Worf: Because it is my birthday I assumed that you or one of the others would try to mount an unexpected social gathering.Ah, your basic Surprise Party. Some characters throw a surprise party for another character. If it's pulled off correctly, then both A.) the character is taken completely by surprise and B.) the other characters have done a good enough job of keeping them distracted and entertained that there is no chance for a forgotten birthday situation. Alternatively, the party happens in a situation where they totally wouldn't expect it, so again, no chance. A number of associated subplots may arise from this. One tactic is trying to keep the subject out of the house so his/her friends can sneak in and prepare the party; this usually has the person desperately wanting to go home, and the ruse using every trick they can think of to keep the person from going home. The other case that frequently happens is the person is having a miserable day, and announces it so that all the party guests can hear it. Hopefully, the surprise party will help to fix their rotten day, though it isn't guaranteed. It's also possible that the friends may be inspired to throw the surprise party because they heard about the character's rotten day. Admittedly, there are cases where it's just a regular surprise party, without any of the above, and these are more common than one might think. If it's not a straight example, though, then it might be any of the tropes that the Surprise Party is a supertrope of, which include the Not-So-Forgotten Birthday, Birthday Suit Surprise Party, Scary Surprise Party and its darker variant, the Shock Party, so please make sure that it's not one of these before adding it here. Need not be a birthday party, though it often is, and if so, may be part of a Birthday Episode. Subtrope to Friendly Scheming. Note that due to the surprise party's nature as an ending trope in many cases, you will find plenty of unmarked spoilers here.
Riker: A surprise party? Mister Worf, I hate surprise parties. I would never do that to you. ....
Riker: I love surprise parties.
Riker: A surprise party? Mister Worf, I hate surprise parties. I would never do that to you. ....
Riker: I love surprise parties.
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Anime & Manga
- In the second half of episode 7 of Kotoura-san, Manabe doesn't hang out with Haruka at all, nor does he talk to her very much. She and Yuriko go around town looking for him, and they suspect he's cheating on her, or at least up to no good. Then it turns out he was working because he wanted to get money to give a birthday party to Haruka, since her birthday is September 1st.
- On Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy, Patches, Lulla, Boof and Ellie Funt all throw Witzy one, popping out of boxes and releasing balloons and ribbons in "Surprise, Witzy!"
- The Spider-Man arc "Revenge of the Sinister Six", Erik Larsen's last Spider-Man story before moving on to The Savage Dragon, ends with MJ and Aunt May preparing a surprise birthday party for Peter Parker.
- Jonathan Hickman's run on Fantastic Four featured a surprise birthday party for Franklin Richards. It's easy to pull off a surprise party when the guest of honor's mother can turn all the party trappings and guests invisible.
- In A Growing Affection, Naruto gets two for his 16th birthday, one played with and the other played straight. Though he knows Hinata intends to celebrate with him, he doesn't know what she has in mind, so the events of the day are a surprise. Meanwhile Tsunade throws a normal (if huge) surprise party for him, which almost gets ruined because she left Hinata out of the loop.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfic "The Birds and the Bees," the ponies throw a surprise party for Rainbow Dash because they thought she was going to have a foal. This was because she had said as much to the Cutie Mark Crusaders in an attempt to obfuscate the fact that nobody had ever given her The Talk.
- In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "The Exile From Psychelia", the Smurfs hold a surprise party for Empath's 151st birthday by having Empath be sent away to Homnibus the wizard to spend time running errands for him. They try this again in "Smurfed Behind: The Departure", except that an unfrozen baby dinosaur and a magical time key that unlocks a vortex that sucks all the Smurfs in ruins the surprise, leaving Empath with only his friend Polaris Psyche upon his return to the Smurf Village.
- Beetlejuice and his neighbors throw one for Lydia in The Bug Princess, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the day he and she met. The party itself is played perfectly straight, although it then leads into a somewhat dubious flashback of exactly how they did meet.
