Top 10 Gambling Movies

Written by Niki Neptune Sometimes the risk is worth the reward, and sometimes it’s just dangerous. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 gambling movies. For this list, we’re looking at films whose central focus is on games of chance, skill, and sometimes just blind luck – which means, if gambling is only in the background, they don’t qualify. These take an in-depth, sometimes amusing and always entertaining look at the world of gambling, including the pitfalls, the wins and the scams. Whether it’s high stakes poker, a pool shark out for blood, or a couple of grifters in for a score, these films give us an compelling glimpse at the world of wagering. Special thanks to your users Martin George Berish, sarahjessicaparkerth and Tim MacAusland for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Written by Niki Neptune

Top 10 Gambling Movies


Sometimes the risk is worth the reward, and sometimes it’s just dangerous. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 gambling movies.

For this list, we’re looking at films whose central focus is on games of chance, skill, and sometimes just blind luck – which means, if gambling is only in the background, they don’t qualify. These take an in-depth, sometimes amusing and always entertaining look at the world of gambling, including the pitfalls, the wins and the scams. Whether it’s high stakes poker, a pool shark out for blood, or a couple of grifters in for a score, these films give us an compelling glimpse at the world of wagering.

#10: “Owning Mahowny” (2003)

Based on a true story, this film follows an otherwise well-adjusted bank manager who’s hiding a secret: he’s hooked on gambling. Working at a bank while being in close proximity to Atlantic City AND having a debilitating gambling addiction probably isn’t the best combo. Especially when you end up embezzling millions of dollars to feed said addiction. Underscoring the effects of the compulsion and not on the glitz and glamor of casino life or corporate crime, this film is a story about betting it all, and losing.

#9: “The Cooler” (2003)

There are probably worse things than working for a casino. But having perpetual bad luck and getting your kneecaps worked over by the casino’s boss are up there. William H. Macy plays an unlucky dude employed by a casino to end people’s winning streaks just by being there. But his luck changes when he falls in love. With a commanding Alec Baldwin performance as the ruthless casino boss, “The Cooler” shows the dichotomy of life in Vegas: loving and warm on one hand, brutal and cold on the other.

#8: “Croupier” (1998)

Most gambling movies focus on the casino’s glamor and excitement, but what about the unsung heroes that work the tables? Clive Owen plays Jack, a writer-turned-croupier who gets caught up in the underbelly of the gambling world. Between infidelity and deceit, his aspirations as a writer and his involvement in a robbery, his life as a croupier is way more complicated than he’d anticipated. With is faithful representation of the casino vibe and neo-noir style; “Croupier” paints an accurate picture of life on both sides of the table.

#7: Maverick (1994)

Mel Gibson plays a poker expert in the Old West, who’s making his way to a renowned tournament to prove his mettle. Along the way, he encounters many obstacles as he attempts to earn enough money to pay the tournament entry fee. Also starring Jodie Foster as a con-woman and James Garner as a U.S. Marshal, the film has enough plot twists to inspire another M. Night Shyamalan flick, and isn’t exactly what we’d call realistic. But it’s fun, light-hearted and full of gambling, so it earns its spot.

#6: “The Color of Money” (1986)

When the protégé becomes the mentor, that’s when things get interesting. Reprising his role from 1961’s “The Hustler,” Paul Newman plays retired pool player Fast Eddie Felson, who takes Tom Cruise’s character, Vincent, under his wing as a pool shark-in-training. They set out to sharpen their skills, with Vincent eventually out-hustling the original hustler. Bolstered by an Academy Award-winning, tour-de-force performance by Newman, this Martin Scorsese film deftly navigates the dank pool halls with ease, ensuring the audience is racking up right beside his layered characters.

#5: “The Gambler” (1974)

When the thrill of being a beloved college professor isn’t enough, there’s always the excitement of gambling to fall back on. But when you’re dealing with a gambling addiction that knows no limits, it can become downright life threatening. Played by James Caan, this gambler seems to have it all, but it’s never enough. Another film about the dangers of addiction, “The Gambler” actually makes you feel for a guy who’ll rip-off his own mother. But, as we eventually learn: it’s not about the money; it’s about the stakes.

#4: “21” (2008)

Being a math wiz comes in handy, particularly when it comes to counting cards in Vegas. Based on a true story but given the Hollywood treatment, the plot follows several MIT students who are too clever for their own good when the descend on Las Vegas as a crack team of expert card counters. Things begin to fall apart as the team fractures and casino security catches wind of their scheme. A study on how to beat the system, “21” might just inspire you to try. Or not.

#3: “The Sting” (1973)

The Great Depression was, well, depressing. It was also a time when elaborate cons seemed like a perfectly acceptable way to earn a living. Paul Newman and Robert Redford play a couple of grifters who set up an elaborate ploy to scheme a crime boss out of half a million bucks. As the film unfolds, so do the layers of the scam, with the audience finally being let in on the very complicated con. Fun to watch and an Oscar darling, “The Sting” is about playing to win.

#2: “Rounders” (1998)

An exceptional poker player who manages to lose to a Russian mobster, Matt Damon plays a man who’s lured back to the table when his shady friend, portrayed by Edward Norton, comes back into his life. The siren song of high-stakes poker is strong. Strong enough to make a law student drop out of school, end a relationship, and leave town to go pro. A cult favorite beloved by poker aficionados thanks to its energy and pressure; “Rounders” has been credited by some professional players for sparking their interest.

Before we deal in our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965)
- “Vegas Vacation” (1997)
- “Let it Ride” (1989)
- “Hard Eight” (1996)
- “Two for the Money” (2005)

#1: “The Hustler” (1961)

A precursor to 1986’s “The Color of Money,” “The Hustler” sees Paul Newman originate his iconic role as Fast Eddie Felson, a talented, small-time California pool hustler. After suffering a humiliating loss to a big-name billiard great, Felson embarks on a mission to redeem himself and claim the pool shark throne. Along the way, he finds and loses love, has his thumbs broken, and plays the most important games of his life. This Oscar-winning film also rekindled America’s love affair with pool playing, cementing its spot as a classic.

Do you agree with our list? What is your favorite gambling movie? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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