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Best Movies About Gambling

31 August 2022

It’s not always possible to visit Las Vegas or Atlantic City. But you can always watch great gambling movies that depict the dark and the light sides of the casino industry astonishingly well. To save you some time, we hand-picked ten of the greatest movies about gambling.

21 (2008)

An American heist movie, based on the 2003 book ‘Bringing Down the House’ by Ben Mezrich. It tells the story from the perspective of an MIT student Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), who finds himself in a secret blackjack team, consisting of four MIT students (Kate Bosworth, Aaron Yoo, Liza Lapira, Jacob Pitts). The team is led by an MIT professor, played by Kevin Spacey.

Through superior intellect, the team developed a sophisticated card counting system to gain the upper hand against casinos. The stakes get higher when crossing paths with a casino head of security.

Maverick (1994)

Based on the 1957 television series of the same name, the movie tells the story of a brilliant gambler, poker player and, of course, charming con man Brett Maverick.

Throughout the film, Maverick is trying to win (and collect what is owed to him) money to take part in the poker championship. But he’s not the only one about to take part in the “great scam” – the charming thief Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster) also aspires to go there. And later they are joined by Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner), a lawman. Many adventures fall on their share until they manage to collect the necessary amount of money to participate in the final game.

Maverick was nominated for an Academy Award in 1994 for Best Costume Design. At the time the movie became one of the highest-grossing casino movies in the world.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Being a remake of a 1960 movie of the same name (starring all of the living members of the Rat Pack, including Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean), it gives the whole ‘heist’ thing a new and fresh spin. The kind of spin that was so lacking in the original, despite the all-star cast.

With thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) out of jail, in less than 24 hours he’s already planning the most elaborate casino heist in history. He wants to steal $160 million from three of the most successful casinos in Las Vegas. All these casinos are owned by an elegant yet violent businessman Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who is currently dating Danny Ocean’s ex-wife Tess (Julia Roberts).

In just one night Danny selects a team of eleven experts capable of carrying out this audacious theft. In order to pull off this crazy and complicated heist, Ocean will have to risk his life.

Casino (1995)

No one knows how to make money like Sam Rothstein. No one can work as hard and as neatly as Sam. For his undeniable virtues, Rothstein was nicknamed Ace. And that is why Mafia bosses decided to put Ace in charge of a huge, posh casino in Las Vegas. And to make sure no one would bother Sam, they sent Rothstein’s childhood friend Nicky Santoro – a hardened criminal and a ruthless thug.

Casino stars Robert De Niro, who runs the Tangiers Casino at the direction of the Chicago Mafia and acts as the viewers’ eyes and ears to the unseen machinations of running a casino in Las Vegas. If you’ve ever wondered how Las Vegas became the epicentre of gambling, then this masterpiece of money, power, greed, and deception is exactly what you need.

Rounders (1998)

A young law student and professional gambler, Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) dreams of winning the World Series of Poker, which will bring him money and glory. But Mike loses big time to a mobster named Teddy “KGB” (John Malkovich) and swears he’ll never hold a card again. Soon his childhood friend Worm (played by Edward Norton), who was released from prison with huge debts and managed to make a lot of powerful enemies on his first day of freedom, appears in Mike’s mild-mannered life. To save his friend, Mike must return to the world of high-stakes card games, thus breaking a promise he recently made to himself and his beloved girl.

A beautiful movie for both gaming lovers and even people who know nothing about gambling to enjoy. It excellently depicts the swagger and masculinity of being a full-time poker gamer in the nineties, and rightfully considered as one of the best gambling movies.

Uncut Gems (2019)

The events unfold in 2012 New York City around Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a charismatic jewellery shop owner and a hopeless gambler who, striving to win big, often bets on basketball games, but almost always loses. He’s up to his neck in debt and constantly hiding from creditors. Unwilling to fight his gambling addiction, Howard keeps borrowing money and keeps losing it, which gradually puts him in a difficult financial situation. However, the jeweller’s real problems begin when he tries to auction off rare uncut black opals from Ethiopia.

Nothing captures the stress of a gambling addiction more than this masterpiece by the Safdie Brothers, which is undoubtedly one of the best gambling movies on Netflix.

Cincinnati Kid (1965)

The film, based on the novel by Richard Jessup, tells the story of Eric Stoner (nicknamed the Cincinnati Kid), who was a poker player during the early days of the Great Depression, trying to become the best at what he did and succeed. To gain the respect of other players, he had to challenge Lancey “The Man” Howard, an older player who was considered by many to be the best. He was known for his ability to fool his opponent, even if the opponent had all the cards he needed to win.

A classic performance by Steve McQueen as a smug player who learns he’s maybe not as good as he thinks he is. The film feels modern, suspenseful and relevant.

California Split (1974)

In this brilliant satire, the player’s luck is at stake, the big score that almost no true Hollywood suspense is without. You can win a lot of money and still be miserable. Bill Denny (George Segal) and Charlie Waters (Elliott Gould) are pathological gamblers who are equally pathologically unlucky. Having met by chance in a bar, they realise they have to act as a team and head off to one of the swankiest casinos in America. There they manage to beat the legendary gambler Amarillo Slim (playing himself). However, that does not bring them luck. But in this virtuoso story, oddly enough, the process is more important than the result. Bill and Charlie play cards just because they like it.

It’s not just a great buddy movie but a beautiful exploration of friendship, wrapped inside one of the best gambling movies.

The Sting (1973)

Suburban Chicago, 1930s. Two street crooks – young Johnny Hooker and elderly Luther Coleman – steal from a courier working for powerful mob boss Doyle Lonnegan, who immediately organises a chase after them. Johnny manages to escape and Coleman becomes a victim of the gangster. After his friend’s death, Johnny goes to his friend, conman extraordinaire Henry Gondorff, and offers him to avenge Coleman’s death. Henry agrees, and together with Johnny they work out a plan for an ingenious scam.

A cult crime comedy about Chicago hustlers and gangsters in the 1930s, which won seven Academy Awards in 1973. The lead roles were superbly acted by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and directed by George Roy Hill, director of such films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Slaughterhouse-Five. Special mention should be made of the film’s screenplay, written by the talented David S. Ward, future author of Sleepless in Seattle.

Croupier (1998)

Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) is an aspiring writer who, suffering from writer’s block, takes a job as a casino croupier to support his literary ambitions. Jack watches the gamblers with the same sense of cold detachment with which he treats the writing of his novel.

He never bets himself, but when a seductive beauty and a casino regular involve him in a dangerous but potentially lucrative scam, Jack believes fortune is on his side. What he doesn’t realise is that soon the lure of the game will take him much further than he ever imagined.

This movie allows you to see the world of gambling from the perspective of a professional dealer. It explores the dark side of the world of gambling by painting a rather unusual portrait of the casino world. The film stays away from the lavish luxury casinos of Las Vegas and focuses on smaller rooms in London where people gamble for more than just their paychecks.