The Traditional New Year’s Eve Movie Marathon

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a family of silhouettes sitting in front of a large screen tv that says "2019!"
Image composited from various CC images.

Sure, some people like to go to a crowded public place surrounded by noisy strangers to ring in the new year. Some people like to go to parties with friends, preferably adult-only. Some people thought they liked New Year’s parties, and then they discovered the joy of snuggling up at home all night instead. If you’re staying in on New Year’s Eve, that doesn’t mean you can’t make the night special: stay up all night having a movie marathon!

My brother and I started it, when I was about 20 and he was about 10. My parents had always spent New Year’s Eve with their college friends, and for many years the second generation had a Kids’ Party at another house. But by now there was no more Kids’ Party, because most of that second generation had found other places to be, with friends that had nothing to do with their parents’ friends. My sister, only 14 but far the most social of her siblings, was one. My brother and I had no social lives, though, so we were… stuck home alone, you could say? It sounds so dismal put that way. We made it not dismal. We decided to spend the evening watching all the Star Wars movies (at the time just three) in order. Round about the sand barge scene in Return of the Jedi, we realized it was almost midnight, so we switched over to New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Dick Clark. We stoically watched the crowd of New Yorkers being way too excited about 1998 or whatever it was, then my brother looked at me solemnly and said, “Can we put the movie back on now?”

Early in our marriage, my husband and I attempted to invite people for a New Year’s Eve party every year, but only one or two guests (and somebody different every year, it seemed) could ever make it. So instead of mingling, we started having Lord of the Rings marathons. We put stew in the crock pot and start the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring just after lunch, and the trilogy would take us right up to midnight, and then our guest would go home. For a few years that was it: New Year’s Eve equalled Lord of the Rings.

Then we had small children and it didn’t seem worth it to stay up to midnight even that one day a year.

But when those children became old enough to appreciate New Year’s Eve (and dang why are they so good at staying up until midnight?), the movie marathons returned. But now, instead of binging movie series—though last year it was Animaniacs all night—the emphasis is more on, which of our favorites is it long past time to introduce to our kids? All year long we quote and make references and then look at the kids and say, “Oh, you don’t know that reference yet! We’re going to have to watch that movie together!” and then we never seem to find the time.

But on New Year’s Eve, we’ve got all night. Time to blend old (our favorite movies from childhood) with new (the next generation!) and make some family memories.

This year we’re leaning toward, appropriately, Back to the Future. What will you marathon this cozy New Year’s Eve?

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