Eight best movies about gambling

While not everyone is drawn enough by gambling to go to the nearest casino and make a couple of bets putting their hard-earned cash at stake, gambling in movies is a fascinating subject for many. A good game of poker depicted on the silver screen can be more captivating than seeing a car chase or a fight scene. You get to see the characters sweat trying to calculate what’s inside of their opponent’s head. It’s a silent dialogue and an action scene combined!

Even if you’re not the type to be looking up the Microgaming casino list to win a jackpot, you surely will enjoy seeing the struggle of fictional gamblers in a movie. Especially, if we’re talking about well-written characters in these ten movies.


You can’t have a discussion about the casino-themed cinema without mentioning this masterpiece with the same name. Made by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert DeNiro as the main antihero, this movie tells you a story of a mobster running a casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It’s not a biography, but it is sort of based on real-world events. The thing is, the early adopters of the casino industry in Vegas were mobsters, and the place’s history is tightly linked to organized crime.

The movie will show you all the thrilling and terrifying aspects of the life of a casino pioneer in vivid detail. Sharon Stone got a Golden Globe for this cult classic, so if you’re a fan of 90s criminal dramas, this is a must-watch.


While Casino isn’t a movie that tries to be close to reality, Bugsy is. In fact, it portrays a character that probably was the inspiration for Casino’s protagonist. Bugsy Siegel was a Jewish-American mob figure who was among the first to have the idea to buy land on what would later become The Strip and build a casino on it. Few people believed this would work at the time, and Bugsy’s casino didn’t bring in enough profit. After his death, though, his vision for Las Vegas’s future proved to be right.

The creator of Rain Man and Good Morning Vietnam, Barry Levinson depicted Bugsy’s life story in this movie. It’s a good watch but be advised, there will be no happy ending for Bugsy.

Casino Royale

Casino Royale isn’t a gambling movie, strictly speaking. It’s, as you may be well aware of, a movie about the adventures of James Bond, the most well-known spy in the history of cinema. However, one of the most intense moments in the movie is not a car crash or a thrilling snowy chase scene. It’s a game of poker between Bond and Le Chiffre portrayed by outstanding Mads Mikkelsen.

It’s up close and personal, with the two worrying both about the game they’re playing and about whether the opponent has learned their true identity. Casino Royale is about the best movie you can watch if a movie dedicated to gambling alone would bore you.


Now, 21 is a proper movie about gambling. The premise will resonate with any college student: the protagonist starts playing blackjack in an attempt to pay his tuition fees. But he’s not just hoping for the best, he’s got a strategy. This smart man assembles a team that would go on to count cards in the casinos and win huge sums of money.

The plot also reflects the volatile nature of gambling — as they win and lose money, they win and lose friends and team members as relationships worsen. If you want a movie to keep you on the edge, this is the one to watch.


You’d only know the director of this film, John Dahl, if you’re a fan of neo-noir flicks. However, you probably know the cast pretty well. The main characters are portrayed by Matt Damon and Edward Norton, both before their breakthrough. Even though the movie has received a lukewarm response when it was released, it has a great dynamic between the two leads and a good crime drama plot.

The movie follows two friends who travel from one casino to another to make a living. The catch is, one is an honest man who tried to stop gambling. The other is a freshly released convict in huge debt that needs his friend’s help to stay alive.

Ocean’s Eleven

They say that in the casino, the house always wins. Not in this iconic heist comedy, though. In this movie, it’s the team of robbers who are going to get the jackpot, even though through non-orthodox ways. The team assembled by freshly released from prison Danny Ocean plans to do an elaborate heist that involves conmanship and infiltration of three casinos.

If that’s not enough to keep you on the edge, Ocean soon learns that his ex-wife now dates the guy who owns these casinos. One heist, three casinos, and a love triangle. Isn’t this the formula of a perfect movie?

The Cooler

The Cooler does have it’s tense moments, but it’s more of a drama. A drama about a man so unlucky that a local casino hires him to be “the cooler.” This position (that is said to actually exist in some casinos with superstitious owners) involves simply hanging around the casino pit sharing your bad luck with the big rollers.

However, once the protagonist finds his true love, his luck goes back to him. He then confronts his former boss on a craps table trying to win enough to leave town.

The Gambler

This may be the best gambling movie ever made, especially for the audience who gamble. It’s not just a classic 70s, it’s a rumination on why do people gamble at all. The main character portrayed by James Caan spends the movie trying to understand himself, fighting his addiction that is becoming toxic. He later understands it’s not about money, it’s about the feeling you get when you’re about to lose it. If you’ve been dealing with similar feelings, this flick can be a good introspection material.

Final Thoughts

Although each of these movies has a different take on gambling, there’s no denying that watching their protagonists in action can be incredibly thrilling. Like people who strategically play the lottery online, professional gamblers that know what they're doing can tilt the odds in their favour and live the kinds of glamorous lives that most of us could only dream of.