If you love good gambling movies, and let’s be honest, we all do, here are the top five gambling films we think are currently in existence.
So, if you’re really into gambling films, then these following five movies are the films you have to watch as soon as possible.
Rounders – A Great Gambling Movie
A poker film that actually gets it right. In fact, it crushes it. Rounders feels like a poker film made by poker fans for poker fans. We appreciate that many films have used poker as a great plot device (think Casino Royale, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), but Rounders centres itself on poker. Real-life fan Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott, who begins the film by entering a high-end underground game run by an ex-KGB enforcer who has curious love for Oreo cookies.
Mike does this in the hope of raising his WSOP main event buy-in, but, this being a film, his bluff is called, and he loses everything except his girlfriend, who stands by him, so long as he stays away from poker. The film cuts forward, and his best friend, Worm (Edward Norton), is released from prison and instantly begins to drag him back under. Lumbered with his mate’s debts and never letting poker leave his head, it isn’t long before Mike is back at the tables, but I’ll let you find out the rest.
Hard Eight – One that’s really worth watching
Starring John C. Reilly, Hard Eight tells the story of John. Poor sad John, whom we first meet distraught outside a diner in Las Vegas, trying to figure out exactly how he is going to raise the money for his dying mother’s funeral. As soon as the credits finish rolling, John is joined and, before long, befriended by Sydney, a former gambler in his 60s. Sydney takes John under his wing and teaches him to gamble successfully, thus raising the sought-after funds.
Further people John gets involved with include waitress/prostitute Clementine, soon to be his wife, and security worker friend Jimmy (Samuel L. Jackson). To avoid further spoilers, we’ll leave it there, including just why Sydney was so keen to help young John in the first place.
Casino – The Masterpiece Of Gambling Movies…?
We all know about this director and all his best movies. Martin Scorsese took all of the ingredients from his masterpiece Goodfellas and transferred the formula to the desert and Sin City of Nevada’s Las Vegas. Casino is essentially a mob movie, highlighting their role in the rise of the city into what it is today. It’s a gory case study that teams up Robert DeNiro (Sam “Ace” Rothstein) and Joe Pesci (Nicky Santoro) again and throws in a never-better Sharon Stone as Mrs Rothstein.
Ace gambler Mr Rothstein has been employed by the Chicago mob to oversee their casino operations down in the desert and send boyhood friend Pesci to provide his security, something he painfully fails to do. As a kind-of newcomer’s guide to casinos, Scorsese’s brilliantly epic rolling shot of the mechanics of a casino is a first-class piece of filmmaking.
The Cooler – The coolest gambling film
Loser Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is down on his luck when we first meet him. So unlucky is the guy that he is basically employed purely to rub off his misfortune on others. At the film’s beginning, he is up to his eyes in gambling debts, loveless and broke. Lootz is also sporting a shattered kneecap courtesy of casino boss Shelly Kaplow, played here by Alec Baldwin.
Now though, at long last, the debt is nearly paid off, and Lootz doesn’t fancy hanging around in a town that has done him no favours at all. Enter a love interest planted there by Shelley to keep his best earner onside. Further complications are thrown into the mix when his ex-wife and estranged son turn up to give poor Bernie another headache. A gritty yet fun look at the casino industry made all the better by its all-star cast.
Croupier, UK (1998) – The classiest gambling film
Here is a British film that takes a look at the inner workings of a UK casino. In Croupier, Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, a struggling writer who, in order to make ends meet, takes a job as a croupier in a casino. Working this job, he is introduced to colleagues that he knows only too well are scheming against the house. Having called them out on this, the casino’s grubby underbelly consumes Manfred, who participates in a robbery at the casino which goes horribly wrong, leaving him badly beaten.
To make matters worse, his girlfriend Marion is the victim of a hit-and-run. Eventually, he gets a book published before a small plot twist at the end wraps things up nicely. Croupier is one of the best gambling movies ever made, and director, Mike Hodges, was in top form when he made this, as was the cast, especially a superb Owen. The world of the casino is much different nowadays, with many players turning to online platforms. Some even turn to crypto casinos after having learned how to play roulette with Bitcoin, but in the 1990s, when this film was released, the croupier’s only option was to throw himself in head first.
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