Classic New Year’s Movies To Help You Start Over
Christmas movies are reassuringly stuffed with messages about family, festivities and generally being grateful for the love and joy we already have in our lives.
Of course, New Year’s films share many similarities with their tinsel-strewn brethren, from awkward social gatherings to sudden realisations about being on the wrong path in life. However, they do strike a slightly different note.
Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, New Year’s Day is all about turning over a fresh new page in your life and thinking about who you want to be and what you want to achieve. Even if your running shoes do inevitably end up in the back of your wardrobe by February.
Even though it can be touched with more than just a little sadness and regret, I do like New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and always make sure to take a bit of time out for myself to consider what I want for the year ahead.
This year, more than any other year I can remember, will see so many of us sending out our hopes and wishes into the universe along with the sparkle of fireworks, ambitions and plans that may have been stalled for months on end.
I’ve always found that a good film can help you pause and reflect upon what it means to live your life well and what should matter most.
With celebrations being far more low key this year, I would suggest there are few better ways to see in the New Year than curling up with a slice of leftover Christmas cake, a brand new diary and a movie that will put you in the right humour to start all over again. A little older and wiser.
10. Click (2006)
A contemporary parable about what you can miss out on when you aren’t paying attention to the little, everyday moments in life, Click has to be my favourite ever Adam Sandler movie.
Here we see Sandler play Michael Newman, a harried architect who struggles to juggle the contrasting demands of work and family life.
After he gets hold of a remote that can control real-life events, Michael is initially delighted by the ease with which he can fast-forward through dull or taxing situations. However, this is a decision he ultimately comes to regret, with some genuinely upsetting consequences.
This is a film that will remind you of the importance of spending quality time with loved ones, remaining present even if such moments don’t feel particularly significant or pressing at the time. The ultimate New Year’s lesson if ever there was one.
9. The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009)
I loved the novel, and very much enjoyed Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana as Clare Abshire and Henry DeTamble, a couple whose relationsip is shaped and strained by Henry’s uncontrollable tim-travelling disorder.
Rather than being a superpower for good, Henry is flung helplessly, and sometimes dangerously, between time zones; drawn to moments, places and people of personal significance without any say in the matter.
There’s plenty of otherworldly aspects to this movie, but it remains grounded in many human themes, with Clare and Henry having to contend with childhood trauma, agonising losses and differing family backgrounds.
This is a story that looks at the inescapable passing of time and self-determination in a quirky and deeply romantic way. Even those in non supernatural relationships will be able to relate to Clare’s powerless longing to keep her husband safe by her side for a little while longer.
8. Trading Places (1983)
Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd are at their absolute best in this classic ’80s screwball comedy, starring in their respective roles as poor street beggar Billy Ray Valentine and wealthy commodities trader Louis Winthorpe III.
The two very different men end up having their lives switched around as part of a cruel ‘nature versus nurture’ experiment concocted by greedy tycoon brothers Randolph (Ralph Bellamy) and Mortimer (Don Ameche) Duke.
Eventually, Billy Ray and Louis join forces to take down the Duke brothers in a spectacular fashion, all while making themselves very rich in the process. The action takes place across the festive season, with the revenge plan unfolding on New Year’s Eve.
Although there are quite a few scenes that haven’t aged well at all, this is still a pleasantly nostalgic and witty film that addresses the racism and grotesque snobbery still evident in American society today.
7. Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
Few actors have an ounce of the comforting screen presence exuded by Tom Hanks, and this is a classically likeable role for America’s dad. Here we see Hanks play widowed architect Sam Baldwin, who wins the hearts of women across the country after his son convinces him to talk on a radio phone-in.
One of his most ardent new female fans is Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), an unenthusiastically engaged Baltimore Sun reporter who feels drawn to Sam and endeavours to meet him.
Although some of Annie’s actions are a little questionable in retrospect, this is a really sweet film about finding love after loss and realising you are in a situation in life that needs to change.
The story ends with a tense ‘will-they-won’t-they’ rooftop sequence in New York on Valentine’s Day. However, it’s the moving New Year’s Eve sequence that sticks with so many people at this time of year, with Sam imagining a conversation with his late wife during a quiet night at home.
6. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Bear with me on this, because I can wholeheartedly understand that a sinking ship doesn’t exactly scream ‘New year, new me’.
