Movies with a gambling topic have always been attractive to watch. They contain high levels of drama because they are about taking risks. Watching people being cautious is no fun, but seeing someone gambling, chasing that big rush, and a large payout is thrilling.
The truth is – most of us like to watch real-life dramas. We want to see people beating the odds, taking that huge win, and outsmarting casinos. Cheering for the underdogs, for those who have nothing to lose, is something a large majority of people discreetly do. Seeing such stories in a film creates a bond with neutral viewers who want to see the underdog win.
Methodology of Choosing the Best Gambling Movies
Gamblers and ordinary people can learn a lot about their favorite casino games by watching gambling movies. There are gambling films with any topic or subject, whether roulette, blackjack, poker, craps, baccarat, casino slots, or something else. The list of gambling movies is extensive, and there is plenty of great choices to choose from.
Some of the most popular and glamorous movies of all time have gambling as their central theme. Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Monte Carlo, Macao, the big excitement of taking an enormous risk and sitting on the verge of the abyss of losing it all or winning big, is something that keeps people glued to the screens.
We have created a list of films that have different intriguing stories about gambling. Some are about building a strategy to beat the odds, and others are stories of ordinary people chasing their luck. Regarding the methodology, the emphasis is on gambling rather than on other aspects of the movie.
Of course, every list is subjective, so some may argue that one movie is better than another or that some movie does or does not belong on the list. All of the following films are great to watch, so we recommend you find all of them, watch, and enjoy.
Top Gambling Movies to Watch
The following list is not definitive. Many new movies are coming out, and more will come out soon. Some of these movies are great classics, and others are relatively recent movies that attracted many people to watch them. There is no specific order for how these films go, so you can start watching in any order you prefer. So without further delay, let’s take a look at the list of the best gambling movies of all time.
This movie came out back in 2008, telling the story about the legendary group of MIT Blackjack Team that managed to clean every major blackjack casino in Las Vegas out of money. The movie “21” is inspired by a true story and follows the group of students, played by a young group of talented actors, counting cards in blackjack and winning lots of money. Kevin Spacey plays a significant role in this film, and all blackjack lovers will love the intriguing story. The movie “21” offers an exciting look at how science can help people gamble smartly. It is a movie worth watching, offering a deep insight into the lives and minds of intelligent young people.
The movie “Rounders” came out in 1998 and brought a revolution to the poker world. It is one of the greatest gambling movies about gambling addicts chasing the big score. The film “Rounders” does an excellent job of portraying the life of professional and amateur poker players in the late 1990s. Matt Damon and John Malkovich have some epic scenes, often cited by gamblers and film fans worldwide. Ed Norton and other great actors also leave a mark in this movie, so see it if you have not done so far.
“The Color of Money”
Released in 1986 and quickly becoming very popular, “The Color of Money” is one of the classic gambling movies featuring two great movie stars – Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. Newman won an Oscar for this movie, continuing his character of Fast Eddie, whom he played in the film “The Hustler” back in 1961. This sequel to that epic gambling movie tells a story about a pool shark at a crossroads. Tom Cruise plays an emerging pool player seeking guidance and help, finding it in Fast Eddie’s character. Directed by Martin Scorsese, this is a movie you should not miss. Its magnetic, charming, full of colorful characters, all of them leaving their mark in the gambling world.
This 1994 movie tells the story of the poker player Bret Maverick as he plays riverboat poker tournaments, chasing the ultimate $500,000 prize. Maverick is portrayed by Mel Gibson, who excellently fits the role with his lively, happy-go-lucky character. Relying on his charm and wits, Maverick manages to con many people, but in a fun way. The movie is based on a popular TV series from the 1950s, and it features some epic poker scenes. There are many exciting things in the story, and the supporting actress Jodie Foster also does a great job playing the love interest of Bret Maverick.
Another drama coming from the maestro-director Martin Scorsese, this film from 1995 is full of great actors – Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone are all perfect in their roles, as always. A true gangster story portraying the inner dealings of the Las Vegas gambling scene, “Casino” tells a unique story about the criminal underworld in the gambling mecca of the world. As the story develops, movie watchers get drawn inside the story, cheering for one character or another, and experience everything as if they were physically present back in those old gangster times. With a unique portrayal of the gambling world, “Casino” rightfully takes its earned spot on the list of the top gambling movies of all time.
