The Best Movies About Gambling

There are many people around the world that love gambling. These people would regularly visit sportsbooks and casinos just to experience fun and excitement while alone or with friends and loved ones. Experienced sports bettors would also bet on Online Betting Ontario sites and other online sportsbooks where they can bet on their favorite sports, teams, or players.

Due to how popular gambling is, it has become a source of ideas or inspiration for many filmmakers who wanted to make gambling more dramatic or comedic, depending on the tone of the film they will be making. There have been dozens of different gambling movies that have been produced over the years, but only a few are considered to be the best in terms of quality and their impact on pop culture. Here is a list of the best movies about gambling.

The Gambler (1974)

The Gambler is a crime drama film that was directed by Karel Reisz and written by James Toback. Karel Reisz was known for directing a popular film in the 60s titled Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) while James Toback is more known for being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for a film called Bugsy (1991). The story of the film revolves around Axel Freed (played by James Caan), a professor that teaches English in New York City and developed a gambling addiction that quickly spiraled out of control.

This film is regarded as one of the movies that popularized the gambling theme in movies, TV shows, and other forms of media and entertainment. The Gambler would be remade in 2014 by Paramount Pictures, and this remake was directed by Rupert Wyatt (known for his directorial debut with The Escapist in 2008) and starred Mark Wahlberg as Jim Bennett, who has similar characteristics and personality as Axel Freed.

California Split (1974)

Another gambling movie that was released in 1974 was California Split, which is a comedy-drama film that was directed by Robert Altman, a five-time nominee for the Academy Award for Best Director. California Split stars Elliot Gould and George Segal, who play a pair of gamblers that play and bet on anything, like poker, boxing, and horse racing. This pair would develop a gambling addiction that was seen as both funny and sad during the course of the movie.

California Split is well-received by critics, who praised the directing of Robert Altman and the acting of Gould and Segal. Some critics also added California Split as one of the best films of 1974. Much like The Gambler, California Split is viewed as a movie that popularized the gambling theme for different kinds of entertainment.

Rounders (1998)

poker chips

A cult hit in the 2000s was Rounders, a 1998 drama film that was directed by John Dahl, who is best known for making films in the neo-noir genre. Rounders stars Matt Damon and Edward Norton as two friends that needed to win different games of high-stakes poker in order to pay off their large debt. The title of the film is taken from the term “rounder,” who is supposed to be a person that travels in various cities just to play high-stakes poker and other casino card games.

The box office revenue of Rounders wasn’t impressive, as it only received $22.9 million against its $12 million budget. However, when the poker boom occurred in the 2000s, wherein more people were starting to play poker in casinos, Rounders became a cult hit among new and experienced poker players. Today, Rounders is known as one of the best gambling-themed movies of all time.

Uncut Gems (2019)

A relatively recent film about gambling is Uncut Gems, which was released in 2019 and was directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, a pair of filmmakers that first directed the crime-thriller film Good Time (2017) before working on Uncut Gems. The film stars Adam Sandler, a Jewish-American jeweler who has a gambling addiction and must retrieve a very expensive gem to pay off his debts. Uncut Gems premiered at the 46th Telluride Film Festival on August 30, 2019. Then, it had a much wider release on December 25, 2019.

Uncut Gems received critical acclaim in different countries, with critics praising Adam Sandler’s performance, as Sandler has proven that he is still able to portray serious and less comedic roles in films. The National Board of Review even chose Uncut Gems as one of the top ten films of 2019 because of its quality.

Hard Eight (1996)

Hard Eight is a crime film that was written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. This film is Paul Thomas Anderson or PTA’s directorial debut, and he would go on to direct popular movies like Boogie Nights (1997) and Punch-Drunk Love (2002). In Hard Eight, the story follows the life of an elderly gambler named Sydney Brown (played by Philip Baker Hall), who meets a homeless man named John Finnegan (played by John C. Reilly). After knowing more about Finnegan’s life, Sydney Brown helps the homeless man, and Finnegan eventually becomes his protégé.

The film was regarded as a box office flop during its release year of 1997, as it was only able to get about $222,000 against its $3 million budget. But similar to Rounders, Hard Eight would gain a cult following after the poker boom of the 2000s, and it is now regarded as a great film that introduces poker to many people.

Those are five of the best movies about gambling that you should definitely watch if you have free time. If you have friends or family members that are casino enthusiasts, then you should watch these movies with them.