Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)An updated version of John Carpenter's 1976 film, Assault on Precinct 13 revolves around Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), a Detroit police officer in for one heck of a New Year's Eve. As one of the sole officers manning the soon-to-be-decommissioned Precinct 13, Roenick finds his station under attack from gunmen bent on killing anyone inside. The only solution? Release the prisoners, arm them, and make a stand together. Compared to that way of ringing in the New Year, missing the Times Square ball drop because the party needed more salsa doesn't seem so bad. Not that we wouldn't all love to arm up and fight the good fight alongside Laurence Fishburne, but there are better things to do when you know you don't have to get up for work in the morning. Safer things. Less exciting things, sure, but we'll take an incoming regular cocktail over a Molotov one any day.
Poseidon (2006)Based on The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and the original novel, the plot is the same as ever: a cruise ship is struck by a rogue wave as the passengers count down to the New Year, and capsizes. The revelers may have intended a night of festivities, but are forced instead to climb their way down (...wait....no, that's right) to escape the ship. The visual effects are (mostly) up to par, and frankly, seeing a room turned upside-down never gets old. So an entire ocean liner turned upside-down must be even cooler! But as thrilling as the exploits may be to witness, the fact remains: while the characters in the movie are fighting for their lives, people elsewhere are embarrassing themselves at local pubs, nightclubs, and office parties. For anyone even mildly afraid of enclosed spaces, drowning, electrocution or Fergie, Poseidon will make any New Year's Eve party taking place above ground seem like a dream come true.
200 Cigarettes (1999)At face value, a movie about a large and varied group of friends - played by well-known actors and actresses - making their way to a New Year's Eve party could end up making our own soirees pale in comparison. Luckily, the vitriolic bile 200 Cigarettes filled us with wasn't envy. With a cast backed by Courtney Love, Jay Mohr, Janeane Garofalo and Christina Ricci, as well as a plot centered on their New Year's Eve antics, makes us long for more time with our own friends. Not only are they easier to tolerate, they still have a few years left before they wear out their welcome. The movie was almost universally despised, and it's easy to understand why (no, not because it has the 1990s version of both Casey and Ben Affleck). Loud, grating personalities are hard enough to take in any context, but when we're forced to watch the intricacies of their love lives and shallow crises, we remember why massive ensemble casts trying to replicate the mundanities of actual life usually fail to ring true. And why we never need to revisit the '80s ever again.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)Have you been forced to dig a Christmas tree out of the frozen earth with your bare hands? Have you electrocuted a cat and burnt said tree to cinders along with most of your presents? Has your brother-in-law emptied an RV's chemical toilet into your storm sewer? Then your holiday is still shaping up to be better than Clark Griswold's. Sure, we might all be envious of Sparky's sizable house, upper-middle-class lifestyle, and visible-from-space Christmas lights display, but excitement and hijinx aren't all they're cracked up to be. By the end of Christmas Vacation, that beautiful house is essentially in tatters without a single window intact - and good luck getting that feline-infused carpet clean again. The Griswolds' exploits are always enjoyable, but we'd never want to have to deal with the clean-up.
Home Alone (1990)Look, we'd all love to rig up our houses with swinging paint cans, micro machines, and have a zip-line out to a backyard treehouse. Those features alone make Kevin McCallister's solitary Christmas seem worthwhile. But is it really? Lest we forget, Home Alone's main premise is a child being left behind by his entire family. At Christmas. Gliding past the obvious psychological trauma that would inflict, it's also worth remembering that the two villains of the movie were attempting to break into Kevin's house and do Lord knows what to him. By the end of the film (you know, when the best traps and attacks are rolled out) the pair of robbers are moments away from throttling the life out of the resident minor. We'll put it this way: as fun as Home Alone seems for MacCaulay Culkin, if you don't have a pair of criminals trying to jimmy your front door open right now, count yourself better off.
