Top 15 TV Birthday Parties That I’ve Rewritten Into Horror Movies

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To celebrate Autostraddle’s 15th birthday, I offered to make a list of the Top 15 TV Birthday Parties, but I was challenged to push it a bit further, make the list a little more me. So instead, here is a list of the Top 15 TV birthday parties that could easily turn into horror movies, with little-to-no tweaking. As someone with plenty of birthday-related disasters of my very own under my belt, this exercise was a bit cathartic. Even the birthday where everyone I knew got a horrible case of the flu wasn’t as bad as some of these.

The following re-imaginings were inspired by this summarization of the Glasgow Willy Wonka experience catastrophe:

Come with me on a twisted birthday journey!

15. One Day At A Time: “Quinces” (Season 1, Episode 13)

One Day at a Time: Elena fights with her mother and grandmother while wearing a dress

I often felt like I could spontaneously combust when forced to wear a dress.

In some alternate universe, this episode of One Day at a Time begins similarly — you have a bad coming out experience, your family is trying to make you wear a dress, at a party where the attention is all on you — but it ends very differently.

Instead of a group hug, you could have snapped. Think less The Prom and more Carrie.

14. Gilmore Girls: Rory’s Birthday Parties (Season 1, Episode 6)

Gilmore Girls: Emily Gilmore pulls a reluctant Rory along

“Can’t even run, can’t even hide…”

It’s your birthday. Your mother and grandmother are fighting. Instead of just taking you to TGIFriday’s, your grandmother insists on throwing you an elaborate party. And worst of all: she’s invited all the kids from your class. All of them. These bratty rich kids decide they want to play hide and seek… but before they begin, they smile wickedly and ask if you’ve seen the movie Ready or Not.

13. Grey’s Anatomy: “Invest in Love” (Season 6, Episode 8)

Grey's Anatomy: Callie and friends throw a Surprise Party for Arizona, who promptly burst into tears

This would also be my reaction if someone threw me a surprise party.

I actually think this one is already a horror story! Arizona had to fight with rich people, work with Owen, lost a patient, had a surprise party thrust upon her (nightmare), and came home too late for sexytimes with a now-too-sleepy Callie. Worst birthday ever.

12. Friends: “The One Where They All Turn 30” (Season 7, Episode 13)

Friends: The titular Friends sit around a table for Rachel's 30th birthday

Worst game of Werewolf ever.

You wake up on your 30th birthday. At first everything seems fine. And then you look around. Your group of friends includes a pair of practically incestuous narcissist siblings, a misogynist everyone thinks is charming because he’s not smart, and a Nice Guy™.

What’s worse, despite being in the center of New York City… everybody’s cis, straight AND white. Chilling.

What’s worse: you found out one of them is a serial killer and have to figure out which one before they realize you’re onto them.

11. Cruel Summer: “Happy Birthday, Jeanette Turner” (Season 1, Episode 1) & “Happy Birthday, Kate Wallis” (Season 1, Episode 7)

Cruel Summer: Young Jeannette Turner wishes on a cupcake

Be careful what you wish for.

These birthday parties actually speak for themselves. Teen girl drama is its own deeply traumatic tale, and Cruel Summer adds literal kidnapping to the regular fighting and slapping and friend stealing and rumor spreading.

Plus, Jeannette Turner’s short-hair wig is enough of a horror story all by itself.

10. Rugrats: Tommy’s First Birthday (Season 1, Episode 1)

Rugrats: The titular rugrats crawl around acting like dogs

The kids are not alright.

It’s your baby’s first birthday. You catch him trying to eat dog food but think nothing of it, plopping him back in his high chair. Later, at the party, you see all the kids following the dog around. Just kid stuff, you brush it off. They eventually slip out of your eyesight and you find them with dog food smeared all over their faces, barking at each other.

You and the other adults have a laugh about it and decide to put them in their playpen. But as you carry your baby back to the living room, he starts to growl. You look down at him to laugh at him continuing his play but you see that his usual gummy smile is replaced by a mouth full of tiny fangs. And you swear you feel his skin starting to grow fur.

9. Wynonna Earp: “Purgatory” Season 1 Episode 1

Wynonna Earp: Wynonna gets a text from Waverly that says "happy birthday"

Having to take a bus on your birthday is actually terrible.

It’s your 27th birthday. You’re on a bus. You just watch a girl die before she could finish her chestnut latte. You inherited your family’s demon-hunting curse. It’s already the worst birthday ever. And then: you have to go back… to your small-town, small-minded hometown where your sister is dating someone named Champ. :shudder:

8. Riverdale: “Chapter Ten: The Lost Weekend” (Season 1, Episode 10)

Riverdale: Betty holds a birthday cake

I think Dark Betty maybe sang this rendition of Happy Birthday.

You just want to celebrate your birthday quietly with your polycule and some old movies. But suddenly things spiral into something much bigger. The resident lesbian mean girl shows up with the entire school. There’s underage drinking, there’s fighting, there’s general mayhem. It’s starting to remind you of your 16th birthday… but the Gargoyle King is there. And the Trash Bag Killer. Oh god is that The Milkman? Who invited La Llorona??

