Top 25 Gambling Movies

Author:

Chris Evans

Last Updated:

25/03/2022

Introduction

One thing that you should never be surprised about in the world of film, is how much an injection of gambling jeopardy into an otherwise mundane storyline can increase excitement levels to the max.

There is nothing that triggers an adrenalin rush quite like placing a pile of chips on the outcome of the next roulette spin. This sense of anticipation has been expertly channelled by the world’s directing greats for several decades to deliver movies that will never be forgotten.

But, if you are a film buff, who also loves a session at one of NZ’s best online casinos, which movies should be on your list to watch before you die. 

We believe we have cracked this little chestnut. By using ratings provided by top movie reviewers at Imdb, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic we have compiled a comprehensive list of the Top 25 Gambling Movies to ever hit the silver screen.

Film/Rating

25. Maverick (68.3)

Maverick is gambling in the mainstream. This big-budget attempt to bring the life of Wild West saloons to the big screen is laudable, if highly inaccurate. As you might expect, the lead, played charmingly by Mel Gibson, goes from scrape to scrape generally coming out on top, while picking up Jodie Foster for good measure. 

If bubble-gum fun is your go-to genre, then Maverick will be right up your street. 

However, for gaming fans who wish to see a little more nitty-gritty, this high budget production may leave you feeling a little underwhelmed. 

24. The Cooler (70.4)

The Cooler is a likeable title that sensitively deals with the issues that surround recovering gambling addicts. Although still in huge debt, to casino owner (Alec Baldwin). Bernie, played by the talented William H. Macy, is down but not defeated. 

Life might have dealt “the Cooler” a bad hand so far, but all that changes when the cocktail waitress (Maria Bello) enters the stage. The love of a good woman can conquer all, or so it seems. 

23. Rounders (71.9)

Rounders draws on several poker-related stereotypes, but is an exhilarating watch all the same. 

Matt Damon and Edward Norton perform wonders in bringing the world of the highly intelligent student cum poker-pro to life in this 1998 box-office smash. 

You will be inspired to be Damon’s biggest supporter from the start and the good versus evil rhetoric that is effortlessly woven through the film’s screenplay perfectly illustrates the daily duels that all table game fans can appreciate.

That is not to say that Rounders will not be appreciated by a wider audience. The writing is of such a high standard that non-gamblers will be as quickly drawn into this feature as anyone else.

22. Owning Mahowny (72.8)

Owning Mahowny is another feature that dwells on the potential pitfalls that gambling often throws up.

This tale for the modern age is based on a true story. The leading role is played out by award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who depicts the life of a Canadian bank manager who dreams of a more fulfilling life. With access to huge quantities of cash, Hoffman’s character sets about using reserves from his branch to invest at the Roulette Tables of Atlantic City. 

Unfortunately, this is an action that is generally frowned upon and one that is likely to lead to only one outcome. Although witnessing the descent of others into the moral depths is a little uncomfortable at times, Hoffman’s depiction is so stunning that this sorry state of affairs provides addictive viewing.

21. The Gambler (72.9)

The Gambler, admittedly not the most imaginative title for a gambling movie, is a fascinating insight into the cut and thrust that takes place daily between casino fans and the house.

This story revolves around the life of a university professor who thinks he is well on the way to beating the system. However, in an age-old story, the lead, played by the highly convincing James Caan, falls into ravines of despair as his gambling losses begin to mount. 

The study of how gambling reversals can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy should be a lesson for us all. But, from a third-person perspective, The Gambler is a masterpiece of storytelling, ensuring that your attention is demanded until the thrilling climax is played out.

20. Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians (74.2)

Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians, is something of an anomaly. As a documentary, this production focuses on the trial and tribulations of real-life casino goers, a subject that is always likely to fascinate and inform in equal measure. But, the twist to this factual casino insight, is that the Blackjack fanatics that are followed in a warts-and-all manner are devout Christians.

Now, I must admit that it is a few years since I leafed through the Holy Bible. But, I’m fairly certain that gambling and devout Christianity are uncomfortable bedfellows!

