The Top 10 Best Gambling Movies of All Time

Over the past sixty years there have been hundreds of gambling and casino films released, with many going on to achieve box office success, critical acclaim and classic status among audiences all over the world.

Back to the Movies has teamed up with online casino comparison site Jackpot.co.uk to bring you the top ten. So, settle down on the sofa, grab yourself some popcorn, and start bingeing.

Here is our Top 10 Best Gambling Films of All Time List

Casino film

Casino

The gold standard when it comes to gambling movies, even though it doesn’t show a lot of actual gambling. What it does do, however, is lift the lid on mob-era casinos.

The story follows Ace Rothstein and Nicky Santoro, mobsters who move to Las Vegas to make their mark. Ace is the operator of the Tangiers Casino, while Nicky, his childhood friend, is a tough strongman who shakes down the locals.

But both have a major flaw; Ace falls in love with a hustler and Nicky finds himself on a downward spiral driven by drink and drugs that could halt their ambitious rather abruptly.

Power, greed, deception, love; Casino has all the ingredients for a mobster classic, which is why it remains a must-watch for gamblers to this day.

21

blackjack

The film tells the story of a bunch of M.I.T math wizards who learn the dark art of card counting to take on several US casinos for millions of dollars.

The protagonist, Ben Campbell, has dreams of transferring to Harvard Medical School to train as a doctor. Problem is he can’t afford the fees.

One evening he is introduced to mysterious math teacher Micky Rosa, who runs a card counting club with five other students.

Ben joins the team, and the regularly make trips to Las Vegas and other casinos across the US to deploy their skills and win big.

21 is a favourite among gamblers for several reasons; one it highlights the game of blackjack and two, it is a classic underdog story where the player beats the house.

Casino Royale

Casino

The poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro are among the most intense and gripping in the entire James Bond series.

007’s first mission with a licence to kill is to take part in a game of high-stakes poker where he must stop terrorist banker Le Chiffre from winning.

The $10m buy-in would unsettle most professional players, but as ever when it comes to Bond there is much more at stake than just money.

In the final hand, $115m is at stake. Le Chiffre beats the other players, but then bond seals victory with a straight flush.

While some of the hands played by Bond and Le Chiffre are dubious to say the least, the high-profile nature of the Bond franchise has done wonders at putting the game of poker in front of a large audience around the world.

Ocean’s Eleven

Casino film

Perhaps the coolest, sleekest, slickest gambling flick ever made.

Career con-man Danny Ocean plans to score the largest casino heist in history by targeting three casinos at once – The Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand.

All three are owned by gambling mogul Terry Benedict, and share a state of the art vault that will house $150m during a high-profile boxing match.

Danny sets about assembling his team of which includes all manner of characters from a thief to a Chinese acrobat.

The plan is audacious, but executed perfectly. And while the notion of breaking into a casino vault and walking away with $150m has no grounding in reality, it is among one of the most popular casino films ever made.

Maverick

Maverick Film

Based on the 1950’s TV series, the film of the same name follows card playing con artist Bret Maverick as he tries to raise $25,000 to enter a winner takes all five-card draw poker tournament.

To raise the funds, he enters card games, collects a few debts and little bits of loot for reward. He joins forces with a woman gambler, but along the way they encounter all manner of capers and challenges.

Maverick eventually gets the money together, and makes it to the paddle-boat where the game is taking place in the nick of time. He makes it to the final round, and wins the $500,000 prize pot despite fixed hands and attempts to cheat.

The story doesn’t end there, though, with Mavericks’ winnings stolen. And while he tracks down the thieves and gets his money back, further twists unravel.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Johnny Depp

While not a gambling movie as such, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas offers an intriguing insight into the dark underbelly of Sin City and American society at that time.

Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, the story follows oddball journalist Raoul Duke and his psychopathic lawyer Dr. Gonzo as they head to Las Vegas in search of the American Dream.

Duke is commissioned to cover a motorbike race taking place in the Nevada desert, but throw in a trunk full of hardcore drugs and things take a strange and surreal turn.

Along the way, they encounter all manner of weird and wonderful characters, from gamblers to racers via police and hitchhikers. And while the American Dream is their ultimate goal, all they seem to be able to find is a lot of fear and loathing.

The Cincinnati Kid

Cincinatti Kid

The Cincinnati Kid is a Steve McQueen classic. His character, Eric Stoner, is an up and coming gambler with luck on his side, He travels from town to town in search of high-stakes games and beautiful women.

The story joins Stoner as he arrived in New Orleans, where he plans to go up against the best in the business at stud poker, Lance Howard. The game is arranged, but in the run up Stoner faces no end of distractions.

When the game gets underway, Stoner appears to have the upper hand in the early rounds. But as the final hand is played, Howard reveals the ace up his sleeve, beating the Kid and regaining his crown.

The movie is hugely popular among gamblers and gamers due to the accurate portrayal of the skill, intelligence and cunning required to play that game successfully. That and Steve McQueen is the lead role!

Rounders

John Malkovich

Rounders is your stereotypical gambling flick. Talented poker player loses a load of money to a mobster, turns his back on the game, but is then forced back into competition to help a friend and save his own back.

Despite passing a little too close to cliché at times, Rounders is still an engaging and entertaining gambling flick, with plenty of poker action to keep hardcore players and aficionados happy.

The film ends with the lead character, Mike McDermott, embracing his love, and talent, for the game by dropping out of law school and jumping on a plane to Las Vegas to take part in the World Series of Poker.

A dream come true for most rounders!

Owning Mahowny

Owning Mahowny

Owning Mahowny delves deep into the mind, and actions, of a gambling addict. Based on a true story, the plot follows Dan Mahowny who, at the age of 24, is the youngest assistant manager in the history of the Canadian Imperial Bank.

Despite Mahowny’s career success, he is hiding a dark personal secret – he is addicted to gambling. To get his fix, however, he is defrauding the bank where he works – to the tune of $10m over 18 months.

It’s not long before the authorities catch up with Mahowny, who is arrested and then sent to prison. Despite the dark and troubling nature of the story, it is thoroughly engaging and one that reminds us all for the need to control our levels of play.

The Gambler

Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg takes the lead role as literary professor Jim Bennett, who is also a high-stakes gamble.

Bennett loses big to local casino proprietor Mr Lee and gangster Baraka, who give him just seven days to come up with the money.

First, he turns to his wealthy mother, who refuses to help him due to his gambling addiction. He then turns to loan shark Frank, who lends him the cash but has his own ulterior motives.

The Gambler may lack the realism of The Cincinnati Kid and the grit of Casino, but it is a light-hearted take on the gambling industry while still containing a strong message about the risk of developing problem play.

But more than that, it’s a damned entertaining movie.

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