What would you do for a million dollars? Movies make being rich look so boring; it seems that once you clear a certain tax bracket, the only form of entertainment left is to dangle incredible fortunes or experiences in front of the noses of the less fortunate. In House on Haunted Hill, Geoffrey Rush offers six average joes a cool million each if they can last the night in his spooky mansion. Does anyone ever wind up collecting in these sorts of situations? Here’s a survey of cinema’s kooky millionaires and the misery that comes from taking their bait.
• Katherine Hepburn as Violet Venable, Suddenly Last Summer (1959)
This rich widow offers to build a young neurosurgeon (Montgomery Clift) his own clinic if he’ll simply perform a no-questions-asked lobotomy on her sexy niece. One snag — it turns out the girl’s brain is just fine the way it is, thanks very much. What will he choose? What sounds like a Saw-esque premise plays out in a gorgeous series of intense monologues by Hollywood’s best actors.
• Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
People seem to recall this movie with equal parts nostalgia and dread. Pitting five children against each other in one ethical quandry after another, the erratic and manipulative Wonka hopes to bequeath his opulent sweet-house to the best of the bunch. He’s intent on punishing the greedy and gluttonous — but by hiding his Golden Tickets in candy bars, what kind of crowd did he expect to draw?
• Richard Attenborough as John Hammond, Jurassic Park (1993)
Charming and grandfatherly on the surface, this wealthy patron of the sciences dares researchers (and his lawyer) to spend a weekend at his new dinosaur theme park, hoping they’ll give it their seal of approval. Instead, they discover that the park is just a megalomaniac’s fantasy, jam-packed with dangerous monsters and unfortunate technical glitches. The movie lets Hammond off easy — in Michael Crichton’s book, he is devoured by his own creations.
• Robert Redford as John Gage, Indecent Proposal (1993)
All these other convoluted scenarios make Redford’s gambit seem almost tame — all he wants is quality time with another man’s wife, and is willing to part with a million bucks for the pleasure. Turns out that’s not quite the compliment he seems to think it is. Doesn’t he have a big haunted mansion they could spend the night in instead?