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Russian Roulette

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"Six chambers. One bullet. You like those odds?"

"My father was a judge. That surprises you. He used to make my mother and me watch people being hanged. One day, he said there was too much bad in this world. He took a bullet, put it in his gun, and spun the chamber. Then he took it in turns, clicking it at each of us, until he blew the back of his head off with the final click. Understand this: There is nothing on this Earth that frightens me now. Nothing."

Russian Roulette: A lethal game of chance for one to six players.


  • 1 revolver note 
  • 1 round of ammunition


  1. Load one chamber.
  2. Half-cock the hammer to free the cylinder.
  3. Spin it.
  4. Fully cock the hammer to stop it.
  5. (Alternative for double-action revolvers) With the cylinder swung out to the side, spin it and slap it back into the frame.


  • Each player, in turn, puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger.
  • First player to die loses.
  • Portrayals of the game differ as to whether the cylinder is spun after each trigger pull. If it is, the game can continue indefinitely with a 1 in 6 chance of hitting the loaded chamber each time. If not, there are a maximum of 5 chances to not die, the odds decreasing by one with every pull of the trigger, assuming the cylinder has 6 chambers and the ammunition round isn't a dud.

The game was allegedly invented by the Russians either during World War I or by those assigned to Siberia. If the latter, to deal with the extreme boredom, as their assignment was often referred to as 'counting trees', while the former was to try and get out of the extremely bloody and inglorious war. There is no indication, however, that this is true (as such outlandish behaviour would have most likely been recorded as suicides, and duels were usually described in length), as the first mention of this game (as well as the name 'Russian roulette' itself) appears in a 1937 short story of the same title by Georges Sundez, a Frenchman. Also, the most common revolver issued by the Russian Army at the time, the Nagant M1895, had a cylinder that could not be freely spun (and also had seven chambers, but that's not really important).

Today, it's seen as the one of the more manly stunts available because of the risks involved, reduced somewhat by the common one-round-six-chambers setup. Perfect for proving you're not afraid to (or want to) die, you're a real man, or you're just Too Dumb to Live.

Some claim that if the original game existed, it could be a largely harmless entertainment — if there is a single round and a gun is well-oiled, the full chamber will end at the bottom. Be that as it may, it remains an obvious case of Reckless Gun Usage.

It can also be used to scare information out of prisoners, as a form of psychological torture.

Need we say it: Don't Try This at Home. Besides the obvious risk to your life if you lose, if you play with others, you can be charged with murder if someone dies (at least in common-law jurisdictions, under the theory of depraved-heart/grossly reckless murder — see for instance the Pennsylvania case Commonwealth v. Malone), and in some jurisdictions, you can be tried for attempted murder even if everyone lives. One notable case in 1984 was American actor Jon-Erik Hexum, who died as a result of a Russian roulette stunt, despite only loading the revolver with blanks. Despite Hexum's belief that this made it harmless, the overpressure wave from the discharge of the blank propelled the round's wadding into his temple, shattering his skull and causing brain trauma. Six days later, he was declared brain dead and was taken off life support.

See also False Roulette. A form of Game of Chicken. For the wider trope of lethal "games" that don't involve handguns, see Absurdly High-Stakes Game. Wikipedia also has an article. One of the reasons why Revolvers Are Just Better.


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  • This trope is often invoked for the British chocolate Revels. Each packet has a mix of flavors, and you can't tell which one is which. An advert parodied The Deer Hunter by having a guy face off against a Vietnamese opponent Russian Roulette-style. He gets orange flavor, to the joy of his opponents, but it is revealed that he "likes orange" and smiles as his opponent screams in agony as he gets a coffee sweet.
    • Possibly inspired by the stand-up comic Jasper Carrott, who had a line in his routine about how the other kids at school made him play a very similar version of this game after they found out he was allergic to peanuts. (He was probably making it up. Hopefully.)
      • Peanut Revels have since been removed from the packs, for precisely this reason.
  • This old British Public Service Announcement uses it as a metaphor for driving without a seatbelt.
  • Parodied in one commercial about gambling etiquette. A large guy is sitting by a kitchen table, and he puts the gun against his head with 1 in 6 bullets, and wins. He's combined it with Strip Poker, as an attractive woman then takes off a piece of her clothing. He keeps making bigger gambles, eventually winning even with 5 in 6 bullets. The woman insinuates that she'll sleep with him if he keeps on gambling, and he puts in the last bullet and prepares to shoot as he says he's "feeling lucky". The screen cuts to black as the caption says that good poker players should know when to fold.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Akagi and Ichikawa play a single round of Russian roulette pre-match (as in, they only pulled the trigger once each) as a way of gauging each other's personalities. Ichikawa could hear which chamber the bullet was in by the noise made as it passed the barrel and predicted which chamber the bullet was in before the trigger was pulled. Since it was more than two triggers away, Akagi wasn't very worried either. As it turns out Ichikawa was completely correct and they both walk away with slightly greater respect for each other.
  • Kodaira-Sensei suggests this as an alternative to a life-size dice game in episode 3 of Anne Happy.
  • Assassination Classroom: After Chairman Asano's Villainous Breakdown, he challenges Koro-sensei to a variation on the trope involving handbooks and grenades, with Koro-sensei's place in the school being at stake.
  • A Monster Clown challenges Elf and Zwolf to a game of Russian Roulette in Battle Angel Alita: Last Order. He cheats by swapping the gun for a fully loaded one.
  • In the Black Cat manga vol. 1, Train dares Sven (who just recently got a free chest carving from Eve) to shoot him in the hand to see if he's still daring enough to go out in his condition. Sven picks the right bullet, but Train doesn't feel any pain, since he "tampered" with the bullet before loading it.
  • Black Lagoon: In "Roberta's Blood Trail", Rock is sent to deliver a message to a bar where two people are playing this game. By now he's Seen It All, so doesn't react when one of them blows his brains out in the middle of their conversation.
  • Ashley Ashura of Code Geass: Akito the Exiled is rather obsessed. He believes that luck is what makes him win battles, and he likes to test his luck. Then, after losing his close friend and subordinate, Johannes...
  • In one chapter of Dance in the Vampire Bund, Akira runs across some vampires playing Russian Roulette, although the losers generally heal from the injuries they suffer. When pressed into a game, Akira (taking a page from Rally above) spins the chambers, puts the barrel to his heart (a part that generally wouldn't grow back on a vampire) and pulls the trigger five times, then presents the pistol to his opponent.
  • "Russian Roulette" was the opening theme for the Dirty Pair TV series. Oddly appropriate that if the Dirty Pair get involved, you might get to keep your planet.
  • A non-lethal, PG version in the Doraemon short, "Lucky Gun". Doraemon brings out the titular gadget after Nobita complains about his constant streak of bad luck, where said gadget is a toy revolver which fires 4 bullets - three red, one black - at random, with the red ones bestowing good luck while the black one makes the user unlucky. Nobita chickens out on using the gadget, asking for his mother Tamako, and then his friends Gian and Suneo, to try the gadget before him. Alas, given Nobita's Born Unlucky nature, Tamako, Gian and Suneo all got hit by red bullets, while Nobita gets the sole black one causing him to suffer an entire last page's worth of humiliation (getting hit by a baseball, falling into a drain, chased by dogs...)
    • This gadget somehow spawned a short-lived meme in the following years, where the Internet will take manga panels / anime screenshots, out-of-context, comically showing Doraemon "encouraging suicide".
  • One of the Snake Princess's servants in Dragon Ball Z plays this for fun, as she shows Goku. She promptly loses.
    Goku: Personally, if I was given a choice, I think I'd rather play checkers.
  • Kuruso does this to Yukiteru in Future Diary, in order to provoke Yuno to attack him. It works.
  • In Gamble Fish, a combination of Poker and Russian Roulette plays a big role in a match between story's primary antagonist Abadini and a blatant Expy to a certain American President Ohama. Abadini even manages to survive a discharge of a fully loaded Revolver to the forehead, under some extremely specific circumstances.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise: Pazu is shown playing virtual reality Russian roulette — it's not clear if Your Mind Makes It Real, as his opponent loses.
  • In Gintama, Seita does his Picture Diary and explained on it with the Yorozuya on what he did during the Summer. Coming across a mysterious "Shaggy" man he doesn't remember who mooched off his money saved for the festival in pachinko, gambling in horse races, and even have Seita joined in this trope. While Shinpachi and Kagura complain about how horrible this "Shaggy" is, Gintoki remains utterly silent with a big Oh, Crap! expression on his face. Unfortunately for him, they knew.
  • In Gunsmith Cats, Rally Vincent uses an extreme version to intimidate a captive: she sticks the gun in the poor schmuck's face and pulls the trigger not once, but five timesfast. She explains that she can time the spin so it stops just as the loaded chamber passes the hammer. Her record is twelve straight spins. Wanna help her break it? KLIK-KLIK-KLIK-KLIK-KLIK!
  • In GUN×SWORD, the first villain uses this to show off his incredible luck, by playing with two pistols at once and surviving five pulls.
  • In Kakegurui, Jun tries to force Yumeko to strip in an alley and then threatens to rape her. The psychotic Midari shows up and pulls a gun on him, then says to make this interesting, there is only one bullet in the chamber. If the gun fires, he dies, if it doesn't, she'll submit to him as well. When Jun gets scared, she hands him the gun and dares him to pull the trigger on her. Instead, he hands it back and leaves. In fact, she tends to play the game against herself. Eventually, she and Yumeko have a game of ESP Russian Roulette where they must have the most matching cards put out, with the winner getting to fire. The match comes to a draw with Yumeko forcing one when she realizes Midari is rigging the game so she LOSES, wanting Yumeko to kill her.
  • Liar Game has a less-fatal variant with "24-Shot Russian Roulette", where the gun is loaded with six caps (out of 24) and if you shoot yourself, you lose several million yen. This being Liar Game, the heroes figure out how to fix it in their favour.
  • In an early chapter of Reborn! (2004), Reborn suggests Tsuna and Kyoko play Russian Roulette with a party bullet. He then switches it out with a Dying Will Bullet, and Kyoko gets hit.
  • An episode of the second Sakura Wars OAV has Maria, having gotten an enemy at her mercy, pretend to put one bullet in her gun while actually leaving it unloaded, spin the chambers, and essentially ask the guy if he's feeling lucky (he isn't). Not quite how the game is normally played, but close enough that one can practically hear the writers saying "It's like Russian Roulette! Because she's Russian, get it?"
  • Scoop Hunter Tamon (an obscure Ishigaki Yuuki one-shot manga) has this happening in the second chapter, when Kyosuke Tamon confronts his Evil Former Friend, who instead of killing Tamon on the spot, decide to challenge him to a game of Russian Roulette for old time's sake. The stakes here are notably higher than most examples, starting with ten rounds - five which are blanks - chambered into a blank revolver, where Tamon and his ex-friend take turns pulling the trigger to their own temples. To make things even more confusing, one of the five blanks will let out a (harmless) loud bang, leading to a Bait-and-Switch where readers assumed Tamon shot himself on the first try. Somehow, Tamon survives the ordeal even when the Roulette is down to six bullets, five which are loaded - against all odds, he managed to grab the one empty shell out of six, winning the gamble.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • In the original Manga, we are shown that after his humiliating loss to Pegasus, "Bandit" Keith's life went straight down the toilet, and he fell to gambling to survive. One panel shows him playing Russian Roulette with an utterly insane look on his face. In addition to that, his flagship monster, Revolver Dragon, attacks by playing Russian roulette... pointed at the enemy monsters, of course. (With the monster, however, the gun's two chambers have five bullets apiece, and any shot he makes reloads every turn. His chance of missing is rather slim. The real version of the card is more balanced.)
    • And in the manga, he dies by it when he attacks Pegasus, and he falls victim to Your Mind Makes It Real.
    • Earlier, at the very beginning of the "Death T" arc, Mokuba plays "Russian Roulette Buffet" with Yugi and Joey. A spinning table, and six plates of food, two of which have poison; to which only Mokuba has the antidote. It is, of course, rigged by Mokuba, and Joey gets poison on his first plate. Yugi beats Mokuba by attaching the Puzzle to the spinning table, causing Mokuba to break the syrup bottle which was the secret control for the table; and then the final spin gives Mokuba the poison. (Mokuba gave himself away; the fact that the syrup bottle was empty combined with the fact that he didn't seem worried at all about being poisoned made Yugi realize he was using that to control where it landed.)
    • Dartz has Twin Bow Centaur (not a real card), which would randomly fire an arrow at either your monster or your opponent's monster.
    • Kiryu has Infernity Reloader (called Infernity Randomizer in the dub), which fires 500 damage at either you or your opponent. His Infernity Death Gunman is a straight up Shout-Out to Dirty Harry.
    • Yusei has a cowboy-like monster called Quickdraw Synchron, which is a subversion. While the anime makes it look like the effect is having it play Russian Roulette with Yusei's other Tuners, its true effect is not random at all.
    • Joey has the Time Wizard, which had a "Time Roulette" effect. If it lands on one of the two time machine symbols, it ages everything on the field by 1000 years. note  If lands on one of the four skull symbols, it detonates Joey's side of the field, which can take a lot out of his Life Points.
    • Joey also had a Spell Card called Roulette Spider which he used against Espa Roba, and called "the riskiest move in Duel Monsters". By paying half his life points, the "spider" blindfolded the strongest monster on the field (in this case, Jinzo) and made it spin like a roulette wheel. When Roba called for it to stop, it would do so and make an attack against whoever or whatever it was aiming at, which could be either player, directly, or any other monster on the field. (Joey really lucked out here. It ended up aiming at Roba's Reflect Bounder, who had an effect that destroyed both monsters and wiped out Roba's remaining life points, winning Joey the duel.) The real version of this card applies one of 6 effects (dependent on a dice roll) to an opponent's attacking monster.

