Best Poker Movies: A Quick Guide to Top Picks for Film Fans

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Written by: Matt E.

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Poker has been a popular card game for centuries, and it's no surprise that the drama and excitement of poker have found their way onto the silver screen in a variety of films.

Over the years, the world of poker has been portrayed in various ways, depicted through a range of engaging stories, unforgettable characters, and distinct styles. This article will take you through the world of poker movies, exploring the factors that have contributed to their success and impact on both poker enthusiasts and cinema lovers alike.

From the classics to hidden gems, poker movies span different eras, genres, and filmmaking styles, showcasing a fascinating evolution of poker's depiction in cinema.

With a combination of gripping narratives, iconic poker scenes, and star-studded casts, these films have not only entertained audiences, but also helped deepen our understanding of the complexities and nuances of the game. This article will provide a comprehensive look into the world of poker movies, analyzing their impact on popular culture, poker enthusiasts, and casual viewers alike.

Key Takeaways

  • Poker movies showcase a diverse range of stories, characters, and filmmaking styles throughout film history.
  • Iconic poker movies have left a lasting impact on popular culture and helped enrich our understanding of the game.
  • Over the years, the collaboration of talented actors, directors, and screenwriters has played a vital role in making poker movies what they are today.

Historical Overview of Poker Movies

You might be wondering how poker has evolved in the movie industry, right? Well, let's take a brief journey through the history of poker movies and see how this gambling-related genre has made its mark over the years.

In the early days of cinema, gambling and poker were often portrayed in dark, smoky settings with unsavory characters. These scenes highlighted the seedy side of poker and gambling at the time. As years went by, movies began showing poker in a more sophisticated light. Films like “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965) and “The Hustler” (1961) brought a new era of poker movies that focused more on strategy and skill than the underworld connections.

Jumping forward to the 90s, movies like “Rounders” (1998) marked a turning point in poker movies. This film showcased the game's intricacies and introduced a new generation of poker enthusiasts to the world of high-stakes cash games, propelling the genre further into the mainstream.

During the 2000s, known as the Poker Boom era, the interest in poker skyrocketed, and movies were no exception. Comedy films like “The Grand” (2007) gave a more light-hearted perspective on poker tournaments, while “Casino Royale” (2006) combined high-stakes No-Limit Texas Hold'em with the typical action-packed thriller genre.

Nowadays, you'll find poker movies with diverse themes ranging from pure poker action to character-driven plots that use poker as the backbone of the story. With all these developments, it's fascinating to see how poker movies have evolved from being a niche genre to a cinematic staple that continues to attract audiences worldwide.

As you explore poker movies, you'll find different aspects of the game highlighted, from gameplay to strategy, to the psychological elements involved. So, grab some popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the rich collection of poker movies that showcase the thrill and drama of this classic game!

Critical Review of Iconic Poker Movies


Rounders, released in 1998, stars Matt Damon as a talented poker player named Mike McDermott. He partners up with his friend Worm, played by Edward Norton, to win a high-stakes poker game. This film showcases excellent poker scenes and offers valuable insights into the mindset of poker players. The movie's success contributed to the popularity of Texas Hold'em. How can you forget Mike's epic poker skills and his determination to succeed?

Casino Royale

Casino Royale, released in 2006, features Daniel Craig as James Bond and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. In this film, Bond takes part in an intense, high-stakes poker game in Montenegro against the antagonist, Le Chiffre. The tension in Casino Royale's poker scenes is palpable, and it displays Bond's strategic skills at their finest. Are you feeling lucky enough to play poker with James Bond?


Maverick, directed by Richard Donner in 1994, sees Mel Gibson as the charming, titular character, Bret Maverick. Joining forces with Annabelle, played by Jodie Foster, Bret partakes in hilarious antics and tests his skills against the best poker players to win a huge cash prize. The poker scenes in Maverick are highly entertaining and offer valuable lessons on reading opponents. What would you do if you met Bret Maverick at the poker table?

