Lottery Themes In TV & Movies
Last week we revealed an upcoming EastEnders lottery storyline where a major character wins a large jackpot on a scratchcard. It’s hardly a new concept, lottery wins are a common plot in TV and movies, so common, in fact, that we’ve decided to write a follow up to our previous post on the subject.
Lottery Themes In TV
In an episode called “The One With The Lottery” the Friends gang get lottery fever after Phoebe’s psychic predicts that they will win the lottery. In the end even sceptic Ross is won over. However they soon begin squabbling as to how to divide the winnings causing Phoebe to throw the tickets away. (She should have bet online with Lottoland!)
In the US adaptation of The Office a syndicate of warehouse workers won a large jackpot and weren’t subtle in their celebration. They ran through the office and mooned fellow staff members before quitting their jobs. The rest of the staff are dismayed and, with no warehouse workers to fulfil a large order, are forced to do the heavy lifting themselves.
Last time around we talked about when Springfield got a dose of lottery fever, but it’s not the only animated town to experience it. In the town of Quahog, Rhode Island, Family Guy Peter Griffin got such a severe dose that he ended up sending his family to the poorhouse, having spent every single penny they had on tickets. One of those tickets proved to be a winner, however, and the Griffins became overnight millionaires.
Of course Peter Griffin is not a man known for his smart investments. I mean how much do you think the Petercopter and the Hindenpeter set him back? Indeed smart isn’t a word that one can readily apply to Peter Griffin, unless you’re talking about his smart-ass comments. So it should come as no surprise that he blew all his family’s winnings thus ensuring everything was back to normal the following week. Well, normal for the Griffins anyway.
Winning Numbers: 3, 31, 0, 8, 44, 17
In a storyline no doubt inspired by the success of the Children of Men movie adaptation, this American TV series is set in a dystopian future where a pandemic of infertility has ravaged the planet. In America only 100 human embryos exist in the hands of the “Department of Humanity” – who use a lottery system to divine who shall give birth to the children. The show’s grim subject matter was perhaps the reason it only ran for one season.
In an episode called “Lotto Fever” the Cold Case team investigate a mechanic who, having won the lotto, seems to have spent all his money before winding up shot. It’s not the first time lotteries and whodunnits were combined. In “Death Hits The Jackpot” Columbo investigates a man who, while going through a bad divorce, wins the lottery and ends up murdered – though obviously Columbo gets to the bottom of it all.
Lottery Themes In Movies
Willy Wonka/Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Lotteries aren’t meant to be played by minors, but chocolate-coated nutcase Willy Wonka didn’t care – he hid a handful of golden tickets inside his famous Wonka chocolate bars and those lucky enough to find one got treated to a tour of his ultra-secret Chocolate Factory – with hilarious consequences. The classic Roald Dahl book remains a firm children’s favourite for over half a century and was the subject of both a 1971 movie with Gene Wilder and another with Johnny Depp in 2005, directed by Tim Burton.
Based on a short story by sci-fi master Phillip K Dick (on whose works movies like Bladerunner, Total Recall and Minority Report are based) Paycheck is a fiendishly clever sci-fi techno thriller starring Ben Afleck. As with much of Phil K’s work it involves plenty of time-based paradoxes that – spoiler alert – results in the main character being able to predict a future lottery draw!
Winning numbers: 17, 44, 4, 26, 37, 40, 22
Friends star Lisa Kudrow is back in another lottery story, this time starring alongside John Travolta. Lucky Numbers is a black comedy about a broke and morally dubious weatherman looking for a way to rig the state lottery so he can pay back his debts and come out rich on the other side. As you can expect not everything goes quite according to plan. Well worth watching if you fancy a few giggles.
Winning numbers: 22, 70, 16, 9, 27, 07
In this black comedy protagonist Ben’s lifelong infatuation for co-worker Lucy is finally reciprocated after he claims a $36 million state lottery win. Only there’s a slight snag – Ben’s a serial killer who killed, among others, the really lottery winner. And when Lucy finally discovers this things get a little complicated, to say the least.
Ned Devine wins the lottery – then immediately dies of shock. His best friends decide that his good fortune need not die with him and therefore set out to claim the winnings “in his memory” by defrauding the lottery inspectors. Think Weekend at Bernies meets Father Ted as protagonist Michael and his friends go to hysterical lengths to sustain the illusion that Ned is alive and well in a small, nosy Irish village. The movie stars James Nesbitt and veteran Irish actor David Kelly – who also starts in the 2005 Willy Wonka adaptation, but is probably best known to British audiences as the bumbling builder O’Reilly in Fawlty Towers.
Winning numbers: 19, 40, 4, 7, 25, 29
Yup, we’re so amazing they made a movie about us! Well, ok, you got me – this movie came out in 1995 and has nothing to do with us, other than having a similar name and featuring a lottery win as a plot device. Lotto Land was an independent movie set in the mean streets of New York combining an often-gritty setting with themes about following your dreams and finding love. To quote the movie, “if you can buy your dream for a dollar, that’s all it’s worth, ain’t it?” We couldn’t agree more.
