedies (such as Rogers' numerous collaborations with the iconic Fred Astaire).

Four Rooms (1995)

Four Rooms
Image Credit: Miramax.

An anthology movie set over the course of New Year’s Eve, Four Rooms sees the epic collaboration between Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders, and Alexandre Rockwell. Though Tarantino and Rodriguez’s segments go a long way in outshining their contemporaries’, Four Rooms maintains an enjoyable enough premise to justify a watch in preparation for the holiday, centering on a young bellhop's (Tim Roth) first day on the job, as well as the numerous eccentric guests he meets along the way.

An American in Paris (1951)

new year's movies
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Save for Singin’ in the Rain, most film scholars tend to single out An American in Paris as the crowning achievement of Gene Kelly’s cinematic career. Reaching an epic crescendo with a massive New Year’s party, Kelly wins audiences over with his unparalleled dance skills in this 1951 classic, boasting some of the finest choreographed sequences in Kelly's entire filmography.

Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer, Tilda SwintonNew Year's movies
Image Credit: The Weinstein Company.

A dark and downbeat New Year’s movie in every sense, Snowpiercer also serves as one of the single best dystopian movies of the 21st century yet. In a dismal near-future where a second ice age has ravaged the world, the remnants of humanity travel through the snow-swept wasteland aboard a technically-advanced intercontinental train. With the survivors celebrating New Year’s every time the train has rounded the globe, viewers won’t see a holiday movie quite like Snowpiercer anywhere else.