So, it is with intrigue that you should see how these two important features for members of the Holy Rollers are reconciled. 

19. Hard Eight (76.0)

Hard Eight comes across as being a “How To Guide” for taking down the house of any respected casino. And who wouldn’t wish to be burnished with such knowledge?

This high-class feature hosts the talents of several of Hollywood’s heavyweight actors. Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and John C. Reilly, all take turns in touring some of the world’s glitziest casino venues in a bid to bolster their already burgeoning bank balances. 

Of course, Hard Eight follows the pattern of many films of this ilk, showing how the path from riches to rags can be a quickly trodden one for us all. As is often the case, the appearance of a classy call-girl and a casino patron of dubious virtue sees the central characters take their eye off of the ball, or so to speak. With financial ruin being a likely outcome.

For casino fans, there is much to enjoy. But, film buffs will be equally appreciative of the dramatic interplay between a great cast as the film builds towards its epic finale.

18. Eight Me Out (76.2)

Eight Me Out is a film that depicts one of the biggest betting scandals to ever hit organised sport in North America. 

The year was 1919, and the Chicago White Sox had cruised through a near-perfect Major League Season. 

However, when this star-studded team begin to feel undervalued by the team’s owner, Charles Comiskey, the opportunity for criminal jiggery-pokery to enter the fray increases exponentially.

It is not long until professional gamblers, Bill Burns and Billy Maharg present the Chicago White Sox roster with an opportunity that is too good to turn down. Throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds and White Sox players could share in a mega pot of cash. 

Eight Me Out, in essence, is an allegory of how resentment can quickly build when your employers do not recognise your worth and is a fascinating insight into how shady customers will always be quick to spot the chance of making a profit no matter the level of risk that is attached. 

17. Bugsy (76.4)

Bugsy, the 1991 release that is based on the life of Bugsy Siegel. 

Not a household name I hear you say!

Well, the life of Bugsy is a long and widening one that left an indelible mark on the gambling industry in Las Vegas that he helped to instigate.

Bugsy, a renowned gangster, had an epiphany. Moving to the desert he believed the future of petty crime was linked to the profits that he could cream off from creating a gambling haven for long-suffering casino fans across the North American continent. 

Although the gambling tables are not the primary focus of this biopic. The evolution of Las Vegas into the gambling capital of the world that it is today is a fascinating story that will hold the gaze of all of those who have ever dreamed of gracing the hallowed tables of Nevada.

16. The Color of Money (77.0)

As you might have already realised, Paul Newman is the don when it comes to playing shady characters who live and die by the bets that they make.

Newman’s third entry into our list of the 25 Top Gambling Movies is The Color of Money. Reprising his role as Fast Eddie Felson from his 1961 movie, The Hustler, Newman is facing the problems that afflict us all as we age. Our aim might be as good as ever, but the new kids on the block have that extra bit of desire to beat us to the punch!

The film’s director, the legendary Martin Scorsese, leaves you with the impression that gambling hustles might fill a need for a while, but a person’s soul with never be fulfilled while undertaking such dubious pastimes. Although a cautionary tale, The Color of Money never quite reaches the heights of previous iterations. However, the combination of Newman and Scorsese is always worth a watch, as it is with this 1986 feature.

15. Croupier (77.1)

Croupier is a film whose raison d’aitre is to scratch at the surface of all things casino.

Clive Owen takes on the role as a casino’s lead croupier and is perfectly placed to act as a lightning rod for the stories of desperation and euphoria that he witnesses daily. 

The plot is somewhat complex, but the utilisation of the Blackjack table as a metaphor for the fragility of everyone’s hopes and dreams means that you are likely to come away from watching this thriller with a sense that gambling should always remain fun.

After all, there are other things to life than a trip to your favourite casino venue!

14. Waking Ned Devine (78.0)

A lottery is a form of gambling that is acceptable to even the harshest critics of betting games, even in the most conservative of countries like New Zealand

So, a film about the national lottery of Ireland and the fanciful tales of what could possibly happen to anyone lucky enough to win its jackpot is likely to draw a good crowd.