Films — Live-Action
- The first Police Academy opens with one for security guard Tackleberry before he goes off to the titular academy. When he sees the suspicious activity, he raids the party.
- In Brisingr of Inheritance Cycle, after Eragon returns to the Varden's camp and gets settled in, he heads off with Nasuada to what he thinks is going to be a boring dinner of political conversation with nobles who want to fawn over him and his dragon Saphira. But when Nasuada opens the flap to the tent, it turns out to be a surprise party arranged by her and Eragon's adoptive brother Roran featuring most of the villagers of his hometown of Carvahall and many other people he knows and likes.
- In Royal Princess Academy: Dragon Dreams, the young princess heroine, Princess Emma, is given a surprise party for her birthday and given by her parents the pet dragon that she's always wanted.
- In Jackal Wants Everything, part of a series of books called "Sweet Pickles" from the late 1970s, Jackal is upset that he never seems to get anything that he wants and spoils a party because of it. So all of the kids in the series decide to throw him a surprise party the next day, but instead of being thankful for it, he instead proves himself to be a true Jerkass, upset that they spent all that time (the time while they were planning the party) doing fun stuff without him.
- In Harry Potter's time at Hogwarts, surprise parties become so common for things such as Quidditch victories or victories in the Triwizard Tournament (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) that they might as well just be labeled "surprise" parties.
Ron: Well, we'd better get downstairs for your surprise party, Harry — Fred and George should have nicked enough food from the kitchens by now.
- The picture book What's the Time, Mr. Wolf? by Debi Gliori features the titular wolf being asked that question over and over, on the hour, on his birthday, by various fairy tale characters like Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, until finally he gets home and finds that they're all there and have set up a surprise party for him.
- At the end of Bad Magic, a followup to the Secret Series, Clay, the protagonist, is given one at the end of Bad Magic to signify his having discovered real magic.
- Flesh+Blood starts off with one for protagonist Min Lee, with her friend Sarah throwing her one to celebrate her 26th birthday and leaving a very toxic working environment.
- One of these is seen at the end of the first Clémentine book. Clementine feared that it was a going-away party for her because she thought her parents were getting rid of her. In fact, the party is actually a celebration arranged by her parents for her having helped her father to win "the great pigeon war." It's also a welcome party for the new kitten her parents have bought her and are surprising her with following the passing of her previous cat, Polka Dottie.
- Our Miss Brooks has the episode "The Birthday Bag". Miss Brooks' friends plan a surprise party at the Conklin's house. Unfortunately, Miss Brooks turns up an hour too early. . . . .
- In "Parallels" on Star Trek: The Next Generation, the senior staff of the Enterprise D throws Worf a surprise party for his birthday after he comes back from a bat'leth tournament. The party manages to catch him off guard, because Riker lied to him and told him that there wasn't going to be a surprise party. However, the story is about Worf shifting through various parallel realities, and whether or not there was a party varies based on which reality he's in. When he returns to his proper reality, it turns out that Deanna Troi talked Riker out of throwing the party because she didn't think Worf would like it, but the two end up spending some time together over champagne in Worf's quarters.
- On Star Trek: Voyager, one of these is held for Kes's second birthday (Kes's species, the Ocampa, matures very quickly but is exceptionally short lived) in the opening of "Twisted," though she's mostly just confused by it at first because the surprise party isn't a tradition in her culture.
- A recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live is about a group of people planning a surprise [birthday/anniversary/retirement/etc.] party for one of their friends, and Kristen Wiig's character is so very very excited about it she just can't keep still - or keep her mouth shut when the character in question appears.
- On The Big Bang Theory, Penny tries to throw Leonard a surprise birthday party when she finds out that he's never had a birthday party, but it doesn't work out. Leonard has to take Howard to the emergency room for a peanut allergy reaction and they don't get back home until well after the party is over.
