Follow TV Tropes


A Birthday, Not a Break

Go To
Whether or not you want the cake, you're getting a slice.
"Oh, man. Not on my birthday."
Lilo Pelekai, Lilo & Stitch: The Series ("Amnesio")

Something awful happens. The lovers finally break up, the heroes get captured, a beloved character dies, The Bad Guy Wins... and after the smoke clears, one of the characters suddenly remembers that today is their birthday.

Used to heighten the dramatic irony of something so tragic happening on what is supposed to be a happy day, and symbolizing how the character(s) will never be the same.

Alternately the character is aware it is their birthday, in fact, there's a party just for them. But during the party there is an attack, a conversation between two characters, a revelation, etc. that disturbs (and often ends) the party. Basically the party is used as a reason to have all the characters be in the same place. That way they are conveniently together when the supervillain attacks instead of needing to be called, especially crucial if the characters are adults with day jobs or secret identities and wouldn't naturally be spending time together without a cause. This party is why the people who have been avoiding each other will finally have to talk. This gathering of people is how the secret comes out (someone reveals it not knowing it's a secret or someone being drunk both common causes) and the revelation has more of an impact because now everyone knows not just the few people it effects.


Compare/Contrast Ironic Birthday, which is when the bad thing in question has to be kept a secret, and the character in question doesn't remember their own birthday until the party. Not to be confused with Birthday Party Goes Wrong, where it is the party itself that goes south rather than that something unrelated to the party causes trouble. Related to Dangerous 16th Birthday, Worst Wedding Ever (when Played for Drama) and Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday (when the horrific events happen because it's a special day, birthdays included.) See Shoddy Shindig for boring parties.



