The Greatest Turns in Cinema

It’s your turn” are some of the most important words ever said on screen. Why could that be? And what are the greatest turn-taking moments ever? Take a look.

Look at a normal story arc. A protagonist  has to overcome a major challenge using their wits, skills or by learning a lesson. Have I oversimplified a century of cinema? Surely not, but just think about all those films that involve chasing the girl to the airport, hitting a winning home run or convincing the board not to shut down the mom and pop small town company.

So why are turn-taking games important? They either provide the perfect venue for a character to step up to the plate in an arena (Daniel-san chopping ice blocks in Karate Kid II, Bill and Ted facing off against the Grim Reaper, any wedding where a character cant’ bring themselves to say ‘I do‘), or if they are truly a game of chance that can upset the entire normal narrative apple-cart (drawing straws in Armagedon or any other film) . Thought the hero was going to succeed? Well chance just got in the way. Thought it would be easy? Well he just draw the short straw on a freaking asteroid.

Well here are the best turn-taking games in film history and why.


Casino Royale – The Poker Game

Many films have had poker tournaments. None included a man having to restart his own heart while gambling his government’s money. A battle of wits, double bluffing, bleeding eyes and it’s only half way through the film – this is James Bond’s greatest moment to shine.


The Deer Hunter – Russian Roulette

It’s no wonder there’s no world champion gamblers from Russia if they’re all playing Russian Roulette. In the most famous scene from the Deer Hunter everything comes down to chance, leaving the audience just as in the dark as the characters to what will happen next.


The East – Hippy Spin the Bottle

Where spin the bottle usually leads to giggles and make-outs in the East it’s a game of character reveals. Where the first spin leads to a one-minute hug it’s clear the game is there to give people a way to connect. The game builds until we realise not only the inner workings of the eco-terrorist group but also the sexual tension between inspiration leader Benji and undercover agent Sarah.


Raiders of the Lost Ark – Marion’s Drinking Game

There’s no chance here, it’s all skill. Where a love interest is often introduced by showing her long legs, this chick is slamming down vodka and out-drinking the hardest men of Nepal. This drinking game establishes Marion as a physical and mental equal to our Indy and someone to keep an eye on.


The Princess Bride – Battle of Wits

As our hero chases down cruel villian Vizzini to free the princess a stand off is reached. Appealing to his ego he challenges him to a game of wits – one wine glass is poisoned, one is not – the game is hilariously subverted by the foxy, though maybe not so brave, Man In Black. A subtle wink to stand-offs through the ages.

No Country For Old Men – Anton Chigon’s Coin Toss 

This game of chance is not only a vehicle for the plot, it’s the entire message of the film. How can you understand the world when it seems to make no sense and chance is rampant? Strictly speaking Chigon’s coin toss for his potential victims isn’t a turn taking game – there’s only one turn and you get it right you live, get it wrong you die. However you still don’t want to hear this guy pull out his coin and tell you ‘call it’.