The plot for Waking Ned Devine revolves around the life (and the death) of the eponymous Ned Devine. Ned’s last act of his long and eventful life is to realise that he has won the jackpot prize on the Irish State Lottery. This, of course, would be a shock to most of us. And, to a man of advancing years, this news is just too much to take. After a search for the local winner of the lotteries top-prize is begun, it is soon realised that Ned has not been seen for a while. On entering Ned’s house, the title character is discovered with a smile on his face, a lottery ticket clutched in his hand, and profoundly dead!

However, to claim the multi-million punt prize, Ned’s fellow villagers must convince lottery officials that the winner is compus mentus. There begins a series of escapades designed to ensure that at least some of his neighbours share in Ned’s good fortune!

13. God of Gamblers (78.1)

God of Gamblers, the 1989 film by the director Jing Wong, was always destined to be a hit.

Starring Chow Yun-Fat and Andy Lau, God of Gamblers shine a light on the lives of a pair of unstable professional gamblers. Lau takes the lead, playing the character Michael Chan with Yun-Fat playing the perfect foil in Ko Chun. Chun also goes by the name of Little Knife, who pays his way by completing a series of small-scale hustles while he lives his life out on the City’s streets. Chun, also known as the “God of Gamblers”, is a punter of little skill but who holds supernatural instincts allowing him to gain an edge over adversaries.

After causing Chun a serious injury, Chan utilises his hustling instincts to help Chun take full advantage of his abnormal edge. The outcome is a life that revolves around high-stakes table games that become ever more lucrative. 

12. California Split (79.2)

Based in Los Angeles, this 1974 film, directed by Robert Altman, follows the lives of fellow gamblers Charlie and Bill. If ever you wish to take a pick at the rollercoaster ride that is the world of professional gambling, you could do worse than much this powerful comedy/drama.

Charlie is a dyed in the wool gambler, betting on anything from Roulette, to Blackjack, to horse racing and boxing. His friend Bill is easily led and soon also catches the gambling bug.

Their adventures in and around the seedy underside of the gambling industry see the pair both robbed and become robbers. A series of events leads Bill to the table of a top-level poker tournament. Picking up the pot, life seems rosy. But, such is the short-termism that often impairs the decision-making of gamblers, a run of bad results at the Craps table sees much of the pairs gains frittered away. Dissatisfied by the highs and lows of a gambler’s life, Bill decides to walk away in the hope of leading a much more stable future existence.

Altman’s film holds lessons for us all!

11. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (79.6)

Quite rightly, many of the top gambling movies focus on the intensity of the battle between a multitude of cads and houses that they seek to take down. But, if you like a few laughs over your hand of poker, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is likely to be right up your street.

Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring British action legends Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones, Lock Stock focuses on the escapades of four wannabe friends. Life gets serious when the collective copper up to buy-in to a major poker tournament. Playing against a mafioso-style big-time crook, the outcome is inevitable. But, the loss means that cash is required quickly, with all possible avenues being explored.

10. The Music of Chance (80.0)

The Music of Chance is a gambling movie that is much more than meets the eye.

Fables are often cited by the righteous as a way of nudging the rest of the population into behaving in a manner that is befitting. This is the sense that you come away with once you have watched the compelling movie, The Music of Chance.

Director Philip Haas does a spellbinding job of bringing Paul Auster’s award-winning novel to life. At the heart, is a story of deception that ultimately results in a rather befitting outcome.

Mandy Patinkin and James Spader team up as the former fireman and small-time gambler who have their hearts set on parting a pair of eccentric lottery winners from their hard-earned cash.

Patinkin bankrolls Spader to take on the ageing millionaires in a high-stakes hand of poker. When the results do not turn out as planned, a life of servitude awaits. The morals of the story are there for all to see, if you seek to take advantage of others in a game of chance the outcome can never be guaranteed!

A timely lesson for all casino fans!

