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Editorial: The Greatest Gambling Movies Ever Made

The cards, the dice, the money, the excitement...The gambling world has long held a fascination with the whole gambling scene, and many times over this curiosity has found its way to the silver screen. Gambling has figured big into many movie plots, from some of the earliest black and white films to some of the most iconic thrillers all the way to today's raunchy comedies. If you just can't get enough of the action, then we've compiled a brief list of some of the very best gambling movies ever made.
Bellagio - Ocean's 11

Ocean's Eleven

The original 1960 version of Ocean's Eleven featured the Rat Pack tearing up old Vegas. It's certainly worth a look, even just for the flashback.

The 2001 movie of the same name aimed to build a cast of similar fame and succeeded. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Julia Roberts...Need we say more? While actual gambling scenes are rare in this movie, the casino floor is front and center as the Ocean crew plots to rob real-life casinos MGM Grand, the Bellagio, and the Mirage.


Believe it or not, Ocean's 11 wasn't Matt Damon's first big gambling flick. In 1998 he starred alongside Edward Norton in this memorable take on the underground poker scene. Rounders makes many notable references to actual poker industry players and tournaments, with special emphasis on the Texas Holdem teachings of Doyle Brunson, who Damon actually played while prepping for the role.

The Gambler

What list of gambling movies could be complete without a title like The Gambler? If you're looking for a more historical and dramatic take on the casino scene, then you'll get it with this period drama. Based on excerpts from the life of late 19th Century writer Feodor Dostoyevsky, it intertwines the true story of a budding love with a fictional one about a young gambling addict.


One of the newest additions to the gambling movie roster, in 2008 21 finally offered a full-budget semi-fictionalized take on the infamous MIT blackjack team. While variations of that renowned team continued operating for nearly three decades, 21 gives you a 123-minute version of the blackjack battle between students and teachers.

Casino Royale

When MGM decided to remake James Bond yet again, they started from the beginning with the card-heavy Bond classic Casino Royale. Since the original featured a lesser 007 in the form of Peter Sellers, we'll go straight to the 2006 rendition that introduced Daniel Craig. Though the movie begins and ends with several memorable action scenes, the core of the movie's suspense is played out at a good old fashioned felt poker table. As an added bonus Bond villain Le Chiffre demonstrates what is no doubt the most awkward tell in poker film history.

Rat Race

This satirical comedy about the boundless nature of high stakes betting follows several unlikely characters in a human race from Las Vegas to Silver City, NM. John Cleese puts forward an unforgettable performance as eccentric casino owner Donald P. Sinclair.


This Scorsese classic features just enough factual evidence to keep this depiction of the downfall of Vegas mob control interesting. There's also a fair share of the other Las Vegas regulars: money, pretty women, deception, and murder.

The Cooler

If you're looking for a more lighthearted and offbeat take on the Las Vegas tables, then the awkward 2003 dramedy The Cooler should be a good fit.

The Hustler

Looking for a gambling movie that's not about poker, blackjack, or Las Vegas? Paul Newman's 1961 hit The Hustler offers a cool look at the pool hustling scene. In traditional Newman style, lead character Eddie Felson turns out to be a tragic hero who loses everything and then is restored by the love of an honest woman.

Cincinnati Kid

Another 1960's classic, this time featuring quintessential man's man Steve McQueen as poker hopeful the Cincinnati Kid. The movie takes place in the dark poker rooms of 1930's New Orleans and offers some notable heads up scenes.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

The poker scene in Lock Stock is short but intense, and the outcome is so big that it sets the scene for an unbelievable night of desperate hijinks.

Owning Mahowny

Owning Mahowny is by far one of the darkest cinematic depictions of gambling addiction, but Oscar winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman singlehandedly makes this movie a worthwhile pick. If you're looking for a happy ending, keep looking! 


Las Vegas
Before British actor Clive Owen became a sweetheart of American action films, he played a lowly croupier in the 1998 film of the same name. This flick offers an inside look at the dissatisfied life of a casino employee facing constant temptation.

A Big Hand for the Little Lady

How about a Western romance with a poker theme? This 1966 comedy puts film icons Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward in a tricky situation when a bad poker player (Fonda) bets his life savings on a game he is doomed to lose. When the man suffers a heart attack from the stress, lady luck steps in...in the form of his oblivious wife (Woodward). 


The Hangover is the newest addition to the Las Vegas-based movie genre. One drunken night at the craps table leads to one desperate day in the seediest parts of Sin City. The main characters come full circle when they must beat the odds at blackjack in order to reclaim their kidnapped friend. 

Other Memorable Gambling Movie Scenes


This riverboat classic features an ensemble cast that includes Mel Gibson in the title role with Jodie Foster as his unlikely love interest and James Garner as main opponent. James Coburn also features as the poker-loving tournament sponsor. While the majority of the movie is lost in pointless slapstick stunts, the final card scene is one for the books.

Run Lola Run

After twenty minutes of frantic running, the tense action of this German film comes to a climax with one remarkable roll at the roulette table.


Want to find out how NOT to make money at the blackjack table? Watch two born losers played by Vince Vaughn and frequent sidekick Jon Favreau go bust in their brief and unhappy trip to Las Vegas.



12-Jun-2009, 14:47

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