Best Poker Movies
Poker has a long history of being featured in movies to create dramatic stories. When executed right, these films go beyond just showing the game accurately. A great poker movie immerses viewers in the world of poker and how it impacts the players. Watching someone be cautious and prudent may not be exciting, but witnessing someone consistently risk everything in a desperate and irrational pursuit of that one big win is a different story. In this article, we’ll explore the 20 best poker movies of all time that are a must-watch for both poker enthusiasts and movie lovers.
Best Poker Movies
The Cincinnati Kid
When it comes to poker movies, “The Cincinnati Kid” is considered a timeless classic. This movie, released back in 1965 and directed by Norman Jewison, features Steve McQueen and beautifully captures the thrill of high-stakes poker and the exciting world that surrounds it. In the film, Eric “The Kid” Stoner, played by Steve McQueen, hones his poker skills while climbing the stakes. The game of Five-Card Stud takes the spotlight in this movie, with Stoner participating in several high-stakes matches.
“Mississippi Grind” is a film that follows the journey of two gamblers, Gerry and Curtis, played by Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds, as they set out on a road trip down the Mississippi River, hoping to change their luck and win big in various poker games and casinos. Along the way, they encounter a series of colourful characters and face both highs and lows in their pursuit of the ultimate gambling thrill. The movie explores themes of friendship, risk-taking, and the unpredictable nature of life on the road.
“Poker Queens” is a documentary film that explores the world of professional female poker players. It provides an insightful glimpse into the lives of these women, highlighting the challenges they face and the successes they achieve in a predominantly male-dominated poker industry.
The documentary takes viewers on a journey through their experiences, strategies, and the determination that propels them to excel in a fiercely competitive game. “Poker Queens” is a tribute to the accomplishments of these extraordinary women and sheds light on the changing landscape of poker.
All In: The Poker Movie
This film may not have garnered the same level of attention as movies like “Rounders” and “Molly’s Game,” but it stands out for its authentic portrayal of poker’s explosive rise during the 2000s.
“All In” takes a close look at the world of poker, and director Doug Tirola skillfully captures the essence of the modern game. The documentary takes you into the history of poker and highlights its surge in popularity following Chris Moneymaker’s historic victory in the 2003 WSOP Main Event. The movie features interviews with some of the most prominent figures in the poker world, including Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, and Antonio Esfandiari among others.
“Casino Royale” is one of the best poker movies ever! It’s a James Bond film that redefined the iconic spy franchise. Released in 2006 and starring Daniel Craig as Bond, this movie takes us back to the early days of Bond’s career. The plot revolves around a high-stakes poker game in Montenegro, where Bond aims to bankrupt a terrorist financier.
The film combines thrilling action sequences with the sophistication of the casino world. It’s known for its intense poker scenes, stylish cinematography, and Craig’s portrayal of a more rugged and determined Bond. “Casino Royale” is often considered one of the best entries in the Bond series and a must-watch for fans of espionage and action films.
“Rounders” is a cult classic in the world of poker movies. Released in 1998, it stars Matt Damon as Mike McDermott, a talented poker player who re-enters the underground poker scene to help a friend in financial trouble, played by Edward Norton. The film provides an authentic glimpse into the gritty and high-stakes world of underground poker games in New York City.
It’s known for its realistic portrayal of poker strategy and the psychological aspects of the game. “Rounders” has earned a dedicated following for its compelling characters and intense poker scenes, making it a great choice for fans of both poker and drama films.
The Card Counter
The Card Counter features an ensemble cast including Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Willem Dafoe and Tye Sheridan. It centres around a professional card counter and poker player. It’s a relatively recent addition to the poker film genre and garnered respectable reviews upon its release.
The film benefits from Martin Scorsese’s executive production and is written and directed by Paul Schrader, known for classics like “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” The story revolves around William Tell, a character who travels between obscure casinos, playing cards. The movie provides a predominantly authentic depiction of the poker scene at a mid-level, even gaining permission to incorporate the WSOP Circuit brand.