(This one doesn’t take TOO much imagination; these are all literal villains in the teen dramedy Riverdale… they just weren’t all at one party. Probably.)

7. Skins: “Pandora” (Season 3, Episode 4)

Skins: The teens stand in Pandora's bedroom in the matching pjs she made them

Take the landlines off the hook and never run upstairs, girls.

This Skins episode already has all the makings of a slasher: all teen girls sleepover party, the only adult is drugged and out cold, matching silly pajamas, ecstasy brownies, boys trying to sneak in, lesbians kissing in a bounce house.

All it needs is a Ghostface or two making prank calls and lurking outside the windows to make this a real party.

6. Broad City: “St. Marks” (Season 2, Episode 10)

Broad City: the titular broads scream in an alley

Tell me this doesn’t look like a still from a horror movie.

This episode is easily turned horror story by just making it a little more dreamlike. It’s not that Abbi and Ilana planned to spend Ilana’s entire birthday on St. Mark’s, it’s that they were trying to pass through and realized when they exited one side of the street, they re-entered on the other, a la FROM. Everything else they deal with becomes a little more sinister with that bent, like trials they have to endure, reality they have to parse, before they can earn their escape… or die trying.

5. Russian Doll: literally just the whole show

Russian Doll: Nadia takes a joint from her friend who just called her a sweet birthday baby

I barely want to go to parties once, let alone a hundred times.

Nadia takes it in stride, but the concept of living the same day — your birthday which is simultaneously your death day — over and over and over again??? That’s it, that’s the horror movie. I know this is classified as a comedy, but it’s already a more sinister concept than a lot of thrillers I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a lot of thrillers.

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “A New Man” (Season 4, Episode 12)

Buffy: Willow and Tara float a rose together, if you know what i mean

“I heard you like magic, I’ve got a wand and a rabbit.” – Chappell Roan

You and your girlfriend sneak away during your best friend’s birthday to… do some magic together, if you know what I mean. You get a little too enthusiastic, the vibes are off quite literally — your magic wand goes haywire. Oh gods, it’s possessed by a demon, and now instead of magical sexytimes you have to spend the rest of the date talking about your ex vanquishing the demon in your magic wand.

It’s your friend’s party, but you can cry if you want to.

3. Legends of Tomorrow:Tender is the Nate” (Season 4, Episode 6)

Legends of Tomorrow: Sara is in a trenchcoat with just lingerie on underneath

Imagine being interrupted before getting to unwrap this present??

You’re at your job, being a boss bitch, and your smokin’ hot girlfriend shows up in a trenchcoat, ready to be unwrapped for your birthday. The music is sultry and romantic… but then the violins get slower, the music gets eerie, some base notes hit, and before you know it, your girlfriend is hiding under your desk and you’re talking to a cis straight white man named Hank.

He asks, “Do you want to play a game?” and a small clown puppet rolls in behind him on a squeaky tricycle.

2. Supergirl:The Martian Chronicles” (Season 2, Episode 11)

Supergirl: Alex holds a cupcake with a candle on it

Imagine your girlfriend inviting you to see Barenaked Ladies instead of barenaked ladies.

Speaking of Saw: picture this. You wake up in a Jigsaw trap. There are two doors and you must choose one.

Behind Door Number 1: your sister, who is your best friend, and it’s her birthday… but also she’s moping about the most boring boy on the planet, maybe beyond.

Behind Door Number 2: your girlfriend, one of the hottest women on the planet… but she wants to take you to a Barenaked Ladies concert. Choose wisely.

1. Xena: “Many Happy Returns” Season 6, Episode 19

Xena: Xena and Gabrielle fly off into the sunset

“Sisters? We’re close.”

It’s your girlfriend’s birthday. You plan a whole vacation for her, take her to the literal isle of Lesbos and have LITERALLY SAPPHO write a love poem about her. You give her the poem and beam at each other and you literally fly off into the sunset together.

And then, decades later, history called you best friends. In the afterlife your spirit is doomed to roam this earth with the unfinished business of convincing everyone you were not just gal pals, haunting anyone who says otherwise.

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Valerie Anne

Just a TV-loving, Twitter-addicted nerd who loves reading, watching, and writing about stories. One part Kara Danvers, two parts Waverly Earp, a dash of Cosima and an extra helping of my own brand of weirdo.

Valerie has written 548 articles for us.


  1. It’s Phoebe. Phoebe is the serial killer. For the next hour you’re involved in a game of life-or-death cat-and-mouse with her. But you manage to sneak up on her and kill her. You’re safe. Until you turn around and see her with a big knife. It was never Phoebe. It was her twin sister Ursula all along.

  2. It’s you so I knew there would be at least on Buffy birthday episode. But A New Man is easily the LEAST horrific Buffy birthday episode! Or did you just decide they were all horror enough already and leave them out?

    • haha yeah, and I originally started this list thinking I was only going to include queer people, and I was already committed to that scene by the time the list evolved. But you’re right, the rest would have been too easy!

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