A market projected to reach more than $800 billion in revenues worldwide by 2026, gambling has been one of the world’s favorite pastime activities for quite some time. From sports betting and lotteries, to casino classics like roulette and blackjack, most of us have indulged in some form of gambling at some point in our lives, and it’s impossible to deny the thrill you get when waiting on the outcome of a wager.
Given this popularity, gambling has always been featured in the movie industry. Throughout history, hundreds of movies centered on the subject were released, either about casinos in Las Vegas, avid gamblers, or even the mob. From classics like The Hustler to recent movies like Uncut Gems, from dramas to comedies, there’s an option for almost every taste.
In this article, however, we compiled a few of the greatest movies that focus on gamblers, instead of the environments that surround the gambling world, and plots that perfectly capture the thrill and action of gambling. But if, after watching these movies, you feel an urge to place some bets or even play some casino classics, you don’t need to go all the way to Las Vegas to do so. In times of lockdowns and social distancing, you can always resort to online gambling, through one of the many platforms available today. If you’re unsure about which one to choose, tools like Casino Help and other review aggregators come in handy to help you find the most reliable websites in the iGaming industry.
Regarded as one of the best movies in the history of American cinema, The Hustler is a drama directed by Robert Rossen, and adapted from Walter Tevis’s novel of the same name. The film tells the story of “Fast” Eddie Felson, a young pool hustler portrayed by Paul Newman, on a journey to become a professional hustler and beat the legendary pool player Minnesota Fats.
Its soulful narrative focusing on the human side of winning and losing made the movie an instant success, garnering a number of major awards, including Academy Awards for art direction and cinematography. It even spawned a sequel, The Color of Money, released in 1986, which earned Newman his only Oscar.
Starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, Rain Man is certainly one of the most famous movies about gambling. Directed by Barry Levinson, and released in 1988, this movie follows a businessman, portrayed by Cruise, who is left out of his father inheritance, and then takes advantage of his autistic brother, brilliantly portrayed by Hoffman, and his eidetic memory to count cards in Las Vegas.
Hoffman’s character was based on real-life autistic savant Kim Peek, and this role earned him an Academy Award. Rain Man was nominated for another seven awards at the 61st Academy Awards, also winning Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.
Labeled by many people as “Citizen Kane for gamblers”, Rounders is a drama film directed by John Dahl, and starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. The film depicts the underground world of high-stakes poker, and follows two friends who need to win a poker game to pay off a large debt.
With an incredible supporting cast, which includes names like John Malkovich, John Turturro, and Martin Landau, Rounders does an excellent job at capturing the adrenaline of high-stakes poker. Despite opening to mixed reviews and moderate success at the box office, the movie went on to become a cult hit, especially after the poker boom in the mid-2000s.
Often, movies about gambling focus on games and players, but that’s not the case of Steven Soderbergh’s remake of this Rat Pack classic. Ocean’s Eleven features an ensemble cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and several others, as a group of criminal specialists, whose idea of high-risk gambling revolves around pulling off a huge heist from the Bellagio.
The film was an instant success, both critically and commercially, with a worldwide gross of $450 million on a $85 million budget. It spawned two sequels, both directed by Soderbergh, and even a spin-off featuring an all-female lead cast, released in 2018.
The most recent release in this list, Uncut Gems is a 2019 crime thriller directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, and starring Adam Sandler as Howard Ratner, a jeweler and gambler who must retrieve an expensive gem to pay off his debts. With an anxiety-inducing plot and thrilling performances, the film also features Lakeith Stanfield, former NBA star Kevin Garnett, and Idina Menzel.
Uncut Gems received critical acclaim, especially for its direction, screenplay, and Adam Sandler’s performance, which was described by several critics and specialists as the best of his career. Garnett’s acting was also praised, with The Ringer’s Alan Siegel citing it as “one of the best acting performances by an athlete ever.”