- The Dick Van Dyke Show: In "A Surprise is a Surprise is a Surprise" Laura outwits Rob by pretending that she was planning a surprise birthday party for him (which she does every year and he always finds out in advance) but her plans fall through - but then it turns out that that was a fib, and the surprise party happens at like 6 in the morning.
- WKRP in Cincinnati: When Les goes through a Mid-life crisis and makes plans to move to New York City and get a new reporter/anchor job at CBS TV Jennifer plans a surprise birthday/going-away party. But then he tells her he hates surprise parties. When the gang all show up (Jennifer not having gotten the chance to tell them not to come) she admits it was a surprise party, and Les is fine with it, even a little excited.
- An episode of Sanford and Son features Fred returning home from St. Louis and being welcomed back with a surprise party.
- The surprise party is referenced by Johnny of Johnny and the Sprites in the song "What a Surprise!" when he sings "There are surprise endings, surprise guests, surprise parties too! Surprises when they're really great can make your dreams come true. Make your dreams come true!"
- In one episode BJ tries to organize a surprise birthday party for Hawkeye, despite the fact that it isn't Hawkeye's birthday, in order to get some camp morale going. Hawkeye learns of this and counters by "accidentally" letting it slip that the same day is BJ's wedding anniversary. In the end BJ drafts a random extra to be the Birthday Boy.
- In another episode, Mildred Potter (Col. Potter's wife) enlists Hawkeye to throw a surprise "the Mortgage is Paid Off" party for the Colonel.
- On The Joe Schmo Show, a surprise party was held for Tim Walsh of the second season on his birthday, and Chase Rogan of the third season. Both were used as a way to advance the plot, with the former involving a face-painting party held by Gerald the Gotta-Be-Gay Guy in which Bryce the stalker painted "Piper" on his face, and in the latter, Randy the asshole taking advantage of the party to get closer to the host's wife. The second season one, though, was generally more interesting, as Tim had never been given a surprise party before in his life, but had always wanted one. The party was said to be sponsored by "Club G" and even included Tim giving Gerald a lap-dance as part of a game of Truth or Dare. Afterwards, Jonathan Torrens ("Gerald") said in an interview segment that his favorite theory of Tim's so far was "But I don't think he's gay. I think he's Canadian."
- When Ross dated Rachel, the gang organized a surprise party for her birthday. The real surprise came when they had to throw a second impromptu party in the guys' flat at the same time because both Rachel's parents showed up unexpectedly, and they couldn't be in one room together as they were going through divorce.
- TOW the fake party features Rachel hosting a surprise "Bon Voyage" party for Emily in order to seduce Joshua.
- In one episode there's a flashback to when Monica turned thirty— her friends and relatives have a very formal party. Monica freaked out and got really drunk before that. Hilarity Ensues.
- In The One With Monica and Ross's Cousin, Pheobe and Rachel throw a last-minute engagement party for Monica. They forget to invite her and she arrives to find no-one else in Pheobe's apartment, and they tell her that because it took so long to get hold of her everyone left. She says that that's fine; she gets all the presents without hanging round a bunch of people she doesn't even like ... and the 24 Hour Party People emerge from hiding, as Rachel mutters "Surprise..."
- Another surprise birthday party for Rachel in The One Where Rachel Smokes. They ramped up the surprise by holding it the month before her birthday.
Rachel: Oh, you guys, this is great! I mean, it's so unexpected! I mean, Chandler's birthday is even before mine.
(Beat, as they all turn awkwardly toward Chandler)
Ross, Pheobe, Joey and Monica: (to Chandler) Surprise!
- Bear in the Big Blue House had "Mouse Party," about a surprise party being held for Tutter the mouse's birthday. This was later adapted for theater as "Bear in the Big Blue House Live!: Surprise Party."
- On Modern Family, an attempt to throw one for Manny is a disaster for two completely unrelated reasons. First, Manny, thinking the house would be empty, has a girl he likes come over so they could have their First Kiss. The girl is understandably enraged to find out how many people saw the kiss. Then Gloria goes into labor, so Manny's little brother is born with the same birthday as Manny.
