Total Recall

Total Recall: Great Movie Parties

In honor of Mardi Gras, we run down some of cinema's most memorable shindigs.

by and | February 24, 2009 | Comments

Today is Mardi Gras, so in honor of New Orleans’ finest excuse to imbibe, we at RT decided to pay tribute to some of the greatest movie parties ever. Cinematic shindigs often contain much lewd behavior and debauchery, but for those of us who would rather not have to worry about a designated driver or want to avoid incarceration after streaking through town, these flicks offer numerous vicarious pleasures.


Okay, so maybe PCU was a fairly transparent Animal House ripoff, and maybe its heavy-handed gags about political correctness haven’t aged all that well. But as evidence of Chris Young’s painfully brief career as a leading man, it’s irreplaceable — and it boasts early performances from David Spade and Jeremy Piven in the onscreen personae that made them famous (unctuous creep and salt-of-the-earth loudmouth, respectively), not to mention some typically fine work from Jessica “Lucille Bluth” Walter and a glimpse of a young Jon Favreau as the headbanging, Bluto-esque Gutter. And, of course, the film’s climax centers around a righteous party — one that manages to set itself apart from the others on this list thanks to the unlikely appearance of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic as the coolest house band ever.


For fans of depravity and decadence, Caligula is a godsend. Fans of good taste and quality filmmaking, however, might want to think twice before delving into this two-and-a-half-hour art/porn extravaganza. Malcolm McDowell plays the horse-consulting, crazy-as-a-loon Roman emperor with plenty of gusto; Caligula’s idea of a swingin’ party includes watch people be executed by a proto-lawnmower and taking a ride on a ship that serves as a floating brothel. (He also proves to be a bit too, ahem, attentive to a bride on her wedding day.) Roger Ebert called Caligula “sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash,” and if the movie isn’t short on memorable parties, few (if any) can be said to look like much fun.

Weird Science

Don’t hate Kelly LeBrock because she’s beautiful; it wasn’t her fault that two hapless teens made her that way. In Weird Science, LeBrock plays Lisa, the creation of two brainiacs (Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith) who gives her creators a taste of the popularity and coolness that has been out of their reach. One major example is the wild party she organizes for our heroes, at which they final gain a measure of self-confidence. Or, as Lisa describes it, “Just a couple of hundred kids running around in their underwear, acting like complete animals.” “Weird Science is an odd mix of risqu? shenanigans, puerile pranks and dubious gender politics,” wrote Richard Luck of Channel Four Film. “It also happens to be very funny.”

The Party

Peter Sellers sure had a thing for playing awkward characters with funny voices. He brought plenty of awkwardness and verbal miscommunication to the role of Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies, and in The Party, the great comedian played Hrundi V. Bakshi, a hapless East Indian hoping to make it in Hollywood. In a misunderstanding, Bakshi is granted access to a lavish party thrown by a studio head, and proceeds to wreck havoc by confusing his fellow guests and laying waste to the house. It may not be a shining beacon of political correctness, but The Party is an excellent showcase for Sellers’ improvisational skills (and there’s word that Sacha Baron Cohen will star in a remake). “While the other party guests — including a small elephant — provide a few of the laughs, the focus here is solidly on Sellers, and this film is one of the best examples of his fabulous talent,” wrote Brian Webster of Apollo Movie Guide.

10 Things I Hate About You

Roger Ebert described this movie’s party scene as “boring and endless” and “tedious,” but really, when you’ve got dozens of teenagers writhing in a seemingly endless suburban mansion, among them Heath Ledger at his tousled best, Joseph Gordon-Levitt mooning over Larisa Oleynik while an overdressed David Krumholtz strikes out all over the house, and Julia Stiles dancing on a table, is 10 minutes even enough time to take it all in? This sort of nubile mayhem was surely not what Shakespeare had in mind when he wrote The Taming of the Shrew, but of all the teen-friendly Bard adaptations of the late 1990s, 10 Things I Hate About You had the most fun with its source material, even while recycling hoary old cliches like the party fight (complete with broken window!), comedic barfing, and the last-minute love connection on the front lawn. The only thing missing is Chris “The Sherminator” Owen — and Nigel, who never did show up with that brie.