  • Milton Jones:
    When the boys in the playground discovered that I had a potentially lethal allergy to peanuts, they held me against a wall and made me play Russian Roulette with a bag of Revels....
  • One of the skits on Bob Prescott's 1961 comedy/sound effects album Cartoons in Stereo has a Russian guy and an American guy play the game to settle an argument. After a few rounds, the American fires the bullet and the Russian exclaims "Ha ha! You lose!" ...then we hear the gun slide across the table and the American asks "Erm, what do you say we make it two out of three?"

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Batman once hunted a villain who was using a rigged gun. The villain would challenge rich men to Russian roulette, after both men playing had made out a will leaving everything to the victor. The gun had an extra safety that wasn't visible when playing, so the villain could never lose. Batman won despite the gun being full. (This particular game of Russian Roulette involved adding a bullet to the gun each time the two men lived.)
    • Two-Face, in the storyline that reveals his revised origin in The New 52, plays this once every so often, the decision to do so spurred by his coin landing good side up. He seemingly kills himself this way at the end of the story. It's later revealed that he survived (of course) but the bullet is lodged in his brain, making him even more erratic.
  • Daredevil #191, "Roulette," takes place in Bullseye's hospital room, with Daredevil performing the Roulette for both of them while he tells Bullseye about a kid who admired him, saw him at his darkest, and then jumped the slope. The best bit? The gun isn't loaded.
  • The Doctor Who (Titan) comic introduces the game of Rassilon's Roulette, which is exactly the same, only played with a "time gun". Every time you pull the trigger you have one chance in six of not just being killed, but Ret-Gone.
  • Subverted in The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones #16. Pirate Girl Esmeralda Vasquez punishes one of her crew who was caught stealing by holding up her revolver and telling him there is one cartridge in the cylinder. She will spin the cylinder, then give him the gun to aim at his head and pull the trigger. If the hammer falls on an empty chamber, he can go free. She does this, and he blows his brains out. She then breaks open the revolver and empties six shells on to the deck.
    Esmeralda: The lesson is this! No one steals from Esmeralda!
  • Iron Man #198 has Obadiah Stane revealing his backstory, where as a young child he witnessed his father "win" a game of Russian Roulette. The trauma of watching his father's suicide caused him to lose his hair before his eighth birthday.
  • Judge Dredd: War Marshal Kazan decides to punish one of his subordinates who cost him victory in the Apocalypse War by forcing him to play a daily game of Russian Roulette until he dies.
  • Lucky Luke:
    • In one comic, a Russian archduke on visit to the wild west challenges a gambler into a game of Russian roulette, and the gambler bails out when the gun is fired. Later, the duke challenges a Cavalry captain, and the gun goes off on him. The round is a blank, and he shouts "failed" in Russian, a running gag during the story, as a Russian assassin says the word every time his plans fail, but it isn't translated.
    • In another story, Luke is being held in jail and suggests to his jailer, a compulsive gambler, that they play Russian roulette to pass time (the only other guy who'd play with him having met his predictable end). The jailer plays first, gets lucky, then gives his gun to Luke, who, of course, points it at him and orders him to let him out.
      Jailer: And here I thought it was impossible to cheat at this game!
  • There's an old MAD comic of a line of six people passing the gun to each other. When the man sixth in line gets it, he shoots the gun, and the bullet goes through the heads of all the others.
  • Nikolai Dante ends with a game between Nikolai and Vladimir. Vlad loses.
  • Red Ears: One gag features a variation on this after the standard use. A European explorer challenges an African chief to play a game of Russian Roulette with him. The Chief agrees, but then dares the explorer to a local variant: the explorer must pick one out of a row of six native girls to give him a blowjob. When the explorer notes that this doesn't seem like much of a challenge, the Chief informs him that one of the girls is a cannibal.
  • A suicidally depressed Twitch does this with a temporarily de-powered Spawn after his son is lost to vampires. Al decides he's had enough and throws Twitch off the building, but not before getting a bullet in the shoulder.
  • Guy Smith, Mister Sensitive / The Orphan from X-Force played it alone on the regular (that is, every day) because of depression stemming from the fact that his parents never wanted him. Every day for three years, he kept getting lucky. Someone tried to kill him once by filling the other chambers, but because of his powers, he could feel the extra 5 bullets in the gun.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Pogo comic book-style story, probably created as supplementary material for a book collection, features the cast as Russian scientists working for the Soviet space program. In the opening scene they are playing Russian Roulette. Churchy gets the bullet, but survives because he "missed". (A case of Too Dumb to Die, perhaps?)

