Poker has been one of the most popular card games across Europe, and the world, for a long time, with some studies estimating that the game is over 1,000 years old. And so, it only makes sense that the game has had an impact in the world of pop culture.
Countless movies, television shows, novels, and comic books have referenced the game in one way or another. But only a select few have managed to successfully capture the true essence of poker. So if you’re planning a poker film night, here is our list of the best ones ever made!
These are the best poker films ever made
A list of the best poker films will not be complete without Rounders. Starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, the film tells the story of Mike, a talented poker player who dreams of winning the World Series of Poker (WSOP).
Despite an unimpressive theatrical release, the film went on to become a cult classic. Professional poker players, like 2003 WSOP champion Chris Moneymaker, credit the film as a major inspiration in their career, as it was the first poker film to reference Texas Hold’em in the early 2000s.
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
For fans of classic cinema, The Cincinnati Kid, one of the oldest poker movies, is right for you! The film centres on Eric Stoner, played by the iconic Steve McQueen, as he pushes himself to be the greatest Five Card Stud player in the world. His quest led him to “The Man,” an older player who has already established his reputation as the best.
Upon its release, the film earned mixed reviews from critics, but two of its supporting actors received award nominations.
The Grand (2007)
If you want a laugh — or several — amidst all the poker action, look no further than the improvisational comedy The Grand. The film combines documentary-style interviews with the actors’ home footage as they join poker players in an actual tournament. As a result, the film shines with its realistic and organic dialogue, which unfolds just as the game is played.
The poker tournament featured in the film was played at the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The hotel is home to one of the best poker rooms in Las Vegas, especially for competitive crowds. After all, it has hosted many poker tournaments over the years, including the WSOP, one of the biggest events in the industry. With The Grand being a semi film/ semi-documentary, their choice of filming location was perfect.
A critically and commercially successful American Western, Maverick stars award-winning actor and director Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, a poker player who wants to enter a winner-takes-all tournament. Unfortunately, he was short $3,000 to enter, so to make money, he finds himself in dangerous yet funny situations, including collecting on debts and playing with an ill-tempered opponent.
Although it is not heavy on the poker theme, the film’s comedic nature allows for a light, easy watch, especially for poker beginners.
Lucky You (2007)
Read more: Mortal Kombat Spoiler Review
Starring Eric Bana and Robert Duvall, Lucky You narrates the tale of a son wanting to make it big in the poker world but is haunted by the shadow of his father, a two-time WSOP champion. When the two arrive at Las Vegas for the same tournament, they find a chance to reconnect and fix their broken relationship.
Originally, the film was supposed to be shot at the Bellagio’s poker room. However, because filming coincided with the venue’s renovation, the filmmakers just created an exact replica of the room in a soundstage in Los Angeles.
As you can see, the exciting and competitive nature of poker has inspired some of the best films in Hollywood history — with more sure to come in the future. If you liked this list, do explore more of our film stories here on Small Screen!
What do you make of this story? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages! And if you enjoy listening to film podcasts, why not check out our podcasts, Small Screen Stories and Small Screen Film Club wherever you get your podcasts!