Out in 1996, “Hard Eight” is the first film from the hands of Paul Thomas Anderson. His directing debut is truly remarkable, as he created one of the best gambling movies ever. The film follows the story of a lonely, quiet, and sad man who barely survives in the Las Vegas underworld. All of that will change when he meets some people who need his skills. Overall, this gambling movie is deeply touching. It understands the way Las Vegas works and the people surrounding the gambling scene that you likely never notice.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is outstanding in this movie from 2003. This film follows a profoundly touching story about the world of a degenerate gambler. It tells the things the way they are – without the fluff and straight to the face. When you take out the glitz and glamour of gambling, you will get a great insight into the deep gambling addiction of Mahowny, a Canadian bank manager who steals money from his workplace to gamble at incredibly high stakes in the Atlantic City casinos. Hoffman is nothing short of brilliant in the movie role, and one cannot but feel sorry about his pathetic life as a degenerate gambler. Mahowny cannot control his gambling urges but is doing his best to hold on as long as possible. Mahowny is way too deep into the gambling world for anyone to understand. “Owning Mahowny” is probably the best movie that portrays gambling addiction to the core.
Another movie with Paul Newman in the leading role, this classic gambling movie from 1961 tells the story of Fast Eddie Felson, a pool shark, and gambler. It shows the ambition that drives gambling pool players, but it also tells a story about integrity and loyalty. Fast Eddie is trying to prove his worth by playing an epic high-stakes pool match against the legendary Minnesota Fats. The story is intriguing, down-to-earth, and soulful. Even 60 years after its release, “The Hustler” is still a masterpiece. The movie is perfectly directed, brilliantly written, with a fantastic story from start to end. The plot comes with many messages and meanings that may transform people’s views in many ways. Perhaps one of the things that makes this movie stand out among the rest is the brilliant ideas, wise thoughts, and immortal conversations. Any gambler would benefit from seeing this legendary movie, so get it and have it in your film library as one of the world’s best classics.
Bugsy is a movie from 1991, telling a classic Las Vegas story. It is about the gangster named Bugsy Siegel, who travels in the desert, believing he has seen the future of the mob and gambling. This Oscar-winning movie is directed by Barry Levinson, with Warren Beatty in the leading role. It is an intelligent, glitzy, and classy film about the world of gambling and crime. It follows the dream of Siegel of building a gambling mecca in the desert to fulfill his passion. A thing to note is that this movie is less about gambling itself and more about the things shaping the gambling world. Nevertheless, it’s still a fascinating movie with exciting twists and turns.
The fantastic duo of Robert Redford and Paul Newman have the leading roles in this fun and exciting gambling movie from 1973. An Oscar winner for Best Picture, “The Sting” is an enjoyable movie with a fantastic plot. Newman and Redford play the roles of Shaw and Kelly, two con men that seek to take down a gangster by taking his money. The way they try to do this is exciting, involving horse races and card games. The plan is brilliant, the characters are a delight to watch, and the narrative will keep you focused on the film from start to finish. This movie features some winners that are easy to root for, hoping to get what they deserve.
“The Cincinnati Kid”
“The Cincinnati Kid” is the oldest of all films on this list, coming out in 1965. The movie focuses on poker, describing an intriguing story with lots of drama. The legendary Steve McQueen delivers a brilliant acting performance, portraying a cocky, self-centered player who painfully learns that he is not as majestic as he thinks he is. Even though filmed in 1965, many will find this gambling movie contemporary and relevant. The story is current, and many people can easily relate to it.
Interestingly, this classic movie with James Caan in the leading role was released in 1974 but had a remake with Mark Wahlberg in the leading role in 2014. The first one is arguably much better, cementing its spot among the best gambling-themed movies ever. The film follows the story of a professor who is obsessed with gambling and taking all kinds of risks. The main character is constantly on the brink of self-destruction, feeding his ego with the danger of gambling. By making larger and larger bets, it goes deeper and deeper in the hole. However, chasing the rush drives Axel, the main character, who regularly bets on basketball games, looking for the biggest win of his life.
Another film from 1974, “California Split,” comes from the director’s hands of Robert Altman. It follows the story of a casual gambler who befriends another experienced gambler and starts to mirror his life. The story goes deep into the sleazy gambling underworld, where stakes and danger both go up. It explores friendships, complicated situations, and dangerous characters who always find their way in the gambling world. Perhaps “California Split” is a bit underrated in comparison to other films on the list, but it’s still a perfect movie from the 70s, giving you a glimpse of the thrilling gambling world.
Summary – Expand Your Views by Watching a Variety of Gambling Movies
Besides this list of greatest gambling movies, many other gambling-themed movies have left their mark on the audience. It would be ideal if you explored and saw as many movies as possible to get a different view of gambling. There are plenty of other films that focus on surrounding things of the gambling world, which are also worth seeing.
The truth is that you can learn a lot from watching different types of gambling movies. They all provide a unique look at the industry, characters, games, and other things associated with gambling.