Bachelor Party

Before he became the Oscars’ favorite everyman, Tom Hanks was quite the wild and crazy guy. Case in point: Bachelor Party, in which Hanks plays Rick Gassko, a loveable rogue who is despised by the parents of his fianc?e Debbie. Rick’s friends decide to throw him the wildest imaginable bachelor party possible; however, Debby’s parents think the event is the ideal time to try to break off the engagement. The party turns out to be quite a doozy, featuring a drug-abusing donkey, oodles of prostitutes, and plenty of subterfuge and intrigue. “Every time I run across this movie playing on late night cable, I end up watching to the end,” wrote Christopher Null of

Can’t Hardly Wait

Rather than using the first two thirds of the movie to build up to a climactic party, Can’t Hardly Wait writer-directors Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont decided just to cut right to the chase — pretty much the entire film takes place at a graduation party for the class of 1998. And what a party: You’ve got Seth Green as a David Faustino-level rapper; Love Burger, the squabbling band that manages to live down to its horrible name; and Jennifer Love Hewitt in her late 1990s prime (not to mention a form-hugging top that seems to have been taken from Jennifer Connelly’s Career Opportunities wardrobe). Can’t Hardly Wait may be “pointless teen schlock,” as John R. McEwen of Film Quips Online put it, but it’s also, in the words of TV Guide’s Maitland McDonagh, “cutely derivative, occasionally charming and very occasionally clever” — and besides, any party that inspires a high school misfit to grab a microphone and belt out an impromptu rendition of “Paradise City” can’t be all bad, right?

Back to School

Pretty much any time you bump into a drunk guy on the front lawn of a house party and he tells you it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened in his life, you can bank on it being the booze talking — unless, that is, the party in question is being thrown by Thornton Mellon, the dean-bribing clothing magnate who hires Kurt Vonnegut to write his English papers and scores movie-party mainstay Oingo Boingo as the entertainment at the aforementioned best bash ever. (Hey, stop laughing — it was 1986. Oingo Boingo was a big deal, man!) This was the younger, more innocent 1980s, so the goings-on are comparatively tame — nothing spicier than some bikini babes in a hot tub and Sally Kellerman in a sport jacket — but what it lacks in outrageous shenanigans, Back to School more than makes up for with its generous helping of William “Billy” Zabka in all of his blonde-maned mid-1980s glory.

Old School

Some of the other movies on this list may have earned higher ratings on the Tomatometer — and none of them suffered the indignity of being branded “thin and occasionally toxic” by Christopher Smith of the Bangor Daily News — but Old School is the only one that boasts the timeless performance of Will Ferrell as Frank “The Tank” Ricard, the hard-drinking, middle-aged idiot with a knack for finding just the right ingredient (like, say, a tranquilizer dart to the neck) to turn an everyday occasion (like, say, a small child’s birthday celebration) into a rager. Frank parties through most of his too-brief time onscreen in Old School, but his proudest moment comes when he leads a one-man streak down the middle of a public roadway, gets picked up by his long-suffering wife and her disbelieving friends, and deals with the crippling awkwardness of the situation by asking for KFC.

House Party

House Party spawned three sequels and brought to prominence of a number of its cast members (including Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, and of course, Kid ‘n’ Play). And it still holds up as an energetic, inventive, and very funny teen comedy. Kid only wants to party at the home of his associate Play, but he has to contend with his repressively strict father, some neighborhood toughs, and racist cops. After sneaking out of the house, Kid proves he has ample skills on the mic and the dancefloor – and the ladies take notice. A ribald but gentle-hearted comedyHouse Party was a key work in the mainstreaming of hip hop culture. “What is most appealing about House Party, and what sets it apart from many movies in the same genre, is that there is an energy and exuberance, a joy of living being celebrated here that is absolutely infectious,” wrote Chris Hicks of the Deseret News.


For a film that comes in under two hours, Superbad packs in a whole bunch of partying — and in a bit of a reversal, the final act’s big house party, which includes all the ingredients you’ve come to expect in a teen comedy (T&A, awkward booze-fueled hookups), isn’t even the best one the movie has to offer. That honor goes to the sketchy shindig that Jonah Hill and Michael Cera unwittingly crash as the booze-bogarting guests of a guy Hill (literally) bumped into in a parking lot; it takes place in a dumpy house filled with unattractive people, many of whom are seconds away from instigating physical violence — in other words, not terribly dissimilar from a lot of the parties you went to in high school. Of course, it’s probably safe to say that none of your high school parties included the accidental use of someone’s pant leg as a sanitary napkin, but making something magical out of an everyday situation is part of what Hollywood is all about, right?

National Lampoon’s Animal House

Here it is, the Citizen Kane of party movies, the film that created the template that virtually every flick that featured wild debauchery and crazy shindigs would emulate. John Belushi stars as John “Bluto” Blutarsky, a raging party animal and the most prominent member of Faber College’s Delta Tau Chi House, whose residents are a wild collection of ne’re-do-wells and anti-authoritarian misfits. Though Dean Wormer desperately wants to close the fraternity down, that doesn’t stop the brothers from getting in cafeteria food fights and staging a Toga party (one that’s so happenin,’ even Dean Wormer’s wife shows up). Animal House‘s ribald humor hasn’t dulled in the years since its release; as John J. Puccio of put it, “Director John Landis made a film that will probably remain fresh and fun for as long as kids go to college.”

Check out the rest of our Total Recall archives here.

Finally, here’s a lesson in the importance of partying — courtesy of the Beastie Boys:

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