14 Gambling movies every gambler should see at least once

There are many classic gambling movies: too many, in fact, to list. However, we at Gambling.com have trawled through the film archives and picked out what we think are the “14 Best Gambling Movies of All Time.” There were many that did not make the list and, of course, you will agree and disagree with some of the choices. However, the following films cover a pretty broad range of ‘gambling-related topics’– everything from casino gambling to online gambling to hustling and more. Most important of all is that they are simply, good movies.

Uncut Gems (2019)

movies about gambling addiction

Maybe Adam Sandler should be sticking to more dramatic parts. Sandler, known more for his recent line of mediocre at best comedies, took everyone by surprise in the thriller Uncut Gems. Like, for real, people thought Sandler was going to get an Oscar for his role as gambling addict and jeweler, Howard Ratner. It’s easily the best movie Sandler has made in a while, possibly ever, with the raw realness of it.

Gambling addiction has never been quite as brutally explored than in Uncut Gems. It’s a recent film that should really be witnessed to be believed. Lucky for you, Uncut Gems is available on VOD so be sure to check it out. Just prepare yourself for the sheer brutality of it. 

Mississippi Grind (2015)

movies about gambling addiction

Love Captain Marvel? Well, check out the film that got Marvel’s attention on the directing team, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Mississippi Grind follows two poker players on a trip to a New Orleans poker tournament with a potentially huge payoff. If you want to see Ryan Reynolds pre-Deadpool, then this film is him doing some of his best work. Plus the chemistry with co-star Ben Mendelsohn? Terrific.

Don’t go thinking that this film is a laugh a minute though. Addiction, depression, and regret haunt the ride of Mississippi Grind. At the same time, however, you can’t help but be pulled in. You can watch Mississippi Grind with a Netflix account or rent/buy online. 

The Gambler (1974) 

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No list about great gambling movies isn’t complete with discussing 1974, The Gambler. James Toback, who wrote the script and based it on his own gambling addictions, has been accused of sexual harassment and assault over a 40-year span by over 350 women. So, you know, it’s a problematic film, but all Toback wrote was the script. 

Either way, The Gambler is one of James Caan’s best roles. Period. His Axel just digs himself in deeper and deeper. You never know if he’s going to pull himself out of the hole that he has dug himself in. Caan, however, just utterly sells it as Axel chases for his next rush. You can rent/buy The Gambler online, just make sure it’s not the 2014 movie of the same name starring Mark Wahlberg. 

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

movies about poker

The Cincinnati Kid is probably an underrated classic from its era. Honestly, it was between this film and The Hustler. Man, you just can’t beat Steve McQueen’s performance as the titular “Kid”. The film follows the Kid, a cocky Depression-era poker player who is probably not as good as he thinks he is, challenging “the best” poker player, Lancey “The Man” Howard (Edward G. Robinson), to a hand. 

If you ever thought that a hand of poker couldn’t be tense, then you haven’t seen The Cincinnatti Kid. It’s definitely worth a watch for those who love McQueen at the least. It’s available for rental or purchase online.

21 (Robert Luketic, 2008)

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It can be a little tough to find a true story gambling movie that’s jam-packed with suspense, thrill, and humor. Robert Luketic classic film 21 provides you with all these and then some. It’s serious yet comical, which is why IMDB’s score of 6.8/10 doesn’t do it justice.

How the movie unfolds can make you forget that it’s based on a true story of 6 MIT students who were taught by their unorthodox math professor Micky Rosa (played by Kevin Spacey) how to count cards. After several weekend trips to Las Vegas, they eventually took The Strip casinos for millions of dollars in blackjack winnings.

Perhaps the most heartwarming story is that of Ben Campbell (played by Jim Sturgess), a gifted student and an aspiring medical doctor. With no way of getting $300k to attend Harvard Medical School, Ben decides to join the card-counting team. Unfortunately, power and greed get the best of the students, putting their plan in jeopardy.

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (A. W. Vidmer, 2003)

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If you keep a tab on what’s happening in the world of poker, then Stu Ungar needs no introduction. He’s well-known poker guru famed for becoming the first-ever player to scoop 3 WSOP Main Event tournaments in the history of World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, he lost the vast majority of his poker winnings on horse racing.

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story is an indie biographical film about the fascinating life of the high roller Stu Ungar, who is played by Michael Imperioli. Vidmer’s docudrama features every aspect of the player’s life, from when he had everything and hedonistic highs to when his life caved in. The film spares nothing, capturing Stu’s dramatic rise to the zenith of poker gambling, and then his equally meteoric downfall.

Rounders (John Darl, 1998)

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It’s a little difficult to find gambling movies that offer plenty of humor and inspiring drama. Rounders gives you a slice of everything, with a drama-filled script, great rating (7.3 stars), and a star-studded cast (with the ranks of Matt Damon as the main star, as well as Edward Norton and John Malkovich). What more could you ask for?

