Top 10 Gambling & Poker Movies of All Time

Top 10 Gambling & Poker Movies of All Time
The incorporation of gambling, casinos, poker and other games in movies goes all the way back to the 1930's with Gambling Lady starring Barbara Stanwyck, while the latest gambling-related movie is Casino Royale, the newest film in the James Bond series starring Daniel Craig as 007.

This list contains the most notable gambling and poker movies and all of them provide their own unique outlook on the vast world of gambling.

The order in which the movies are listed is random. This list does not crown the "best gambling/poker movie of all time" but presents some of the more prominent films that revolve around the world of gambling.

To find out which film is considered the best, check out our What's the best gambling movie of all time? poll and find out.

And now, for the most notable gambling and poker movies of all times:

Casino (1995)

Casino

Based on the book by Larry Shandling and Nicholas Pileggi, Casino was released in 1995 and was directed by Martin Scoresese. It stars Robert De Niro (who else?) as Sam "Ace" Rothstein, a character based on Frank Rosenthal, who ran casinos in Las Vegas for the Mafia in the 70’s, most notably the Stardust casino.

The Mafia is backing Rothstein while he secretly runs the casino and has to set up a false front while, because of his gambling charges back East. Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, is sent by the mob to look over Rothstein and protect him but he eventually runs his own operations. Sharon Stone plays Ginger McKenna, a former prostitute and Rothstein’s love interest, who remains in love with her pimp, Lester Diamond, portrayed by James Woods.


Croupier (1998)

Croupier

Clive Owen stars as Jack Manfred, an uninspired writer who works as a croupier in a casino only to find out that his life would make a great novel. Tensions begin to emerge between Jack and his girlfriend, Marion, played by Gina McKee, when he finds himself succumbing to the temptations of the gambling world. Jack begins to realize that he is becoming the hero of his novel, the immoral Jake, and is, in fact, giving in to these temptations to provide him with subject matter that will make for a memorable work of fiction.

This neo film noir movie portrays a thrilling profile of the life of a dealer and shows how real casinos operate, while telling a compelling story.


The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

The Cincinnati Kid

Eric “The Kid” Stoner, played by Steve McQueen, is up against Lancey Howard, a veteran card shark, played by Edward G. Robinson. The two dual it out in five-card stud, with the straight-as-an-arrow dealer Shooter (Karl Malden) forced by Slade (Rip Thorn), a poker player who was bested by Howard, to cheat in order to help the kid and humiliate Howard.

The movie has aged a bit but the epic game featured in the movie and the highly suspenseful final hand has since become a classic.


Rounders (1998)

Rounders

Matt Damon is Mike McDermott, a New York law student who plays poker to finance his education. When he loses his savings in a $30,000 hand of poker he decides to quit the game completely until his old partner Worm, brilliantly played by Edward Norton, gets out of prison and drags him back to the game and into serious trouble.

The film is an atmospheric character study of the world of gambling that leads to the unavoidable final game that determines the fate of both friends when they face the dreaded Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) in a thrilling poker dual. The film brought many people to the poker tables and is one of the reasons poker became such a popular game in the last ten years.


The Sting (1973)

The Sting
This movie stars non other than the famous duo of Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a pair of con artist trying to pull the greatest con of their lives. It's a great casino-style movie with lots of excitement. After Henry Gondorf (Newman) and John Hooker (Redford) spot Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw), a high-stakes casino gambler during a poker game, they come up with very complex and ingenious methods of manipulating him into placing a huge sure bets on fixed horse races. But are they fixed? Is it really what they’re after?
The movie is intricate and the plot is entangled yet easy to follow. It shows the world of horse races, poker, schemes, money and the great thrill of the bet, as well as the perhaps even greater thrill of pulling of a sting of such proportions.
 

The Gambler (1974)

The Gambler
James Caan is Axel Freed, a professor in a New York City university that ironically also teaches Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler in his course. Despite his familiarity with casino gambling addiction and his use of Dostoyevsky to intellectualize his weakness into tragic compulsion he has a casino gaming addiction bordering on a tendency of self destruction.
The film presents a gritty realism to the world of casino bookies, loan sharks, and their violent enforcers. This intensive and realistic presentation of the life of a gambler on the path to self destruction is both compelling and disturbing. Not many films before or since have managed to capture the thrill of gambling, the constant risk taking and living on the edge, as this film managed to do so well.

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)

 The Stu Ungar Story

Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) portrays one of the legendary casino poker players of all time, Stu Ungar, who won 3 WSOP tournaments (the only player ever to do so) and countless other tournaments. He won many millions at the poker table but lost everything due to horse races and his drug addiction that also led to his death in 1998.

Imperioli shows Ungar’s complex personality, wild lifestyle and incredible prowess at every casino game he played, whether it was blackjack, poker or gin rummy (his specialty).

The movie focuses on Ungar’s relationships with his wife and those closest to him and portrays his life from its beginning, on Manhattan’s lower east side, as a gin rummy prodigy, turning poker pro in Las Vegas, after escaping there due to debts brought on by his race horses addiction and finally, his poker playing days, legendary WSOP wins, drug addiction and his untimely death in a Las Vegas hotel room.


The Cooler (2003)

The Cooler

This film is unique among gambling films because it tells the tale of a man who is not a gambler, but rather a man who brings bad luck to other gamblers.

William H. Macy is Bernie Lootz, a man with such incredible bad luck that he makes it impossible to win when he’s around. He is employed by a Las Vegas casino to “cool down” winning gamblers at the tables.

When he falls in love with Natalie (Maria Bello), a waitress at the casino he works in, it suddenly turns his luck upside down. When people start winning big simply because he stands next to them, the casino owner, Shelly Kaplow, played by Alec Baldwin (who was nominated for both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for his performance) begins to intervene and to make Lootz’s life a living hell.


Kaleidoscope (1966)

The movie tells the story of Barney Lincoln (Warren Beatty), a card player that comes up with a great way to cheat at card games. The young playboy’s scheme is to break into a plant that manufactures all the playing cards to all the major casinos and mark the plates that are used to print the cards. The casinos, as he finds out, use the same playing cards, all manufactured by the same company. He then naturally begins to win everywhere he plays.
When his girlfriend, Angel McGinnis (Suzannah York) learns his secret and her father, an inspector at Scotland Yard finds out too, things start to get dangerous. Her father demands him to help him catch the criminal Harry Dominion in exchange to keeping his secret but things get worse when Dominion finds this out and he kidnaps McGinnis. Lincoln and Dominion then dual it out at the poker table for the game of their lives.
Some critics claim that the plot of the film is based on Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale novel, the first in the James Bond series, which has now also become the newest James Bond film, after Die Another Day, which came out in 2002.

A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)

Henry Fonda (Meredith) and Joanne Woodward (Mary) are a husband and wife, who get caught up in a high-stakes poker game on their way to California. Meredith gambles all their life savings on the game, money that was meant to be used to buy a farm.

When Meredith suffers a heart attack during a hand his wife takes over, even though she doesn't know how to play casino games. Will she be able to play against the professionals and save their life savings? The end will surprise you.

Brett Chatz
About the author, Brett Chatz
Writer, General Casino Articles
My areas of expertise include online casino and online poker.
 

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