Top 10 Best Gambling Movies

by Nick Kush
Ocean's Eleven

There’s just something about a great gambling film that gets our attention. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but there’s a natural sense of drama and suspense surrounding any gambling activity, and it lends itself well to a script. Throw in the chance for film stars to dominate scenes (as opposed to varied scenery, action sequences, etc.) and the general coolness that pervades back rooms and casino floors alike, and the stage is always set for a good drama.

That doesn’t mean all gambling films are masterpieces. There have actually been quite a few misfires over the years, and to some extent the genre can be repetitive. But there are still enough gems to make a pretty satisfying list of 10 must-sees.

Honorable Mentions

Owning Mahowny (2003)

21 (2008)

The Cooler (2003)

The Gambler (1974)

The Hustler (1961)

#10: Mississippi Grind (2015)

The second-newest film on this list, Mississippi Grind actually received very little attention on and after its release, though it was called “compulsively watchable” by one review. The movie has a lot of charm to it however, with co-stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn comprising a surprisingly compelling duo in what’s effectively a buddy road trip/casino flick. Yes, it has its dry spells and some of the gambling-related tropes are all too familiar, but it’s a well done version of a film type we all enjoy at least a little bit.


image via A24

#9: The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

This film, more than 50 years old now, still has one of the great taglines of all time: “He’d take on anyone, at anything, anytime.” It wasn’t a bad way to introduce Steve McQueen’s “Cincinnati Kid,” who was an up-and-coming poker player who rose through the world of gaming to take on one of the best players around. It’s a fairly simple story, but a great one for its time.


image via MGM

#8: The Sting (1973)

The Sting is one of a couple of films on this list that starred Paul Newman, this time alongside his Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid co-star Robert Redford. The two of them really were the Clooney and Pitt of a different time (more on that duo later as well), and did excellent work in this film, which was effectively a con story revolving around casino play.


image via Universal Pictures

#7: Croupier (1998)

Croupier is the forgotten classic in this genre — a clever and even educational drama that for whatever reason doesn’t often get mentioned. It’s also one of the few (and the only one on this list) that takes the dealer’s point of view, even if not for the whole film. If that doesn’t sell you, know that it’s said to have helped launch Clive Owen’s career in Hollywood — and who doesn’t love Clive Owen?


image via Image Entertainment

#6: Molly’s Game (2017)

The most recently released film on this list is one that may well start to get more attention as one of the all-time great gambling films in the years to come. Granted, it’s sort of a hybrid — part biopic, part law drama, and part gambling movie — which is what keeps it from being higher on this list. Nonetheless, the incredible work of screenwriter (and, this time, director) Aaron Sorkin in adapting the story of Molly Bloom, who ran a high stakes underground poker ring packed with celebrities, is admirable. This was one of the most fun movies of 2017.


image via STX Entertainment

#5: Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale was at once a new kind of James Bond film and a perfect homage to some of the older titles. More importantly for this list, it took Bond (played by Daniel Craig for the first time) to a few different casinos around the world, and ultimately made a very, very high stakes poker game a core part of the plot. We’re used to the combination of crime and casinos in plenty of films, but international espionage played out over a poker table was fresh, and wonderful.


image via MGM

#4: Rounders (1998)

Rounders stars Matt Damon, Edward Norton, and John Malkovich, and concerns the world of back room Texas Hold’Em. It’s an extremely enjoyable drama that’s basically a rich version of a film that would have been forgettable in lesser hands. It also gets a ton of credit for starting the ‘poker boom’ of the turn of the century, with one-time amateur World Series of Poker champion Chris Moneymaker having said the film helped get him into poker. Given that PokerStars is now launching an anniversary tour to commemorate Moneymaker’s win, we’d say that means Rounders had a profound impact on the real world of gambling.


image via Miramax

#3: The Color Of Money (1986)

You might have noticed The Hustler up above in the honorable mentions. It’s a fun film starring Paul Newman as a sort of up-and-coming pool shark who takes on the more established Jackie Gleeson. It’s just a little dated. The Color Of Money picks up with the same character 25 years later however, this time with Tom Cruise on board as the up and comer, and Martin Scorsese in the director’s chair. It’s a better film, and ultimately an awesome example of how a great gambling movie doesn’t have to take place at a poker table.


image via Touchstone Pictures

#2: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

The only objection anyone could have to this film placing this high on the list is that it’s not so much about gambling. That’s fair. There are actually only a few legitimate gambling scenes in the movie. But those scenes (such as when Brad Pitt’s character is teaching celebrities how to play poker) do the trick, and beyond them this film does as much to promote a sort of ideal vision of Las Vegas as any. It’s a wonderfully suave heist flick, and probably the most enjoyable film on this list to rewatch over and over again — thanks mostly to a stellar cast and Steven Soderbergh’s direction.


image via Warnes Bros.

#1: Casino (1995)

If you look around for similar lists or arguments about cinema’s best gambling movies, you won’t find much debate. Casino tends to occupy the top spot, despite the fact that it’s a mob movie first and a casino drama second. The power of Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci working on Martin Scorsese’s behalf is just too much to deny, and the film produces some of the most memorable scenes and shots inside casino venues we’ve ever seen.


image via Universal Pictures

Thank you for reading! What are you thoughts on the top 10 best gambling movies? Comment down below!

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Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta July 20, 2018 - 2:41 am

May I also throw Maverick into the ring?

Nick Kush July 20, 2018 - 11:13 am

Another good one! I might have to go back and rewatch that one!

The Inner Circle July 19, 2018 - 10:54 pm

The Sting is a much more FUN then “Casino” and it would have been my top pick. I still have yet to see “Mississippi Grind” which I heard was pretty strong as well.

Nick Kush July 19, 2018 - 10:57 pm

All of these things come down to personal preference, because I have a blast watching Casino lol. Maybe there’s something wrong with me lol

The Inner Circle July 19, 2018 - 11:02 pm

The Sting is just a ageless classic…..Newman and Redford at their peak. Your list is a lot of fun….

Nick Kush July 19, 2018 - 11:06 pm

I might have to rewatch it — it’s been awhile since I’ve had the chance to watch it!

Anonymous July 19, 2018 - 10:31 pm

Yesssssss Nick, yesss!

Nick Kush July 19, 2018 - 10:56 pm

Glad you liked it!!!

R. Treadway July 19, 2018 - 1:05 pm

This list is right up my alley. I bet that it will be one the top one that you have done.

Nick Kush July 19, 2018 - 2:39 pm

Thanks so much! That means a lot!

Jonetta (Ejaygirl) July 19, 2018 - 11:17 am

Nice list though I’d move The Sting closer to the top.

Nick Kush July 19, 2018 - 11:52 am

I here ya! These lists always come down to personal preference in the end :)

Liz Gauffreau July 19, 2018 - 10:20 pm

I’m with you on The Sting!

Nick Kush July 19, 2018 - 10:23 pm

It’s a great one!

Nick Kush July 19, 2018 - 10:24 am

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