Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is a game show in which contestants answer multiple-choice questions of increasing difficulty to win a large cash prize (normally 1,000,000 of the region's currency, although this can vary). It was first broadcast on September 4, 1998, in the United Kingdom and currently has aired in more than 100 countries.


The show itself was based on a format created by David Briggs, Steven Knight and Mike Whitehill. The original title for the show was Cash Mountain, and the current title was inspired by the Cole Porter song of the same name. It first aired in the United Kingdom on September 4, 1998, where it was (and still is) hosted by Chris Tarrant. The format has its similarities to The $64,000 Question, in which contestants would answer questions that doubled their winnings (the original Millionaire money tree did this as well) until they reached $64,000. In fact, previous producer Michael Davies tried to bring back the show as The $640,000 Question before moving on to Millionaire.

Formats WorldwideEdit

This is a list of the major formats of the game. For a list of international variants, see International variants of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

Original FormatEdit

To earn the right in the hot seat, contestants have to undergo a round called "Fastest Finger First" ("Fastest Finger" in the US). In nearly all countries, ten contestants participate (although when one wins the preliminary round he or she is not replaced, and so other Fastest Finger First rounds in the same episode will have less contestants). Originally in the first series of the British version and all series until 2003 in the Australian version, contestants would have to answer a standard multiple-choice question in the fastest time. Now, however, contestants are shown a question and four answers which must be put into a particular order. (Technically it is never a question, but rather a command such as "Put these four US presidents in order of date elected, starting with the earliest.") The contestant who orders the answers correctly in the fastest time moves on to the main game and sits in the "hot seat".

In the rare event where nobody answers correctly, the Fastest Finger First round is played again until somebody answers correctly. Also, in the even rarer event where two or more contestants answer correctly in the exact same time (times are measured to the hundredth of a second), the round is played again with only those contestants competing.

Once in the hot seat, the contestant is asked increasingly difficult multiple-choice questions. Each question has four choices labelled A, B, C, and D. There is no time limit, and the contestant may take as long as he or she wants to answer a question. After every question (although often not on the first five questions due to their low difficulty) the host will ask the contestant to confirm the answer by using the now-famous phrase "final answer". After the contestant says it is their final answer, it may not be changed.

In the original format the game consisted of fifteen questions, with values roughly doubling after each question. The first few questions often had joke answers. The complete tree is as follows:

  • $100
  • $200
  • $300
  • $500
  • $1,000
  • $2,000
  • $4,000
  • $8,000
  • $16,000
  • $32,000
  • $64,000
  • $125,000
  • $250,000
  • $500,000
  • $1,000,000

The contestant may decide to quit after viewing any question; doing so is called "walking away" and allows the contestant to leave with any money they had earned up to that point. Values are not cumulative; e.g. answering three questions will not earn the contestant $600 ($100 + $200 + $300), but will instead give them $300.

Upon an incorrect answer, the player's game is over and he or she leaves with the last "safe haven". These are $1,000 and $32,000; these two values are guaranteed and cannot be lost. This means that the $2,000 and $64,000 are risk-free, and so they are often referred to as "free guesses". This also means that any incorrect answer on the first five questions means that the player leaves with nothing, and so the fifth question is the last chance a contestant has to do so.

In addition to walking away or answering incorrectly, the game also ends if the player answers all fifteen questions correctly, thus netting the player the top prize of $1,000,000.

Elimination of Fastest Finger FirstEdit

In some countries (including the US when it moved to syndication in 2002 as well as the UK in 2010) the Fastest Finger First round has been eliminated at some point. This means that contestants are introduced as soon as the previous one leaves.

16-question formatEdit

In 2007, the Australian version of the show adopted a 16-question format. Another question worth AUS$5,000,000 was added, although the previous $1,000,000 grand prize was not guaranteed (this means that answering the question wrong would lose the contestant $968,000, bringing them back to $32,000).

12-question formatEdit

On August 18, 2007, the United Kingdom's version debuted its new format, often referred to as the "fast track to the million". The question values started at £500 rather than £100, and the safe havens were located on the second and seventh questions. In addition, the music was changed drastically to what is known as the "rave remix". The money tree is as follows:

  • £500
  • £1,000
  • £2,000
  • £5,000
  • £10,000
  • £20,000
  • £50,000
  • £75,000
  • £150,000
  • £250,000
  • £500,000
  • £1,000,000

This format has been imported to a number of other countries, such as Bulgaria and Poland in 2008, and France and Spain in 2009.

Mohammad Hamzeh, a contestant on the Arab version, was the first contestant to win the top prize with this format on March 23, 2010. Just five days later, Krzysztof Wójcik also won the top prize on the Polish version, becoming Poland's first top prize winner since the show's debut ten years ago.