“Kid Poker” is a documentary film that provides an intimate look into the life and career of professional poker player Daniel Negreanu. Released in 2015, this documentary follows Negreanu’s journey from his early days in Toronto to becoming one of the most recognizable and successful players in the world of poker. It offers insights into his poker strategies, personal challenges, and the highs and lows of his career. “Kid Poker” is a must-watch for poker enthusiasts and those interested in the life of a legendary poker pro.
“Maverick” is a Western comedy film released in 1994, directed by Richard Donner and starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, and James Garner. The movie follows the adventures of Bret Maverick, a charming and quick-witted gambler, as he enters a high-stakes poker tournament on a riverboat. Along the way, he encounters various eccentric characters and navigates the Wild West’s unpredictable and perilous landscape. Blending humour with classic Western elements, “Maverick” is known for its entertaining poker scenes and witty dialogue. It’s a delightful and lighthearted take on the Old West, making it a favourite among fans of both Westerns and comedies.
“Molly’s Game” is adapted from the memoir of Molly Bloom, a former champion skier who changes her career trajectory following a devastating accident, immersing herself in the underground world of poker. Jessica Chastain portrays Molly with an air of self-assured confidence, guiding us through this illicit yet irresistibly addictive and lucrative ecosystem as she ascends to become the queen of organizing high-stakes poker games. This thriller, however, sometimes indulges a bit too much in its own cleverness
While “Lucky You” might not be considered a poker classic, it certainly seizes every opportunity to showcase some thrilling poker action. In fact, a significant portion of the movie unfolds at the poker tables of various Las Vegas casinos.
In the high-stakes poker realm, Huck Cheever (played by Eric Bana) is a fiery player who’s always ready to wager his money. However, in his personal life, he takes the opposite approach, overthinking things and avoiding long-term relationships.
As he strives to secure a seat at the WSOP Main Event, he crosses paths with a young singer (Drew Barrymore) whom he falls in love with. Yet, standing in his way is another formidable player—poker legend L. C. Cheever (Robert Duvall), his estranged father who walked out on the family years ago.
The film also boasts numerous cameos by well-known poker players like Barry Greenstein, Sam Farha, Ted Forrest, Jason Lester, Erick Lindgren, Jennifer Harman, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth and more, adding an authentic touch to the poker scenes.
“The Grand” is a mockumentary-style comedy film released in 2007, directed by Zak Penn. The movie is a hilarious and satirical take on the world of professional poker tournaments. It features an ensemble cast, including Woody Harrelson, David Cross, and Cheryl Hines, among others, who portray quirky and eccentric characters competing in a high-stakes poker competition.
The film combines improvisational humour with a poker tournament storyline, resulting in a unique and entertaining blend of comedy and drama. “The Grand” provides a lighthearted and absurd look at the competitive world of poker and the colourful personalities that inhabit it, making it an enjoyable watch for fans of both poker and comedy.
“Deal” is a poker-themed movie that was released in 2008, directed by Gil Cates Jr. The film stars Burt Reynolds and Bret Harrison and revolves around the story of a talented young poker player, Alex, played by Harrison, who gets a chance to be mentored by a retired poker legend, Tommy, portrayed by Reynolds. Together, they embark on a journey to compete in the World Poker Tour Championship.
While “Deal” may not be as widely recognized as some other poker movies, it offers an engaging storyline that explores the dynamics of mentorship, the high-pressure world of professional poker, and the pursuit of success in the game. It’s a film that poker enthusiasts may find enjoyable for its focus on the strategic and psychological aspects of poker.
“Poker King” is a Hong Kong comedy film released in 2009, directed by Chan Hing-Kai and Janet Chun. The movie stars Louis Koo and Lau Ching-Wan as two friends who set off on a journey to become professional poker players. Their quest takes them from Macau to Las Vegas, where they compete in high-stakes poker tournaments.