    Fan Works 
  • In Frozen Turtles, when Raphael is interrogating an assassin who just tried to kill Elsa, he gets the man to talk by threatening to play a variation of this after another member of the assassin's order is killed and Raphael retrieves the other assassin's poisons, taunting his prisoner with the idea that he can't predict if he's giving the other man something that will just knock him out for a few minutes or something that will kill him painfully over the next few hours.
  • A much safer and slightly more humiliating version is played in the second Halloween Unspectacular with five potions and a bottle of dyed water. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Where Talent Goes to Die:
    • This is how Kaori Miura is executed in the April Fools' Day omake. She's forced to play Russian Roulette, and barely survives due to the gun jamming on the sixth pull of the trigger. At that point, several Gatling guns open fire on Miura, killing her.
    • In the fourth Chapter, Monokuma's "motive" is a virtual reality video game called "Final Dead Room: VR Edition." Like in the second game, the final puzzle is a game of Russian Roulette, and while the difficulty is the same as when Nagito attempted it, failure simply results in a game over- the player can't try again for 24 hours and no one else can try again for two hours. Miura, as well as Fukuda, exploits a loophole in the game, by not pointing the gun at her head.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons, a retired poker cheater who has become a preacher is on the Dalton brothers' killing list. He insists on ending his life with a last game, which turns to be Russian Roulette, and shoots himself in the head. Of course, being a compulsive cheater, he loaded the gun with a blank.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 13 Tzameti features an underground game in which desperate men are recruited to play a modified version of Russian Roulette while rich gangsters bet on who survives, like a horse race. The players arrange themselves in a circle and hold their revolvers up to the head of the man in front of them. When a light bulb turns on, they all fire. There was a 2010 American remake called 13.
  • The climax of the 90s film 187 featured this. In the film, Samuel L. Jackson is a substitute teacher at an Inner City School who gets into a dangerous feud with a gang leader. At their final confrontation the gang forces him to play a game of Russian Roulette, referencing the famous Deer Hunter scene. They're unnerved when Jackson begins taking multiple turns without flinching, even giving them a "The Reason You Suck" Speech as he does. At one point the gang leader begins cracking under the weight of the speech and hesitates to pick up the gun when it's his turn, so Jackson's character volunteers to take the gangster's turn... and promptly blows his head off. Since Jackson took his turn and the bullet that would have killed him, the gang leader decides he has to take one more turn now... and promptly blows his head off.
  • The R in ABCs of Death 2 stands for Roulette, and we see three people partake in a game of it in a basement. When one of them realizes he's the loser, he shoots his wife instead, to spare her from an apparent worse fate.
  • The Spanish comedy film Airbag has a scene with a Russian omelette. Five people bringing 15 million pesetas each, five omelettes, four of them made with poison mushrooms, one of them with regular ones. The one left alive walks away with all the money, except the small percentage given to the organisers. (It was a scam, though. The organisers thought nobody would be as stupid as to actually follow with that setup.)
  • Arizona Dream: Axel has entered Grace's room with a gun, with the apparent intention to shoot her in the head. Not only does Grace dare him to go through with it and mock him for losing his nerve, but she turns it around on him by challenging him to a game, after setting up the bullet in the chamber. And not only does he go through with it, but they both survive and then end up kissing and rolling on the floor. Weirdest seduction ever.
  • The climactic scene of the 1988 movie La Boca del Lobo (The Mouth of the Wolf). The protagonist challenges his army superior, who'd been sent to their remote Peruvian village after he killed a fellow officer in a game of Russian Roulette over a woman. In the end they're down to the last chamber, which they know contains the bullet — the man holding the gun has to either back down in disgrace or blow his brains out. He is unable to pull the trigger.
  • In The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Il Duce combines this with Mexican Standoff as an interrogation technique. Earlier, the MacManus brothers use this to determine whether or not to let a bad guy go.
  • At the start of the Russian film Burnt by the Sun the protagonist (a secret policemen who's been ordered to arrest a Soviet military hero and his wife — a former Love Interest) does this with a seven-shot Nagant revolver. He survives, and so carries out his order, killing himself at the end of the movie via the more reliable method of slitting his wrists while in the bathtub.
  • In Dakota Harris, the Awesome Aussie protagonist is forced to play Russian Roulette by the patrons of the Bad Guy Bar.
  • The Deer Hunter has perhaps the most famous example. Some American soldiers in the Vietnam war are captured and forced to play Russian Roulette at gunpoint for their captors' amusement and to bet on the outcome. Steven panics and turns his gun away from himself, which saves his life as the gun goes off, only to be brutalized by their captors. When Mike and Nick keep surviving, their captors add more bullets to their guns, until the two have enough to suddenly shoot all their captors and escape. Nick becomes traumatized by his experiences in the war and begins playing Russian Roulette in seedy places for money. It eventually gets him killed. Scenes in other films featuring Russian Roulette being played by men wearing red headbands are parodies of this film, such as Meet the Feebles, and is the obvious inspiration for the page image.
  • Bollywood movie Dhoom 2 has a sexually charged one where Mr A (Hrithik Roshan) forces Sunheri (Aishwarya Rai) to play after finding out that she had betrayed him. Only it turned out to be False Roulette and ended in one hell of a kiss.
  • An alternate ending to Die Hard with a Vengeance includes John McClane playing a variant of Russian roulette with Simon Gruber using a Chinese rocket launcher without the sights (so no way of telling which end is the muzzle). He asks Simon a series of questions (with them turning the launcher to face the other each time) and eventually asks a question that Simon gets wrong. Turns out that the answer to the question is that he forgot to bring a flak jacket, which is what McClane is wearing and this would have protected Simon from the blast of the rocket, and the rocket fires on Simon, killing him instantly.
  • In Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Bean, Hardtack has a Russian roulette game. After watching the first click, Lance demands to be the second to play saying that the woman always goes first. He clicks the weapon five times and looks oddly at the pistol to imply that the weapon is empty... then fires to the ceiling causing a panic.
  • Eastern Condors: While imprisoned in the POW Camp, the squad are forced to play Russian roulette by their captors.
  • Even Lambs Have Teeth: Katie and Sloan inflict a sadistic version of Russian roulette on Sheriff Andrews. Forcing him to pick a hand to see how many bullets go in the gun (he ends up with one), and then pick another hand to see how many shots are fired (he gets five). The girls then take turns pointing the gun at his head and pulling the trigger. He survives all five shots. They then shoot him anyway.
  • The movie Intacto, which has a premise of luck as a real and transferable property, has two very lucky people playing a form of Russian Roulette. They play with one chamber empty.
  • In Judas Kiss, Ruben plays Russian roulette to alleviate his boredom. And because he's not right in the head.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has Harry use the game to intimidate a perp into talking. Unfortunately, Harry rashly decides to chance it and pull the trigger to frighten the perp even more, trusting in probability that it will be an empty chamber. He kills the perp. Oops.
  • L.A. Confidential has the game used to intimidate a perp into talking.
  • Life of the Party has Michael tossing away five of the bullets and then pulling the trigger of the gun while it's pointed at his friends and himself. The sixth pull has the gun up against his head... and there's a click, and he reveals that he never loaded the sixth bullet.
  • Live parodies Reality TV by having an American TV executive use this as part of the ultimate ratings winning game show where ordinary people literally gamble their lives for a huge cash prize.
  • Malcolm X features Malcolm playing it with a couple of other hoodlums to determine who would be the leader of their group. In a later scene he admits to a friend that he palmed the bullet so the gun was unloaded.
  • There's a variation in The Masque of the Red Death involving daggers: Prince Prospero sets out five daggers on a table, one of which is covered in a poison that will kill in seconds. Francesca's father and boyfriend are forced to take turns cutting themselves with each dagger until one of them dies. Francesca's father tries stabbing the prince with the last dagger, but Prospero kills him with a sword before he can make contact. The boyfriend, meanwhile, is forced back into the village where the Red Death is.
  • Our Miss Brooks: At the crisis point of The Movie Grand Finale, a depressed Miss Brooks jokingly suggests to Mrs. Davis that they play Russian Roulette when she returns home from school. Miss Brooks had jumped to the conclusion that Mr. Boynton had bought the house across the street preparatory to giving her a proposal of marriage. Instead, Mr. Boynton had bought the house so his lonely mother could live with him and wasn't proposing marriage. Fortunately, Mrs. Davis fixes matters behind scenes, inviting the elder Mrs. Boynton to be her new boarder. Mrs. Boynton gives her approval to Miss Brooks, leaving a happy Miss Brooks to rush to the zoo to meet Mr. Boynton. There, after eight years of radio, four years on television, and one theatrical grand finale (not to mention a comic book adaption thereof), Mr. Boynton proposes. Mr. Boynton and Mrs. Connie Boynton nee Brooks live Happily Ever After.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has a variant; six pistols, four unloaded, two loaded and Jack is ordered to shoot his love interest with them. He argues with Blackbeard over whether the game is False Roulette. When he's convinced that it's real, he takes another option and jumps off a nearby cliff.
  • The Professional. Mathilda does this to show Léon she's ready to become a killer and does this with a half-loaded revolver. Léon informs her that the chamber is loaded (he can hear the difference), then knocks her hand away at the last second, which is just as well because the revolver really goes off.
  • In Sholay, Gabbar punishes three subordinates who fail to claim "tribute" from a village by forcing them to play a version of this. He takes a revolver, fires three shots in the air, and then spins the chamber. He aims and pulls the trigger once at each of the three. Each time, it clicks empty. Gabbar starts laughing, and then shoots all three of the men in quick succession.
  • Silenco En La Nieve (aka Frozen Silence). On the Russian front during WW2, the protagonist discovers a group of Axis soldiers playing roulette and betting on the outcome. One soldier is unable to pull the trigger and flees the scene while booed by the others, even though it was revealed his chamber was loaded.
  • In Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night, Count Malcolm challenges Fredrik to one of these, arguing that it's the only form of lethal combat where Fredrik would stand a chance against him. The gun is only loaded with soot.
  • In Sonatine, Murakawa plays a forced game with two reluctant Yakuza underlings. When it comes to Murakawa's turn on the final chamber, he just smiles and begins to pull the trigger. It turns out to be empty.
  • Truth or Dare (2012): After catching Jonesy spying, Justin plans to shoot him. When Luke begs for his life, Justin twists the cylinder on his revolver and hands it to Luke. He tells Luke that there are three live and three spent shells in the cylinder: giving Jonesy a 50/50 chance. Luke is to fire and Jonesy, and if the gun does not go off, Jonesy gets to live. Or Luke could could fire at him, but if the gun does not go off, he will not get a second shot. Luke fires at Jonsey, and Jonsey dies.
  • Truth or Dare (2017) has this played as one of the dares. Predictably, the last time is a live bullet.
  • Parodied in the original Unfaithfully Yours.
    Alfred: Have you ever heard of Russian Roulette?
    Daphne De Carter: Why, certainly. I used to play it all the time with my father.
    Alfred: I doubt that you played Russian Roulette all the time with your father!
    Daphne De Carter: Oh, I most certainly did. You play it with two decks of cards, and...
    Alfred: That's Russian Bank. Russian Roulette's a very different amusement which I can only wish your father had played continuously before he had you!
  • In The Way of the Gun, Abner plays a version of this as a way of possibly committing suicide. He's filled a pillowcase with revolvers and randomly selects one to use in the game, but he gets interrupted before firing.