9. Ocean’s Eleven (80.2)

Where films such as Atlantic City might portray some of the downsides of gambling as well as the occasional up. Ocean’s Eleven takes a very different path. Steven Soderbergh sought to assign all of his characters in the gaming-focused Ocean’s Eleven with a distinctive swagger that allows the cads at the centre of this ensemble piece to feed off of each other’s positive energy. 

Perhaps Ocean’s Eleven is not overtly accurate in its depictions of gambling. However, gambling is more about psychology than anything else, so a character examination of the main figures will still be of great value to enthusiasts who will no doubt seek to employ similar swag on their next casino visit.

We’re all after a good time, and two hours with the Ocean’s Eleven gang is one of the finest ways to experience this.

8. House of Games (80.3)

House of Games is a bit of a curiosity. The film starts off from Margaret’s perspective. Margaret is a world-renowned psychiatrist, who recently released the bestselling novel titled Driven: Compulsion and Obsession in Everyday life. As is so often the case, the increase in a public persona that a famous author receives produces random calls for help. In this instance, Billy is the man in need. He seeks out Margaret and confides in her that owes shady sorts $25,000 and will be bumped off if this debt is not met.

Margaret agrees to meet with Billy’s would-be assassin, Mike, who suggests that the debt only amounts to $800, which he will forego if Margaret plays high-stakes poker with him.

Margaret readily agrees and begins to get ensnared in a world of exhilaration and intrigue. With more twists and turns than a spin on Evolution Gaming’s top title Immersive Roulette, you will find yourself on the edge of your seat throughout this 1987 offer. 

7. Atlantic City (81.0)

The decision to legalise gambling is an issue that exercises the minds of many local and national governments to this day. Both anti and pro-gambling camps could do worse than to watch Atlantic City before they come to any concrete decisions on these matters though. 

Reviewing a period where play at the tables was largely unregulated. Atlantic City looks at the casino industry from several subjective standpoints.

Of course, it is everyone’s dream to land a huge prize at the Roulette or the Poker tables. But, what is life like for those who are not so lucky?

Atlantic City does a great job of displaying both the dreams and the realities of the casino world, with the realism that this picture shines on the industry being a refreshing departure from the sentiment that often surrounds the top gambling films. 

Written by John Guare and starring Hollywood greats, Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City is a film that might be a great choice for those who accept that gambling boasts both ups and downs.

6. Rain Man (81.6)

Rain Man is an interesting selection for our panel. But, the character traits of Raymond, an autistic maths genius, are such that gambling enthusiasts will be intrigued by character interactions that play throughout this 1988 epic.

Although commonly classed as a road movie, Rain Man is so much more. 

The Oscar-winning feature draws on the perceived weaknesses of Raymond, the brother of Charlie who has recently discovered that he has been written out of his own fathers will, and turns this on its head.

Card counting, as we all know, is viewed dimly by casinos across the world. And, it is easy to see why. Blackjack as a gambling game provides the house with only a sliver of profit wherever it is supported. So, when players have the ability to remember the outcome of previous hands to help determine future betting patterns, casino owners are non too impressed. 

Raymond displays all of the nature-given skills in fascinating scenes in Vegas, offering gambling aficionados a rare insight into how some houses continue to run.

However, the fine performances delivered by Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in this distinctive feature, make Rain Man a great viewing option for all.

5. Bob Le Flambeur (83.0)

Bob Le Flambeur is potentially the greatest foreign-language gambling film of all time.

This 1956 feature brought the intrigue of the Paris tables to the masses like never before and was so ahead of its time that it still appears in lists such as this one to this day.

Bob Le Flambeur or “Bob the Gambler” or “Bob the High Roller” to those of the English tongue, depicts everything that has the potential to go wrong whenever you take a seat at the gaming tables of your favourite Casino.

Initially lucky, the central character, Bob, goes from the heights of elation to the depths of despair in almost no time at all. This change of fortune also lays bear that many of the people that he came to rely on in the goods times are not so forthcoming when austerity is in the air.