    open/close all folders 
  • There's a Public Service Announcement showing a little girl's birthday party. The girl and her mother are both excitedly waiting for her father to get back with the birthday cake. They run out to the driveway when they hear a car door slam, only to find a police officer instead of the father. The mother bursts into tears while the girl struggles to understand what's happening. The now grown-up girl explains that her father was killed by a Drunk Driver and she now spends her birthdays visiting his grave.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 7's two-part finale, a complication leads to the Supermen evacuating Planet Xing at the request of several of its inhabitants, with their non-biological mechanic father Doctor H. watching over preparations for a party that the citizens are preparing for their birthday for when they get back. The Supermen would rather be on the planet celebrating their birthday.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the prologue of Brave, on Merida's sixth birthday she and her parents are attacked by the monstrous bear Mor'du and her father ends up losing a leg.
  • The Emperor's New Groove
    • Virtually the entire film-in which Kuzco almost dies numerous times, undergoes a Forced Transformation, is days long distance away from home, has his worldview questioned for the first time in his life, and passes Despair Event Horizon-happens on his eighteenth birthday and the days before and after.
    • Also parodied. After discovering that the villain Yzma and her Dumb Muscle sidekick Kronk have coincidentally showed up at the same diner he and Kuzco have stopped at, Pacha buys her a surprise birthday cake and song from the wait staff so that he can use the distraction to make a break for it. When Yzma and Kronk leave the diner, this exchange happens:
      Yzma: Oh, this entire mess is all your fault!
      Kronk: What'd I do?
      Yzma: If you hadn't mixed up those poisons, Kuzco would be dead now! There'll be no more diversions until we track that llama down and kill him!
      Kronk: Said I was sorry. Can't just let it go... not even on your birthday?
  • Encanto: For the children of the Madrigal family, their fifth birthday is a celebration, since that's when they get their Gift (a superpower). For Mirabel, however, her birthday is quite the opposite, since she's the only child who didn't get a Gift for her birthday. Instead it became one of fear and confusion, with the villagers considering it to be a "disappointment", and Alma Madrigal worrying that Mirabel would endanger the Miracle somehow.
  • My Sweet Monster: Barbara's dad and their servants won't cut her some slack even in her sixteenth birthday. He has a fit when he learns she is reading romances, forbids her from receiving anything from mail (so she won't get more books) and has her dolled up for a party obviously thrown to impress the public. And then he announces her marriage to the same repellent post clerk that tried to blackmail her into kissing him minutes ago. To be fair, her father was being blackmailed by the forementioned clerk and felt terrible for doing that to his daughter, but no one can blame Barbara for thinking he was just screwing up with her again. That's the last straw for the girl: she rides away, pursued by her suitor, falls from her horse, hits her head and wakes up into a a sack and in a cave with two hairy, filthy strangers who want to take her back to the castle for a ransom.
  • Sleeping Beauty: The main conflict of the movie begins when Maleficent casts a curse on Aurora that on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Merryweather alters the curse so that Aurora doesn't die, she just falls into a Forced Sleep which can be broken with True Love's Kiss.
  • Storks: Nearly happens to Tulip, who thinks Junior was coming to wish her a happy birthday when he was actually coming to fire her. Junior can't bring himself to do it, so instead, she's Kicked Upstairs to the (defunct) letters department.
  • In Turning Red, assuming Tyler's birthday party is happening on the same date as his actual birthday, it's when he gets attacked by Mei in panda form after he insults her mother and family temple.
  • The Wallace & Gromit featurette The Wrong Trousers opens on Gromit's birthday. Not only does he get lousy gifts, it's the day Wallace advertises he's renting out the spare room and Feathers McGraw moves in, kicking off a series of events that leads to Gromit moving out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne has a party on his birthday. Before that he has to save Rachel from the baddies and demolish half the city escaping from police. Nevertheless, he makes it home in time for his celebration party... only for the League of Shadows to set Wayne Manor on fire and nearly destroy the city with Scarecrow's fear toxin.
  • In Big Game, most of the second and entire third act take place on Oskari's thirteenth birthday. His family even made it into tradition - to become a man, you have to hunt down a "big game" the day you turn 13.
  • The Hong Kong film, Burning Ambition have a mob boss being attacked by enemy mooks while he's celebrating his daughter's birthday, where both his daughters and younger son who's having the birthday celebration with him have to fight off the mooks to protect their father. By the end of the fight, the son and the younger daughter, the birthday girl, dies trying to save their father.
  • Eternals: On Dane's birthday, after celebrating with friends and receiving a ring with his family crest from Sersi, Sersi and Sprite are attacked by the Deviant Kro while walking home at night. Sersi has to spill the beans to Dane about the Eternals and their mission, and she and Sprite leave him to join up with the other Eternals.
  • Donald from Eyes of Laura Mars gets murdered on his birthday.
  • In Godzilla (2014), the Janjira incident that resulted in the death of Joe Brody’s wife occurred on his birthday.
  • Tree of Happy Death Day has to relive her birthday over and over because she is being killed on that day.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione remembers that it's Harry's birthday after the ¡Three Amigos! has escaped a Death Eater attack.
  • Happens in Mrs. Doubtfire - twice!
    • Early on in the film, Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) throws a big party for his son Chris's twelfth birthday, despite his wife Miranda (Sally Field) saying Chris can't have a party due to his bad grades. The party ends up becoming a wild mess, with farm animals roaming around thanks to a traveling petting zoo, and loud music leading to the police coming to respond to a noise ordinance violation. Their neighbor Gloria calls Miranda to come home from work early, leading to the party ending early and Daniel and Miranda getting into a big fight over it, leading to her wanting a divorce, setting the film's plot underway.
    • Later on, it's Miranda's birthday, and she's invited her kids, her new boyfriend Stu, and their housekeeper Mrs. Doubtfire (unbeknownst to her that she's actually her ex-husband Daniel Disguised in Drag). As a prank, Mrs. Doubtfire laces Stu's jambalaya dish with the pepper he's allergic to. But among seeing Stu choking from the pepper, Mrs. Doubtfire has a change of heart and performs the Heimlich maneuver on Stu, dislodging the piece of tainted shrimp from Stu's throat and saving him... but gets his Latex Perfection mask as part of his "Doubtfire" disguise dislodged. Miranda is absolutely horrified by this revelation that she gets very angry and upset, so she grabs the kids and leaves the restaurant in a fury.
  • In The People Under the Stairs, on the day of Fool's 13th birthday, he and two grown-ups break into the house of two greedy landlords to get money to pay their rent and his mother's operation. They find something much more disturbing instead.
  • In The Room, Johnny finds out his fiancee Lisa cheated on him with his best friend on his birthday. He ends up killing himself over it.

