Published on March 16th, 2017 | by Craig Silliphant0
Movies About Gambling
After a trip to Vegas (we didn’t lose any money), we take a look at some of the best movies about gambling and Sin City.
I recently came back from Las Vegas, and while I’m not a gambler per se, I was right in the thick of gambling central. My three-year-old was enamoured with the lights and buttons of the slot machines, and I love the James Bond vibes I get from looking at the tables. So in the spirit of this trip, I thought I’d compile a list of the top movies about gambling. Of course, there are a ton of movies on this subject. Rather than being all-inclusive, I am choosing the movies that have spoken to me the most.
The master, Scorsese, apes his relentlessly entertaining film Goodfellas by reuniting some key players like Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci to show us the mob-controlled Vegas of the 70s. This was one of the movies I rewatched before embarking on our Vegas trip, and it never ceases to amaze me. It’s as beautiful as it is brutal.
Paul Thomas Anderson is one of my favourite filmmakers and Hard Eight was the first time I saw him in action. Philip Baker Hall is amazing as the hardened professional gambler that sees a makeshift family grow around him as he befriends John C. Reilly and Gwenyth Paltrow’s characters. And this was also an early turn for the great character work done by Philip Seymour Hoffman early in his career. The craps scene is a brilliant character building moment.
This is more of a heist movie, but it takes place among the gambling money of Vegas, and let’s face it, the heist in and of itself is a gamble. There are two versions of this movie, the 1960s version with the Rat Pack and the 2001 Soderbergh remake with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. While the original version is fun to watch to see the stylish Rat Pack, Sinatra, Martin and co, in action, this is one of the rare cases of a remake being superior.
It doesn’t revolve around gambling per se, but Casino Royale was an intense reboot to the James Bond world, featuring Daniel Craig’s first turn as a less suave, more brute Bond. But it begs mention for the intense gambling scenes as Bond squares off against Mad Mikkelson’s Le Chiffre.
Of course, there are also sports betting movies, and 1974’s The Gambler is among the best, starring James Caan as an English teacher that is hooked on betting on basketball games. Even when he’s reached the end of his rope and the bad guys are chasing him, he still can’t help but place those bets. This was also remade as a terrible Mark Wahlberg vehicle.
Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason are a couple of pool sharks that go head-to-head in high stakes match in 1961’s The Hustler. Newman plays “Fast” Eddie Felson, who has a lot of talent, but enough bravado to bring him down if he’s not careful.
The Color of Money
The sequel to The Hustler, made by Scorsese a quarter of a century after the original, sees the return of Eddie Felson as he teaches the ropes to a cocky young protégé, played by Tom Cruise. Paul Newman won an Oscar for his portrayal of the aged hustler turned teacher.