It’s not quite high-stakes poker and we certainly can’t envisage Christopher Nolan devising a scene where 007 battles it out with a super villain over a game of bingo, but that isn’t to say that the game isn’t suited to the silver screen – emphasis on the silver…
This game which is readily associated with nursing homes and cramped community centres has actually been incorporated into a number of Hollywood movies throughout the decades, being used by directors as a narrative device to inject drama, comedy and moments of calm in all manner of films.
In this article we take a look at some of the most famous examples of bingo in movies.
Big Momma’s House 2
In the 2000s it felt as though Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence and Will Ferrell were coming out with a slapstick comedy every five minutes. One of the classics of that genre is Big Momma’s House which saw Martin Lawrence’s character, an FBI agent, go undercover as an old woman.
In the sequel, Big Momma’s House 2, Martin Lawrence’s character goes undercover to a retirement home to help solve a case. Instead of combing the area for clues he ends up playing bingo with the residents and wins every single round.
He then teaches one of the residents how to win bingo after the eye of suspicion is cast upon him.
If you’ve ever watched Peter Kay’s stand-up, Phoenix Nights or Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere, you’ve undoubtedly heard jokes about this film. The premise to this movie sounds like the setup to a joke but we promise you, it’s not…
In Cocoon a group of aliens return to earth in 1985 to retrieve 20 or so aliens who were stranded on the lost city of Atlantis 10,000 years ago – it gets weirder…
Naturally the aliens must setup an operations base one earth before mounting the rescue and they do, right next door to a retirement home. Their base just so happens to have a swimming pool which is filled with rejuvenating water intended to be used by the rescued aliens.
Three pensioners from the home however decide to use the pool and begin to experience the rejuvenating benefits of the water.
We won’t spoil the ending for you, or try and confuse you anymore than we already have, but all you need to know is there is a scene in the film in which the residents play bingo with an alien…
This one is way, waaaay more straightforward. In Bad Grandpa, Jackass legend Johnny Knoxville dons an incredibly convincing prosthetic costume to take on the character of Irving Zisman, an 86-year-old retiree.
In one scene Irving takes part in a game of bingo with regular players who don’t have a clue that Irving is Knoxville in disguise. In the scene Knoxville/Zisman speaks to many of the other players and has a lot of conversations that aren’t particularly becoming of an 86-year-old.
In the best moment he drinks the bingo marker fluid much to the shock of everyone around him.
Whilst bingo isn’t the most glamorous of games and certainly isn’t known for moments of high drama like poker, blackjack and roulette, it still has been used as a narrative device in movies down the years.
Typically however filmmakers tend to focus on the more stereotypical portrayals of bingo, which can be seen from the examples used above. Whilst there is an element of truth that bingo is a favourite amongst the older generation, that misses out its growing popularity amongst the younger generation.
In recent decades bingo has undergone somewhat of a makeover, largely thanks to online and mobile bingo sites and the biggest demographic is now people in their twenties. Perhaps in the coming years we will see bingo being portrayed in movies with much younger actors!