I recently celebrated a birthday and this got me thinking about birthdays in films, the parties, the presents, the good and the bad. Some films are centred around birthdays and for others, it can be a small but memorable scene.
Uncle Buck – Best Party Planner
Perhaps the best birthday party in any film ever is in the 1980s classic Uncle Buck, memories of this party are seared into my brain from watching this film as a child. Buck is looking after his nieces and nephew while their parents are away looking after an ill family member, the nephew’s birthday falls during this parental absence. Presumably to make up for what could be an upsetting absence Buck goes all out. First, the breakfast…Buck makes pancakes so big ne needs a snow shovel to flip them, the house is covered top to bottom in decorations, it is ridiculously over the top. The party itself is not going well and when it’s announced a birthday clown will soon be arriving and Miles’ friends think this is uncool, Buck proceeds to dismiss the clown, who he realises is drunk and ends up getting in a fight with the clown.
The Game – Best Present
The answer to the question, what do you get a man who has everything? A huge days long interactive experience involving dozens of actors, kidnapping, danger and more. Nicholas’ brother buys him an unforgettable birthday experience which at first falls flat but soon strange things happen in his life and it all quickly escalates. People break into his house, his accounts are frozen, he goes on the run, and ends up in Mexico…is this part of the game? Is the game a front to simply steal from him? Or an elaborate game designed to give him thrills and appreciate life?
Full Metal Jacket – Most Memorable Rendition of Happy Birthday
In a film that has a number of disturbing scenes one of the oddest is when we find Sergeant Hartman, the deranged drill sergeant tasked with turning recruits into marines, leading a chorus of happy birthday. Whose birthday is it? It’s Jesus’. This is Christmas Day and Hartman doesn’t take a day off traumatising young men and brainwashing them with rhetoric about God being pleased about how many people marines kill. Seemingly nothing Hartman does is ever straightforward or normal so instead of a hymn or fun Christmas song he has them sing happy birthday and you can’t help but think is this another opportunity to have the recruits follow orders, even orders that don’t make sense.
The Fellowship of the Ring – Biggest Birthday Party
The Fellowship of the Ring starts with Bilbo Baggins’ 111 birthday and this is quite a special occasion for a hobbit. The average hobbit lifespan is around 100 so 111 is a long life but nothing too extraordinary. Of course, Bilbo is in excellent shape for a hobbit of 111, due to the magic ring he possesses.
Bilbo Baggins is quite a personage in the Shire, a famed adventurer (something very rare for a hobbit who prefer the comforts of home) and rumoured to be exceptionally rich from his adventures and so this is a big party. And it’s hard not to include a birthday party that includes Gandalf on this list; a wizard who spends his time-fighting dragons, and saving the world and is one of the premier magical practitioners of the age, but has a side-hustle in providing fireworks for birthday parties (which sounds incredibly shady). It is also Gandalf who has convinced Bilbo to leave his home and give everything to his nephew Frodo, rightly worried about the effect this ring has had on his friend, so in reality, it is a combined birthday and leaving party, but none of the guests know the second part.
The Godfather Part II – Most Tense Party
Not many birthday parties feature the dividing up of a country by the Mafia but there is such a party in this film. Whilst the various mobsters have gathered in Havana to celebrate the birthday of Hyman Roth (longtime criminal partner of the Corleone family) they are really there to discuss Cuba – even the birthday cake features a map of the island and we see it being sliced and handed out. The Mafia has huge business interests in the country and has a “friendly” government that will support and protect them. Michael Corleone sits amidst the guests never looking entirely happy and casting doubt about this friendly government in dealing with the communist rebels (the audience well-aware that this government will fall to the communists soon and that moment is seen in the film). Not only is this birthday party about dividing Cuba it is also part of the ongoing war between Michael and Hyman, although both pretend they are the best of friends.