The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire Million Dollar Question Thread

Hiya, all. As a fan of game shows, and someone who’s fascinated by what writers consider to be “million dollar questions,” I’ve started this thread. I’m armed with million dollar questions from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire editions from around the world, derived from both personal viewership knowledge and the wonders of YouTube. All questions I’ll present in this OP, and later on in follow-up posts, were answered successfully for the top prize unless mentioned otherwise.

Join me in both a little discussion of the nature of trivia, a culture’s and location’s effect on common knowledge bases, and trying to answer some tough trivia (without Google!).

First of all, we all know that some questions are easy only if you’re part of the culture from which it derives. (Feel free to skip answering these, natch; just demonstrating the point.)

To take it from the other side, as tough as a question like this might be for a European, it would probably be nigh-impossible for the average American:

However, I’ve found that this can extend even beyond questions about a specific culture or nation. For example, Ecuador’s first millionaire answered a question I thought would be further down the ladder in America or the UK:

Sure, you could argue that a South American probably wouldn’t know much about northern hemisphere history, even an important figure as that; the opposite would probably be true. But then I looked at Austria, where a series of clips of past millionaires showed that, on one hand, they were not expected to know much about Greek mythology, even parts that many other Westerners (even Americans) might be expected to know…

On the other hand, they are also comfortable with questions that would be right at home in America…

This is the kind of consideration I find really interesting. It’s one reason why I enjoy watching foreign game shows, especially ones also done in the U.S. It’s a fascinating comparison of values and expectations.

More million dollar madness later!

I’m only confident of my answer to the penultimate question you list, because we studied it in junior school. For the others I would make the following guesses - on none of them would I gamble ~£500k:

B, B, A, C, A, C (the one I know) D.

I think most Britons would struggle with the 3rd question - we don’t take much interest in the EC. I don’t know whether or not this is different in mainland Europe. I would also agree with your opinion on the Marco Polo question - though it’s not easy, it’s probably more £250k level in Europe than the one mil.

I think the questions you have highlighted as being easier for Americans are still fair game for use in Europe, as they are still “General Knowledge”, just more difficult if you are not American. For example, I would say it was fair to have a question such as “Who was the first signatory to the US Constitution?” in Europe, but not “Which of the following is illegal under California state law?”.

Bump, partly to see if anyone else is interested, but mainly because I want the answers! By the way, I’m changing my first answer to A, having glanced at some of the recent threads on Big Brown!

Canadian, here.

Which of these is not one of the American Triple Crown horse races?

A) Arlington Millions

Which of these U.S. Presidents was not also Vice President?

B) Jimmy Carter

Which of these men did not serve on the European Commission?

This is where I’d burn my lifelines and still have to guess

Italian trader Marco Polo was a diplomat to the court of what ruler?

B) Kublai Kahn

What was the name of the Greek muse of lyric poetry?

After using lifelines, I’d guess A) Euterpe

What Greek hero is known for killing Medusa?

B) Jason

What actor’s birth name was Bernard Schwartz?

A) Tony Curtis

So I’m confident on 5 out of 7, half-confident of the sixth, no clue on the seventh.

You sure? I was certain it’s


Perseus, unless Clash Of The Titans lied to me

First order of business: answers - A, B, C, B (oops, it was from the Columbian Millionaire), A (the fact that none of the other choices were actual Muse names was key in my ponderings on how Austrian writers view the common citizen’s knowledge of Greek myth), C, A

Keep in mind, by the way, that unless I mention otherwise, all of these questions were answered correctly for millions of dollars/euros/whatever!

Anyway, considering my musings: what makes for a good million dollar question? Some say that this next one, which was not answered, epitomized the “just right” question in terms of difficulty:

It certainly makes the grade for interest. Everyone knows about it, and everyone just assumes that it was because of the U.S., so we’re immediately interested to see it’s not the case.

Then there are some that skirt the edge of “too hard,” yet somehow people answer right…

As it turns out, the margin of time being talked about here is extremely slim (although that itself might be a reason some might remember enough to get the right answer). Yet the fact that it was answered, and by an Australian, makes me wonder if that’s enough.

Then there are questions that I personally wonder whether it might be too easy - but then I realize that I don’t know enough about how widespread that particular bit of knowledge is…

I believe I ran across it in my readings, but how likely is anyone else to? Am I that more well-read?

What about subjects where a little personal observation of life should tell you the answer, but most people simply don’t bother with? Does that make a question “too easy”?

Then there are the cultural-specific questions, the ones that you’d expect to only be asked in a particular country, because only someone there would have even the slightest hope of answering:

Yet, as I show above, America-specific questions have been asked in foreign countries all the time! Is this a symbol or indicator of our cultural reach?

Still got at least two more updates worth of questions. Answers and discussions of the issues presented here or in the OP more than welcome!

I don’t have much constructive to add other than my gratitude for showing us this, Leaper. Cool stuff that I hadn’t even though of - although now I’m sure I’ll be cursed with constantly noticing it! :stuck_out_tongue:

It didn’t. Jason, of course, killed campers.

On the second set, guessing for all of them, I’d go C, D, A, C, A. I think all of these are perfectly reasonable questions, consistent with the show’s question types but at an appropriate level of difficulty.

Sorry for the late update!

First, answers!

C, A [it premiered a year before the others, which all premiered in the same year - what I meant by the reason someone might remember, what with three well-known and popular shows all starting in the same year], C, A, B

Continuing my thoughts on the million dollar questions I’ve seen so far, I see that science is a popular category in general. It is, after all, universal; everyone uses Latin for scientific names, and the rules of physics and such work the same here as they do in Europe. Plus, now that I think about it, I feel like science and its history is expected to be a universal point of knowledge as well. It’s as though all of humanity shares an interest (as in self-interest, not “eagerness to know more”) in this particular subject. I guess that makes sense, since science determines how and why EVERYTHING works…

Of course, that still doesn’t keep some such questions from being, as I noted before, harder or easier depending on nationality…

Speaking of that “it’s only easy because you live there” quality, it’s interesting to note that even then, that’s not always the case. The following was a one million pound question even though it was about British history, specifically royalty, the one part of it you’d think would be generally common knowledge. I’m not sure why it’s so difficult, not having that British perspective. OTOH, it was the first top question answered correctly…

More questions and related thoughts later!

(Though I’m running out of unifying themes, so the commentary may have to be specific. :))

[Gets pencil and paper for first question]Hmm, well, it’s certainly not calcium - wait, bones and teeth are heavy! Damn, probably not Iron then, it’s heavy but I don’t think we have loads of it (I know it’s in the blood, but hey), we’re two-thirds water, which contains oxygen, which has atomic mass 16, but on the other hand we’re carbon-based life-forms, right? I’m gonna go with C.

I’m pretty sure A is the answer to the second one as it is the (common?) oak this one and the previous one I might actually go for if I were on the show, though I’m much more confident on the second than the first.

The third I have no real clue except I don’t think it’s C, I thought his time was a bit before Kant’s but I may be mistaken. I have a feeling it’s A but I wouldn’t go for it for real.

The fourth one again I have no idea except I don’t think it’s C, I’m going to guess B.

The last one I remember the answer is B again I doubt I would have known before the question was “made famous” - bear in mind all those kings lived before 1500, some may have had more than one wife (and probably several mistresses), so it’s not exactly common knowledge - you would have to have studied English history to degree-level at least to be confident as the period in question is not covered in most schools.