  • Fighting Fantasy:
    • In the book The Citadel of Chaos, the player can at one point play Russian Roulette with daggers: the player stabs himself with a dagger picked at random from a set of six, with 5 being "trick daggers" whose blade retracts into the hilt and a real dagger. And the prize is an item that is virtually required to finish the book. According to the Universe Compendium, this game is known as Kharean Roulette or Knifey-Knifey.
    • City of Thieves features another version, with pills: five harmless, one poisonous. The reward is simply a respectable amount of gold.

  • There's a joke about an explorer in Darkest Africa who explains the game to a local chieftain. The chieftain tells him they have a similar game: you're presented with six beautiful women to spend the night with... and one's a cannibal.

  • As the title would suggest, the game appears twice in Russian Roulette, the prequel to the Alex Rider series that tells the life story of Yassen Gregorovich. Yassen plays the game twice in Vladimir Sharkovsky's office: once with one bullet, the second time with one empty chamber. Not really a spoiler - he survives both.
  • In Kim Newman's Dark Future novel Krokodil Tears, the main character plays Russian Roulette with a cowboy, with two bullets in the gun instead of the usual one. It clicks empty four times, meaning on her turn it's guaranteed to be loaded. She takes her turn anyway... and the bullet is stopped by her skull. Turns out she was testing her recently-implanted cyborg armor. She then hands the gun back to the other guy to take his turn.
  • Erast Fandorin plays different variations of it throughout the novels and always wins (obviously), because he is just Born Lucky. Notably, the game is referred to as "American Roulette" in the first novel, The Winter Queen. One prominent player even tells his opponent "I'm telling you, because of me and you they will rename it 'Russian Roulette'."
  • As noted in the Straight Dope article linked to above, the 19th century Russian novel A Hero of Our Time has a proto-example of this. A fatalistic Russian officer makes a bet to prove his philosophy, which he does by putting a single-shot pistol to his head and pulling the trigger, and it proceeds to click harmlessly. He then points it to the wall and again pulls the trigger, and this time, it fires.
  • One Jack Reacher novel has the Big Bad and Reacher in the same room with a prepped gun. For complicated reasons, Reacher needs to get the Big Bad to trust him. So he exploits the abovementioned 'flaw' in order to win and fires at his own head five times, betting that the weight of the bullet would have the chamber settle at the bottom. Then it was Subverted - Reacher actually thought the gun wasn't loaded. He still doesn't seem all that bothered to find out that is was.
  • Ed McBain's short story "The Last Spin" has two Gangbangers playing Russian Roulette to the death as a minimum-casualty solution to avert a war. They realise they're similar just before one loses.
  • Monster Hunter Alpha has Earl Harbinger, wanting to test the trustworthiness of his old Werewolf Arch-Enemy Nikolai Petrov in him saying he has nothing worth living for anymore, loading a revolver with one round and give it to Nikolai, telling him that they're gonna play an old favorite of Nikolai's people. Earl then proceeds to have Nikolai put the gun to his head ask Nikolai questions from their past in Vietnam (such as how did Nikolai find Harbinger's base, how he killed a friend of Earl's) and having Nikolai pull the trigger if he gives an answer Earl doesn't like (with Earl holding a fully-loaded Tommy gun not so subtly in Nikolai's direction to make it clear he will cut him in half with a hail of silver bullets if he tries anything funny). Nikolai gets through three pulls while mentally calculating the probabilities of biting the bullet, growing more concerned with each save before Harbinger asks him the last question of what does he regret. Nikolai admits that he regrets having met his dead wife, stating she deserved far better than to love a monster and that he was the one who should have died instead before pulling the trigger himself without Harbinger's input and blowing his brains out. Of course, it turns out it was a ''lead'' bullet instead of a silver one, thus allowing Nikolai to regenerate. It was a Secret Test of Character on Harbinger's part that he passed.
  • Quiller Balalaika by Adam Hall. A Russian Mafia boss forces Quiller to play this game (after he's already witnessed one of his mooks get killed this way) with one bullet and six spins of the chamber. The boss is stunned when Quiller actually survives, and so he orders Quiller to be taken to the forest and shot the traditional way.
  • Retribution Falls does a Batman Cold Open with the interrogation version, as a smuggler tries to force Captain Frey to give up the ignition code for the Ketty Jay by putting a gun to Crake's head. Frey refuses to fold so the smuggler resorts to other methods, but he forgets to reload the pistol so it clicks on an empty chamber when he really needs to kill Crake in a hurry a short time later.
  • There's a short story by Saki where a man plays Russian Roulette hundreds of times without shooting himself. The man then decides that this must be because he's special and takes up another high risk pastime: hunting vicious animals. He's fatally mauled, and the narrator reveals that his success in the game was due to the revolver being well-balanced and well-oiled.
  • In C. B. Gilford's "The Grisly Game" Alexis invites a very drunk Michael, Gerald and Lori to play it when he decides that their Love Triangle is making their circus acts too deadly in an attempt to one-up each other. When they all live, they decide that they've sufficiently proven their daring and tone down their acts. Subverted when the ending reveals that the revolver, which was used to test the courage of Alexis and other men in his regiment, had the firing pin filed off long ago.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One segment on 1000 Ways to Die had three bozos playing a game of Russian Roulette. Every time one survived a round, they all stomped victoriously, which eventually set off an ages-old landmine their shack happened to be built on.
  • 24: Jack Bauer was once captured by some criminals while breaking into a prison. The criminals made Jack and his accomplice, a drug lord Bauer was breaking out of jail play Russian Roulette at gunpoint. Jack successfully guesses which chamber contains the bullet, and shoots one of his captors rather than put the gun to his head.
    • Minutes before the Jack and Salazar example above, Jack is forced to play Russian Roulette with one of the prison guards. The guard, who gets the first shot, is crying and scared to pick up the gun until Jack convinces him to play along, at which point the guard picks up the gun, points it at his own head and pulls the trigger. He dies.
  • Airwolf. Played with by Dr Moffet, who steals Airwolf in the premiere and flies it to Libya. At one point he does this as exposition to show Airwolf's Achilles' Heel — a bullet in the mid-air refueling tube will destroy Airwolf; Moffet pulls the trigger but the chamber is empty (moments later when he pulls the trigger again while Remonstrating with a Gun, it goes off). When confronted by Airwolf flown by Stringfellow Hawke at the end of the episode, Moffet calmly aims at the tube and pulls the trigger. Again the chamber is empty and Stringfellow responds by showing that There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
  • Alien Nation. In episode 10, a Russian Roulette-style game with salt water once played on the slave ship resurfaces and plagues the Newcomer society, forcing George to confront his past.
  • In The Andy Griffith Show, there was was a strange variation of Russian Roulette where neither participant realized they were playing. Sheriff Andy does not allow deputy Barney to hold a loaded gun because Barney constantly accidentally fires his revolver. Barney is allowed to keep one bullet in his pocket for emergencies. In one episode, Andy and Barney have a clever criminal locked up in their cell. Barney is the only one left to guard the prisoner and decides to load the one bullet into his revolver. The criminal managed to get Barney's gun, assuming it was fully loaded. Andy returned to the prisoner, and the criminal threatened Andy with it. Andy saw it was Barney's revolver and assumed the gun was empty and tells the criminal to just drop it. The criminal points the gun at Andy and pulls the trigger five times. The revolver doesn't fire, and the criminal gives up. Andy later takes the gun, and shows everyone else how he wasn't in danger by firing the "empty" revolver into the ceiling. The gun fired and destroyed a lamp.
  • Banzai featured variations of this in a couple of gambles that feature the "Wheel of Misfortune" (i.e. Beer Cans, Umbrellas, 5 hard boiled eggs with one real egg, and Hair Mousse).
  • Carnivàle. When one of their own is murdered, the carnies tell the killer to pick a number between one and six. When he cautiously picks "3", three bullets are loaded into a revolver, with three pulls of the trigger. He survives, incredibly enough, and Samson orders the others to let him go despite their protests. Samson does kill him later though.
  • Castle: played with in the episode "Hedge Fund Homeboys", in which a group of drunk high schoolers liked pretending to play this, with a real revolver that didn't have any bullets loaded. Except one of them snuck a bullet into the right chamber, to kill another one and make it look like a tragic accident.
  • The City Hunter: Jin-pyo uses this as an interrogation method, pulling the trigger each time the subject gives an answer that annoys him (and using up five turns before he gets a real answer).
