From ‘Cool Hand Luke’ to ‘Croupier’ to ‘Ocean’s 11,’ the Top 10 Gambling Movies of all Time
Glamour, intrigue and, above all, risk. Showgirls, spies, and gangsters. Characters lifted to dizzying heights or cast down into the depths of despair. From the poker table to the racetrack, gambling is a subject that provides endless dramatic – and comedic – possibilities. No wonder that movie makers love to take us to the casino on screen.
Now it’s time to reveal what we consider to be the top ten gambling movies of all time. Some of these are mainly about gambling, while in others it features heavily or has significant plot implications. If this gets you in the mood, you can find the best online casino in Canada at MrCasinova.com. Meanwhile, see if you agree with our selection – if you have any suggestions you can leave them in the comments.
10. Cool Hand Luke (1967)
This is not technically a movie all about gambling, but it’s a game of poker that gives it the iconic title. Paul Newman’s incarcerated war veteran, Luke Jackson, bluffs his way to victory in a tense prison game, with a worthless hand of cards. His calmly amused observation, ‘sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand’, earns him both respect and a lasting nickname.
9. A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
Gambling movies can be a serious affair, so it’s with pleasure that we include this charming comedy western starring Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward. When Fonda’s impoverished homesteader falls ill during a high-stakes poker game, it’s up to his meek and mild wife Mary to step in and save them both from destitution.
8. Maverick (1994)
Back when Mel Gibson was Hollywood’s blue-eyed golden boy, he was cast as the conman and card sharp Brett Maverick. The whole cast is clearly having fun in this western action-comedy, and Gibson and co-star Jodie Foster play off one another beautifully.
7. The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
Some say the best poker movie of all time, this brilliantly cast classic certainly puts the game front and centre. Steve McQueen stars as the titular Kid, challenging the reigning poker champ for his crown.
6. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
When Steven Soderbergh updated the rat-pack casino heist caper into a witty and stylish piece of cinematic history, he certainly didn’t have any gritty realism in mind. The film offers up an entertaining vision of Las Vegas, all sleek casinos and suave, confident gamblers. The movie was a box-office smash, giving rise to two sequels and a spin-off film.
5. Croupier (1998)
In stark contrast to the entries so far on this list, Croupier British noir movie that casts a somewhat gloomier light on the casino world. Seen from the perspective of a struggling London novelist who moonlights as a croupier, the poetic inner monologue creates a captivating study of the people who frequent the casino.
4. Owning Mahowny (2003)
Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a devastating performance as a Canadian bank manager who steals from his bank to feed a spiralling gambling addiction. Based on the true story of the largest bank fraud in Canadian history, watching Mahowny unravel is equally agonising and transfixing.
3. Hard Eight (1996)
Hoffman also features – albeit in cameo – in Paul Thomas Anderson’s directorial debut. A moving study of Las Vegas gaming rooms and the characters that inhabit them, this low-key drama showcases the considerable talents of Philip Baker Hall as a professional gambler who takes a luckless loner under his wing.
2. California Split (1974)
This movie was made many years before the term ‘bromance’ came into common usage, but at its core is a male friendship bound by a mutual gambling compulsion. Although it is ostensibly a comedy, Robert Altman’s focus is on the less glamorous and more damaging side of gambling.
1. Casino (1995)
Scorsese gets the final word on gambling movies with the seminal Casino, serving up an intricate crime drama that chronicles the rise and fall of three central characters in a mob-run Vegas establishment. Set against the backdrop of Sin City’s late-1970s transformation from mafia stronghold to corporate playground, the three protagonists are based on real people of the era.