The delight on Bear's face means it was done right.
Worf: Because it is my birthday I assumed that you or one of the others would try to mount an unexpected social gathering.
Riker: A surprise party? Mister Worf, I hate surprise parties. I would never do that to you. ....
Riker: I love surprise parties.
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 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
Note that due to the surprise party's nature as an ending trope
in many cases, you will find plenty of unmarked spoilers here.
open/close all folders
Anime and 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.
- 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 such to the Cutie Mark Crusaders in an attempt to obfuscate the fact that nobody had ever given her The Talk.
- 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.
Live Action TV
- 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 was a disaster for two completely unrelated reasons. First, Manny, thinking the house would be empty, had a girl he liked come over so they could have their First Kiss. The girl was understandably enraged to find out how many people saw the kiss. Then Gloria went into labor, so Manny's little brother was 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.
- Company starts (and ends) with the surprise party Bobby's married friends have thrown for his 35th birthday.
- 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.
- 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 of Franklin, 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.
- 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.
- Obligatory My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic example— 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 the ruined the holiday he was supposed to have that day.
- In "Blueberry Point" on Caillou, one is given to Grandpa 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.