Striking it rich
With Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot promising to pay out at least $1.6 billion — making it the biggest lottery jackpot in history, if anyone wins — players everywhere are already dreaming about what to do with their potential prize. In honor of the big drawing, let’s take a look at some movie and TV characters who hit it big, and how they handled it.
Welcome to Me
Kristen Wiig plays a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery, gets off her meds, and uses her winnings to buy her own talk show. She’s inspired by Oprah (who isn’t?), but her version takes on a bit more of a peculiar angle.
The final season of the first iteration of Roseanne was surreal, to say the least. Among other interesting developments, the Conner family wins the lottery at the beginning of season 9. It isn’t the Mega Millions jackpot — they get more than $100 million from the Illinois state lottery — but it’s enough to change quite literally everything about their life and family dynamic. And then, spoiler alert, the show’s series finale reveals that everything in the season has been a fever dream of Roseanne’s (Roseanne Barr) in an attempt to reconcile with Dan’s (John Goodman) death — including the lottery win.
This short-lived NBC show (it occupied ER’s time slot during a hiatus) was about a group of friends in an anonymous small town who collectively win $400 million. The series didn’t last quite long enough to really dig into the characters’ lives, but, as can be expected, sharing instant wealth came with some complications for the friend group.
Waking Ned Devine
This is kind of like Weekend at Bernie’s meets While You Were Sleeping meets… anything with a lottery plotline. The 1998 indie comedy opened with an old man winning the lottery and promptly dying of shock. Not wanting to let the winnings go to waste, his neighbors team up to (attempt to) impersonate him and claim the money.
It Could Happen to You
When a New York City police officer (Nicolas Cage) is short on money to tip his waitress (Bridget Fonda), he promises to either double the tip or halve his potential lottery winnings with her the next day. Guess what? He wins! You know what, a $2 million tip is pretty amazing, but falling in love with the man you split the winnings with… well, yeah, it’s fine, but did we mention the $2 million tip?!
It’s a cardinal rule of Lost fandom that you must have the following numbers committed to memory: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. When Hurley (Jorge Garcia) played those numbers in the lottery on the hit ABC series, he won big… but the subsequent series of unfortunate events led him to believe the numbers were cursed. That minor detail hasn’t stopped fans from trying their luck in real life: In 2011, thousands of fans matched four of those numbers in a Mega Millions drawing and won $150 apiece. That’s not a multimillion-dollar jackpot, but it’ll still buy a good amount of Mr. Cluck’s.
The No. 1 lesson from this 2010 film: Don’t win the lottery over a holiday weekend. Recently fired Foot Locker shoe salesman Kevin (Bow Wow) finds this out the hard way when he wins $730 million but is unable to cash his ticket until after the Fourth of July holiday. The next three days prove to be the longest of his life as loan sharks, neighborhood bullies, and women with hopes of getting knocked up all pursue him. He eventually makes it out in one piece (barely) and ends up putting his winnings toward helping his community and starting his own sneaker company. Take that, Foot Locker!
Pooling for lottery tickets with your closest friends seems like a great idea — just imagine the Dinosaur/Amelia Earhart theme park you could build! — until competitive natures and unruly pigeons swoop in with catastrophic results. On the hit NBC sitcom, Monica’s (Courteney Cox) greed leads Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) to threaten to toss the bowl of tickets over the balcony, but when a bird scares her, she ends up accidentally dropping them for real. Luckily, the gang still wins… $3. Less luckily, a stranger finds one of their lost tickets on the street and takes home $10,000. But hey, friendship is more important that money, right? Monica has other ideas: “I’ll buy new friends, and then I’ll pay for their plastic surgery so they look just like you!”
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The search for Willy Wonka’s golden tickets prompted a worldwide frenzy on par with any Powerball jackpot. And while the winners didn’t earn a cash prize, they did get a grand tour of Wonka’s mysterious, magical factory (at least until some of those Oompa Loompa-soundtracked detours kicked in).
The Hunger Games
To put it mildly, this is one drawing where you definitely don’t want to hear your name called — instead of a jackpot, your “prize” is fighting for your life inside an arena alongside your fellow kill-or-be-killed “tributes.” To paraphrase Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), may the odds (of not being picked) be ever in your favor.