Rounders follows the story of Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) who must beat Teddy “KGB”, a Russian gambling baron in a high stakes poker. At home, McDermott is being pressured by his girlfriend Jo to call it quits from gambling. However, he must pay his college fees with poker winning.

The push-and-pull between the couple continues until Lester (a friend of McDermott’s) comes out of the slammer and is required to pay off an old debt owed to the KGB. The showdown unfolds right before your eyes, with lots of table banter and poker bluffing strategies.

Casino Royale (Martin Campbell, 2006)

poker movie casino royale

Perhaps one of the most notable gambling movies ever, Casino Royale follows the exploits of James Bond (aka 007, played by Daniel Craig) as he tries to defeat Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a well-known financier of terrorist organizations.

After getting word that Le Chiffre wants to use high stakes poker to raise money for terrorist activities, MI6 enlists the help of Mr. Bond to try to beat him at the poker table. Not only does Bond show off amazing bluffing strategies but it also manages to break down Le Chiffre organization.

Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)

It’s all in the name. This is an early epic drama by famous film director Martin Scorsese. Based on Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas, wonderful nonfiction by Nicholas Pileggi, this movie is star-studded. Some of the big names included Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone and the one and only Robert de Niro.

The movie depicts the two faces of gambling in Las Vegas: the cruel and brutal dealings happening behind the scenes, juxtaposed with the glitz, ritz, and glamour that often shown by mainstream media.

Ace (de Niro) is a Vegas casino operator with mob connection but he lives a seemingly normal and civilized life with his family. However, when Santoro (Pesci) lands in town, Aces life turns upside down. Interestingly, Santoro is his childhood friend and now a well-known mafia lynch-baron.

If you are looking for a casino movie jam-packed with murder, power, money, deception, and greed, Casino will simply knock your socks off.

Honeymoon in Vegas (Andrew Bergman, 1992)

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Vegas is probably not the right place to go for your honeymoon, a subtle fact Jack Singer (played by Nicolas Cage) learns the hard way. After burning through his life-savings of $65,000 at the poker table, Jack who’s about to get married to Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) is forced to lend his fiancée to the winning opponent and con artist, Tommy Korman (James Caan).

Betsy, who resembles Korman’s late wife, starts to develop feelings for the con man. It’s now upon Jack to quickly track the “couple” down to Hawaii before it is too late. Who will get hitched to Betsy?

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998)

Nothing brings together crime, mystery and comic relief quite like a good gambling film, and Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is a classic example. With 8.2 stars at IMDb, it’s one of the highest-rated gambling-related movies, and it definitely lives up to the hype.

The premise of the film revolves around 4 English friends who decide to pool money to beat a gangster named Hatchet Harry in 3-card brag (UK’s version of poker). Unfortunately, Eddy (the leader of the group) loses everything to Harry, who by the way cheated.

After losing the botched poker game, the quartet must raise £500,000 to pay off Harry’s gambling debt or Eddy will lose his dad’s pub. You have to see this thriller for yourself to discover the violence, heists and clowning these guys must go through to evade Harry’s wrath.

Probably the biggest lesson is that you should never gamble more than you can afford, plus be careful when picking your poker allies.

Croupier (Mike Hodges, 1998)

Played by a youthful Clive Owen, Jack Manfred is a writer struggling to make ends meet. His financial misfortune forces him to become a croupier (dealer) at a London high-street casino. Soon, he starts making underhand gambling dealings with a player, and from then on his life becomes one rollercoaster ride.

The movie Croupier takes a rather different take on conventional gambling films, showing another side of the industry. It’s one filled with tears and joy, brokenness and affluence, and much more.

Owning Mahowny (Richard Kwietniowski, 2003)

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The stark reality is that many problem gamblers go the extra mile to satisfy their addiction. No other gambling film captured this quite like Richard Kwietniowski’s Owning Mahowny.

Based on a true story of one of the biggest one-man bank frauds in Canadian history, this film follows the ups and downs of Dan Mahowny, Toronto bank worker. This is a story that almost writes itself.

Mahony is a banker with a gambling addiction problem. To make matters worse, he has unfettered access to accounts with millions of dollars in them. You can guess the rest.

The Good Thief (Neil Jordan, 2002)

movies about gambling

Although not action-packed, The Good Thief is a quintessential gambling film with a small twist. Bob (Nick Nolte) is a gambler whose time is not on his side. After enduring a long losing streak, Bob tries to steal from a Monte Carlo casino, but an informer has already tipped off the police. Can Bob succeed in robbing the casino?

Poker, Casino, Sports betting. I think this is a great list of gambling movies to provide you both entertainment and great lessons. Let us know in the comments if we forgot any good one!

If you are more inclined into learning than into entertainment, we suggest this list of books on gambling instead, or maybe this betting guide.