- In the opening of "The Red Barn" on The Mentalist, there is a surprise party for Teresa Lisbon having ten years with the CBI, disguised as a crime scene with a dead body that suddenly comes to life with Lisbon examines it, scaring the pants off her.
- The Castle episode "The Lives of Others" presents a memorable variation as Castle, stuck in the house with a broken leg and going a little stir crazy, is convinced that he sees a murder in an apartment across the street. Finally Beckett goes to the apartment in question to confront the supposed killer, only to have him pull a carving knife on Beckett while Castle watches from his window. Castle (on crutches) joins Ryan and Espinosa at the apartment, breaking down the door and staring into darkness...only for the lights to go on and Castle's family and friends shouting "Surprise!" Beckett staged the whole thing as a birthday present for Castle.
- A late-season episode of Adam-12 occurs on Officer Malloy's birthday. With the department having a few surprise parties in the past month, he fears that he'll have one which will interfere with his date that night. His partner, Officer Reed, keeps denying that there's a surprise party planned but a couple of cases of beer in the locker room arouse Malloy's suspicions. As it turns out, there is no party, at least not for him. The beer is for a party the next day celebrating the recuperation of a previously wounded officer, which was referenced in the briefing at the start of the watch.
- In As Time Goes By, Stephen tries arranging a surprise anniversary party for his wife Penny. When she notices his secretive behavior and accuses him of having an affair, Stephen "confesses" because he couldn't think of another excuse.
- After Rose on The Golden Girls has a heart attack, she ends up going to the hospital. When she gets out, the others decide to hold a surprise party for her, but get concerned that the sudden shock might trigger another heart attack. So when Rose enters, Blanche and Dorothy whisper "Surprise."
- In Criminal Minds, Reid starts to wonder if he should be doing something more with his life rather than stay in the FBI and thinks about leaving the team. At the end, he decides to stay, because the team is like a family to him. And as he enters the conference room, it turns out the team threw him a surprise birthday party. A family, indeed.
- In "A Couple of Choices" on Medium, Allison Dubois is forced to point out to her husband, Joe, that it's a bad idea to try to pull off one of these on a psychic, though he insists it was their kids' idea. Subverted at the end of the episode when Allison gets home and then finds out that there is no surprise party and that the party was actually cover for a surprise weekend vacation in Mexico for her birthday. Then Double Subverted when it turns out that she's already packed for the trip.
- In one episode of Full House, DJ is horrified to realize that she's forgotten best friend Kimmy's birthday, so the whole Tanner family scrambles to pull together an extremely last-minute surprirse party - which isn't a surprise, because Kimmy has been expecting that DJ will do exactly this. She unfortunately figures out the reality of the situation, and fights with DJ, but nevertheless appreciates the effort everyone made.
- Company starts (and ends) with the surprise party Bobby's married friends have thrown for his 35th birthday.
- In Pippin, Catherine gives Pippin a surprise dinner party to celebrate their six-month anniversary. Unfortunately for her, her quince pudding flambé and Theo's present of a flute don't prevent Pippin from suddenly deciding to leave her right then and there.
- A Franklin one, the entire plot of the game Franklin: A Birthday Surprise is based around the player helping the cast to plan a surprise party for Franklin's best friend, Bear.
- One point of Police Quest has Sonny participate in a surprise party for a fellow officer. Just before the party occurs, the other officer cries about how miserable his life is. He and his wife are estranged, his daughter is on drugs and she later dies from an overdose. When the party occurs, the other officer is embarrassed but rather honored.
- Funny enough, preceding the Franklin game was SpongeBob SquarePants: SuperSponge, where SpongeBob explores the world to buy party favors and collect things for Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy so that he can get an autograph from them to give as a birthday gift to his best friend, Patrick, as well as throwing a surprise party for him.
- Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG, item no. 1912: "No more surprise parties for the berserker."
- The Screen Junkies crew organizes a surprise wedding for Nick Mundy, where he was sent to interview his best buddy The Rock, but was instead brought to an aisle to marry his fiancee, and the marriage is officiated by The Rock himself.
- In the Arthur episode "Arthur's Birthday," this was Arthur and Francine's solution to the clash caused by Arthur and Muffy's birthday falling on the same day: They turn it into a surprise party for Muffy.
- In "Franklin's Party Plans" on the Animated Adaptation, Franklin and his friends throw Skunk a party because of a The Moving Experience situation - they think she's moving out of town and want to give her a good-bye party. It turns out she's only moving out of her old home in Woodland, but she appreciates the party nevertheless, as she was truly sad about moving, despite the fact that she wasn't leaving town.
- In "Franklin's All Ears," from the All-CGI Cartoon spin-off Franklin and Friends, Franklin and Snail both become convinced that Franklin's friends are planning one of these after Snail overhears a snippet of conversation and the two come to an incorrect conclusion. (They only wanted to give Franklin his lost soccer ball that they had found.) In the end, they end up having a party anyway because Franklin and Snail gathered up party supplies.
- "Hurry Up, Franklin!" has Franklin making his way to Bear's surprise party, but he gets distracted by his friends and various things he collects on the way. He helps Snail and him make it to the surprise just in time and gives all of the things he found, including Bear's missing blue cap, to Bear as a birthday gift.
- Holly Hobbie and Friends, a series of direct-to-DVD films featuring a character named after a popular author and illustrator, featured this trope on the debut DVD release, Holly Hobbie and Friends: Surprise Party, in which Holly and her friends (together known as the "Hey Girls"), plan and throw a surprise party for their Aunt Jessie.
- Mickey's Surprise Party, a Mickey Mouse short, involves Mickey holding one for Minnie.
- In "Surprise Party" on Dinosaur Train, Shiny, Tiny and Don throw a surprise party for Buddy on the Dinosaur Train and invite all of their best dinosaur friends to attend.
- Blue's Clues has "Joe's Surprise Party," in which the viewers are asked to keep Joe distracted while Blue and the cast finish putting together a surprise party for him. It works out very well.
- Dora escorts Boots to his own party in one of the first episodes of Dora the Explorer.
- In one episode of Rugrats, Stu plans a surprise party for his wife, Didi. He has one of the neighbors get her out of the house for the afternoon. Unfortunately, he is placed in charge of watching the kids when the ladies leave. They still managed to pull it off, though, though not without some grief on Stu's part.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Party of One," Pinkie Pie throws a great party for her pet's birthday, and then invites all of her friends to an after-birthday the next day, only to be on the receiving end of I Have to Wash My Hair and I Need to Go Iron My Dog excuses for why everyone can't come. She eventually blows up and then throws a party by herself with various Companion Cubes, until Rainbow Dash insists that she come to Sweet Apple Acres, where it turns out that she and the others have set up a surprise party for her. Pinkie had forgotten her own birthday.
- Pinkie herself threw a surprise party for Twilight Sparkle in the first episode, running off literally the very second they met to set it up.
- In "Mama, Don't Go" on Timothy Goes to School, new girl Juanita at Hilltop School doesn't want her mama to leave. The surprise party is how Juanita is eventually convinced to let her mother leave— it's her mother's birthday and the class needs her to leave so that they can put together a surprise party for her. Juanita actually tells her mother straight-up that she needs to leave for a while and then come back so that they can surprise her.
- In "Angelina's Irish Jig," from Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, after Angelina accidentally messes up Vicki's Irish music, she decides to throw her a surprise Irish party, but things are nearly ruined because Vicki overhears Angelina and the other characters whispering about her and thinks they're being mean.
