Principal photography began on August 11, 2014, in New York City. Good Universe and Point Grey Pictures produced the film, which Columbia Pictures released on November 20, 2015. The film has a 66% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $52 million.
In December 2001, Ethan Miller (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) loses both of his parents in a car accident. Since that time, Isaac Greenberg (Seth Rogen) and Chris Roberts (Anthony Mackie), Ethan's best friends, resolve to spend every Christmas Eve with Ethan. Along the way, the friends learn of the Nutcracker Ball, a tremendous, invite-only Christmas Eve party. Unable to find the party, the friends continue with their tradition. In 2015, the friends decide to end the tradition. Chris has become a famous football player, and Isaac is married, with a baby on the way. Privately, Chris and Isaac worry that Ethan, a struggling musician working at a hotel, is not ready for the tradition to end.
At the hotel, Ethan finds and steals invitations to the Nutcracker Ball. Later, the friends meet at Isaac's house before going out on their last Christmas Eve together. Prior to leaving, Isaac's wife Betsy (Jillian Bell) gives him drugs to use during the evening, since he has been so supportive. The friends leave to follow their usual tradition, with the intention to go to the party afterward. Their first stop is the Rockefeller Tree. While at the Tree, Ethan reveals the tickets to the ball. Along the way, Chris, in an attempt to impress his teammates, purchases marijuana from their former high school dealer, Mr. Green (Michael Shannon). While making the purchase, Mr. Green shares the weed with Chris, calling it the present. While at a karaoke bar, the friends run into Diana (Lizzy Caplan), who recently broke up with Ethan for refusing to commit, and Diana's friend Sarah (Mindy Kaling). The friends learn that Diana and Sarah will be at the Nutcracker Ball, as well. While at the bar, Isaac begins to be negatively affected by the drugs he took, resulting in making a video phone message admitting that he's terrified of having a child. Chris also has his marijuana stolen by a supposed fan (Ilana Glazer) who is a Christmas-hating thief.
Needing more marijuana, the guys contact Mr. Green again, who meets them at Chris' mother's (Lorraine Toussaint) house. This time, Isaac meets Mr. Green for some marijuana. It shows him the future where his daughter is a stripper, and his wife blames him for it. The friends end up having dinner, cooked by Chris' mother, who encourages Ethan to make up with Diana. During dinner, Isaac realizes that he accidentally switched phones with Sarah.
While trying to find Isaac's phone, the same thief steals Chris' marijuana again. The three friends split up, as Chris wants his marijuana back, Isaac wants his phone, and Ethan wants to go to the party. Chris fails to regain his marijuana, after learning about valuing his true friends from the thief. Isaac, hallucinating from the mixture of drugs he keeps consuming, meets his wife and her family during Midnight Mass and vomits in church. Ethan ends up beaten by two drunk pub-crawling Santas, after trying to defend the spirit of Christmas.
Upon meeting back at a subway station, the tension between the friends explodes. Ethan reveals that he and Isaac know that Chris' sudden success and popularity is due to steroids, and Chris reveals that he and Isaac think that Ethan is lost and making excuses for himself.
Despite their revelations, the three friends still go to the Nutcracker Ball. Upon arriving, Chris learns that his teammates did not need the marijuana he struggled to obtain, and they also make fun of him for a video shot of him earlier, with his friends. Isaac retrieves his phone, and learns that Sarah never revealed the video message he recorded. Ethan finds Diana and, in an improvised moment, proposes to her in front of the entire party. While she accepts publicly, in private she declines, saying she only said yes because he put her on the spot, and thinks that the only reason why he proposed is because of his fear of losing his friends.
In shame, Ethan goes to the roof, where he sees Mr. Green. Mr. Green reveals that he created and has hosted the Nutcracker Ball since its inception. Mr. Green shares marijuana with Ethan, calling it the past. Ethan experiences a memory of his friends initiating their yearly ritual. Ethan rejoins his friends, who have been thrown out of the party after an altercation with Chris' teammates.
As morning dawns, the friends reconcile, just as Isaac receives a message from Betsy that she is in labor. Rushing to the hospital, in Mr. Green's conveniently available car, the friends discover that it was a false alarm. Mr. Green is also revealed to be an angel, who has been helping the friends to earn his wings. Isaac shows his wife the video, who admits afterward that she is also scared about raising their daughter. The trio spend Christmas at Isaac's house, after which Chris has dinner with his mother and admits to his steroid use. Ethan goes to Diana's house, where he apologizes for how he acted and for not being ready to commit. Diana admits she missed Ethan and accepts his request to finally meet her parents.
One year later, the friends and their loved ones spend Christmas together, and are revealed to be happy, and still friends. Isaac's baby cannot sleep, so the trio serenades her. It is shown that the story was all told from a book read by Santa, who is revealed to be the father of Mr. Green.Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Ethan Miller
Seth Rogen as Isaac Greenberg
Anthony Mackie as Chris Roberts
Lizzy Caplan as Diana, Ethan's ex-girlfriend
Jillian Bell as Betsy Greenberg, Isaac's wife
Michael Shannon as Mr. Green
Mindy Kaling as Sarah
Lorraine Toussaint as Mrs. Roberts, Chris's mother
Jason Mantzoukas as Bad Santa #1
Jason Jones as Bad Santa #2
Ilana Glazer as Rebecca Grinch
Nathan Fielder as Joshua
Tracy Morgan as the Narrator/Santa Claus
Randall Park as Ethan's boss
Heléne Yorke as Cindy
Aaron Hill as Tommy Owens
Baron Davis as himself
James Franco as himself
Miley Cyrus as herself
On February 10, 2014, it was announced that Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt would reunite in the film, following 50/50, in which they co-starred. On May 13, Anthony Mackie joined the cast. Jonathan Levine, director of 50/50, directed The Night Before from his own script. Good Universe and Point Grey Pictures produced the film, which Sony's Columbia Pictures is distributing.
On August 7, Jillian Bell was cast to play Betsy, the wife of Rogen's character. On August 8, Lizzy Caplan joined the cast to play Diana, a love interest of Gordon-Levitt's character.
Principal photography on the film began on August 11, 2014, in New York City. On August 14, filming was taking place around 112th street and Broadway in NYC. On August 22, Rogen was spotted filming scenes outside a church in Manhattan. On January 5, 2015, filming was taken place in and around Rockefeller Center, where the crews were taking some shots of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
The film was originally scheduled to be released on December 11, 2015, but Sony moved the release date over to November 25, 2015, and later to November 20, 2015.
The Night Before grossed $43 million in North America and $9.3 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $52.4 million, against a budget of $25 million.
In the United States, The Night Before opened alongside The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and Secret in Their Eyes on November 20, 2015. In its opening weekend, the film was projected to gross $12–13 million from 2,960 theaters. The film made $550,000 from its Thursday preview screenings and $3.6 million on its first day. In its opening weekend, the film grossed $9.9 million, below expectations, and finished fourth at the box office behind Mockingjay – Part 2 ($102.7 million), Spectre ($15 million) and The Peanuts Movie ($13.2 million). In its second week, the film grossed $8.4 million (a drop of 15.2%), finishing 6th at the box office.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 66% based on 137 reviews and an average rating of 6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Night Before provokes enough belly laughs to qualify as a worthwhile addition to the list of Christmas comedies worth revisiting, even if it isn't quite as consistent as the classics." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 58 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.