Stories About People Becoming Suddenly Rich
July 12, 2017 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Hi Brilliants! Happy Wednesday :) I'm trying to compile a list of stories that are about people who have become suddenly rich. (Specifically because of an inheritance). I'm interested in works of fiction, theater, movies, tv, myths, folktales, songs, real news, etc. I'm interested in exploring archetypal commonalities in these sorts of stories and thematic links. Since it's quite a broad thing to search I'm interested in anything that you remember seeing, reading or hearing about, something that may have made an impact on you. Or if you can't think of anything but you have a specific fantasy of becoming rich and want to share how you think that might play out that would be great too! Thanks so much!
posted by sunnyblues48 to Media & Arts (37 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Dickens writes about several characters becoming suddenly rich when a strange inheritance is doled out in Our Mutual Friend. This is an extremely common Victorian trope, of course—you can also try Trollope in Ralph the Heir, which involves the competing claims of two possible heirs to an entailed estate.
posted by Polycarp at 8:47 AM on July 12, 2017

Jane Eyre.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:48 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

My first thought was Dickens, too, but Great Expectations.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett is a children's classic about a wealthy little girl who's relegated to poverty after her father dies, then her fortune is restored years later.
posted by Kriesa at 9:03 AM on July 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Unexpected royalty payment, not inheritance: Steven Universe episode "Mr. Greg"
posted by adiabatic at 9:03 AM on July 12, 2017

You could almost consider a sub-genre of that have African-American main characters. Definitely some commonalities there and problematic portrayals of stereotypes and culture.

Trading Places
Brewster's Millions
Diff'rent Strokes
posted by brookeb at 9:06 AM on July 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

TV Tropes: Rags to Riches
posted by bluecore at 9:06 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

In addition to above answer, perhaps Nouveau Riche and Acquired Situational Narcissism tropes as well.
posted by WCityMike at 9:10 AM on July 12, 2017

In The Five Little Peppers, a whole family (consisting of a widowed mother and her five children) is basically adopted by a rich guy. This happens in the first book ("The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew"). Wikipedia lists a total of twelve books, and as I recall, some of them deal with their lives when they were poor and some after they became wealthy. (This was really confusing to me as a child. Also, my mother bought the whole series at an auction, and I didn't know there was a specific order to read them in.)
posted by FencingGal at 9:11 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Murnau's The Last Laugh
posted by Chenko at 9:16 AM on July 12, 2017

Like a quarter of all the regency historical romances I read are about people who suddenly inherit or disinherit a fortune. The most recent addition to my to-be-read pile is this one: A Most Unlikely Duke but there are lots of others where the impoverished cousin suddenly inherits the dukedom because the presumptive heir dies in a tragic accident (or was it?) and then there will be a whole series of books in which the newly rich cousin and his newly rich sisters all get married to people who are also super rich and titled.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:23 AM on July 12, 2017

To add to Brookeb's observation, The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire gets to have its cake and it eat too with Will Smith's character receiving all the benefits of an upscale lifestyle while being in a position to criticize the habits/cluelessness of the wealthy.
posted by Dmenet at 9:31 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Roy Cockrum (previously on the blue), a former monk, won the lottery and handled it in a unique way.
posted by minervous at 9:33 AM on July 12, 2017

There is a TV series titled My Lottery Dream Home that showcases lottery winners buying their dream homes (airing now on HGTV). One "archetypal commonality" that stood out to me after watching several episodes is that most people just want a nice place to spend time with family and friends. I was expecting all these stereotypically dysfunctional lottery winners looking for over-the-top places to show off their newfound wealth but it's mostly nice folks looking to have fun with their loved ones.
posted by rada at 9:38 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Subverted in The $30,000 Bequest.
posted by Candleman at 9:43 AM on July 12, 2017

I can't believe I'm going to suggest this on Ask, but the John Goodman movie King Ralph fits. That movie was very loosely based on the novel Headlong.
posted by maurice at 9:48 AM on July 12, 2017

It's pretty devastating to watch, but Reversal of Fortune is a documentary that follows a homeless man who is basically handed $100,000
posted by Mchelly at 10:03 AM on July 12, 2017

Philip Greenspun's essay on his personal experience with Early Retirement.
posted by Nelson at 10:15 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

The weird last season of Roseanne.
posted by Bromius at 10:20 AM on July 12, 2017

Downton Abbey
posted by amtho at 10:35 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

The movie Millions explores how poor folks cope with a literal windfall, which they must spend immediately.
posted by Jesse the K at 10:37 AM on July 12, 2017

The plot of A Portrait of a Lady turns on an unexpected large inheritance for the about-to-be-genteelly-poor main character.
posted by praemunire at 10:39 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

> the John Goodman movie King Ralph

Also Mr. Deeds, Slumdog Millionaire, and Trading Places, off the top of my head.
posted by kindall at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Pope Francis
posted by brent at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2017

Spend Spend Spend the play and Spend Spend Spend the musical
posted by TheRaven at 11:53 AM on July 12, 2017

I basically just started going through movies tagged with Inheritance on IMDB. A lot of the ones I'm looking at are more about impending or hoped for inheritances, but I think it's close enough to be worth mentioning if you're just for people's thoughts on what they'd do if they got rich as well.
The Glass House

And while skimming that list I came across this movie:
The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday
Which I have and will not see (or have any idea how to find), but I admire the title.
posted by Green With You at 12:04 PM on July 12, 2017

The Cat Who... series of mystery novels, specifically, from The Cat Who Played Brahms on. The protagonist inherits a fortune with the caveat that he live in rural Michigan. The rest of the series follows his exploits as a philanthropist with a psychic, crime-solving cat.
posted by donajo at 12:07 PM on July 12, 2017

Here's a sad true story from my home state.
posted by jmsta at 12:21 PM on July 12, 2017

I would have thought that this would have been caught in the TV Tropes entry for Rags to Riches linked above, but how about "Little Orphan Annie"? It's not exactly an inheritance story -- if anything it might actually be the opposite of inheritance (i.e.: getting money due to the sudden gain rather than loss of a family member).
posted by mhum at 3:13 PM on July 12, 2017

The Collector A bullied bank clerk ,butterfly collector, inherits estate , takes a fancy to Samantha Eggars .
posted by hortense at 5:48 PM on July 12, 2017

My first thought was this episode of the TV show "Life". This episode features several characters in a support group for lottery winners who are trying to cope with their sudden windfalls.

However, the entire show "Life" is also kind of about the topic-- the main character is released from prison and awarded millions in damages for a wrongful conviction at the beginning of the first season. The show does a fair amount with the weird ways he tries to cope with the money being intended as recompense for the destruction of his entire world based on doctored evidence.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:45 PM on July 12, 2017

I super love the movie It Could Happen to You.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 6:46 PM on July 12, 2017

Paul Auster's novels usually have some character who becomes suddenly rich. Can't remember any concrete examples offhand though
posted by dhruva at 9:40 PM on July 12, 2017

Welcome to me
posted by Dwardles at 6:25 AM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's a BBC series called Loaded that's coming to AMC.
posted by kindall at 3:39 PM on July 14, 2017

Accidentally ran into The Syndicate and remembered this question.

"Each series features a different group of people whose lives turn upside down after they jointly win the lottery."

Looks like there are three seasons.
posted by porpoise at 7:51 PM on July 26, 2017

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