  • Cowards, a rather dark BBC comedy show, featured a sketch that had a group of people playing this at a dinner party. The first five survive but the sixth claims that they have been playing it wrong and they should have spun the chambers before each trigger pull. He is argued down, with hilarious consequences...
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). In the Season One finale, Julia talks of the terror she felt for years married to Vicious, waking up and wondering if today was the day he was going to kill her. At the end of the episode she has Vicious chained up in the basement. Julia loads a bullet into a revolver, aims it at Vicious and fires...only the gun just clicks and Julia says she'll be back tomorrow to try again.
  • Criminal Minds: in the episode 'Revelations', an unsub - well, one of the three personalities of an unsub suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder - kidnaps FBI Special Agent Spencer Reid and tortures him, then adds to the torture with a game of Russian Roulette. Three times, Reid lucks out. The fourth time, as he's standing knee-deep in the grave he's just been forced to dig for himself, he gets the gun away from Hankel and shoots him, without checking to see if the bullet is chambered first. It is.
  • CSI: NY has Mac Taylor, our hero, using Russian Roulette as an interrogation technique on a crook who kidnapped his girlfriend. He gets through three chambers before the guy talks. Turns out he had palmed the last bullet and the gun was empty.
  • In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Bart demonstrates her functional invincibility by playing solo Russian roulette using a gun with three bullets. She points it at her head and it clicks, then points it off into the woods and it fires, until the gun is empty.
  • Farscape episode "Taking The Stone" featured a tribe of thrillseeking kids that play Russian Roulette... with fungi! The mushroom in question grows in clusters of four: three of them get you high, one of them will kill you, and there's no real way to tell which one.
  • In an episode of Friday the 13th: The Series the killer of the week was using the cursed item to win playing Russian Roulette in high-stakes illegal gambling (it created a snake that slowly traveled up the sacrificial victim until killing them), eventually targeting a loved one for his last bout. Unfortunately for him they stop the snake just as he's getting ready to confidently pull the trigger on a revolver now fully loaded (each round they added another bullet) providing some karmic justice.
  • Get Smart. In "Island of the Darned", the Villain of the Week offers Max a chance to play Russian Roulette for his life. Max instead tries to free himself at gunpoint, only for the villain to reveal he palmed the bullet as he prefers a more entertaining way of dealing with Max.
  • Catherine The Great plays this with flintlock pistols; three on a table, one of them loaded. On one occasion she's about to play when an assassin burst into the room, so she points the gun in her hand at him and pulls the trigger—fortunately it's the loaded one. She's understandably bemused that her would-be murderer inadvertently saved her life.
  • In the Italian series Gomorra, Gino is sent to persuade The Mafiya to accept a 50/50 split of the drug business they previously controlled. Their boss unloads half the bullets from a revolver and tells him to play—if he survives this 50/50 chance, they have a deal. He's told to fire when they turn the light on, a possible reference to 13 Tzameti. Gino does, and survives.
  • In Heroes, Doyle uses his People Puppets power to force Claire, her birth mother Meredith, and her adoptive mother Sandra to play a variation of this, crossed with Spin the Bottle: he places the gun on the center of the table and spins it. The first time, it points at Claire, so she has to choose which mommy to fire at. She refuses to choose, so he makes her shoot at Meredith - and gets one of the empty chambers. The second time, he spins it twice - once to decide who will fire it, the second one to decide who it's fired at. This leads to Sandra pointing the gun at Claire, which is what really makes the scene unique: she takes this opportunity to try to fire it until she gets the bullet, which kills Claire, freeing her from Doyle's control and allowing her to take him out.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia features a scene parodying The Deer Hunter example, where Frank begins hosting matches for gamblers to take part in.
  • Law & Order: SVU:
    • When Benson and Stabler confront a murderer (who happens to be Russian) in the "Russian Love Poem" episode, he takes the five bullets from his revolver and points it at his chest, punctuating his Motive Rant with pulls of the trigger. He gets two clicks before:
    Nothing hurts me, not even this gun! See how lucky I am? (BANG)
    • Michael Lewis, a rapist and murderer, takes Olivia Benson and a girl hostage. Threatening the girl, he forces Olivia to play the game with him.
  • Leverage has Elliot flashbacking to being tied up playing this. He was the only one playing. Apparently it was still better than going to one of Sophie's plays.
  • Luther forces a Villainous Breakdown from a former special forces soldier who is killing police officers, but then has an Oh, Crap! moment when the man empties all but one bullet from his snubnose revolver and starts putting it to their heads and pulling the trigger. Eventually the killer is down to the last chamber and it's his turn — Luther decks him when he puts the gun to his head to commit suicide.
  • NUMB3RS featured an episode involving a group of gamblers holding a live webcast that featured a tournament of Russian Roulette and people online can bet on who wins. Turns out that the game had been rigged.
  • Person of Interest. In "All In" a casino boss captures Team Machine and the POI of the week, a Card Sharp whom he forces to carry out this trope pointing the revolver at John Reese, Leon Tao and Harold Finch in turn before Reese is able to break free. The casino boss points the revolver at Reese and clicks off every chamber to no effect, as the Card Sharp palmed the bullet.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Cassandra", when the main characters are told (by a computer that sees the future) that Rimmer will die but the rest will survive, Kryten tests their Plot Armor by loading a gun with one bullet and pointing it at each of them in turn. It clicks empty on each of them... until he reaches Rimmer and shouts, "Duck, sir!" Rimmer ducks as the gun fires.
  • On The Riches, Wayne/Doug loads one round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, and pulls the trigger on Hugh Panetta, freaking out the man in the process. Doug then reveals he'd actually palmed the bullet to illustrate his point that it's the mark's perception of reality, rather than reality itself, that is necessary for the sell.
  • As the name implies, the game show Russian Roulette is loosely styled after the spinning-revolver game. Instead of a revolver, contestants stand on a circle of six trapdoors, and anyone who answers their trivia question wrong must "spin" to see whether they get eliminated. Each question adds a "loaded" drop zone until there are five total, and the last contestant standing plays the Bonus Round — if they answer all the questions correctly, they win $10,000, and can take one last spin (with a number of "loaded" circles correlated with how fast they answered all the questions) to either multiply that to $100,000 or lose it all.
  • SAS: Rogue Heroes. Paddy Mayne offers to play roulette with the commander of the Free French, who's unimpressed as he should be using his bullets to kill Germans instead.
  • Scrubs has Dr. Cox sarcastically suggest it as a suitable activity at a child's birthday party. Then he advises putting bullets in all the chambers because that way "everybody wins".
  • Shades of Blue: Tufo instigates one on Loman in order to intimidate him by giving him a seemingly unloaded revolver. It didn't work since Loman refused to use it.
  • In the Tales from the Crypt episode "Cutting Cards", two gamblers loathe each other so much that they're willing to play a game of Russian Roulette just for the possibility of the other person dying. They both survive because the round turns out to be a dud.
  • In That Mitchell and Webb Look, two men are shown playing Russian Roulette when the board rotates in "Wordwang." A gunshot sounds just as they disappear from view.
  • Wiseguy. Mad arms dealer Mel Profitt does this with undercover agent Vinnie Terranova when he finds out Vinnie is sleeping with his sister (whom Mel has his own incestuous relationship with). The gun turns out to be empty. Vinnie pulls out his own revolver which has an empty chamber under the hammer and challenges Mel to his own version, with only a one-in-six chance to live. Mel calls his bluff and Vinnie has to shoot the bullet into the wall.
  • The X-Files: At the climax of "Pusher", a criminal with mind control powers forces Fox Mulder to join him in a game. Mulder is made to "shoot" the criminal, then himself, then is about to shoot Scully when she triggers the fire alarm, distracting the criminal so Mulder can turn the gun on him instead. It turns out that chamber was loaded.
  • GSN had an original game show called Russian Roulette — fortunately no one died, no guns were involved. Instead, players were asked trivia questions and a handle would be pulled (the floor beneath them resembled a revolver chamber) and they hoped the space beneath them didn't turn red. If it did, the trap door would activate and send them falling out of the game. (Don't worry, there was padding beneath those areas.)

