Gambling Films That Need To Be On Your Watchlist

By on September 27, 2019

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People have been making gambling films since the dawn of cinema – The Queen Of Spades is one of the first and it was made all the way back in 1916.

There are so many gambling films to choose from that it’s difficult to know which ones should and shouldn’t be on your watch list – that’s where I come in.

To get you started, I’ve picked three exceptional gambling films, with each one offering lessons on the good and bad sides of betting.

Recommended reading: The 26 Best Sports Films

Rounders

If you’re a poker fan then Rounders doesn’t only need to be on your watchlist, it has to be the first film you watch – put simply, it’s the best movie for a poker lover, one made by people who clearly love gambling and want to see realistic poker on the silver screen.

Featuring Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Gretchen Mol, and John Malkovich in the key roles, Rounders follows the story of poker lover and law student Mike McDermott (Damon). Mike and his best friend, Lester “Worm” Murphy (Norton), make money, lose money, and run close to losing their lives to Teddy “KGB” (Malkovich).

While there are many great scenes in Rounders, the one that really stands out for me comes near the start of the film. All I’ll say is this: “I don’t have Spades.”

Eight Men Out

Gambling and sport go a long way back – in fact, people have been betting on the outcome of sporting matches since they were held, fans, gamblers, and even players. Eight Men Out is the story of a great baseball team who were cheated out of the financial rewards their brilliance deserves. How did they fix this? By throwing the 1919 World Series.

The first thing to say about Eight Men Out is that it is based on a real event, namely, the Black Sox Scandal – where eight Chicago White Sox ballplayers were accused of losing the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds, to get money from an Arnold Rothstein led gambling syndicate.

You may disagree with my pick for the top scene in Eight Men Out. However, I’ve gone for the one when the Chicago White Sox were given Champagne as their reward for a great season, instead of the cash bonus promised by the team owner, Charles Comiskey.

Casino Royale

I’ll let Ian Fleming explain why James Bond is a non-negotiable in your gambling film watchlist:

“Bond has always been a gambler. He loved the dry riffle of the cards and the constant unemphatic drama of the quiet figures round the green tables… 

Above all, he liked it that everything was one’s own fault. There was only oneself to praise or blame. Luck was a servant and not a master.”

There are many different James Bond films that feature gambling, but the standout one for me (and many others) is Casino Royale. While there’s plenty of other highlights in the film – Daniel Craig’s first appearance as Bond, and our hero shooting Mr. White – gambling is crucial to the plot.

Bond is tasked with Le Chiffre, a terrorist financier, by beating him in a poker game. The game features a buy-in of $10 million and pot in excess of $100 million. I could only pick a clip that shows the final hand of the game, and, as you’ll see, the action is truly extraordinary.

Rounders, Eight Men Out, and Casino Royale are really just a taster of the gambling films you need to watch – other notable examples are Mississippi Grind, Casino, The Gambler, The Cincinnati Kid, and The Cooler.

But these three films should be the first that you watch. This is because they show some of the most important shades of gambling, offering lessons in how you should and shouldn’t gamble. 

So get a notepad, start your gambling watchlist with Rounders, Eight Men Out, and Casino Royale and then enhance your studying by watching some of the other great gambling films.

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