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10 "One Wild Crazy Night" Movies To Party With

Features
by Drew Taylor
February 27, 2013 1:39 PM
7 Comments
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This weekend "21 And Over" will show its possibly fake IDs to young adults across the country. A comedy written and directed by two of the writers of "The Hangover" (naturally), it chronicles a wild night in the lives of a group of young, college-bound kids. The film details the misadventures of Jeff Chang, who has an all-important med school exam on the morning following his 21st birthday. But prodded by his friends looking for an excuse to party, a booze- and babe-filled birthday celebration ensues that manages to put his entire future at risk.

This isn't the first movie to take the concept of a wild night and use it as the setting for an entire film. More than a few have come before (including last spring's "Projext X"), but the contained setting has served as inspriation for directors of note including Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater (all featured here) and many more. So we've rounded up ten movies worth tracking down, that take viewers on one wild ride during the nighttime hours. Any we left out, any favorites we forgot? Let us know below.

"After Hours" (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
The mother of all "wild night" movies, this adrenalized, darkly hued Martin Scorsese comedy, largely thought of (along with "The Color of Money") as one of his lesser '80s confections, was originally envisioned as a Tim Burton film (unable to raise financing for "The Last Temptation of Christ," Scorsese stepped in when Burton exited the film). "After Hours" stars Griffin Dunne as a likable yuppie (he claims to be a "word processor") whose night gets progressively worse, beginning with an encounter with a mysterious blonde (Rosanna Arquette) in a diner. He eventually goes to her apartment, which is where things really start to deteriorate (he loses his money on the cab ride over, is seduced by the blonde's roommate, and takes some questionable drugs), and eventually he's implicated in a series of neighborhood robberies, witnesses a suicide, gets roughed up in a punk rock club, has an encounter with a deranged Mister Softee truck driver, is winged by a taxi cab door, and becomes a papier-mâché mummy. At one point, on the run from an angry vigilante mob, he witnesses a woman shooting a man to death. He shrugs and says, "I will probably get blamed for that." The film is anchored by a zippy lead performance by the perennially underrated Dunne, a script by Joseph Minion that is simultaneously quick-witted and deadpan, a flurry of outstanding supporting performances (by John Heard, Teri Garr, a topless Linda Fiorentino, Cheech & Chong and Catherine O'Hara) and lush nighttime photography by Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Ballhaus that turns neighborhoods of downtown Manhattan (particularly SoHo), into soggy post-apocalyptic vistas registered in whooshing whips pans and snappy zooms. (Also of note: Howard Shore's almost John Carpenter-esque minimalist electronic score, which adds to the film's singularly unsettling aura.) One of Scorsese's most bafflingly underrated movies, it is a testament to how a night can go from bad to worse (and then even worse still) and has become a shorthand for what happens when things get really fucked.  

"Attack The Block" (Joe Cornish, 2011)
Reinvention is a word that gets tossed around a lot, and while it might be a slight stretch to apply that to Joe Cornish's alien outing, there's no doubt that the writer/director flips many genre tropes on its head with "Attack The Block." On paper, a straightforward invasion-from-another-world flick, that's where the similarities end with the other movies of its ilk. Set in a grimy council estate, the film is led by charismatic John Boyega who plays Moses, the head a loose group of young toughs who suddenly find themselves thrust into the position of having to save their homes, and rest of the world at the same time, from beings from beyond. Over one chaotic and increasingly dangerous night, Moses and his pals will find some creative ways to dispatch the frightening creatures crawling up the side of his building, all while getting a chance redeem his selfish, troublemaker image. It's an incredibly energetic and confident debut by Cornish, who finds humor and heart all within plenty of splattery, alien action. The beat-driven score by Basement Jaxx only adds to the frenzy in a movie that finds a new spin on a tried and true convention.

"Go" (Doug Lima, 1999)
A way of maxing out the madness for one of these wild night movies is to fracture the narrative, turning it into its own little anthology, which exactly what director Doug Liman and screenwriter John August did for "Go," a kind of kaleidoscopic son-of-"Pulp Fiction" that is composed of three interlocking stories, loosely revolving around a pre-Christmas rave. The main thrust of the story involves a drug deal for ecstasy pills, one that grocery store girl Sarah Polley wants to pull off so she can avoid eviction; her scheme eventually garners the attention of a villainous drug dealer (Timothy Olyphant) and a pair of marginal actors (Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr – holy '90s!) who are now snitches for a weirdo cop (William Fichtner). In these two stories (already), there are counterfeit drugs, a hit-and-run accident, stripteases and more. There's another story centered around a dudes' trip to Las Vegas, which has its own set of "wild night" moments, including a trip to a strip club, a stolen sports car, and some discharged firearms. Also Taye Diggs keeps getting mistaken for a parking attendant/bathroom attendant/bellhop because of his garish blazer. Eventually all of the plot threads tangle together and the movie's cleverness gives way to genuine heart. "Go" is a wild night movie refracted through rave culture, post-modernism, and whatever came after the MTV age; dazzling and daring and dangerously fun.

"Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" (Peter Sollett, 2008)
If you want to know how the landscape of New York City, both culturally and physically, changed over the decades, then watch "After Hours" (which we've already established is the big daddy of wild night movies) and "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" (a kind of wimpy younger brother). Both take places in similar neighborhoods (although 'Nick and Nora' is more geographically scattered), but while "After Hours" had an air of bombed-out danger, in which our lead character waltzes down streets of abysmal emptiness, "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" showcases a New York full of hopeful optimism – clean, hip and welcoming. The craziness that befalls Nick (Michael Cera), a straight young man in an all-gay band, his new love interest Nora (Kat Dennings) and their various friends (including the adorable Ari Graynor, in a giddily funny performance), is somehow cuddly, antiseptic and circled in chunky plastic bubble wrap. It's a testament to the charming, freewheeling (90-minute) fun of "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" that it doesn't much matter that no real harm is ever going to come to any of the twenty-something hipster characters – just because it's safe doesn't mean it is any less wild. Plus, as the title would suggest, it's got a great soundtrack for your next wild night out.

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7 Comments

  • Art Carnage | April 9, 2014 2:58 AMReply

    "After Hours" is the mother of all Wild Night movies? Not even close. "American Graffiti" invented the genre, though one could make a case for "The Blob" as well, as it plays out over a single night, practically in real time. "Adventures In Babysitting" also occurs over a single night

  • Dave | March 4, 2013 6:15 PMReply

    Just to point it out...It's "Stranger Than Paradise" rather than "Strangers In", and Benigni wasn't even in that one, but the Jarmusch film I believe you meant ("Down By Law") was a gem in itself. I know this is a nitpick, but you gotta get your facts straight.

  • Kinick | March 2, 2013 9:35 AMReply

    You may be thinking of a different teen movie Eric Stoltz got his start in...he wasn't in Dazed and Confused.

  • DG | February 27, 2013 7:43 PMReply

    Nick& Nora over Superbad? Come on guys. Also what about KIDS?

  • Scott Mendelson | February 27, 2013 4:24 PMReply

    If I may offer the under-seen THE NIGHT BEFORE. It's a 1987 Keanu Reeves comedy about a young man who wakes up in an alley having no memory of how he lost his prom date and her father's car. It's available on a mediocre full-frame DVD, but it really is a lost little gem.

  • Blepyrus | February 27, 2013 2:38 PMReply

    I guess the Sean Penn top-billed savagely underrated gem "U-Turn" didn't make the list because it takes place mostly during the day... It's like "After Hours" ... on acid.

  • Christopher Bell | February 27, 2013 5:40 PM

    It's also a piece of shit.

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