Top Five Gambling Movies
If you’re a true gambling aficionado then the odds are you’re comfortable dealing with taking risks and high-stakes decisions. But when it comes to kicking back and relaxing, don’t leave your choice of entertainment up to chance. In this article we compiled a list of the top five gambling movies; perfect for watching on your own or with friends.
1. Rounders (1998)
Director: John Dahl
Stars: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Malkovich
Running time: 121 min
Rounders pulls out a chair for you at the tables of seedy, underground high-stakes poker rooms and reveals the grim details through the perspective of highly talented poker player and law student Mick McDermott (Matt Damon). His winning roll comes to a sudden end when he loses all his money to Teddy KGB (John Malkovich), a Russian crime boss.
Promising himself never to touch the cards again, McDermott decides to move on and concentrate on his studies and budding love relationship instead. But things take an unexpected twist when his childhood friend Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy (Edward Norton) is released from jail and has to pay his poker debts back. Soon, Mick is back visiting the tables to play high-stakes games with his friend in a last-ditch attempt to raise the money in time and escape the clutches of the gambling underworld.
Good news: Rounders 2 is in development!
2. Casino (1995)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Stars: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci
Running time: 178 min
Casino gives an insight into the darker side of Las Vegas. Beneath the glamour and glitz, there lies a world brimming with corruption and cruelty. Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a bookkeeper, teams up with Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), a gangster, to take on Las Vegas and strike it big in the city. Ace manages the business at the Tangiers casino, whilst Nicky ensures clients pay their dues by robbing and intimidating any players who skip payments.
Things get complicated when Ace falls for a married prostitute, Ginger (Sharon Stone), and Nicky becomes increasingly dependent on drugs and violence to get by. The film tells of the rise and fall of their personal and business lives as their gambling kingdoms starts falling apart under the pressures of corrupt government workers, rival gangs and an ongoing FBI investigation that threaten to uncover their operations and send them to prison.
3. Owning Mahowny (2003)
Director: Richard Kwietniowski
Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt
Running time: 104 min
Owning Mahowny is the true story of a mild-mannered banker, Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who to all and sundry was a normal guy; dedicated to his work, a bit introverted and shy. But no one expected Mahowny to be a fraudster who in just eighteen months, single-handedly embezzled over $10 million from his workplace to feed his gambling addiction.
The film chronicles the biggest bank fraud in Canadian history and was partly shot in Toronto and the Niagara Falls. The real action happens in Atlantic City, where Dan Mahowny’s gambling obsession is fueled further by a greedy casino manager (John Hurt) who treats him like royalty.
Mahawny’s compulsion soon creeps into all aspects of his life; poisoning his relationship with Belinda (Minnie Driver) and driving Mahowny to greater lengths to cover up his misdeeds. Owning Mahowny doesn’t focus that much on the glamour of the casino, but emphasises mainly the negatives effects of unchecked gambling addiction on a vulnerable individual.
Over ten years on and the Canadian gambling scene is now popular online as well as in ‘bricks and mortar’ casinos, and thankfully not involving many heists!
4. Hard Eight (1996)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow
Running time: 102 min
Hard Eight’s gives more than a passing nod to the classic noir films with its gripping storytelling full of drama and twists. The film begins with John, a washed out gambler brooding over his recent losses, at a restaurant. Fate, however, seems to have an unexpected card to deal to him. Sydney, a veteran gambler, agrees to take John under his wing and turn him into a star player and coach him to earn enough money for his mother’s funeral.
Through Sydney’s coaching, John becomes a successful professional gambler and starts dating Clementine, a cocktail waitress who also works as a prostitute. Clementine’s lifestyle doesn’t seem to bother John, until they get married and a dark secret about Sydney’s past threatens to turn their lives upside down.
5. The Big Town (1987)
Director: Ben Bolt
Stars: Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Tommy Lee Jones
Running time: 109 min
The Big Town is a film drama that tells the account of J.C. Cullen, a small-time gambler who heads to Chicago to find fame and fortune. When he arrives in the city, he immediately becomes embroiled in the schemings of a high-rolling professional gambling couple, Mr and Mrs Edwards, and soon after is relieved of all his money at the Gem Club owned by Cole.
Not one to give up easily, Cullen seeks to get himself up on his feet again and in the meantime finds himself in two love affairs at the same time with the Cole’s stripper wife and another girl he meets in town. When Cole discovers the affair between Cullen and his wife, he plots his revenge at the craps tables, where he wagers everything including his club for a chance to get back at Cullen.
Is the popcorn ready yet?
There you go. You’ve got your next DVD night all planned out and you’ll still be enjoying some great gambling action, while still giving your bankroll a break. So dim the lights, find a comfy spot and let the good times roll.