It can be almost impossible to tear yourself away from the casino, especially if you’re having the time of your life. However, regardless of what game you’re playing, you will have to take a break from time to time. Whether it’s just a short break to stretch your muscles or grab a bite to eat, or a longer time away from the slots and gaming tables to make sure you don’t become addicted, it is important to step away every now and then.
While you are taking a break from the casino life, what better way to spend your time than to sit back, relax, and watch a film that highlights your favourite betting games, eh? The good news is that there are many gambling-inspired movies that are now deemed as classics. In fact, there just might be too many of these movies for just a single list.
You certainly will not have any trouble trying to find a film featuring your most loved casino games. It’s a good thing you’ve got us to do the dirty work for you. We’ve sifted through hundreds of gambling films to find the ones most worthy of your time.
Best Gambling Scenes from Films
If you’re a film buff, then you would know that Hollywood loves to insert intense poker and exciting casino scenes in their movies, regardless of whether it is a drama, action, thriller, or even a comedy film. The moviegoer’s favourite in terms of genre may change from year to year, but there isn’t likely a year that goes by without a number of films showcasing a memorable gambling scene.
So, before we give you our list of the top movies that highlight casino games, let us first take a quick look at the best gambling scenes in films of all time.
1. The final scene in Rounders
Although the entire film focuses on gambling, it is the final scene that truly steals the show. Matt Damon and John Malkovich compete in a winner-take-all round of Texas Hold’em Poker, and the tension and intensity will be sure to keep you engaged. The scene is made even more intense and emotional by the fact that Damon’s character had borrowed $10,000 dollars from his old professor in a bid to repay a friend’s debts.
2. The casino scene in Run Lola Run
In this uplifting scene, main character Lola is seen to be in need of cash to save her boyfriend. In hopes of getting some quick cash, she approaches a roulette table and bets all the money she had on 20 black, with the odds being 1,296-1. The suspense will have you on the edge of your seat and rooting for Lola’s success.
3. The old-school poker scene in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
The mere idea of a smoke-filled backroom poker game may seem horribly outdated to those who just got into the poker scene recently, but it cannot be denied that there is something simply enticing about old-school poker. This allure was perfectly captured in a scene where Nick Moran and P.H. Moriarty play a game of Three Card Brag. The darkness and menace encompassing the scene make it well worth witnessing.
4. The poker tutorial scene in Ocean’s Eleven
The scene where Brad Pitt’s character teaches a group of actors how to play poker is filled with humor and wit. This is why it is one of the most engaging gambling scenes you’ll ever see in any movie. Anyone who has ever tried learning poker will be sure to relate. The scene even has the added bonus of an eye-catching George Clooney cameo.
5. The blackjack scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Mike Myers certainly knows how to make a blackjack scene stand out. His character engages Robert Wagner’s character in a game of blackjack, which results in much hilarity and makes light of the tension that is typically associated with this type of casino game. The fact that they’re actually playing the game wrong only adds to the fun depicted in the scene.
6. The poker scene in Tombstone
Val Kilmer plays Doc Holiday in this film, and in the scene that won a place on our list, he is seen liquored up and in high spirits after having been at a poker table for 36 hours straight. What makes the scene amazing is how Kilmer portrayed Doc maintaining his sharp edge throughout the lengthy game and ultimately emerging victorious.
7. The “fake high-roller” scene in Swingers
In this film, Vince Vaughn’s character visits Vegas in hopes of ending his financial troubles. The scene where he pretends to be a high-roller and buys into a $100 minimum bet table with a $300 wager is well worth the entry fee. This is another film that succeeded in making light of an otherwise serious casino gameplay.
8. The “bluff” scene in Cool Hand Luke
Paul Newman is lauded to have one of the coolest poker faces of all time, and he certainly uses that to his (and the film’s) advantage in this scene. This scene is also where he perfectly delivered the line, “Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.” The scene highlights bluffing as a key poker strategy and made that particular line one of the most memorable of all time.
9. The barman shooting scene in Goodfellas
The scene may be fleeting and it may not have anything to do with the film’s core narrative, but a brilliant performance from Joe Pesci managed to make it one of the best and most memorable gambling scenes in Hollywood movies ever. This scene is where Pesci’s character shoots a barman in the foot after they had a misunderstanding during what was supposed to be a good-natured poker game. Pesci’s incredibly menacing performance turned his character into everyone’s favorite lunatic.
