Many of us will have felt the thrill of hitting 21 when playing Blackjack, our sports bet cashing with a last-minute goal. Luckily most of us won’t have had our lives riding on the outcome of a bet, unlike a lot of characters in Hollywood gambling movies.
It’s not hard to understand why gambling movies are often a winner with audiences (excuse the pun). The flashing lights of the casino, the huge sums of money, and the double-or-nothing bets that have you screaming “don’t do it!” Add in a group of bad guys coming to collect a debt, and you’ve got yourself a movie. If you love the twists, turns and the anxiety of bad decisions then read on, as we go through five of the best gambling movies to watch.
This Oscar-Nominated film- directed by Aaron Sorkin- is a true-life story about Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a woman who went from an Olympic-level skier to running Hollywood’s most prestigious illegal poker ring. Molly’s games start off running smoothly until the stakes get too high and eventually the FBI discover her business and set out to shut her down.
Nothing is more tense than watching celebrities- and we mean real celebrities- illegally gamble millions of dollars while the FBI is tracking the action. The film alludes to many famous actors playing in Molly’s games including Tobey Maguire, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio- making this more Hollywood than most films.
This movie is the perfect choice if you’re in the mood for a true story and bags of gambling-related stress. Molly’s Game drops the casino setting but includes even more of the drama and tension normally found in these films- this is a must watch.
The Hangover isn’t exactly a gambling movie, but it takes place in Las Vegas and there are a number of high stakes moments. This film follows soon-to-be-married Doug, and his groomsmen Stu, Phil, and Alan (oh, Alan) on a bachelor party that goes horribly wrong.
We’ve all had bad hangovers but none of us have blacked out and woke up in a trashed hotel room with Mike Tyson’s tiger in the bathroom. Sounds stressful, right? It only gets crazier as the film goes on. We follow the antics of the ‘Wolf Pack’ as they try to piece together their night and find the missing groom, Doug.
This film is everything Vegas. Rain Man references, a bag of stolen casino chips, and a gangster demanding money for a hostage. The Hangover shows us the dark side of Vegas, but somehow makes us laugh in the process. This is definitely a must-watch if you want some gambling along with your jokes.
What gambling movie list would be complete without including Casino? It’s in the name after all. It features a star-studded cast with Hollywood legends, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone as the main characters. This is a tale of power, greed, and money with a threat of murder lingering over every minute of the movie.
The Martin Scorsese directed Casino perfectly incorporates the fear of the mob and big-money gambling as we follow Ace (Robert De Niro) on his ascension through the ranks of organised crime, while he manages a Vegas casino and the pitfalls of falling in love with a hustler.
Set across the 1970s and ’80s, the story starts off in the already dark world of mobsters and spirals into even more drugs, violence, and corruption. The time spent at the tables is as stressful as the constant threat of murder. Casino is a classic for a reason and we highly recommend it.
This comedy-drama is as much about gambling as it is about robbing the casinos blind, quite literally. Set in Las Vegas, the movie follows Danny Ocean (George Clooney) as he assembles an unconventional team of criminals to steal everything from three of the biggest casinos in the city, all of which are owned by his arch nemesis. With a cast including Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and Matt Damon this film was set up to be a success from the start. Featuring thrilling action of gambling, the movie inspired many to indulge in a game of online craps, reaping sizeable rewards and winning hot drop jackpots. Besides, it’s crisp and deep soundtracks build the anticipation around the gambling experience and fills you with a competitive spirit.
Ocean’s 11 is part of a trilogy, including Ocean’s 12 and 13, and more recently there has been an all-female addition, Ocean’s 8. This collection is perfect if you want to go all-in on a casino heist movie binge. There’s a good reason why they made four of these films and we’re sure glad they did. Make sure you watch them all, just don’t go getting any ideas from Ocean and the gang.
Not into casino films? How about sports betting? Uncut Gems follows Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a fast-talking but slippery jeweller working in New York’s Diamond District, as he tries to sell a million-dollar opal so he can pay back his debts, while constantly getting side-tracked searching for a bigger win.
Howard is always on the run, evading debt collectors, kidnappers and possible Mafia connections while still managing to place bets on anything he can. Howard has a problem- he’s fixated on the ultimate win that will scratch his betting itch- which is at times exhilarating but is equally as hard to watch.
Although Uncut Gems is not a true story, the sports betting action feels genuine as they use real-world sporting events in the movie. The central storyline even follows NBA legend, Kevin Garnett, playing himself. In typical Safdie Brother fashion, this film is as chaotic as it is brilliant, and the worst part is you’ll be rooting for Howard’s idiotic bets while watching the film between your fingers.
These are five of our recommendations for Hollywood’s best gambling movies. We’ve packed in laughs, murder, and a variety of casino games, so there’s something for everyone. We couldn’t include all of the best movies here, so once you’ve worked through this list be sure to check out: Rain Man, Casino Royale and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Now you’re set to watch these tales about the seedy underworld of gambling, all from the safety of your own home. Enjoy!