New Year’s Eve carries an undeniable electricity – it’s a strong contender for the most romantic night of the year, and a superstitious precursor to how the next year may be spent. Whether celebrating with fireworks and glasses shaped like next year’s date, or indulging in melancholic ennui about the bleak march of time, the night carries a heady atmosphere, rich with heightened emotions.
Film and television favorites have distilled this potent emotional cocktail to enhance the drama and romance of their stories. Adding a literal countdown to the crucial moment of connection, the trope of a New Year’s Eve coupling which happens ‘just in time’ is a tried-and-true device. Whether their love is platonic or romantic, the characters who connect in time for the pivotal moment carry a magic that both ends and begins a year perfectly.
CC & Fran – ‘The Apartment’ (1960)
C.C. Baxter works for an insurance firm and allows his male co-workers to use his apartment for sleazy rendezvous with their mistresses. He falls in love with the elevator operator, Fran Kubelik, who happens to be one of the mistreated mistresses brought to C.C.’s apartment by his boss.
The apartment’s meager Christmas tree drowning in limp tinsel makes a somber setting for Fran’s emotional breakdown when she’s jilted by her lover. After being nursed back to health by C.C., Fran realizes who she truly loves. Running to C.C.’s apartment on New Year’s Eve, could the ‘bang’ Fran hears as she climbs the stairs mean that she’s a moment too late? Written and directed by the incomparable Billy Wilder, The Apartment is essential New Year’s viewing.
Rue & Jules – ‘Euphoria’ Season 2, Episode 1 (2022)
In the wake of their gut-wrenching breakup after the winter formal in Euphoria, Rue spends most of Virgil’s New Year’s Eve party avoiding Jules. Hurtfully admitting to Jules that their breakup triggered her recent relapse, the couple part ways on a heavy note.
But that’s no way to end the year – the pair reconnect just in time for midnight and share a kiss, moments before Nate is beaten to a pulp. Romance, drugs, violence and drama – this season two episode of Euphoria serves all the heightened states and emotions that the show accesses so brilliantly in one moving midnight moment.
Carrie & Miranda – ‘Sex and the City’ (2008)
Miranda is spending New Year’s Eve alone with Chinese food. Sensing her sister soulmate needs company, Carrie darts across Manhattan (in a pair of heeled boots unfit for icy sidewalks, and a string of pearls she was inexplicably wearing in bed) and finds her friend just in time for the ball to drop.
Without the traditional romantic connotations associated with a last-minute New Year’s Eve meet-up, Carrie and Miranda’s connection in Sex and the City is a heart-warming affirmation of female friendship. If those spending New Year’s Eve together with will be by one another’s side for the year to come, Carrie and Miranda are set for another year of solidarity and sisterhood.
Scully & Mulder – ‘The X-Files’ Season 7, Episode 4 (1999)
The Millennium Group are reanimating the corpses of deceased FBI agents. Racing against the clock to stop the Millennium Group before the year ticks over, Agents Scully and Mulder work to decipher the bizarre clues that have led them on this strange hunt.
After saving Mulder in the nick of time from some resurrected FBI agents in a necromancer’s basement, the two get to the hospital to attend to Mulder’s wounds, and share a kiss as the ball drops on the hospital television. This was the pair’s first kiss in the 218 episodes of The X-Files, offsetting the long-running sexual tension between the iconic crime-solving duo.
Mace & Lenny – ‘Strange Days’ (1995)
Written and produced by James Cameron, Strange Days is a sci-fi action thriller with themes of police corruption and social injustice at its core. The fast-paced energy of the film is heightened by a countdown to the millennium creating stressful background noise to the central plot.
Lenny and Mace are trying to track down the killer responsible for a particularly disturbing slew of murders. Lenny is a dealer of VR experiences – a new black market ‘drug’ which is being used for nefarious ends. Mace is a specially trained bodyguard, without whose help the case would be lost. Lenny and Mace end up embroiled in a killer’s dark web, and after a feverish chase to enact justice, they finally share a kiss among New Year’s Eve revelers at precisely 12:02:42am.
Ryan & Marissa – ‘The O.C.’ Season 1, Episode 14 (2003)
In a race against time, Ryan must make it to a New Year’s Eve party to kiss Marissa and respond more appropriately to her earlier proclamation of love. In a scene of slow-motion majesty set to Finley Quaye‘s “Dice,” Ryan makes it to the party, Seth and Anna finally get together and there’s a kissing montage that will have viewers crying into their flip phones.
Audiences who grew up in tandem with the teens of The O.C. will find enormous value in a re-watch of the episode. Matching velour tracksuits and over-plucked eyebrows make this viewing a nostalgic feast. If nothing else, the episode taught teens of the naughties that there are rare occasions when it’s not polite to say “Thank You”.
Tim & Polly – ‘About Time’ (2013)
Tim and Polly aren’t the central couple in About Time, but their unique situation makes an interesting case for a kiss in the nick of time. Tim totally botched an opportunity to kiss Polly at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Discovering his ability to time-travel, the very first thing Tim decides to go back and change is that fateful missed kiss.
Tim certainly wasn’t ‘just in time’ the first go around, but using his newfound powers, he makes sure he gets there right on midnight, planting a smacker on a grateful Polly. This serves as Tim’s first experience of his time-traveling ability, and teaches him he can make it ‘just in time’ for the rest of his life (with a few tricky exceptions).
Harry & Sally – ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ (1989)
When Harry met Sally, they did not fall in love. That took years, and at least two New Year’s Eve parties, before it came to fruition. At the first party, Harry and Sally shared an unromantic, obligatory peck. The next New Year’s Eve, Harry ran through the streets to catch Sally just before she left a dismal party.
Spanning the years between their meeting, and their eventual happy ending, When Harry Met Sally… is punctuated with heartwarming re-enactments of real love stories told by elderly couples. Harry and Sally’s New Year’s Eve kiss comes just in time, and for the couple who were meant to end up together, it’s also about high time.
Bridget & Mark – ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ (2001)
Adapted from Jane Austen‘s classic Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones’s Diary follows Bridget’s year of fluctuations in mood, weight and relationship status. After surviving a whirlwind romance and a devastating breakup with her boss, it seems like Bridget might be about to have a win. But upon reading condemning entries in her diary, love interest Mark Darcy hightails it out of her apartment.
Chasing him through the snow in little more than a pair of trainers and some tiger-striped knickers, Bridget reaches Mark just in time to apologize. But she needn’t have come out in the cold – he still loves her, just the way she is. A New Year’s Eve kiss seals the deal, and their love endures for at least two more films.
Blanche & Rose – ‘The Golden Girls’ Season 7, Episode 7 (1991)
Blanche believes it’s bad luck to miss a New Year’s Eve midnight kiss – the moment will set the tone for the following year, and she’s hell-bent on the year to come being a sexy one. Blanche’s date for the night (Fred Willard) is a virginal ex-priest. Rose’s date is a creep masquerading as a widower to engender pity.
Both dates backfire tremendously, and the two friends are left alone together five seconds before midnight. Although no kiss follows (much to Blanche’s chagrin), they spend the moment in each other’s company, ensuring they will pass another year as firm friends.