Best Gambling Films
Yes, it can be enjoyable to watch the best gambling scenes in Hollywood movies, but why not watch the entire film while you’re taking a break from the tables, right? Worry not. We’ve got you covered. Here are the top Hollywood movies featuring the gambling industry:
1. The Cooler
We all know a guy who just can’t seem to get lucky when it comes to bets, and logic says that kind of guy really should stay as far away from the gambling tables as he can. In this film, however, a casino found such a guy quite useful. He was hired to “infect” lucky players with his bad luck so the house won’t lose too much money. This kind of casino employee is called a “cooler”. Things get interesting when the casino’s favorite cooler in this movie suddenly becomes a lucky charm.
2. The Hustler
Soon to celebrate its 60th anniversary, this movie was the one that catapulted Paul Newman into stardom. Newman played the ambitious pool shark Fast Eddie Felson who, in a bid to become the best pool player of all time, takes instruction from Brett Newman. Mr. Newman teaches the titular character how to play-to-win in the big leagues.
How would you feel if you won every single game you played? Fantastic, right? Well, that was exactly what a group of MIT students set out to achieve. Led by their professor, the group used a card-counting system that enabled them to fleece one casino after another. Their ultimate goal was to pay their tuition fees with their huge cash wins. But things don’t always go your way, does it? The group found themselves in hot water when the casinos finally caught on to their scam.
4. The Cincinnati Kid
Everyone loves a classic, and this film is surely one of the best classics out there. Starring Steve McQueen, this all-American drama is set during the Great Depression. McQueen’s character is out to prove that he is the world’s best poker player of all time. Of course, the only way to be hailed as the best is to beat the best, which is why the titular character challenges veteran player Lancey “The Man” Howard in a bid to snag the title.
5. Casino Royale
James Bond is arguably the world’s most popular secret agent. In this film, he had just gotten his 007 status. For his first MI:6 mission, he takes on a weapons dealer in a high stakes game of Casino Royale. And because this is a James Bond film, you know there’s so much more than just money at stake.
6. The Gambler
This film starring Mark Wahlberg is a remake of the 1974 classic. It tells the story of a literature professor with a simple outlook: You either have everything in life, or nothing at all. He takes this philosophy with him to the casinos and becomes addicted as a result. His addiction unfortunately led to a huge debt to the owner of an underground betting ring. He is given a week to pay off his debts, or he will have to pay with his life. In desperation, he enlists the help of some of his students to find the money he needs.
This film is rated R for drugs, sex, and violence. This alone tells you that the movie definitely reveals the truth behind the glitz and glamour of a Las Vegas casino. It tells the epic story of a mob-controlled casino and has earned a well-deserved rank among the classics. Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone all deliver marked performances and gifted their audiences with some of film history’s most harrowing and memorable scenes.
8. Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians
Have you ever joined a casino table and happened to sit next to a gentleman with his hands raised to the heavens, or maybe with his head bowed in prayer? That gentleman might just be a Holy Roller. This is the term used to refer to members of a Blackjack team that is comprised entirely of church-going Christians. This movie shows viewers how Holy Rollers manage to justify their love for the high stakes under the strict guidelines of their faith.
9. High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story
This is one of the better biographical gambling movies currently in existence. Michael Imperioli stars as Stu Ungar a high roller known for being the world's only poker player to ever win three main event tournaments in the WSOP. The movie tells the story of how this man, who once had everything going for him, goes downhill. It shows Ungar's life from beginning to end, highlighting the euphoric highs and depressing lows. Ungar eventually lost all of his money betting on horses, and the story of his life is equal parts entertaining and devastating.
10. All In: The Poker Movie
Countless Americans have learned the game of poker in hopes that it will help them achieve the American Dream. This movie tells you the history of one of the oldest games ever played in the country. It shows how politicians fought against the rights of American adults to decide how and where they spend their time and money. Additionally, it shows you how the professional poker community grew into the nationally-televised sport that we know today, and how it came to be endorsed by Hollywood superstars like Matt Damon and George Clooney.
The gambling industry has a long-standing and mutually-beneficial relationship with the film industry, and this is highly evident in the large number of films showcasing gambling in its many forms. The above list shows only a fraction of that number. There are countless other gambling-inspired films out there, and you just might find a gem or two that fell through the cracks when we made our list.
What is important is that you now know that whenever you feel the need to step back from your casino adventures for whatever reason, you don’t have to completely cut yourself off from your favourite games. You can still enjoy them not as a player, but as a viewer of brilliant movies that highlight the entertainment that they bring. You never know, some of these movies just might teach you a thing or two.