  • In "Joe Bean", sung by Johnny Cash, the title character (guilty of robbery and murder) gets hanged on his birthday. The song ends with the prison staff singing "Happy Birthday, Joe Bean" as the gallows lever is pulled.
  • In "It's My Party", sung by Lesley Gore, the singer's boyfriend steps out during her birthday party to propose to someone else.
  • Taylor Swift discusses this in two tracks off of Red (2012).
    • "The Moment I Knew" is about the narrator's boyfriend blowing off her birthday party even though he promised he'd be there, which is the final nail in the coffin for their relationship.
      What do you say,
      when tears are streaming down your face
      in front of everyone you know?
      And what do you do when the one who means the most to you
      is the one who didn't show?
      You should've been here,
      and I would've been so happy.
    • The 10-minute version of "All Too Well" mentions the same incident, revealing it was specifically her twenty-first birthday, and that her father could only watch sadly while she kept hoping he'd show up.
      He watched me watch the front door all night,
      willing you to come.
      And he said, "It's supposed to be fun...
      turning twenty-one."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • A running gag is to have a wrestler take an especially harsh thrashing if a show happens to fall on their birthday, bonus points if the thrashed are a baby face and even more it is also in their hometown.

  • In Julius Caesar, Cassius realizes it's his birthday right before the battle where he's killed, after having noticed a ton of bad omens about the battle.
  • "See, I'm Smiling" is one of the most depressing songs in The Last Five Years, which itself is basically Love Hurts: The Musical. It's here that Cathy has a massive fight with her husband, realizing their marriage is damaged beyond all hope of repair, and she finally voices her (correct) fears that he's cheating. The fact that this is all happening on her birthday is just the cherry on top.

    Visual Novels 
  • In CLANNAD, Kotomi Ichinose's parents died in a plane crash on her birthday.
  • In The Fruit of Grisaia, Sachi Komine's parents were run over by a truck in front of her on her birthday, killing her father and leaving her mother in a coma.
  • In Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair, it is revealed in the good ending and post-game content that her older sister Reiko died on Raiko's tenth birthday, a traumatic event that made Raiko into the person she is when the game begins.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in DEATH BATTLE!. Deadpool and Pinkie Pie were made to fight each other on the former's birthday, much to his annoyance. After Pinkie finds out, she throws him a birthday party in Ponyville, abruptly ending the fight much to Wiz and Boomstick's confusion.
  • In GoAnimate "Grounded" videos, Caillou will have this happen to him. Sometimes he'll do something bad and wreck his chances, but most of the time, groundings are his presents.
  • When Jaiden Animations was streaming her Pokémon Platinum Nuzlocke, she lost her entire run to the Elite Four, which prompted her chat to reassure her to start over and actually beat the Elite Four and Cynthia, which she managed to do on her second try. However, she saw this as a Pyrrhic Victory, and that she didn't deserve to win the Nuzlocke, which she incorporated into the animation as her being split in half by Giratina and the half of her that falls into the Distortion World having to endure the Nuzlocke loss, while her other half has to endure the guilt of not feeling she deserves the victory. The kicker? ...The stream where she ended up losing the Nuzlocke happened on her birthday, and her chat told her to restart the fight because they didn't want to see her suffer on her birthday.
  • RWBY: In Volume 5, Yang assumes that Weiss doesn't understand loneliness because she comes from a large family with a lot of shared activities; Weiss tells her what the Schnee family is really like to live with by using her tenth birthday as an example. Her mother called out her father for missing Weiss's birthday dinner, leading to Jacques snapping and admitting he only married her for the family name. Willow was so devastated that she turned to drink, eventually becoming a drunkard who can never be relied on to attend social events, support her children's activities, or even be a parent at all.

  • Inverted in chapter four of Angel Down, which is a slower placed Slice of Life collection of vignetes covering Ariel's birthday, setting it apart for the comics usual action heavy tone.
  • This Channelate strip plays this for laughs, with someone deciding that it's best to break bad news to someone in a good mood...
  • In Unsounded, Duane Adelier and his daughter were heading home on her birthday, when they were both brutally murdered by a group of muggers. One of the last things Daune saw before his eyes were gouged out was his daughter's lifeless corpse lying in front of him.
  • Sluggy Freelance: In "Stick Figure Tales of Cotton", Dr. Ironologue is squashed by a giant gorilla and then remarks that it was ironic because it's his birthday, but the others don't buy it. It's a lot less subtle than the usual example.
  • In The Young Protectors, Kyle ends up having to deal with a crisis on his birthday, because turning 18 makes him fair game for supervillains, which the Annihilator exploits to spring a Honey Trap, use Kyle's power to communicate with a Demon Lord, and open a Hellgate.
  • Although not quite in the trope's order, Grace of El Goonish Shive learns that her 18th birthday is the next Saturday while she's being held captive by Damien, from another captive. Prior to that, she didn't even know how old she was.
  • Neko: The Cat: Everything in Michiko's life started going wrong on her 10th birthday, when her mother killed herself in front of her.