  • Accept's 1985 album was titled Russian Roulette. The cover photo showed the band dressed in Russian army uniforms sitting around a table with a pistol lying on it.
  • Mitch Benn's song "I'm Still Here" is about a rock star who is trying to die a rock star death, but nothing seems to kill him. One of the things he does is "played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun".
  • Two rounds of Russian Roulette are played between the Death Seekers in the music video (NSFW) for the Cyberpunkers track, Fuck the System. Notably, the "loser" of the second round (who was the "winner" of the first) has a shit-eating grin when he pulls the trigger that kills him.
  • A variation occurs in DMX's "Here We Go Again":
    "Wasn't hard for me to get him where I wanted him, confronted him
    * bzzzt, click* There is a bullet in one of 'em
    Feelin' lucky? *click* Looks like you are
    * click-click-click*...Luck ain't goin' too far
    What you did was put on another pair of shoes and they just happened to be too big
    What you did was stupid, real fuckin' stupid
    Well, shorty, I gave you a chance, and what'd you do?
    Threw it back in my fuckin' face, so fuck you too! *BANG*"
  • The Gazette's second album "NIL" has an opening track called "The End," in which the five members can be heard passing a gun around while muttering in English and Japanese. The barrel is spun and a click is heard for each member, and at the end of the song the guitar feedback is cut short with the sound of a shot.
  • The Kaizers Orchestra song "Bak Et Halleluja" is the singer confessing to a priest about a game of Russian Roulette he played with a friend. The friend lost.
    • In addition, their song "Resistansen" mentions Russian Roulette.
  • Jazz pianist David Kikoski has an instrumental called "Russian Roulette".
  • "Russian Roulette", Rihanna's first single from Rated R, is from the POV of someone playing for the first time. It even starts and ends with the sound effect of the barrel spinning.

  • Invoked in Mission to Zyxx with Brethian roulette which is immediately lethal to the first player. The crew reports it as a suicide so they don't have to fill out paperwork.

  • "The Game," which first aired on Escape and then on Suspense, centers around two bored teenage boys who get drunk and decide to play this.
  • It was a round on one episode of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Including Tim trying five shots and being lucky every time, Barry firing over his shoulder and winging Colin Sell and Andy Hamilton hitting That Poor Cat.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Crocodile Dentist in which children take turns extracting teeth from a crocodile until they hit the one sore tooth that will cause the croc to get fed up and chomp on your fingers. Teaching children that life is cruel and arbitrary since 1993! (Unless you cheat and test which tooth gives the most resistance, of course.)
  • A game using this mechanism was released in 1975 as a marketing tie-in for a Jaws. Age 5 and up.
  • Kaba Kick features a colorful hippo-shaped gun that releases a foot to kick the losing player in the head.
  • Unknown Armies: This is a quick and "easy" way for an Entropomancer to pick up a significant charge. It has to be a legit game, however - if the gun isn't actually loaded, you don't get a charge, even if you played thinking it was loaded.

  • Played by Fredrik and Carl-Magnus in A Little Night Music. Fredrik ends up taking a bullet which merely grazes his head, which to Carl-Magnus is just not sporting.

    Video Games 
  • Buckshot Roulette is Russian Roulette played with a shotgun. Every round, some of the shells are blanks, some are live, and the order is randomized as they're loaded. You can aim at yourself (if it's a blank, your opponent doesn't get a turn) or your opponent. After you win the first round, special items start being added (like beer, which lets you rack the shotgun and skip a shell, or handcuffs, which make your opponent skip their next turn).
  • The one-round, five-chamber variant of the game is played in Call of Duty: Black Ops, between player character Alex Mason, and his friend Sgt. Frank Woods. Forced to play at gunpoint by their Vietcong captors note , Woods successfully manages to survive one round (complete with a loud exclamation of "FUCK!" before pulling the trigger), before passing the gun to Mason while telling him "one chance". Mason takes the gun, raises it, and promptly shoots the guard forcing them to play, takes his pistol, and shoots the other guards, all in one swift move.
  • Conflict Vietnam has this during a late-game cutscene whenthe team is captured, Ragman gets out of it by asking for the Revolver to be loaded with three bullets, blasting one of the guards, while Cherry/Doc uses the chance to grab another guard, use his AK to blast the third guard, then knock him out.
  • Lieutenant Hank Anderson from Detroit: Become Human has suicidal tendencies which drive him to drink heavily and, on occasion, play Russian Roulette. At one point, Connor meets with him after he's played a few rounds, and discovers that he coincidentally blacked out from intoxication just before pulling the trigger on the loaded chamber. In the Kamski ending and the path where he's hostile to Connor, Hank is seen playing once again, and it ultimately leads to his death.
  • In Final Fantasy X-2, the revolver-toting henchman of LeBlanc will instead play this with status effects, and it's always pointed at his enemy. The name of the attack is "Russian Roulette", but the attack is a spun barrel, then shot at one of the people he is facing, giving a random status effect.
  • Gods Will Be Watching has this used as an interrogation technique during the torture session. Irving holds a gun to Burden's head with one bullet in it, then starts asking questions. "For one in seven chances out of BOOM, what's the answer to my question?"
  • The gun handling mechanics of Hot Dogs, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades allow for you to place a single bullet into the cylinder of a revolver and spin it before firing. Losing and shooting yourself in the head is no big deal here, though, as Death Is a Slap on the Wrist.
  • The protagonist of Illusion of Gaia has to play a game similar to Russian Roulette with a set of wine glasses, one of which is poisoned, in order to get the necessary funds to buy desert transportation. Played with, since the protagonist has Psychic Powers, and the other player was suicidal.
  • Killer7 has a climactic game of Russian Roulette between school principal Benjamin Keane and badass assassin Garcian Smith. The gun is passed back and forth between Keane and Garcian, Keane growing constantly more frantic and Garcian remaining calm as ever, until 5 chambers have come up empty; it's the 6th chamber, and Garcian's turn. As Keane starts laughing, Garcian calmly puts the gun to his head, and pulls the trigger... and nothing happens.
    Garcian: This gun holds seven bullets. I'm a professional. You can't fool me, old man.
  • Like a Dragon:
    • One of the substories in Yakuza 4 (famous for how dark it is in comparison to the usual goofy and/or saccharine fare) has an old man offering Tanimura a chance to play a betting game that'll give a much bigger payout than any gambling hall. The game is, of course, the standard 1-in-6 Russian roulette. The player is given two chances to pull the trigger fearlessly, impassively, or nervously: if done correctly (fearlessly then impassively) then Tanimura walks away with 3 million yen and the assumption that the bullet was a blank all along... until the old man fires it into the ceiling, provoking a "Holy shit!" from the usually fearless Tanimura. Getting it wrong will retroactively turn the bullet into a blank, meaning Tanimura walks away alive but without the cash.
    • The Dealer class in Yakuza: Like a Dragon can learn "Essence of Russian Roulette", a special move where the character will fire a revolver once against their own head before plugging the rest into their opponent. This attack hits multiple enemies for heavy damage, but also risks doing damage to an ally.
  • LISA: The Painful RPG makes this into a Mini-Game. Both players have their own gun, and take turns pulling the trigger until one of them finds their bullet first. Can be a good source of mags, and you get a decent party member if you survive long enough, but naturally it also means you're gambling with the lives of your party members. It's worth noting that party members killed during this minigame leave your party permanently.
  • More than a few Mario Party minigames are just non-lethal Russian Roulette setups, typically with ten "chambers" and three "bullets". For example: ten fishing poles, three of which have painful sea urchins attached.
  • Revolver Ocelot plays Russian Roulette with three guns juggled simultaneously a few times in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. A variation with only two guns, and someone else (namely, Naked Snake) holding the second one, shows up in the final gameplay section before the ending. That time it turns out the loaded round is a blank.
  • The Flash game Orange Roulette is a parody of The Deer Hunter (in movies) involving men with oranges for heads playing against each other. You can choose to try to shoot the opponent on your turn, but if you fail to kill them, you have to take a shot - and you're one pull closer to the bullet. You can also spin the chamber again once a game.
  • If you don't know to use the cell phone (as poor MarshSMT had to resort to in his playthrough, although he thankfully managed to guess correctly), then saving Nei Ichikawa in Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners boils down to this. Six "chambers", all but one of which are "loaded" and will result in a very valuable party member permanently dying. To make matters worse, the "empty chamber" is randomly determined. Good luck.
  • In Persona 5, a variant happens at the cultural festival, with a set of takoyaki that has one brightly colored red one that is extremely spicy, which the Phantom Thieves notice and try to egg each other into eating it. Goro ends up eating it in spite of Haru's attempts to warn him.
  • The Flash game "Pico vs. Uberkids" on Newgrounds has Pico suggesting a game of "Rock Paper Scissors Roulette" to compete against the titular Uberkids, reasoning that if their opponents are superior in every way, then a contest of luck is the only way to level the playing field. As you might expect, it combines Rock–Paper–Scissors with Russian Roulette, with the loser of the Rock Paper Scissors match having to try their luck with the revolver. The chamber is not re-spun between turns, so the chance of getting the fatal bullet increases as the game goes on, and if five chambers come up empty during a given round, The Grim Reaper appears over the loser of the next Rock Paper Scissors match. If Pico loses a Rock Paper Scissors match, he pulls the trigger twice, because Pico is crazy.
  • Russian Roulette Tournament by Virtual Insanity Studio has the player participate in a Russian Roulette tournament. Each match is a 1-V-1. One participant spins the cylinder, then both participants take turns pulling the trigger until one of them dies or folds, with each trigger pull increasing their stress. If a contestant folds, then the other contestant gets to spin the cylinder and the process is repeated. The matches last until one person either dies, folds twice in a row, or their stress meter maxes out, causing them to have a breakdown and lose automatically. The goal is to survive each round (while winning every match isn't required, the player will have to win most of them in order to get enough prize money to advance to the next tier) until the final opponent, with a bonus match at the end against none other than Chuck Norris.
  • An indie game on Steam entitled "Russian Roulette: One Life" simulates playing the game against a virtual opponent, with the twist that All Deaths Final is taken very seriously: if you die, the game records your score on a gravestone and you can never play it again! As in the real-life game, you only get one death and it's for keeps.note 
  • A rather bizarre variation of this crops up in The Secret World: Daimon Kiyota challenges his treacherous lieutenant to a game of Fugu roulette, with a plate of cooked pufferfish standing in for the revolver; some portions are properly cooked and safe to eat, others are highly toxic. If Daimon wins, he gets the traitor's phone and list of contacts; if the lieutenant wins, he becomes the new head of the Korinto-Kai - and Daimon will come back from the dead and take him out for ice cream. In the end, the lieutenant can't go through with it even after Daimon takes a headstart of three bites, and is left to slink away in shame - with a warning that the next traitorous act will result in the lieutenant's entire family being treated to a feast. Once the lieutenant leaves, Kiyota finishes the meal without any ill effects. False Roulette or Acquired Poison Immunity? You decide.
  • This is the entire premise of Six Chamber Champion.
  • In Skul: The Hero Slayer you can find the Gambler skull with the ability Russian Roulette, when used you fire a gun at your head but because you're a skeleton the bullet goes right through your skull and hits enemies on the other side.
  • In Space Quest V, someone suggests Roger Wilco should "go play Romulan Roulette with a hand phaser or something".
  • Mentioned in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, when Sam acquires an aerosol canister of what turns out to be a deadly virus and Lambert tells him they need to bring it to a specialist who can find out what's inside. Sam notes he could just open the canister there and see for himself, and Lambert chastises him by claiming he could also play Russian roulette with a semi-automatic pistol.
  • Super Russian Roulette is a Kickstarter-funded NES game that is basically Russian Roulette played with an NES Zapper.
  • Tales of Phantasia has Cless engage in a variation of this game. There are two cups, one of which has been poisoned at random. Each person picks a glass, and they drink it. One of them will die.
  • In a strange version, in Tales of Vesperia, this is done through Flynn's cooking. Due to a lack of good taste, he can either create an incredible dish or pure garbage that looks pristine in presentation either way. One skit reveals that he likes to deviate from cooking recipes by sometimes adding too much of one ingredient, explaining why his dishes have a Russian Roulette effect.
  • Only mentioned in The World Ends with You, but it's the first of at least four Reaper Sportsnote , played by the undead staff running the Reaper's Game when simply earning points loses its shine.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Born Lucky Nagito Komaeda ends up playing a game of Russian Roulette with himself in order to solve a puzzle. He intentionally makes the game more challenging for himself by leaving one chamber empty instead of one chamber full. He still wins, and as a reward for winning on the "highest difficulty", he gets a file full of confidential information about his classmates in addition to the standard reward (access to a secret room with weapons and a hidden passage) that the culprit in that chapter got by winning the game with only one bullet loaded.
  • Your Turn to Die features this as one of the earliest puzzles in the game; Sara gets everyone through just fine. It comes back again in Chapter 3 and has gotten a lot deadlier; this time, only one of the Dummies out of a particular group of three (Mai, Hayasaka, and Kurumada) can potentially be saved; the rest of them are all unavoidably doomed.
  • Zero Time Dilemma has this occur in the "Fire" fragment. Sigma is strapped into a chair, and Phi is trapped in an incinerator. Diana is forced to play with a gun to Sigma's head, but with three bullets. She can just choose to not shoot (which Phi suggests, even if it means she dies), but if she doesn't, the incinerator will turn on and Phi will die. If she takes the shot, Phi will be freed whether or not Sigma lives. If Diana takes the shot and Sigma dies, it leads to a bad ending where Diana plays the game on herself.