A man named Tepper finds a wallet on the way home from work, and does the decent thing by tracking down the owner and letting him know he found the wallet. It later transpires that the wallet contained a winning lottery ticket worth $6 million. The twist is that Tepper and his friends have a weekly poker game where a lottery ticket is thrown into the pot, and he uses the lottery ticket he found, not realising that it was a winner.
It Could Happen To You
Perhaps one of the best-known movies about a lottery, It Could Happen To You stars Nicolas Cage as a cop who, having been caught short changed at a diner, offers to pay his waitress (played by Bridget Fonda) with a lottery ticket on the promise that, should his numbers come up, he’ll split the win. After the numbers do come up Cage decides to honour his promise – much to annoyance of his wife (played by tempestuous squawk-box Rosie Perez). If you haven’t seen the movie you should check it out – it’s a funny and touching story about greed versus integrity and finding true love.
Winning numbers: 6, 12, 16, 26, 64, 08
This lottery-based comedy features the acting talents of Bow Wow and Ice Cube. It did not get a great critical reception. The movie follows Kevin (Bow Wow) as he discovers he has won an enormous $370 million fortune, and the complications that ensue when his friends, family and neighbours find out.
Following up on our article about an upcoming lottery win on EastEnders we look at even more TV shows and movies with lottery themes.
The 6 Best Movies About Winning the Lottery – The Health Lottery
The lottery captures our imaginations. Winning a jackpot – and deciding how to spend it – makes for a fascinating film plot. We’ve listed the all-time best movies about winning the lottery, so you can feel the thrill of picking a winning ticket (that is, until it really happens to you).
1. It Could Happen to You
Based on an incredible true story, the 1994 film It Could Happen to You stars Nicolas Cage as a New York City police officer and Bridget Fonda as a waitress. The pair end up winning the lottery, splitting the cash and (spoiler alert!) falling for each other. While the premise is based on reality, the true-life twosome didn’t actually fall in love. They do remain friends – and wealthy ones, at that – to this day.
2. 29th Street
Another film based on a true story, 29th Street tells the tale of Frank Pesce Jr. (played by Anthony LaPaglia) who is blessed with the gift of luck from the moment he’s born. In the 1991 film, Pesce’s mother was meant to give birth in one hospital and instead went to another. The first hospital burned down. He continues to be lucky throughout his life in Queens. His father, who is a very hard-working but less fortunate man, gets jealous. The tension comes to a head when Frank Pesce Jr. (played by Danny Aiello) becomes the first winner of the New York State Lottery.
3. Finder’s Fee
In this 2001 drama directed by Jeff Probst, a man named Tepper (played by Erik Palladino) discovers a wallet on the street. He contacts the owner of the wallet (played by James Earl Jones) only to find that inside the wallet is a lottery ticket worth millions of dollars. The action rises when Tepper’s usual poker crew arrives for their regular game, this time with higher stakes than ever before. It begs the question: What would you do with the winning ticket?
4. If I Had a Million
This 1932 classic tells the story of a steel tycoon (played by Richard Bennett) who decides to give one million dollars to each of eight strangers randomly selected from the phone book. This plan isn’t just about altruism: he’s preventing his inheritance from falling into the hands of his greedy family. The lucky recipients include an elderly woman, an entertainer, a marine and an office clerk. While these winners didn’t actually win the lottery, the film shows how each of the recipients use their newfound fortune, and how it impacts their lives.
5. Waking Ned Devine
In this 1998 indie film, two friends, Jackie O’Shea (played by Ian Bannen) and Michael O’Sullivan (played by David Kelly) learn that an elderly member of their village, Ned Devine, has won the lottery. Jackie and Michael go to visit him at his home but find that the newfound millionaire has died from the shock. The lottery rules require that Ned be the one to claim the award, but the townspeople don’t want to give up the cash. Instead, they join together to convince the inspector that Michael O’Sullivan is, in fact, Ned Devine.
6. Welcome to Me
This 2015 dark comedy starring Kristen Wiig tells the story of Alice Klieg, a young woman with Borderline Personality Disorder who hits it big in the lottery. Flush with her winnings ($86 million, to be exact) Alice stops taking her psychiatric medication and pays for her own talk show, inspired by Oprah. Suffice it to say that the fame-hungry Alice lacks Oprah’s prowess, but her misadventures make for excellent comedy.
After watching these films, you may find yourself tempted to play the lottery yourself. Try your hand at the Health Lottery. With a little luck, your cinematic fantasy might just come true.
Want to daydream about winning it big while playing the lotto? The Health Lottery blog lists our favorite lottery-themed films for your next movie night.