The film offers a blend of humour, drama, and poker action, with the two protagonists navigating the challenges of the professional poker world. “Poker King” is known for its amusing portrayal of the characters’ poker endeavours and their personal growth along the way. It’s a light-hearted and entertaining watch for those interested in poker-themed comedies.
“Finder’s Fee” is a thriller film released in 2001, marking the directorial debut of Jeff Probst, the host of the reality TV show “Survivor.” The movie features Ryan Reynolds in a leading role, along with a talented ensemble cast. It revolves around a poker game with a high-stakes twist.
The story begins when a young man, played by Ryan Reynolds, finds a lost wallet containing a winning lottery ticket worth six million dollars. As he contemplates his next move, he invites his friends over for a poker night, leading to unexpected revelations and moral dilemmas.
“Finder’s Fee” is known for its suspenseful plot, moral complexity, and strong performances, particularly by Reynolds. The film offers a thrilling exploration of human nature when faced with life-changing decisions, making it a compelling watch for fans of suspenseful dramas.
“California Split” is a classic gambling-themed film released in 1974, directed by Robert Altman. The movie stars George Segal and Elliott Gould as two friends who bond over their shared love for gambling.
In the movie, Bill Denny despises his job but has a passion for poker. His life takes a turn when he encounters Charlie Waters, a world-class gambler with a penchant for risk, during a game of Razz in a card room. Bill is enticed by Charlie’s lifestyle, leading them to join forces as professional gamblers in the 1970s America. The poker culture often romanticizes the thrill-seeking “degenerate” lifestyle, showcasing its wild and exciting aspects.
“Smart Money” is a classic crime drama film from 1931, directed by Alfred E. Green. The movie stars Edward G. Robinson as Nick Venizelos, a small-town barber who has uncommon poker-playing skills. When he moves to the big city, he becomes embroiled in the dangerous world of underground gambling and the mafia. The film is notable for its portrayal of the allure and peril of the gambling world during the Prohibition era. Edward G. Robinson delivers a compelling performance as a man whose skills in gambling lead him down a treacherous path.
“Luna’s Game” (Spanish: “Juego de Luna”) is a 2001 Spanish drama film directed by Mónica Laguna and starring Ana Torrent. Luna, the protagonist, has been groomed to become a poker player since childhood. As a professional player, she finds herself in a situation where she needs to settle some debts.
Luna’s life has revolved around the world of gambling. Her mother passed away during childbirth, and her father, who was rarely seen without a deck of cards, lost both his property and his life due to his gambling addiction when Luna was just ten years old. The movie unfolds the gripping tale of what occurs when Luna makes the daring decision to face off against the man responsible for her father’s demise.
“The Gambler” is a poker movie released in 2014 and directed by Rupert Wyatt. The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Jim Bennett, a literature professor with a dangerous gambling addiction. It explores Jim’s descent into the world of high-stakes poker and the dire consequences that follow. As his debts accumulate, Jim finds himself in perilous situations with ruthless loan sharks.
This movie provides a gritty and intense portrayal of the dark side of gambling addiction. Mark Wahlberg’s performance adds depth to the character of Jim, making it a compelling watch for those interested in both poker and dramatic thrillers.
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story
“High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story” is a biographical film that explores the life of Stu Ungar, a legendary figure in the world of professional poker. Stu Ungar was renowned for his extraordinary poker skills, but his journey was marked by both triumphs and tragedies. The film provides insights into his ascent to poker stardom, his personal challenges, and the hurdles he faced in the high-stakes gambling scene. It’s a compelling narrative that illuminates the complexities of an extraordinary yet ultimately tragic figure in the history of poker.
So, when it comes to the best poker movies, these films provide a winning hand of entertainment for both poker enthusiasts and movie lovers. Whether you’re a fan of classic or modern poker tales, these movies are sure to provide you with a great time. So, grab your popcorn and get ready to be dealt into the thrilling world of poker on the silver screen!
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