Night on Earth is a 1991 film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. It is a collection of five vignettes, taking place during the same night, concerning the temporary bond formed between taxi driver and passenger in five cities: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki. Jarmusch wrote the screenplay in about eight days, and the choice of certain cities was largely based on the actors with whom he wanted to work.The soundtrack of the same name is by Tom Waits.
As evening falls, tomboy cabby Corky (Winona Ryder) picks up Hollywood executive Victoria Snelling (Gena Rowlands) from the airport, and as Corky drives, Victoria tries to conduct business over the phone. Despite their extreme differences socially, the two develop a certain connection. Sometime during the ride Victoria, who is evidently a talent scout or casting director, discovers that Corky would be ideal for a part in a movie she is casting, but Corky rejects the offer, as she has plans to become a mechanic.
Helmut Grokenberger (Armin Mueller-Stahl), an East German immigrant who was once a clown in his home country, now works in New York as a taxi driver. He picks up a passenger named YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito), a streetwise young man, and attempts to drive him to Brooklyn. Helmut does not really know how to drive with an automatic transmission so he allows YoYo to drive. On their way, they pick up YoYo’s sister-in-law Angela (Rosie Perez). The story revolves around Helmut’s attempts to understand and become a part of the culture of New York.
A blind woman (Béatrice Dalle) goes for a ride at night with a driver (Isaach De Bankolé) from the Ivory Coast. They both take some verbal jabs at each other during the ride. The driver asks his passenger what it’s like to be blind and she attempts to explain to him, but their cultural differences and differences of life experience make things difficult. After he drops off his blind passenger, he feels fascinated by her and gazes in her direction. This inattention to driving causes him to crash into another car, whose driver angrily accuses him of being blind. An ironic twist at the end of the segment turns upon a French pun near the beginning of it: When the driver states his nationality as “Ivoirien,” some other Africans mock him with the punning phrase “Il voit rien” (he can’t see anything).
In the early morning hours, an eccentric cabbie (Roberto Benigni) picks up a priest (Paolo Bonacelli). As he drives, he starts to confess his sins. Much to the priest’s discomfort, he goes into great detail about how he discovered his sexuality first with a pumpkin and then with a sheep, then details a love affair he had with his brother’s wife. The already-ailing priest is shocked by the confession, and has a fatal heart attack.
After an evening spent drinking heavily, three workers (Kari Väänänen, Sakari Kuosmanen, and Tomi Salmela), one of whom has just been fired from his job, climb into a cab to return home. On the way, the workers talk about the terrible situation their now-unconscious friend is in, by being out of work and having to face a divorce and a pregnant daughter. The driver, Mika (Matti Pellonpää), then tells them all the saddest story they have ever heard. The workers are terribly moved and depressed by the story, and even become unsympathetic toward their drunken, laid-off companion. As they arrive home, the sun is beginning to rise.
Winona Ryder as Corky (taxi driver)
Gena Rowlands as Victoria Snelling (passenger)
Giancarlo Esposito as YoYo (passenger & taxi driver)
Armin Mueller-Stahl as Helmut Grokenberger (taxi driver & passenger)
Rosie Perez as Angela (passenger)
Isaach De Bankolé as Unnamed Taxi Driver
Béatrice Dalle as the Blind Woman (passenger)
Pascal N’Zonzi as an unnamed African passenger
Emile Abossolo M’Bo as an unnamed African passenger
Roberto Benigni as Gino (taxi driver)
Paolo Bonacelli as Priest (passenger)
Matti Pellonpää as Mika (taxi driver)
Kari Väänänen, Sakari Kuosmanen, and Tomi Salmela as Passengers
The five taxis featured:
1981 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon (Los Angeles)
1983 Ford LTD Crown Victoria (New York)
1980 Peugeot 504 (Paris)
1976 Fiat 128 (Rome)
1973 Volvo 144 (Helsinki)