A cork pops. A ball drops. Fireworks paint the night sky. Another new year is about to begin, and for a moment, at least, New Year’s Eve represents all the new year’s potential for hope, love, and even despair
Because of the heightened emotions of the transition between one year and the next, New Year’s Eve has been used as a dramatic backdrop in movies since the birth of cinema.
Movies set on this most auspicious of nights explore these emotions in so many ways: There’s the hope of redemption in classic films like The Phantom Carriage and One Way Passage
the prospect of a new life and new love, like in the romantic comedies When Harry Met Sally… or While You Were Sleeping.
sometimes, New Year’s Eve stories are as simple as the anticipation of a rockin’ year-end party, like in the ensemble comedies 200 Cigarettes and New Year’s Eve.
Victor Sjöström’s silent 1921 film The Phantom Carriage suggests hope and despair are two sides of the same coin. The film tells of an old legend: the first person to die in the new year must drive Death’s carriage
Similarly in the pre-Hays Code romance One Way Passage. William Powell plays Dan, an escaped murderer, who falls in love with terminally ill Joan aboard an ocean liner.
Neither knows the other’s secret, but their romance makes Dan long for redemption for his past wrongs, while Joan feels hope for the first time since her diagnosis.
As the film ends, it’s clear they’ll never meet up in Mexico on New Year’s Eve as they plan to, but the audience is meant to hope that someday we’ll all similarly find love that powerful.