    Web Original 
  • Worm:
    • Taylor just can't catch a break.
      Kurt: [chuckling] I'd offer you a drink, but that'd be against the law. How old are you, anyways?
      Taylor: Fifteen.
      Danny: Sixteen.
      [Taylor turns to look at her dad]
      Danny: It's the nineteenth. Your birthday was a week ago.
      Taylor: [remembering she was fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine then] Oh.
      Kurt: That's the saddest goddamn thing I ever heard.
    • Later, Taylor is celebrating another birthday when Jack Slash begins his attack, heralding the end of the world.

    Web Videos 
  • Whenever it's a birthday for a member of Hat Films, a special video goes up of the other two planning a "special treat" for the birthday boy. Recent birthday videos have essentially been the other two members physically and psychologically torturing the third with "birthday quizzes", where wrong answers end in destroyed gifts and having to eat food with a new ingredient that makes it taste disgusting. Ironically, their previous birthday videos just involved opening fanmail.

    Real Life 
  • Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly shared a birthday with his son, Hunter. On the day that Hunter died, it dawned on his grandmother that he died on his best friend's birthday.
  • Bob Weir's mother died on his father's birthday. A week later, his father died on his mother's birthday.
  • During the filming of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Julie Dawn Cole, who played Veruca Salt, had to record the "I Want It Now" musical number on her 13th birthday. The number ended with her going down the garbage chute.
  • Many people, such as Ingrid Bergman and Franklin D. Roosevelt, died on their birthday. There is some (though not definite) evidence of death being likelier to happen on or near one's birthday than on other, random days.
    • Among people who died on their birthday, spare a thought for James Milne Wilson, the eighth Premier of Tasmania. His birthday was February 29th.
    • There is a common misconception that William Shakespeare died on his birthday, stemming from confusion between the Julian and Gregorian calendar dates.
  • Reginald Carr was sentenced to death on his birthday for committing the Wichita Horror with his brother. The brother of one of the victims wished him a "Happy Birthday".
  • Sally Field's mother, actress Margaret Field, died on Sally's 65th birthday (November 6, 2011).
  • John Wayne Gacy's final victim, 15-year-old Robert Piest, was kidnapped and murdered on his (Piest's) mother's birthday.
    • William Carroll, another Gacy victim, was also killed on one of his family member's birthday...his older brother's to be more precise.
  • Breck Bednar, a 14 year old British boy, was murdered by an online predator grooming him on his mother's birthday.
  • While making True Lies, Jamie Lee Curtis filmed the scene where she dangles for her life from a helicopter on her 35th birthday.
  • Country music superstar Merle Haggard died on April 7, 2016, his 79th birthday, of pneumonia (after suffering for several years from a variety of (mainly respiratory) illnesses).
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan collapsed on his birthday during his band's Live Alive tour in Germany, which was eventually determined to be due to the cumulative effects of heavy alcohol and cocaine use. On the plus side, this indicent would ultimately change his life for the better, as it proved to be the wake-up call he needed to go to rehab and get clean for good.
  • UCLA football coach Jim L. Mora was fired on his birthday in 2017.
  • Youtuber Corey La Barrie was killed by his drunk-driving friend as they were celebrating Corey's 25th birthday in 2020.
  • Sesame Street director Lisa Simon died on April 4, 2015, the day of her 64th birthday.
  • While filming The World Is Not Enough, Robbie Coltrane spent his birthday submerged in a vat of caviar.
  • For the Doctor Who episode "Utopia", John Barrowman performed the stunt where Captain Jack runs and jumps onto the TARDIS on his birthday.
  • Kate Winslet gave Saoirse Ronan a birthday surprise during the filming of Ammonite by having the shooting schedule changed so that their sex scene would be filmed on said day.
  • Ozzie Nelson's father George died on Ozzie's 21st birthday.


Video Example(s):


Murray's Worst Birthday

Murray the Cop had a rough day on his birthday. He arrested DJBJ for dancing in front of the kids in his undies, then arrests Davo Dinkum for theft, and Rocky had gone a step to far, making Murray upset, so he arrested him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ABirthdayNotABreak

Media sources: