Poker is a very popular game that is played around the world, but there is a surprising lack of films centered around the game. It’s not uncommon for movies to feature characters going to Vegas or gambling in some capacity, but movies centered exclusively around poker seem exceedingly rare.
Fortunately, the movies that are exclusively about poker are usually pretty good. Of course, not every poker movie is a winner, just as every baseball or soccer movie isn’t a winner, but there are a surprising amount of great poker movies out there, and according to IMDb, these are the greatest of them all.
10 Lucky You (2007): 5.9
Lucky You stars Eric Bana as Huck Cheever, a poker player with aspirations to play in the Las Vegas World Series of Poker main event. However, he needs $10,000 for the buy-in.
Starring alongside Bana is Drew Barrymore as Billie Offer and Robert Duvall as L.C. Cheever – Huck’s estranged father and a two-time World Series of Poker champion. It’s a unique combination of poker excitement and romantic drama, and while not everything works, the excellent cast helps elevate the material.
9 High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003): 6.1
As is obvious from the title, High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story is a biopic concerning the life of professional poker player, Stu Ungar. Widely regarded as the greatest Texas Hold ‘Em player of all time, Ungar is a three-time World Series of Poker main event winner – only one of two players in history to accomplish the feat.
Unfortunately, Ungar faced a debilitating drug addiction throughout most of his life and eventually died from drug-related complications at just 45 years old. In the movie, he is played by The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli.
8 Mississippi Grind (2015): 6.4
More of a gambling movie, in general, but still with its fair share of poker, Mississippi Grind stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn. Reynolds plays young gambler Curtis Vaughn, with Mendelsohn starring as the older and down-on-his-luck Gerry.
Gerry proposes that he and Curtis venture on a gambling trip down the Mississippi River – a journey that includes a beautiful poker session on a riverboat casino. Both a buddy road movie and a tragic glimpse into gambling addiction, Mississippi Grind is well worth a watch for its performances and unique Southern atmosphere.
7 Maverick (1994): 7.0
Another poker film with a stacked cast, Maverick was directed by Richard Donner and released to strong reviews in 1994. At the heart of the story is Bret Maverick, played to perfection by Mel Gibson. Maverick is a con artist looking to raise and steal money so he can buy-in to a high-stakes poker game.
Joining him is another con artist named Annabelle Bransford, played by Jodie Foster, and a Marshal named Zane Cooper, played by the late James Garner. The movie is a lot of fun, and there’s no going wrong with its incredible cast.
6 California Split (1974): 7.2
Robert Altman’s California Split stars George Segal as Bill Denny and Elliott Gould as Charlie Waters. Both share a love for gambling, with Charlie being significantly more experienced than Bill. The two enjoy gambling together, and as the inexperienced Bill begins to win more money, he becomes more addicted to the game.
In one specific scene, Bill plays poker with Poker Hall of Fame inductee and 1972 World Series of Poker champion, Amarillo Slim, playing himself.
5 A Big Hand For The Little Lady (1966): 7.3
Known as Big Deal at Dodge City in the United Kingdom, A Big Hand for the Little Lady was produced and directed by Fielder Cook.
Serving as a comedy Western, the movie stars an incredible cast, consisting of Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Paul Ford, Burgess Meredith, and Jason Robards, who also starred with Henry Fonda in the classic Western Once Upon a Time in the West. It’s a Western, a comedy, and a poker movie all rolled into one. What’s not to love?
4 Rounders (1998): 7.3
Rounders is perhaps the most famous poker movie of all time (receiving a significant boost in popularity after poker became big in the mid-2000s). But according to IMDb, it’s not the best. Released in 1998, Rounders stars Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, John Malkovich, and Famke Janssen – perhaps the most stacked cast ever seen in a poker movie.
The plot concerns two friends – Damon’s Mike McDermott and Norton’s Worm Murphy – trying to win big at high stakes poker to pay off some dangerous loan sharks.
3 The Cincinnati Kid (1965): 7.3
Adapted from the Richard Jessup novel of the same name, The Cincinnati Kid stars the legendary Steve McQueen as Eric “The Kid” Stoner. The Kid is an up-and-coming poker player with desires to play against the best poker player in the world – Edward G. Robinson’s Lancey “The Man” Howard.
The film contains a typically excellent performance from McQueen, and the poker scenes on display are taught and exciting.
2 Molly’s Game (2017): 7.4
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, Molly’s Game is based on a memoir of the same name, written by Molly Bloom. Bloom was an aspiring skier who was tragically injured while qualifying for the Olympics. By her early 30s, Bloom was running an underground poker empire out of Los Angeles that attracted tons of high-profile talent, like rich celebrities and athletes – not to mention the Russian mob.
She eventually became the target of an FBI investigation and was charged with money laundering and running an illegal gambling operation.
1 Casino Royale (2006): 8.0
While not exclusively a poker movie, Casino Royale is easily the most card-heavy James Bond film of them all. Most of the second act is devoted to poker, as Bond travels to Montenegro to prevent a terrorist banker named Le Chiffre from winning big at a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament.
The film features elongated sequences of high-class poker playing, complete with tuxedos, fancy drinks, and a gorgeous locale. This is poker at its absolute classiest, and it makes for delightful viewing.
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