Alas, to regain his status as a success, Bob hatches a daring plan to rob his local casino at the end of a busy weekend. But, as with all things Hollywood, fantasy and reality do not always tally.

Gamblers of all colours will readily identify with the ups and downs of Bob’s journey. Making Bob Le Fambeur a must-see film for all fans of this genre.

4. Casino (83.1)

If Paul Newman and Robert Redford were the original dynamic duo, then Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci have certainly taken over their mantle.

In 1995, Casino, the classic gambling movie, saw De Niro and Pesci collaborate for the fifth time!

3. Casino Royale (85.8)

You will all be aware of James Bond’s fondness for Baccarat, but Casino Royale sees 007 display his flexibility for table games.

Casino Royale sees Bond display all the skills that have seen him become an icon for the British Secret Service. 007 is tasked with infiltrating the Casino Royale to bring down evil financier, Le Chiffre. 

To complete this operation, Bond, must go undercover and play high-stakes Poker with Le Chiffre and his cronies. 

Of course, it is a given that Bond always wins. But, seeing this dynamic play out at the Poker table will have many casino fans engaged in the iconic franchise like never before.

Like any great director, Martin Scorsese knows exactly which strings to pull to get these two acting legends performing to their best on-screen, so it is not a surprise that this hit movie appears high on our list of Top Gambling features.

Casino combines all of the murky dealings that you would expect from a Scorsese plot with the added thrill of focusing on the proceedings at one of Vegas’s top gambling venues as a backdrop.

Although the focus on the Roulette, Poker, and Blackjack tables are secondary to the film’s main themes. The use of Vegas as a setting is likely to give even the most gnarled of gamblers goosebumps. 

However, the complex relationships between the would-be gangsters, that plays out on screen for all to see, makes Casino a must-see film for all.

2. The Sting (87.4)

If ever an actor understands what it takes to exhibit all of the torture that gambling creates in the mind of many, Paul Newman must be that man.

In The Sting, Newman once again takes a leading role, acting alongside is long-term amigo Robert Redford. 

The sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid sees gambling-related activities take centre stage.

Poker schools and off-track betting operations will draw you into the world of these believable rogues, leaving you both amazed at their audacity and practising a form of hero-worship at the exact same time. 

Unlike, The Hustler, non-gamblers are also likely to find this Oscar-winning delight an entertaining romp, making a re-run of this epic a fun watch at any time.

1. The Hustler (88.2)

The Hustler has gained such iconic status that the National Film Registry believes that this movie is worthy of eternal preservation. This honour is only ever afforded to films that are deemed to be of cultural, historical, or aesthetical importance. So, The Hustler must be worth a watch right?

From whichever standpoint you view this movie, The Hustler has to be appreciated as an all-time classic. Film buffs will point to the moody cinematography and epic work from Paul Newman, whose depiction of the lead character propelled him towards stardom, while gambling fanatics will revel in the tension of the “prize-fight” pool games that are readily on display.

For any of you who are yet to view this masterpiece. The Hustler focuses in on the life of an up-and-coming pool hustler. If you have never hustled before, really!? Let me explain. 

Hustling is a strategy employed by shrewd game players. A great hustler will display low-levels of skill while playing a game that can be gambled on, and then suddenly show massive improvements as wagers start to build. If a horse or greyhound displayed such attributes, the term ringer would normally be a better description.

Don’t expect razzmatazz and trick shots, but do expect to be carried along on an edge of your seat ride that manages to invoke all of the tension of the finest gambling games. 

FilmFilmFilmFilmFilm
1 The Hustler6 Rain Man11 Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels16 The Color of Money21 The Gambler
2 The Sting7 Atlantic City12 California Split17 Bugsy22 Owning Mahowny
3 Casino Royale8 House of Games13 God of Gamblers18 Eight Me Out23 Rounders
4 Casino9 Ocean’s Eleven14 Waking Ned Devine19 Hard Eight24 The Cooler
5 Bob Le Flambeur10 The Music of Chance15 Croupier20 Holy Rollers25 Maverick