The single was their first to enter the American charts, reaching the Top five on the U.S. Modern rock tracks in late 2001. Meanwhile, the single obtained a moderate success in the UK, peaking at number 14 on the UK Singles Chart. The song was ranked the fourth-greatest song of the last 15 years by NME.
In March 2005, Q placed "Last Nite" at number 66 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. In September 2006, NME placed "Last Nite" at number one on its list of the 50 Greatest Tracks of the Decade. In May 2007, NME magazine placed "Last Nite" at number nine in its list of the 50 Greatest Indie Anthems Ever. It was also placed at number 16 on Rolling Stone's 50 Best Songs of the Decade and number 478 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2011, NME placed it at number 4 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".
The band were originally unwilling to appear in a music video, but eventually agreed to a simple format, performing the song live on a brightly lit stage. The resulting video, filmed with simple panning shots and few edits, was directed by Roman Coppola. One minute into the song, singer Julian Casablancas throws his microphone stand, as it was a spear, off camera; the move would later be referenced in the music video for "Under Cover of Darkness", released 10 years later in 2011 on their album Angles. As the song progresses, Casablancas' vocal becomes increasingly distorted as he sings ever closer into the microphone. On two occasions he dramatically throws the microphone to the ground. Following his solo, guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr., walking backwards into the drum podium, accidentally pushes one of drummer Fabrizio Moretti's overhead microphones which falls onto the drum kit. Moretti tries to hit it away with his drumstick, yet it topples onto the other overhead and both crash to the ground.
The video, including the accident, is parodied in the music video for Sum 41's "Still Waiting".
The song's opening guitar riff and overall structure is loosely similar to that of American Girl by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. In a 2006 interview with Rolling Stone, Petty commented, "The Strokes took 'American Girl' [for 'Last Nite'], there was an interview that took place with them where they actually admitted it. That made me laugh out loud. I was like, 'OK, good for you.' It doesn't bother me". The Strokes were invited to be the opening act for several dates on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 2006 tour. The solo for the song was inspired by guitarist Freddy King.
"Last Nite" was covered in 2003 by pop singer Vitamin C. The song was produced by Dave Derby, Michael Kotch, and Fred Maher. The single features a sample from Blondie's "Heart of Glass". After Elektra Records dropped Vitamin C when her second album, More, did not sell as expected, she signed to V2 Records in the UK, hoping to break into the music scene there. After her third album was recorded, this single was released exclusively in the UK with plans to release the album a month later. The album was never released.
The single for "Last Nite" by Vitamin C did not do well in its first week by debuting and peaking at a disappointing #70 and falling down the chart rapidly.V2 shelved Vitamin C's album afterwards and dropped her. However, "Last Nite" is Vitamin C's only chart entry in the UK Singles Top 75, making it her most successful single there.
The music video for "Last Nite" was shot in New York City. It features Vitamin C, as a blonde, in or around the Hotel Chelsea as well as other New York City night spots. The club CBGB is seen in the video.