    Web Animation 
  • This Cyanide and Happiness short reverses the usual rules - the gun has five bullets and one empty chamber. The loser (who does not die) has to do the dishes.
  • Emesis Blue: Ludwig and Jane Doe are eventually forced into this by Detective Marnau (or rather, The Smoker). Ludwig loses, but comes back to kill the Smoker at Archibald's funeral.
  • In the climax of part 4 of the Newgrounds video Mystic Island, the protagonist Sam is facing down Norm on a cliff, and threatens to shoot him with the gun that they set aside for "Russian Roulette" if their coconut supplies ran out. Unfortunately, the gun only has one bullet, forcing Sam to squeeze the trigger until the bullet reaches the chamber. When it does, Norm takes the gun away and fatally shoots him, but he gets better.

    Web Comics 
  • Ocelot's Russian Roulette shows up in The Last Days of FOXHOUND when the characters revisit his memories of the scene from the game. Later, he demonstrates the technique to Psycho Mantis, who is frustrated at not being able to figure out which chamber has the bullet — understandably so, because The Boss chose correctly during the events of MGS3.
  • In Men in Hats, Aram introduces Gamal to this game. He calls it "poker," though.

    Web Original 
  • Ryan Haywood made a Russian Roulette room in Achievement City where a player gets locked in said room surrounded by dispensers and has to press a button. If a light in the room turns on, he is safe and gets released. If not, he is pelted to death with arrows and fire charges. The trick? Players have the option to press the button twice, as the room is the equivalent of a six-chamber revolver. You push the button twice, you could ensure that someone else will die... or die yourself.
  • Cracked shows you how to play if you're Too Dumb to Live.
  • At least one recipient of a Darwin Award attempted to play Russian Roulette with an automatic pistol.
  • In the YouTube Red show Escape the Night, Eva and Tim play a combination of this and Battleship. It doesn't end well for Tim.
  • 5 Second Films shows us the wrong way to do it.
  • In the SuperMarioLogan episode, "Bowser Junior's Game Night 3", Jeffy plays this with a gun he found in a game of "What's in Ned's Head?", with Junior and Joseph encouraging him, and Cody begging him to stop. Cody saves Jeffy before he fires the last bullet.
  • There is a story circulating on French Tabletop Games forums about a group of PCs who got captured by slavers. The PC proposed a game of Russian roulette with a semi auto pistol with the slavers' leader stipulating that if the PC won, the party would be freed. The slaver appreciated the joke, and stipulated that the PC had to play first. It turned out the player was Born Lucky, and when he attempted to fire, he rolled a failure that resulted in the gun jamming. Then the PC gave the pistol to the slaver, who checked and double checked that the gun was indeed jammed. The dice were rolled, and the result was "jam cleared, shot fired". The slaver leader's brains were splattered all across the room.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: In the episode "The Bitchin' Race", Klaus' cell phone chimes, letting him know it's 3:30. He takes out a revolver and places a bullet in it, spins it around and fires. He lives, but tells the gun "See you tomorrow", indicating that this is something he does regularly.
  • Archer:
    • Malory claims that she blacks out when drinking absinthe. We then see a flashback where she plays one-on-one Russian Roulette in a dive bar somewhere in Asia while swigging from a bottle. Everyone cheers as she says, "All right, you yellow bastards! Let's dance!"
    • A flashback shows Sterling seated at a table with four dead bodies, the implication being he loaded it with four rounds and shot the others.
      Archer: I can't believe they fell for that!
    • When Archer takes Woodhouse's brother, Dicky, to Las Vegas, one photo in the montage is of Dicky winning a game of Russian Roullette.
  • Family Guy:
    • In "Love Thy Trophy", Peter suddenly pulls out a gun to decide which guy would get their newly-won trophy.
    Peter: I know how to settle this...Russian Roulette! Three bullets, last man standing gets the trophy. *puts gun to his head* Me first. No, wait, this is crazy... *gives gun to Cleveland* You first.
    • Another episode has a cutaway gag in which Carter forces Meg to play this in the car.
  • In one King of the Hill episode, Dale makes up an excuse for coming home late:
    Dale: I was at the gun club, playing Russian Roulette.
    Nancy: Did you win?
    Dale: You're not really familiar with the game, are you?
    Nancy: No.
    Dale: ....Yes, yes I won.note 
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Ballot Box Bunny ends with Bugs Bunny proposing a game of Russian roulette to Yosemite Sam after both of them lose a local election. Sam goes first, then Bugs, who puts the gun to his head as the picture irises out; a shot is then heard, after which the picture irises in again to reveal that Bugs shot Sam instead (Sam: "Ah hate that rabbit.") Perhaps unsurprisingly, this ending is rarely if ever included when the short is aired on TV.
    • In Barbary Coast Bunny, Bugs is running Nasty Canasta's casino out of business by winning at everything. A fed up Canasta pulls a revolver and suggests Russian Roulette, only for Bugs to spin the barrel and somehow cause coins to spill from the gun.
  • In The Oblongs, when Pickles became addicted to performing crazy stunts, Milo enticed her with a game of Russian Roulette with bullets in all the chambers in order to get her to an intervention.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Simpson Tide", the scene from The Deer Hunter is both directly referenced and parodied. As Homer says that all of his friends joining the navy reminds him of the movie, Moe suddenly remembers something and leaves. In a back room, Prinicpal Skinner and Krusty the Clown are playing Russian Roulette with several gangsters wagering on the game. Moe interrupts them, telling them they'll have to shut down for a while.
  • Squidbillies: To earn some extra booze money, Early Cuyler plays solo Russian Roulette with a 6-shooter and has spectators bet against him. He presses his luck a little too far:
    Early: All right! Who wants to bet I can't do it a sixth time in a row!