- In "Goodbye, Mr. Pooh," from The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh's friends throw him one because they think he's moving away. Because of it, he actually does move away, but soon returns, only to find his house taken by Eeyore.
- A Couch Gag on The Simpsons, some of the show's supporting characters turn on the lights and yell "Surprise!" when the family runs into the living room. Homer suffers a heart attack as a result.
- In "Baileywick's Day Off" on Sofia the First, Sofia and her friends throw Baileywick a "Day Off Do-Over Party" after they ruined the holiday he was supposed to have that day.
- In "Blueberry Point" Grandpa is thrown one for his birthday. They put the finishing touches on the surprise party while Caillou is out with Grandpa on a trip to Blueberry Point.
- In another installment, Caillou and his friends hold a surprise birthday party for their playschool teacher, Miss Martin.
- In "Birthday Treasure" on Poppy Cat, a treasure map leads Poppy and her friends to a mysterious jungle, where they find a locked door that opens when Poppy blows a trumpet that she was given for her birthday. On the other side of the door is a surprise party that is the treasure of the treasure hunt.
- In the Detentionaire episode “The Tag Along”, Lee's friends organize one for him. Aside from being forced out into the rain by a fire alarm, it goes pretty well, though Lee is a little too distracted the whole time to really enjoy it.
- In "Happy Birthday Sweetheart" on My Little Pony Tales, one is held for Sweetheart at the end of the episode.
- In "Have You Heard?" on The Hive, Buzzbee and his friends decide to hold one for their teacher when Buzzbee partially overhears a conversation about somebody leaving the school. When they actually throw the party, the teacher reveals that it's actually the school cleaner who's moving away. They decide to continue the party anyway, as a celebration for the teacher staying. As for the cleaner... it seems nobody cares.
- A "Good Idea, Bad Idea" segment from Animaniacs features the bad idea of throwing a surprise party for your grandfather... who dies from shock.
- One is held for Madam Gazelle in "Madam Gazelle's Leaving Party" on Peppa Pig as a leaving party for Madam Gazelle because she had said that she was leaving. The whole thing is a misunderstanding of Peppa's; Madam Gazelle is only going to be gone for a week for a holiday. She even said "no playgroup next week," but Peppa didn't understand. Everybody else believed her because Everyone Went to School Together and so they know Madam Gazelle might be at the point where she'd want to retire.
- On Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Daniel and his friends / classmates work together to make one for Teacher Harriet's birthday in "Teacher Harriet's Birthday".
If you can't do it alone, work together!
- In "Year of the Pig" from Toot & Puddle, when Dr. Ha Song is homesick because he's not able to visit China for Chinese New Year, Toot, Puddle and their friends throw him a surprise Chinese New Year party complete with Chinese dumplings, Chinese music, paper lanterns and a dragon dance featuring a dragon costume they made themselves.
- In "Awesomest Day Ever" from Care Bears & Cousins, everybody but Funshine Bear and Wonderheart Bear sets up one of these for Brave Heart, while those two keep him distracted. Unfortunately, the other shenanigans going on, particularly a Two-Timer Date situation, pretty much end up destroying the surprise party, though they still manage to have a nice party with friends once they learn the aesop of the day.
- In one episode of Witch Irma doesn't want a surprise party for her birthday. Her friends throw her one anyway.
- In his book As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, Cary Elwes described a situation in which he had wrapped a day of work on the film, only to receive an emergency summons from one of the production assistants. He was needed on the set right away to redo a scene. He was told that he only needed to put on his costume as the Man in Black but not worry about makeup, as it was to be a wide shot. He didn't think it too unusual, as it wasn't all that uncommon for actor to be summoned back to the set if the director had realized that there was a shot that needed to be redone before they moved on the next filming location. However, upon arriving at the set, he noticed everybody standing around and a suspicious lack of activity. Everybody then moved aside to reveal a cape shaped like the Man in Black and began singing "Happy Birthday" to him, completely surprising him, as he had entirely forgotten it was his birthday.