Three otherwise average teenagers hatch a plan to throw the best birthday party ever and end up becoming legends after the most off-the-hook bash ever put on film in Project X, now playing in theaters everywhere. The found-footage comedy doubles as a cautionary tale for parents and a raucous celebration of the right to party until dawn or until a car ends up in the pool and cops are circling in helicopters overhead—whichever comes first.
Project X is the latest in a long list of movies about wild parties that stretches back all the way to Bette Davis telling her guests to "Fasten your seatbelts—it's going to be a bumpy night" in All About Eve. The most memorable ones always involve teenagers, like Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Superbad who transforms himself into a one-nerd sex machine named McLovin. Speaking of nerds, the Tri-Lambs in Revenge of the Nerds pair up with the sisters of an equivalent sorority for a party that upstages those by the popular Greeks. A fraternity of African-American players teaches the four travelers in Road Trip how to unlock their inner party monsters.
Lindsay Lohan—of all people—commits a party foul in Mean Girls by wearing a scary costume to a Halloween party when every other girl has used the holiday as an excuse to dress slutty without fear of ridicule. 10 Things I Hate About You might have been based on William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, but the keg stands and table dancing are straight out of the party handbook. Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) sees his house trashed and toilet paper strewn through the trees in his yard in Sixteen Candles when all he really wants to do is light Sam's (Molly Ringwald) fire.
Sometimes sci-fi, horror and fantasy movie characters get their party on before things get scary. In the opening credits of Hell Night, starring a college-age Linda Blair, a woman screams and a party rages out of control at a fraternity house before the bloodletting begins. Before those mechanical octopi burrow deep underground and attack Zion in The Matrix Reloaded, the denizens have what one reviewer describes as "an impromptu, inexplicable cave rave" of epic proportions that inspires Neo and Trinity to consummate their love. The Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring celebrate Bilbo Baggins's birthday with plenty of ale, weed and a fireworks display until the guest of honor literally vanishes before their eyes. In Iron Man 2, billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is so rich that he can afford to get drunk, put on his Iron Man suit and trash his beachfront home while his party rages on.
Did someone say Robert Downey Jr.? The actor might have since put his hard-partying ways behind him, but we're not sure if his coked-out party animal in Less Than Zero was art imitating life or the other way around back in 1987. Very Bad Things also featured a party that didn't end well with the hooker hired for the bachelor bash found dead in the bathroom. The same goes for the eponymous soiree in Bachelor Party during which a horse snorts up all the cocaine and ODs. A whole other kind of creepy takes place in Eyes Wide Shut when Tom Cruise stumbles upon a ritualistic orgy during which masks are not optional.
Arrested development causes some men to hold onto their party years long after last call. In Old School, Vince Vaughn, Will "Frank the Tank" Ferrell and a group of guys start a frat long after they have graduated college and inadvertently kill an elderly frat brother after he suffers a heart attack during a KY-jelly wrestling match.
Can't Hardly Wait doesn't just feature a party—it is a party movie from beginning to end. Like Project X, the cult teen movie features an out-of-control party complete with bathroom sex, drunken karaoke and declarations of love. The ultimate party movie remains Animal House, which changed the landscape of secondary educations forever by pairing togas and Otis Reading. Will Project X become this generation's Animal House? It depends on how many people crash the party at the box office this weekend.