New Year’s Eve is upon us today. For many, that means three primary entertainment options: go out to an elaborate bash to pop champagne as the ball drops, count down to midnight inside a crowded music venue with a killer line-up of bands, or just avoid the madness outdoors by crashing with pals and catching a movie. What if some fourth possibility could combine all those options?
Well, in fact, we’ve found seven examples that electrically encapsulate the best aspects of New Year’s Eve events from rollicking ragers among friends to mega-star rock-and-roll concerts in handy stay-at-home motion picture form.
Here are 7 New Year’s Eve movies that actually rock.
200 Cigarettes (1999)
A late-’90s zeitgeist cast of up-and-comers goes retro for NYE 1981, gathering to celebrate as new wave overtakes New York’s then just-gentrifying East Village. Martha Plimpton plays it perfectly nervous and sweet as a prom-dressed proto-hipster whose cocktail bash interconnects varying revelers portrayed by Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Dave Chappelle, Paul Rudd, Christina Ricci, Jay Mohr, Gaby Hoffman, and Janeane Garofolo.
Amidst a soundtrack that potently mixes hits of the era by Blondie, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, Dire Straits, and the Go-Go’s, the MTV Films-produced 200 Cigarettes layers on added rock value by borrowing its title from a Pretenders song and showcasing endearing on-screen turns by Courtney Love and the New York Dolls’ David Johansen. In addition, the movie’s main suspense arises over whether or not the real Elvis Costello will drop by Martha’s Avenue B happening (non-spoiler alert: he does).
Get Crazy (1983)
Get Crazy is a raucous, anything-goes cult musical comedy that pops rock-and-roll mythology open like a crate of canned champagne during the ultimate New Year’s Eve all-star mega-concert.
As directed by Alan Arkush, who also made the Ramones’ masterwork Rock-‘n’-Roll High School, Get Crazy loads every scene like a Mad magazine panel while simultaneously unloading kitchen-sink gags at a rate that turns it into Airplane! for rock fanatics.
Malcolm McDowell achieves comic nirvana as Reggie Wanker, a mega-star combination of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and Caligula. Fear frontman Lee Ving hams it up as a revolting punk named Piggy. Real-life AM radio heartthrobs Fabian and Bobby Sherman parody themselves as uncomfortably aging teen idols Mark and Marv. Howard Kaylan, of the Turtles and Frank Zappa’s Mothers, socks it to hippies in the space-case role of Captain Cloud.
Get Crazy’s genuine shocker is rock’s archetypal unsmiling gloom-fiend Lou Reed as Auden, an affectionately savage send-up of Bob Dylan. As the concert wails on, Auden orders a taxi driver to just keep driving so he can write a ludicrous song before he takes the stage. You will not believe you’re witnessing Lou Reed actually pull off… silliness. Get Crazy, indeed.
Strange Days (1995)
James Cameron preceded Titanic by producing this instantly dated—and therefore fascinating—pre-apocalyptic “cyber” sci-fi paranoia epic made by his then-wife, director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty).
Ralph Fiennes stars as an ex-cop who now brokers illegal “virtual reality” on the edge of the 1999 (then almost a half-decade in the future), while civilization stands poised to collapse on New Year’s Eve. While Strange Days repeatedly (and goofily) guesses wrong about the Internet and social media phenomena to come, it certainly was prescient regarding fears about the Y2K worldwide computer shutdown (remember that?)
Although its title comes from the Doors, Strange Days successfully embodies the sound and fury right there at the dawn of the back end of the Lollapalooza decade. Case in point: as alt-pop chanteuse Faith Justin, Juliette Lewis dons see-through stage-wear and pulls off a convincingly intense PJ Harvey cover.
The movie’s ferociously present soundtrack provides a muscular sampling of mid-’90s hard rock and techno featuring Lords of Acid, Tricky, Deep Forest, Satchel, and even a Doors cover by Prong with Ray Manzerak on keyboards. Freakily intense noise-metal squad Skunk Anansie performs “Selling Jesus” under the closing credits. For an uncut blast of what ten years ago felt like, look and listen no further than Strange Days.
Party Party (1983)
Although it never took hold in the U.S., the youth comedy Party Party has been a beloved rite-of-passage film overseas since its release, functioning much as the John Hughes movies did stateside—only it’s extremely British, and it all takes place in and around a rager that blazes comically out of control at some poor slob’s parents’ house on New Year’s Eve.
Where Party Party did catch on globally, though, was among music fans who hunted down and cherished the film’s now legendary soundtrack, a compilation of cover songs performed by contemporary 1983 artists with vivid flair.
Among the Party Party LP’s choicest cuts are the Sex Pistols’ “No Feelings” performed by Bananarama; Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” sung by Sting; and Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold” getting a new wave redo by Modern Romance. Dave Edmunds’ take on Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” even managed to become something of a holiday rock radio staple stateside. Party, party!
More American Graffiti (1979)
A misfired follow-up to writer-director George Lucas’s 1973 nostalgia masterpiece chronicles characters from the original on four separate New Year’s Eve nights set throughout the ’60s. While the movie never entirely gels, it’s an ambitious oddity and the soundtrack alone makes it worth tossing on any time.
Almost the entire cast of the original American Graffiti returns, including hot-rodder Harrison Ford in an ironic cameo, and, like the first film, the on-screen action is reflected and commented on by a masterfully assembled succession of oldies blaring out of radios and from concert stages.
This time, the lineup includes numerous Motown hits; hard and heavy psychedelia from Cream, Steppenwolf, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock; and cultural curiosities such as “The Ballad of the Green Berets” by Sgt. Barry Sadler and “The I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish.
New Year’s Evil (1980)
Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero of Happy Days) stars in a jaw-dropping, ear-popping new wave horror howler as a hot-to-trot “K-Rock” DJ hosting a December 31st countdown-to-midnight TV special that’s called, like the movie itself, New Year’s Evil.
In between numbers by Shadow, a face-painted, Mohawk-coifed combo that looks theatrically punk and sounds like the very earliest stages of hair metal, a crazed killer calls in to the show and taunts Roz between carving up victims all over the Sunset Strip. Power popsters Made in Japan also show up to pump out a minute or so of their should’ve-been-a-hit, “Dumb Blondes.”
On screen, the TV special’s audience consists of many of the same real L.A. punks who played extras in Up in Smoke and appeared as themselves in the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization. In a cinematic coincidence and a foreshadowing of Sunset Strip sounds to come, the closing credits of New Year’s Evil include “Special Thanks to Bill ‘Godfather of Rock and Roll’ Gazzarri,’ a club owner who’d become a cult star himself via 1988’s follow-up documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years.
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Named for the Greek god of the sea to whom much homage is paid in dozens of heavy metal anthems, 1972’s all-star disaster movie champ The Poseidon Adventure is the one film that, despite its lack actual rock music, is guaranteed to righteously rock your New Year’s Eve.
A hodgepodge array of Hollywood veterans—including Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, and Pamela Sue Anderson—portray passengers on a luxury cruise ship that, at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, turns upside down and drowns almost everyone on board. It’s then up to just a hardscrabble cadre of survivors to battle to the now topside bottom of the boat and escape. Everything that happens along the way is awesome.
Poseidon did generate a number 1 pop hit with “The Morning After” by Maureen McGovern, but good luck even cracking a party popper to that snoozer, let alone turning a New Year’s Eve bash up on its head. As mellow as Ms. McGovern coos on her showcase number, though, that’s how hard the rest of the movie rocks in the sense that matters most: you know it when you feel it—and you’ll feel The Poseidon Adventure rock you like nothing else should you pop it in and crank it up on New Year’s Eve.