GFT Blog: Most Memorable Party Scenes

To celebrate the release of Sally Potter's The Party, the GFT team write about their most memorable on-screen party scenes.

Write to us and tell us your favourite party scene and we'll publish a second blog with audience choices! Suggestions must be received by Tuesday 24 October to be included.

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Baz Luhrmann really knows how to throw a party. From the flamboyant Capulet Ball in Romeo & Juliet, to the bohemian circus of the Moulin Rouge – his parties are big, bold and full of colour. Gatsby’s parties are no exception in the 2013 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the mysterious millionaire host. The champagne is flowing, the dancers are flamboyant and the music is vibrant in this opulent visual feast of excess and indulgence. With a modern twist on the era, the soundtrack features music from Beyoncé, Jay Z, Lana Del Ray and Florence & the Machine. “A little party never killed nobody”… 

The Great Gatsby (Baz Luhrmann, 2013)

Sarah Emery
GFF Guest Coordinator  

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“I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.” Bilbo’s one hundred and eleventieth birthday party had everything; drama, comedy, spectacle and an introduction to the hobbits that served as a perfect start to the trilogy. It’s an early display of Peter Jackson’s mastery of sets, effects and the balancing of numerous characters and their personalities. The tone is perfect and sets the audience off on the grand adventure that is Lord of the Rings.  

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)  

Gavin Crosby
Design and Digital Coordinator

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A mid-90s showbiz party, high in the Hollywood hills. Bland triphop-infused music plays as expensive clothes waft around a flawlessly appointed room. Hollywood parties in the movies often seem unreal in their sterility and yet oddly convincing for the very same reason. Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), a saxophonist struggling with the suspicion that the host may be sleeping with his wife, downs a Scotch. He is ill-at-ease but attempting to keep his cool. He notices an older man observing him from across the room, and is mildly amused by his appearance – translucent skin and no eyebrows. The mystery man (Robert Blake) approaches and as the music fades away amusement turns to fear. “We’ve met before, haven’t we?” is the menacing opening gambit. What follows is the antithesis of cocktail party small talk, involving a call home and a terrifying, impossible laugh in stereo, traversing time and space. “As a matter of fact, I’m at your house right now.” Best. Party. Scene. Ever.  

I don’t get invited to many parties.  

Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)  

Matt Lloyd
GSFF Director

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The party scene in Trading Places is one of the most memorable party scenes I’ve ever seen on screen – although this might partly be because I saw it on VHS when I was about 12 and was actually really shocked by it!  It’s a brilliant culmination of Billy Ray Valentine’s (Eddie Murphy’s) assimilation into his new lifestyle, where he no longer finds his old friends or their party lifestyle desirable or acceptable.  It really illustrates the clever role reversal where his behavior begins to emulate that of Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Ackroyd) – the snobbish wasp that Billy Ray is ‘replacing’.  It’s a brilliant scene that features the super hip track, ‘Do You Wanna Funk’ by Sylvester, and exceptional facial expressions from Coleman the butler (Denholm Elliott) as some of Billy Rays’ more exhibitionist ladyfriends disrobe!

Trading Places (John Landis, 1983)

Rachel Fiddes
Festival Manager

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I'm a MOUSE. DUH.  

Everything about that Halloween party scene. And everything about Mean Girls in general.

Mean Girls (Mark Waters, 2004)

Margaret Smith
Press & Marketing Coordinator

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37 years ago, in France, there was a party to end all parties: La Boum, starring Sophie Marceau. Paris of la petite bourgeoisie, mopeds, adolescent temper tantrums, dreamy teenage heartthrobs, first kisses, parental chaperoning (berk!), parental infidelity, one very bad pop song that would not go away (Reality by Richard Sanderson), and the title boum, a very big party. What the John Hughes films were to teenagers of the ‘80s in the English-speaking world, La Boum (and dare I say, even La Boum 2) was to French ados.  

And even though my French mother was already 23 and pregnant with her second child when this film came out, she too took some form of teenage delight in this film and its two main party scenes. This joy was passed along to all of her children so that by the time I was eight, I could harmonise with Sanderson (“Dreams are my reality / The only kind of real fantasy”) as Matthieu (Alexandre Sterling) musically transports Vic (Marceau) away from the party by smoothly sliding a pair of headphones over her ears. If that slow dance doesn’t make you believe in love à la française, I don’t know what will.  

La Boum (Claude Pinoteau, 1980)

Daniel Boden
GFT Front of House

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We’ve carried the watermelons, dried ourselves from the river and purposefully not cleaned our lycra. Everyone is together and the lights are burning. I still get goosebumps thinking about that dance, the celebration of love and… those hips! It’s a summer of escapism and abandon.  So, let’s sing just one last chorus… join hands and hearts and voices, voices, hearts and hands because this summer, no-one puts baby in the corner.  

Dirty Dancing (Emile Ardolino, 1987)

Jodie Wilkinson
Public Engagement Coordinator

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The party that immediately sprung to mind for me comes from Pedro Almodovar’s 2006 drama Volver. The central character, Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), has been entrusted with the keys to her local restaurant while the owner is on holiday, and when a local film crew come round asking if the restaurant can put on a wrap party for them, Raimunda spontaneously agrees. She ropes in friends and acquaintances to help, and cooks up an incredible spread. The scene beautifully brings together some of the film’s key themes – community, food and memory – but is taken to a whole other level when Raimunda agrees to sing with some of the film’s musicians. She sings the song that gives the film its title, and Cruz’s performance here is so moving (and made even more impressive by the knowledge that she is lip-syncing), full of depth of feeling, telling the story of her life in her eyes. 

Volver (Pedro Almodovar, 2006)  

Paul Gallagher
Marketing Manager

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Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita features a succession of lavish parties amongst the rich and famous, as it follows the flamboyant encounters of Marcello Rubini (Marcello Mastroianni), a journalist writing for gossip magazines, over a seven day period in Rome at the turn of the 1960s. Marcello parties hard in his fruitless search for love and happiness. Parties spill out from their boundaries, porous with everyday life into the Roman streets, as in the iconic scene of Anita Ekberg’s wading into the Trevi Fountain in her glamorous gown. La Dolce Vita fittingly won an Oscar for Best Costume Design. Parties become synonymous with the architecture and glitterati life of post-war Rome. What makes La Dolce Vita the ultimate party film is that Fellini depicts partying as a motif for life’s endless pursuit for happiness . A parade of extravagant characters and situations – comic and fun, yet bitter-sweet and melancholy at the same time  

La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)

Liana Marletta
Development Executive

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A haunted house. Ghosts. Ghouls. Murder. Mayhem. Oh, and Vincent Price. What more could you ask for in a party, or indeed, in a film? 

The party takes place at the titular location, where Frederick Loren (Price) has invited a group of strangers for a fright night that could well be their last. If they survive, they will each be awarded ten thousand dollars. The catch? The doors will be sealed at midnight, and they cannot leave until the next day.  

The film was directed by William Castle, and in keeping with many of his other features, it was released in conjunction with a fresh gimmick to draw in audiences, in this case: ‘Emergo’. As a result, the film is a well-constructed exercise in suspense, with each new scare meticulously timed for maximum effect. Predictably, Price is wonderful, and clearly relishes the opportunity to play the ultimate horror host. Check out this party, if you dare.  

House on Haunted Hill (William Castle, 1959)

David Rush
GFT Volunteer

Write to us and tell us your favourite party scene and we'll publish a second blog with audience choices! Suggestions must be received by Tuesday 24 October to be included.

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