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.


PCU

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.


Caligula

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 Filmcritic.com.

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.

Superbad

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 DVDTown.com 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:

Tag Cloud

best Superheroes E! Binge Guide Comedy Central Adult Swim GLAAD Elton John Best and Worst BET Black Mirror Christmas cancelled television YouTube Premium revenge Arrowverse series GoT Fall TV ITV tv talk San Diego Comic-Con vampires DC Universe nature 4/20 TIFF Photos Tumblr A24 unscripted adaptation free movies mission: impossible talk show Holiday richard e. Grant Dark Horse Comics cancelled TV series USA Network USA franchise harry potter Amazon streaming HBO FX on Hulu LGBTQ National Geographic YouTube Red TBS DC Comics Sundance Now CMT batman werewolf Classic Film comics Hallmark Christmas movies Watching Series Amazon Prime Video Biopics Cosplay CBS All Access spinoff The Purge Brie Larson finale animated Teen canceled TV shows YouTube Musicals stand-up comedy Endgame Family Mary poppins game of thrones canceled Kids & Family Marvel Discovery Channel Cannes Sundance TV hist 2018 spanish language See It Skip It WGN Turner golden globes discovery Ellie Kemper Podcast anthology Anna Paquin ghosts Valentine's Day Fox News Grammys YA comiccon dark scary movies Election Apple cars adventure spain cats ABC VICE Year in Review screen actors guild Starz romantic comedy Pixar thriller green book psychological thriller cooking Shondaland game show cancelled TV shows IFC Women's History Month jamie lee curtis GIFs Mystery Red Carpet OWN independent diversity Winter TV SXSW DC streaming service science fiction 20th Century Fox Television Academy 2019 TNT documentary TruTV Universal reviews TV renewals historical drama Super Bowl Comic Book singing competition Pet Sematary Box Office Sci-Fi biography DGA Song of Ice and Fire rotten movies we love Food Network American Society of Cinematographers Nominations space television toy story sports criterion IFC Films Tomatazos Reality Competition VH1 police drama based on movie Superheroe witnail 2017 crime thriller dramedy Comics on TV Freeform renewed TV shows spider-man Awards Tour theme song ABC Family Premiere Dates Heroines AMC TLC Martial Arts serial killer Music sag awards comedies reboot screenings BBC The Arrangement transformers Extras The Walking Dead Disney+ Disney Plus NYCC Sundance zero dark thirty Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Emmy Nominations social media TCA Apple TV+ mockumentary NBC indie Star Trek Western The Witch cartoon Reality Thanksgiving LGBT Acorn TV Winners robots Marvel Studios Spring TV BBC America blockbuster dogs Nickelodeon parents foreign CW Seed Marvel Television Vudu romance Country Awards Rom-Com Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Emmys zombies President Bravo Certified Fresh true crime Opinion Musical Esquire Netflix Christmas movies FXX movie Stephen King Mary Tyler Moore Countdown strong female leads teaser Academy Awards Summer Sneak Peek cults Trailer Disney Plus Mary Poppins Returns Film Calendar CNN supernatural miniseries 45 christmas movies E3 Spike justice league Comedy hispanic Pop Tarantino zombie First Reviews Apple TV Plus award winner Interview politics Turner Classic Movies Drama Warner Bros. Sony Pictures Oscars latino Walt Disney Pictures elevated horror 71st Emmy Awards crime name the review Infographic travel RT History Film Festival X-Men Lionsgate psycho festivals technology El Rey casting A&E TV Land political drama SDCC sitcom Hallmark war 2016 Captain marvel Polls and Games chucky Schedule 21st Century Fox docudrama crossover joker First Look breaking bad Lucasfilm Mudbound Creative Arts Emmys Funimation The CW Video Games Mindy Kaling video cops Horror Pride Month Pop TV HBO Max APB Lifetime a nightmare on elm street TV dceu Marathons Columbia Pictures Holidays Logo Shudder OneApp directors Writers Guild of America Rocketman New York Comic Con Netflix 2015 halloween Lifetime Christmas movies Disney Rocky spy thriller Action Toys Avengers TCA Winter 2020 Amazon Prime RT21 mutant versus die hard Quiz 2020 Ghostbusters Paramount Hulu child's play MSNBC Amazon Studios MCU slashers Set visit Showtime natural history Rock Cartoon Network doctor who Ovation Disney streaming service ESPN disaster universal monsters Black History Month cancelled Travel Channel History PaleyFest Trivia Syfy dragons boxoffice facebook Trophy Talk blaxploitation comic Spectrum Originals Star Wars anime Fantasy Britbox FOX Crunchyroll TCA 2017 Chernobyl binge Crackle ratings book Paramount Network aliens MTV dc Pirates Masterpiece Animation TCM FX WarnerMedia PBS sequel Baby Yoda composers asian-american Hear Us Out stoner medical drama movies what to watch Character Guide Nat Geo cinemax crime drama quibi Disney Channel CBS 007 south america Epix concert period drama SundanceTV children's TV 24 frames Tubi DirecTV Peacock kids