New Year’s Eve reeks of desperation. It’s the most depressing holiday we have. Thanksgiving has the most terrible politics, probably, but New Year’s Eve is full of overpriced, overcrowded and underwhelming events, the most inane, of course, being the Times Square ball drop. It’s about trying to force a superlative, amazing time, even though it’s just another night on the calendar. For many, it’s the most depressing night of the year.
Screenwriters have known this for a long time, and NYE is a go-to setting for the staging of human sadness. So instead of chasing some party that is supposed to fill some hole deep inside you, stay home and watch these movies with NYE scenes where characters spend their Dec. 31 doing some truly sad shit. These scenes will — for the most part — make you feel morally hungover.
9. New Year’s Eve
Director Garry Marshall shed his mortal coil earlier this year. His illustrious career had many highlights, but New Year’s Eve certainly wasn’t one of them. This isn’t a good movie by any real metric, but it’s great hate-watching. After a half hour, you’ll swear you'd been out all night drinking cheap Champagne and doing bad drugs with sketchy people, so it is somewhat representative of the real-life experience. RIP Garry Marshall.
8. 200 Cigarettes
This whole movie — an ensemble piece of intersecting storylines — takes place on New Year’s, and it’s like a bittersweet, adult version of Can’t Hardly Wait. Here’s Courtney Love and Paul “Vampire Who Doesn’t Age” Rudd flirting. RIP ’90s ensemble movies.
7. Ghostbusters 2
Ghostbusters 2 is probably underrated. And it’s the bleakest Ghostbusters property we’re likely to ever see. The climax trades the original’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Man for the Statue of Liberty for a ridiculous NYE set piece, and even though the Busters eventually topple Viggo the Carpathian, the whole vibe of this sequel is a real bummer, much like the entire decade. RIP ’80s New York.
6. Trading Places
Here’s Eddie Murphy, once the funniest man in the universe, and the principal from The Breakfast Club trying to sort through some cultural confusion. Merry New Year! RIP Eddie Murphy’s gift of comedy.
5. Sunset Boulevard
You know that thing where you’re an irrelevant former starlet and you invite your crush to an NYE party where you are the only two guests? Yeah, this L.A. classic is dripping with pathos and faded glory. RIP talkies.
4. The Apartment
The Apartment is a sad movie that manages a hopeful end, which is Billy Wilder’s fast ball. So while it’s a sweet payoff for the two romantic leads, the journey along the way is pretty grisly. “Shut up and deal” is still one of the best ways to communicate the subtext: “I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you.” RIP pretty much everyone involved in this film.
3. Forrest Gump
Gump is a baby boomer neocon's wet dream, a greatest-hits of stupidity in American history misunderstood as genius, even though Winston Groom’s original novel was much more cynical and a better-told picaresque story. Most of the good bits from Groom’s book are lost in this horrid, critically lauded adaptation, except for the New Year’s Eve scene where Forrest and Lieutenant Dan try to bed some prostitutes in Manhattan. It's a scene where death seems like the best option for the wheelchair-bound military hero. We also can thank this film for giving us the Lieutenant Dan Band. RIP Jenny Gump.
2. The Godfather, Part II
This one needs little introduction as its NYE scene in Cuba includes one of the most famous lines in pop culture history. You think your NYE is bleak? Try giving your older, incompetent brother the kiss of death. RIP Fidel Castro (and John Cazale).
1. Boogie Nights
Was there ever a better cinematic depiction of one decade smashing into another? Boogie Nights sees whatever remaining hope there was in the ’70s sapped in one night, in one little party in the SFV. RIP Little Bill.