    Real Life 
  • According to Cecil Adams, the original version of Russian Roulette might have been completely made up by an American in 1937; the original version may also have been one empty chamber, rather than one bullet.
  • One Darwin Award winner lost a game of Russian Roulette, while playing with a semiautomatic pistol. Those only have one chamber, and are loaded with a magazine.
    • The French call this version "Belgian roulette."
    • There's also Landmine Roulette: take a drink, stomp on the landmine. Next guy drinks, stomps on the land mine. Next guy... yeah.
  • During his days as a criminal, Malcolm X placed one bullet in a revolver, put it to his head, and pulled the trigger three times to prove to his partners that he wasn't afraid to die. He'd secretly palmed the bullet while pretending to load the gun.
  • A husband forced his wife into this, except when it was his turn, he merely shot in the air. Luck was on the woman's side, though, as she survived three misses and later escaped.
  • There's also the drinking game version of this, where the bartender sets six glasses on the bar — one has vodka, the rest are water. Which result constitutes "winning" depends entirely on your perspective. Another version has 6 shots of vodka, but one of them is hot chili flavoured. At some bars, you can forgo the shots of water in favor of a toy gun that will "fire" at the loser by lighting up and making a snapping sound. What that person has to drink is up to the players.
  • The drinking game known as "The Beer Hunter". Start with a six-pack, with one can shaken. Take turns opening a can under your nose or by your head. If it doesn't blow up, chug. If it does, you have to chug the rest of the pack. The book this came out of rated this the highest possible on the "you will toss your cookies" scale. James May's Man Lab later utilized a variant of it to test the Monty Hall Problem.
  • Mentalist Derren Brown famously played a game of Russian Roulette on live TV. Derren has since publicly confirmed that the gun was holding a blank round. He has also pointed out that by pressing the barrel right against his temple and firing point blank, he WAS still in danger of being extremely badly hurt or killed by the discharge — that was exactly how actor Jon-Erik Hexum died, for example. In fact, during the special, the anonymous armorer (UK law requires one to be a licensed armorer to own, hold, and fire pistols; Derren and the candidates therefore traveled abroad in order to get around this) showed exactly this to the potential participants (one of whom was to select the chamber in which the round was to be loaded) on a firing range with a filled water bottle.
  • There are many less deadly variations. The most known is the "spike trick", a variation on the "shell game" where the magician crushes disposable plastic/Styrofoam cups with their hand, avoiding the one with a metal spike/knife hidden inside. Many a magician has suffered an impaled palm attempting the trick.
  • Chocolate Russian Roulette! Eleven chocolate bullets - and one chocolate-coated chili pepper. A later iteration titled the "Instant Regret Chocolate Roulette" has eleven bullets, with one being laced with chili pepper extract, so you can't tell if you bit the wrong one until it hits you.
  • Tsundere cookies. Twelve cookies, and an entire ten laced with chili powder.
  • Jelly Belly's "Beanboozled" game has a similar concept. You start with a set of normal-flavored jelly beans in several colors, mixed with a second set of beans in the same colors but with disgusting flavors. Spin a wheel, pick a bean of the color it lands on, and eat it. A brown one, for example, might be chocolate or dog food — and you won't know which until you put it in your mouth.
  • In 1954 R&B singer Johnny Ace shot himself playing Russian Roulette backstage between sets of a Christmas Eve show in Houston. He died in the hospital on Christmas Day.
  • The reverse of the Russian Roulette is the Josephus Permutation, according to legend, the Jewish historian Josephus found himself with 40 other Jewish rebels at the Seige of Yodfat. Right before their position was about to be overrun by the Romans, they decided to kill themselves via a elaborate suicide pact: everyone stood in a circle, and every third person gets killed (suicide is considered immoral in Judaism). This goes on until everyone's dead. The idea is to position yourself such that you are the last person left.
  • In the Roman Army, mutinous or cowardly soldiers were rounded up and executed by "decimation", in which every tenth soldier was killed by his comrades, determined by drawing straws. Roman roulette?
  • A New Zealand pizza chain called Hell's Pizza has "Pizza Roulette". It's a free add-on that laces one slice on your pizza of choice with two drops of "the hottest chili on the planet". Which one? Nobody knows until the poor sap bites into it. Their site even lists a disclaimer when choosing to order it. "It doesn't cost, but someone pays", indeed.
  • According to Wikipedia, a Finnish magician called Aimo Leikas died doing this in front of a crowd, when a magic trick he'd been practicing all went wrong.
  • One of the Space Shuttle's abort modes was so risky that it was described as one in the Space Shuttle Abort Modes page by one of the pilots of STS-1 as stated by Wikipedia
  • Korean school children occasionally play a game with a local brand of bubblegum. All are lemon flavored, but one pack in each box super sour.
  • There was a phone app that let you play this game. You could fill up the gun with as many bullets as you want, spin it, and then pass the phone around to see who has the worst luck.
  • McDonald's workers in Australia have their own version (called Macca's Roulette), played during slow work days. Refill an empty sauce-gun (newly-filled ones take a few clicks before the sauce shoots through) and take turns shooting it at yourself. Whoever gets hit with a stream of sauce to the face first loses. Variations of the game where you can attempt to shoot another player also exist.
  • The Nerf Maverick, which provides the page image for Nerf on this very wiki, is styled after a revolver and as such allows one to safely play Russian Roulette without all that messy "potentially killing yourself" business. It appears, however, that Hasbro has cottoned on to this, as all revolver-style Nerf blasters made nowadays feature drums that very plainly let one see if the chambers are loaded.
  • There existed at one point a Japanese toy version of Russian Roulette called "Kaba Kick" for children (yep), where the unlucky player who pulls the trigger on a loaded chamber would receive a kick in the head from the toy's cartoon hippo mascot. Oh, Japan!
  • A possibly-apocryphal German example involved sausages. Otto von Bismark once challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel over a political dispute. Allegedly, Virchow chose sausages as his weapon: One was infected with deadly botulism, one was not. The Chancellor decided that he didn't want to risk eating a toxic sausage and withdrew the challenge.
  • Another version involves eggs, all of which except one have been boiled and left in their shells. The players take turns smashing the eggs against their foreheads; whoever gets a face-full of raw egg loses.
  • Australian criminal 'Chopper' Reid did this during an interview with female television journalist Renee Brack, including putting the gun to her head and pulling the trigger. Thankfully, both survived [1].
  • A 2019 shooting in St. Louis, Missouri involving three cops (two played while the third chastised them for Juggling Loaded Guns like that) resulted in the death of one officer, with this cited as to why the shooting occurred to begin with. The method they used involved pointing the gun at the other person, rather than their own head.
  • There exists an urban legend about a gay variant of the game: ten guys show up to an orgy; one is HIV-positive.
  • There's a real-life inversion of sorts, in that all-natural contraception is colloquially known in some traditionally Catholic regions as "the Vaticanese Roulette". See, the joke is that all-natural contraception, while not as bad as you'd expect if you do everything by the book, is still not as good as all the less natural methods which are considered sinful by the Catholic Church...
  • One OMORI fan made a playlist on YouTube called "omori russian roulette". Load it up with 5 instances of "Lost At A Sleepover", and one instance of "Friends.", an arranged version of the former that starts off identical but has a longer-than-usual pause at one point and which features a horrific Last Note Nightmare. Now put the playlist on shuffle. Have fun sleeping tonight!
  • A variant - where you point at a target, not at yourself - is sometimes used by firearms instructors to train people out of flinching as they pull the trigger, which tends to do bad things to your aim.


Video Example(s):


Dylan fancies a game

Dylan tries to use a revolver to fancy a game of life and death.

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Main / RussianRoulette

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