10. The Firemen’s Ball (1967)
Though it is not visibly noticable that it is night time until the second half of the film as it takes place indoors – this scathing satire on Communism is the story of a hapless evening social event which culminates in a house fire that cannot be extinguished by the bumbling firemen of a small Czech town.
This classic Czech New Wave film was the last that famed director Miloš Forman made in his home country after it was allegedly “banned for all time” by the powers that be in Czechoslovakia. The Firemen’s Ball is a short, witty comedy which duly foreshadowed his future success.
9. Before Sunrise (1995)
Most definitely, this film boasts (and starts off) one of the greatest cinema romances of all time; this is the first part of Richard Linklater’s exquisite ‘Before’ trilogy. Two strangers, Jesse and Céline meet on a train and decide to spend an impromptu night together exploring Vienna – sharing their opposing and similar attitudes on life.
Given the way it is presented in Before Sunrise, the city of Vienna certainly at night gives Paris a run for its money as the “most romantic city in the world”. This is simply a film which is impossible to dislike, one that is reminiscent of those nightlong conversations one may have – whether it be with the love of your life, or just a close friend – Before Sunrise seems to distill one into 100 enveloping minutes.
8. The Evil Dead (1981)
This immensely popular 80s horror movie was one of the original ‘cabin in the woods’ stories that featured a bunch of teenagers going for a booze/sex filled vacation in the woods only for terrible fates to wait for them on the first night.
There are few more familiar locations scarier than the woods at night and that is why The Evil Dead works so well – it is such a simple idea played through. Add superfluous gore, simple but effective cinematography, some possibly unintentional humour and subtle Lovecraftian influences and you have an immortal horror film.
7. Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s fantastic cinematic translation of Phillip K. Dick’s science-fiction novel (‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’) is undoubtedly a phenomenal piece of work.
Whilst it sometimes proves to be indiscernible as to whether it is night or day courtesy of the smog-filled skylines of L.A. 2019 – many of the film’s most recognizable scenes certainly do take place when the sun has gone down – I.e. the violent encounter with Leon in the neon-lit streets and the rain-drenched hotel and the ‘emotional’ rooftop showdown with Roy Batty.
Blade Runner is a mixture of both dystopian gloom and overwhelming sci-fi spectacle – complete with extravagant set design and timeless special effects.
6. Escape From New York (1981)
A Carpenter cult classic! Soldier-turned-criminal Snake Plissken has to rescue the President from Manhattan Island – which has become a maximum security prison. Snake slips into the prison at night time to remain undetected – but this also makes the dark, decaying New York streets look all the more eerie… especially when the ‘crazies’ emerge from the underground.
The exteriors were filmed in an abandoned district of Illinois which had been destroyed by a fire a few years previous. Combine that setting with a terrific high-concept premise, Kurt Russell with an eye-patch – and you have one killer movie set almost entirely at night!
5. American Graffiti (1973)
One of the few George Lucas films before he launched the world of Jedi Knights into the stratosphere – American Graffiti is a semi-autobiographical 60s set coming-of-age drama which most certainly had a telling influence on Linklater’s ‘Dazed And Confused’.
Like ‘Dazed And Confused’, American Graffiti takes you to a graduation night through the eyes of a group of teenagers in California – with the guys showing off their autos, attempting to buy alcohol without ID and everyone flirting with one another. The ongoing juke-box soundtrack must perfect the element of nostalgia for those who actually lived this era.
American Graffiti also features up-and-comers of the time such as Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Charles Martin Smith and Harrison Ford.
4. Night On Earth (1991)
Jim Jarmusch’s early 90s feature boasts an excellent concept that makes use of the different stages of the night to tell five different stories which take place in five different locations of the globe. Night On Earth features five taxi rides that are happening simultaneously in locations spanning L.A.to Helsinki so that the film starts at dusk and finishes just as the sun is rising somewhere else.
The film possesses a nice, breezy quality which can make it an easy and relaxing watch – it is like you are in the taxis with the people all along, sharing the touching moments, the hilarious ones and the downright bizarre ones. Night On Earth also captures the sense of a ‘weird night’ too – with the stranger stories happening in the middle of the film, whereas the more sobering stories bookend the film when daylight is still barely present.
3. Night Of The Living Dead (1968)
Night time and horror go hand-in-hand – as evidenced by the few other horror films on this list and most classic horror tales; just look at the many renditions of Dracula or most classic haunted house films. There is just something innately scary about the dark – especially is something evil or hideous is lurking in it. In the case of Night Of The Living Dead – it is merely ‘us’ that is lurking in the dark – ‘the undead us’.
Though time may have slightly dimmed the shock value of this classic due to the plethora of imitations – Night Of The Living Dead’s weighty political statements concerning the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War and its black & white documentary-like quality still pack a monumental punch.
2. After Hours (1985)
This wacky, anxiety ridden comedy is quite basically the story of the worst night out anyone has ever had – if you think you’ve had a bad one, Paul Hackett (Griffin Dunne) surely has it worse in After Hours. After meeting an attractive woman in a diner, Paul decides to go on a late night venture for a quick sexual fling in Soho – only to find himself to be the punch-line of an enormous cosmic joke.
After Hours was filmed entirely at night – even the interior shots – so to keep with the atmosphere of a time when people are supposed to be asleep and when the extraordinary is the ordinary. Griffin Dunne stated that the shoot was like “living like a Vampire for 8 weeks”.
1. Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
This dialogue heavy, Oscar winning drama concerns a tumultuous party whose hosts (then real-life couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) are consistently dredging up the past in front of their increasingly implicated guests – leading to full-blown arguments and physical violence.
Taking place entirely in one night, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf? indicates how quickly relationships can crack and how friendships can be severed in one drunken evening gathering. The vicious arguments and acid-laced insults are designed specifically to cut to the core of the person it is directed towards and the dynamics of the characters are also as brilliantly written as they are convoluted with one another. A superbly acted and somewhat tragic movie with a symbolically optimistic final shot.
Author Bio: Liam Hathaway has a lifelong passion of watching and reading about any/every sort of film which has lead him to be a Film Studies student at Sheffield Hallam University. His favourite directors at the moment are John Carpenter, Ben Wheatley, Werner Herzog and Martin Scorsese.