What’s better than gambling or movies? Obviously both at the same time: gambling movies. And we’ve thought long and hard and done our research (yes, we watched a lot of movies and it was “for work”) and came up with the ultimate list of casino movies for you to watch.
The top 10 best gambling films. From 1965 all the way to 2008, here’s everything you should watch if you’re looking to figure out what are some of the best gambling movies ever made.
You might “know when to hold ’em / know when to fold ’em / know when to walk away / and know when to run” after you’re done. (if you’re wondering how many Kenny Rogers gambling movies are there: 5 he never got to make the 6th Gambler).
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
The Cincinnati Kid has its fair share of controversy as avid moviegoers consider it a knockoff version of the Hustler, but instead of focusing on pool hustling it’s all about poker.
Opinions are still split but many cinephiles think that Cincinnati Kid is better than the Hustler and Rounders, all-time fan favourites.
A new kid on the block aka Steve McQueen who plays “the Kid”, a young poker player, decides to prove his greatness by going up against a long-time master of poker.
California Split (1974)
It’s said that the director of this movie, Robert Altman, sent Elliot Gould the screenplay hoping he will consider the role and Elliot said that he had always wanted to play this guy and the director replied that he was that guy.
Let’s hope that’s not true as the character’s addiction is pretty strong. Anyway, you get to see a bromance form between a casual gambler and a professional one as they both go deeper and deeper into the world of gambling and keep raising the stakes.
The Color of Money (1986)
Yet another Scorsese movie, The Color of Money is the movie which brought Paul Newman his only Oscar. The movie is actually a sequel to 1961’s The Hustler (which you should also watch btw).
It follows the story of an ageing pool shark as he teaches a talented protege how to do it too. And you get to see a young Tom Cruise.
We can’t make a list that won’t include this casino movie since the casino is in its title. Also, Robert De Niro. He plays Ace, a gangster that’s running a shady casino but he also runs into some trouble thanks to Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone (is this beautiful woman ever good news?).
This Martin Scorsese movie offers an interesting view of the City of Sins. You don’t get the glitz and glamour, you get greed, deception, money, and power struggles in the mafia.
It all starts with an aspiring writer (Clive Owen), Jack, who is desperate for money so he becomes a croupier at a casino and entering the world of gambling.
While he takes a look at what goes on behind the scenes and the people who risk it all at the tables, he realizes that the life of a croupier might be a great theme for a book.
A reformed gambler (Matt Damon) needs to return to playing poker to help his friend pay off loan sharks. Can he help him out and win the poker game, while also keeping his relationship and his commitment to law school? We’ll see.
But in the meantime, you get a really great portrayal of what professional poker players looked like in the 90s. Plus, the supporting cast is unbelievable with Edward Norton, John Malkovich and many other giants.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
If you’re ready for a trip to modern Las Vegas then Ocean’s Eleven is a great choice. You’ll get to see George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s characters at a card table being cool as hell and battling it out.
Sure, Steven Soderbergh’s movie is more about robbing three casinos blind then it is about actual gambling, but it’s still worth it.
Casino Royale (2006)
There are two versions of this James Bond movie, but the 2006 version is much more interesting and exciting than the 1967 one. Of course, with Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Judi Dench on the frontlines it couldn’t have been different.
The story follows James Bond as he takes on another villain, this time in the form of the poker-playing Le Chiffre. He must defeat the private banker who funds terrorists in a high-stakes poker game.
Probably the most iconic moment is the Casino Royale poker scene at Monte Carlo when agent 007 goes against his foe in an all-or-nothing game.
21 is a movie that’s based on a true story (which was of course embellished by the author, Ben Mezrich, to make things more Hollywood-ready) in which the MIT Blackjack Team manages to beat the casino for almost a decade. The 21 movie makes geeks look super cool as they use math and business to pull an epic heist.
You get to see some young actors, Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Jacob Pitts, and Josh Gad, as well as the well-known Kevin Spacey, hanging out at the casino and card counting.
The movie has its share of controversy as the film-makers were criticized for whitewashing and casting white actors instead of going for Asian-Americans like the real-life players were.
What’s great about this movie is the idea that you could use math to win at Blackjack, as well as seeing it get done. Not really a thing in the online gambling world, but still exciting.
The Gambler (1974 and 2014)
There are two versions to this classic gambling movie: the one from 1974 and the one from 2014. Each one is arguably amazing.
The story for both of them was written by James Toback who based it on his real-life gambling addiction. It seems that the main character is somehow more obsessed with getting himself in danger and self-destruction rather than gambling, but even so, the movie reaches epic proportions as he needs to pay off his debts to loan sharks and underground gambling ring owners or… die.
There are few gambling films as looked for online, with many different questions (such as movies Mark Wahlberg progressor who has a gambling problem or what gambling movies is John Goodman in) all leading to the same result: The Gambler.
We think you should watch both versions of the movie as each one of them brings something intriguing. If you need a reason, watch the first one for the story, and the second one to see Marky Mark as a literature professor/gambling addict with an all-or-nothing attitude and John Goodman with a shaved head and great role.
What Are the Best Gambling Movies?
These are just 10 of the best movies about gambling in chronological order, but there are many others out there that you should definitely consider checking out if this is a theme you’re interested in. There are quite a few anime about gambling as well and they are super exciting.
If there’s one thing we learn from these films it’s that while looking to win big and have fun you must always remember that gambling can be a positive, but it can also be quite negative.
It’s all about balance and doing it for the right reasons and not getting caught up in it and obsessed. Moderation and responsible gambling are key to keeping things on the right path. And also, you’re probably better off online gambling at licensed, fair and legal online casinos than going to creepy underground Las Vegas casinos.