Reindeer Games (2000)You remember the last time you were forced into a heist by a woman you thought you'd made a love connection with while incarcerated? Yeah, we don't either. But that's the story that unfolds in Reindeer Games, and while it may seem like a shaky plot, it is enough to get both Ben Affleck and Gary Sinise into Santa suits. Skinny-dipping with Charlize Theron is probably the best thing that a Santa Claus suit has ever been associated with, but armed robbery, being plunged into a frozen lake, and Gary Sinise's shoulder-length hair are definitely punishment of the 'cruel and unusual' variety. Donning old St. Nick's signature red outfit to attend a family party or simply help spread Christmas cheer may not seem as exciting as knocking over a casino or swapping bullets with an Academy Award-nominated actor. But in the long run, cookies and milk are probably the way to go.
Strange Days (1995)You may not have seen it, or heard of it, but anytime people start talking about the end of the world, we sit down to watch Strange Days and remember there are some who thought it would already have occurred. It's science fiction, sure, but every passing year seems to bring a new promise of Armageddon come midnight. For Strange Days the year 2000 doesn't bring the apocalypse, just a dystopian, cyberpunk thriller. The world of 1999 Los Angeles is one where movies, books and TV have made way for black market SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) dealers - like Ralph Fiennes' character - Lenny Nero - who sell recorded memories to those seeking a one-of-a-kind experience. Eventually some see things they shouldn't, and bullets and blood follow. Y2K was a bust, but whenever New Year's Eve rolls around, a viewing of this one reminds us to not wish for better memories - but to go out and make them.
Black Christmas (1974)We'd generally scoff at a sentiment like, 'Well, you're not being stalked by a serial killer in your attic, so it must be a Merry Christmas,' but does hold true in this case. We'd usually recommend setting the bar a bit higher if you're thinking of entertaining over the holidays, but we've been to some mixers that challenged even that assertion. Black Christmas was one of the first films that helped spawn the 'slasher' genre of horror movies, pitting a college sorority against a mysterious killer (calling from inside the house!) on Christmas Eve. Alcoholism and odd feline imagery abound alongside Christmas lights, but the violence was strong enough to establish it as a cult-classic. No matter how bad a holiday party might get, or how trying a dinner guest may turn out to be, we just pop this one in, and be glad they aren't trying to kill us. Sure, it makes us jump out of our seats and start swinging a butcher knife every time the doorbell rings...but those carolers should have known better.
Christmas With The Kranks (2004)We've all been there: food in the oven, rushing to clean up before company arrives, only to remember at the last minute that cranberry sauce can go bad. Anyone who's had to host a sizable holiday party knows the rush of adrenaline and fear that lasts long after the food and drinks have been served. But while that experience may cost a few hours of sleep, it could be worse. Just watch Christmas With the Kranks to get an idea of how. No, not because the movie is terrible, but because nothing grants a little perspective like watching Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis squeeze every bit of Christmas planning into a single day. We can't completely recommend forcing yourself to sit through this mess, but doing so will make your own holiday demands seem trivial. Got a tree? Been to the supermarket with more than a day to spare? You're ahead of the game. Did you manage to keep your dog or cat from being frozen to death? Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.
New Year's Eve (2011)As proof that a host of famous, talented and beautiful people doesn't inherently lead to a great or memorable party, we remind the world of New Year's Eve, essentially the big-screen argument for December 31st being a night unlike any other (and not one of resolutions that we'll all end up breaking by Valentine's Day). Why did it fail so miserably? Because New Year's Eve isn't about expecting the night of your life, but a chance to mark the end of one year, and the start of a new one. Resolutions? Make them! Parties? Have them! But if all those beautiful people had a night that critics and audiences largely hated, then our pink champagne just got a lot more attractive. If nothing else, think of this: no matter how unoriginal or tame your New Year's Eve celebration might be, there are plenty of movie critics who would rather watch you count down to midnight on your couch than have to experience this wealth of celebrities again.
10 Holiday Movies To Make YOURS Seem BetterThat's just 10 of the entire genre of holiday movies that we can't help but think are more fun to watch than live through, but there are plenty more movies and TV specials that can make us feel grateful for what we have in ways the creators likely didn't intend. So when you're celebrating with family and friends, and counting down to the arrival of the New Year, we'd remind you all to remember: if you start to suspect that nobody would want to watch your party, or be entertained by your festivities...that might be a good thing. Happy Holidays to all, and a Happy New Year! Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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