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Best Gambling Films

There’s something about gambling that translates so well into the world of movies. It’s a world of suspense, larger than life characters, and life-changing decisions, where the vicissitudes of fate can mean so much. When done well, a gambling movie is drama of the highest quality and here’s our list of some of the best examples of this thrilling genre


Mainly worth watching for John Malkovich’s turn as Oreo-munching Russian mobster Teddy ‘KGB’, Roundersfollows Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) as a law student and budding poker player. The film begins with Mikelosing $30,000 dollars to KGB and renouncing gambling, a promise he keeps until Worm (Edward Norton)gets out of prison and convinces him to begin ‘rounding’ again. We won’t spoil the whole thingfor you, but it ends with two tense heads-up games that would have anycard playeron the edge of their seat. With great support acting from John Turturro and Martin Landau,this is one the best examples of the underground gambling genre


Croupier is a fantastic neo-noir that takes a look at gambling from a different perspective: that of someone who works in a casino. Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) is an aspiring writer who takes a job as a croupier to find inspiration for his novel and ends up being complicit in a robbery. It was directed by Mike Hodges of Get Carter fame and thanks to Owen’s moody monologues and the taut atmosphere it was very well received by critics. Best scene: watching Jack get taken through his paces when he starts at the casino

Owning Mahowny

Owning Mahowny is one of the few gambling films to bring to life convincingly the addictive nature ofthe game. This is due in no small part to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s skill as an actor, which promptedcritic Rogert Ebert to name it one of his Top 10 films of 2003. Based on a true story, the film followsan embezzling Canadian bank employee, Dan Mahowny, who uses the stolen money to fund his gambling addiction.When the police get wind o fhis criminal activity, Mahowny’s life quickly starts to unravel. The real-lifeprotagonist, Brian Molony, was sentenced to six years in prison for fraud


Intacto is the most surreal offering on this list and a magical meditation on the nature of luck. Thereare two veins to the story: the first follows an underground ring who trade in luck as they try to weedout the luckiest people with increasingly risky games; the second involves a concentration camp survivor,Samuel Berg (Max Von Sydow), who runs a casino. Berg has an employee, Federico, who has the gift of absorbingothers’ good fortune with one touch. When Federico attempts to leave, Berg takes away his ability,setting in motion a series of events that lead to a RussianRouletteshowdown between the two. Watch it for nothing else if not the blindfolded forest scene.

Hard Eight

From the acclaimed director of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, Hard Eight is another gambling movie thatfits into the neo-noir crime thriller mould. It’s notable for the ensemble cast: John C. Reilly, GywnethPaltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, and Philip Baker Hall. It tells the tale of an aging gambler, Sydney (Hall),who takes a young man (Reilly) under his wing and tutors him in the art of gambling. But Hall has a darksecret from his past that threatens their relationship. Despite being a box office flop, it has a surprisinglygood rating on Rotten Tomatoes.