There are many different ways to celebrate New Year's Eve, and while we love a good, noisy party as much as the next reveler, sometimes we're in the mood for a more low-key evening. One spent, say, relaxing at home with a good movie.
And while we also appreciate twisty psychological thrillers, high-adrenaline action flicks and unsettling horror films, these aren't quite right for New Year's Eve, when we might be recovering from various holiday gatherings, and maybe musing over the past year and wondering what's in store for the next.
This is the night for light, uplifting -- dare we say it -- feelgood films. Movies that don't mess with our heads too much and, like the year itself (hopefully), end on a positive note. Particularly appropriate are films in which people change or grow or learn something, though it isn't required. Naturally, many of these are romcoms.
Here's a highly subjective list of 10 great movies to watch on New Year's Eve:
Penny Marshall's wonderful comedy-fantasy, about a boy who longs to be grown-up and gets his wish, cemented Tom Hanks as a major Hollywood force, and it's his wholly believable performance as a 13-year-old in the body of a man that makes the movie so compulsively watchable. The film, while sweet and warmhearted, is also clever and completely entertaining. New Year's resolution: don't lose your inner child.
Rent 'Big' on Netflix | Add to Instant Queue
'Groundhog Day' (1993)
Who better to contemplate the new year with than Bill Murray, and what better film than Harold Ramis' metaphysical comedy about a selfish newscaster who gets stuck in a time loop and must live the same day over and over. How he handles his situation, while romancing a skeptical colleague (Andie MacDowell), is both hilarious and imaginative. Plus it features new AOL columnist Stephen Tobolowsky in one of his most memorable roles.
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'When Harry Met Sally ...' (1989)
This classic romcom, directed by Rob Reiner and written by Nora Ephron, tracks the relationship of two friends (Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan) from college to couplehood, while tackling the burning question, "Can a straight man and a woman be friends?" There are many bumpy (and amusing) moments along the way, plus not one, but two New Year's Eve parties to push the plot forward. Lightweight, sure, but the movie's frank, funny depiction of male/female relationships does ring true.
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'The Princess Bride' (1987)
Rob Reiner again, and for good reason: 'The Princess Bride' is whimsical, romantic and wildly funny all at the same time. The story (by William Goldman) and clever dialogue deserve much credit, but with Robin Wright and Cary Elwes as gorgeous, sympathetic leads, and comic relief provided by Mandy Patinkin ("Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya ..."), Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn and André the Giant, this witty fairy tale is a complete charmer. No profound lessons, but sometimes delightful is enough.
Rent 'The Princess Bride' on Netflix
John Waters' most commercial film, since remade as a musical, is tons of campy, garish fun, but it's also socially conscious: Tracy, the movie's heroine (Ricki Lake), is an overweight teen who helps integrate a local dance competition in 1960s Baltimore. It's all set to fantastic vintage rock 'n' roll, and features such diverse personalities as Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry, with Waters' longtime collaborator Divine, as Tracy's mom. Uplifting without being gooey.
Rent 'Hairspray' on Netflix | Add to Instant Queue
'Sense and Sensibility' (1995)
For certain types, Jane Austen adaptations are the movie equivalent of incredible chocolate or (we imagine) opiates: impossible to resist and utterly transporting. Ang Lee's solid interpretation of Austen's beloved tale of two very different but close sisters (Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) and their romantic travails has great dialogue, splendid acting, sharp wit and an emotional, teased-out climax, all adding up to a rapturous (legal!) high.
Rent 'Sense and Sensibility' on Netflix
'High Fidelity' (2000)
John Cusack is pitch-perfect in Stephen Frears' film (based on Nick Hornby's novel) about a record store -- remember those? -- owner who looks back on his romantic failings in order to learn how to move forward. With a fantastic supporting cast (Jack Black and Todd Louiso as classic music geeks), witty dialogue and spot-on music, 'High Fidelity' is that rarest of romcoms -- as popular with guys as with women.
Rent 'High Fidelity' on Netflix
'Four Weddings and a Funeral' (1994)
The movie that made a star out of Hugh Grant and set a very high bar for British romcoms, Mike Newell's 'FWAAF' follows a diverse group of friends and their romantic entanglements, incorporating dry humor, yearning romance and a bit of poignance (the funeral). Grant's patented witty/bumbling persona was perfected here and Andie MacDowell is a solid foil (not unlike in 'Groundhog Day'). Lovely way to spend an evening.
Rent 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' on Netflix
'The School of Rock' (2003)
Jack Black may have his detractors, but he nailed the role of failed rocker-turned-music teacher Dewey Finn in Richard Linklater's highly entertaining, hard-rocking and (yes) completely uplifting movie. Great characters, realistic kid actors and a true respect for the power of rock made this a surprise hit earlier in the decade. A great confidence-booster and a ton 'o fun.
Rent 'The School of Rock' on Netflix
'The Adventures of Robin Hood' (1938)
For many, Errol Flynn's Robin is the only Robin, and here's why. Beautiful, athletic and charismatic, he completely embodies the Sherwood Forest outlaw, while Olivia de Havilland is a touching, beautiful Maid Marian; their chemistry is palpable. Big, colorful and romantic, this unequaled swashbuckler is a classic in every way and a great film to usher in the new year.
Rent 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' on Netflix