The Poseidon Adventure takes place aboard a rickety old ocean liner, where an assortment of passengers are preparing for a New Year’s Eve party in the fading yet still glamorous dining room.
Unfortunately, catastrophe strikes at precisely midnight when a tsunani capsizes the ship, leaving the revellers splashing around in their festive finery. What follows is a nail-biting fight for survival that still holds up today, complete with makeshift Christmas tree ladders and non-stop tension.
Although it might not hold many heartwarming life lessons (apart from perhaps the value of getting into competitive swimming), The Poseidon Adventure is a stellar example of an extremely effective seasonal disaster film and will make you forget the world for a bit. Die Hard who?
5. Carol (2015)
One of the most beautiful Christmas movies ever made, I would also rank Carol as being among the very best New Year’s Day films of all time.
Although Therese Belivet (Cate Blanchett) and Carol Aird (Rooney Mara) do indeed first lock eyes in the flurry of the Christmas shopping season, it is New Year’s Eve when they first kiss and act on their romantic attraction to each other.
That night spent together at a hotel bridges one year and the next, with the incoming year heralding a fresh start for the two women, both personally and professionally.
Carol – which truly boasts some of the most gorgeous winter clothes I’ve ever seen on film – also contains many of the themes typical of a good New Year’s story, namely being brave in love and true to yourself.
4. Snowpiercer (2013)
One of the most compelling and thoughtful sci-fi movies of the past decade, Snowpiercer is wildly imaginative and yet all too terrifyingly timely.
Snowpiercer opens in a world where an attempt to solve global warning has backfired catastrophically, plunging Earth into an eternal deep-freeze. Survivors circle the ruined planet endlessly on a train, divided according to their class Hunger Games-style.
New Year’s is marked every time the enormous train has successfully circumnavigated the globe, although the grim, constricted existence for those in the lower classes leaves little to celebrate.
One day, rebel Curtis Everett (Chris Evans) decides to break the monotonous and deeply unfair way of life aboard the train, opting to force his way through the ranks to the conductor’s car.
With global warming and social inequality being all too real concerns, this is a must-watch for all those who care about our shared future beyond the everyday personal goals of going to the gym and keeping a diary.
3. About Time (2013)
I love this sweet and often very funny rom-com, which really does push you to consider the moments – large and small – that make up your own time on Earth.
In a 2013 interview with FirstShowing.net, director and screenwriter Richard Curtis explained that About Time was very much about ‘how you achieve happiness in ordinary life rather than always looking for extra, big things and achievements to make you happy’.
Although there’s certainly nothing ordinary about the character Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) – a time-travelling city lawyer who grew up in an idylic Cornish mansion – there is plenty of quintessentially British charm to this film. Notting Hill with a touch of magic.
2. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
One of my favourite movies of all time, When Harry Met Sally is about far more than *that* famed delicatessen scene.
Following the friendship of Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) and Sally Albright (Meg Ryan), we see the initially-unlikely pair become closer over a number of years. Scenes from their intertwined lives are interspersed with talking head scenes from married couples reflecting on how they themselves first met.
The story reaches its climax at a New Year’s Eve party, a full 12 years and three months since the pair first shared a frosty car ride together from the University of Chicago.
Harry’s impassioned declaration as Auld Lang Syne plays out will melt even the most cynical of hearts, going down as one of the most romantic speeches in the history of cinema. A must-watch for anyone who might be feeling a little lonely and disheartened this New Year.
1. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
Although Bridget’s obsessive calorie-counting feels a little uncomfortable in retrospect, Helen Fielding’s brilliant comic creation was revolutionary at the time.
An independent single woman in her thirties, Bridget (played perfectly by Renée Zellweger) is both relatable and aspirational, wittily skewering ’90s era self-help culture while showing how such expectations can negatively affect the way a woman perceives herself.
Bridget’s journey to like herself ‘just the way she is’ has plenty for the Instagram generation to learn from, from the pursuit of perfection to the many merits of keeping an old-fashioned diary.
Over the course of one eventful year, we see Bridget deliver possibly one of the most cutting resignation put-downs in cinematic history and embark on a successful television career, all while dealing the various ups and downs of her family and friends.
The bit where Bridget chases Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) through the snow in her tigerskin knickers has me cheering every time. There is perhaps no better film for singletons than this as one year makes way for the next, especially for those who’ve had to bin off their own Daniel Cleavers over the past 12 months.
Happy New Year!
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