The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid, released in 1965, stars Steve McQueen as a young poker player named Eric “The Kid” Stoner. The film follows his journey to challenge an experienced poker master for supremacy. The captivating poker scenes in the movie offer timeless lessons about the importance of skill, discipline, and sportsmanship. Can you imagine yourself in The Kid's shoes, trying to take down a poker legend?

Molly's Game

Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, Molly's Game (2017) tells the true story of Molly Bloom, portrayed by Jessica Chastain, who ran illegal high-stakes poker games. Molly's Game delves deep into the underground poker scene, with thrilling gameplay and gripping storytelling. Have you ever thought about what it would be like to play in a game run by Molly Bloom?

Mississippi Grind

Mississippi Grind, released in 2015, features Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn as Gerry and Curtis. The film follows their journey to win big at a high-stakes poker game in New Orleans. The movie explores themes of friendship, addiction, and the pursuit of the ultimate poker win. How would you handle the rollercoaster ride that Gerry and Curtis experience?

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story, released in 2003, is a biographical film about the life of poker legend, Stu Ungar. Starring Michael Imperioli as Ungar, the movie documents the highs and lows of Ungar's life, his incredible poker skills, and his untimely demise. Engrossing and informative, this film offers a glimpse into the life of one of poker's greatest players. Can you imagine the pressure of living the life of Stu Ungar?

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Shade, released in 2003, stars Stuart Townsend, Gabriel Byrne, and Jamie Foxx in a story of deception and betrayal. The protagonists form a group of con artists who specialize in manipulating poker games. Shade weaves a tale of intrigue and suspense, making you question what it takes to come out on top in the world of poker. Do you have it in you to outsmart poker sharks?

The Card Counter

The Card Counter, released in 2021, stars Oscar Isaac as an ex-military interrogator turned professional gambler. The film delves into themes of redemption and vengeance amidst riveting poker action. If you're in the mood for a thought-provoking poker film with tense gameplay, this one's for you. Can you handle the tension and thrills of The Card Counter?

Unsung Gems: Lesser Known Poker Films

In this section, we will explore some of the lesser-known poker films that still manage to capture the essence of the game. These hidden gems may not have received the same recognition as their more famous counterparts, but they are definitely worth watching if you're a fan of poker and movies.

California Split

“California Split” (1974) is a captivating film directed by Robert Altman that focuses on the lives of two gamblers, played by George Segal and Elliott Gould, who form a friendship and navigate the world of professional poker together. The movie provides a realistic portrayal of the highs and lows experienced by professional gamblers. As a poker enthusiast, you'll appreciate the film's attentiveness to the gaming world and its compelling characters.

Lucky You

“Lucky You” (2007) is another lesser-known poker film that you might enjoy. Starring Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Duvall, the film tells the story of a talented poker player, Huck Cheever (Bana), who faces both professional and personal challenges. As he competes in the World Series of Poker, he must also deal with his estranged father, L.C. Cheever (Duvall), who happens to be a poker legend. The movie delivers engaging poker scenes and offers insights into the life of a poker player dealing with various personal struggles.

The Grand

“The Grand” (2007) is a quirky comedy that takes a mockumentary approach to the world of poker. The film follows several characters, including Woody Harrelson and Jeffrey Wright, as they compete in a winner-take-all poker tournament called “The Grand.” The offbeat humor and unique approach to poker make this film a breath of fresh air. While not a traditional poker film, it's worth giving it a shot if you're looking for something different and entertaining.

Finder’s Fee

Lastly, don't overlook the intriguing “Finder's Fee” (2001). In this film, a group of friends, including the aspiring poker player Tepper, played by Erik Palladino, discover a winning lottery ticket. As they play their weekly poker game, tensions rise as each person begins to question their friendships and the course of their lives. This movie, starring Ryan Reynolds and James Earl Jones, manages to combine elements of poker, mystery, and drama, making it a captivating watch for any movie or poker fan.

The Impact of Stars in Poker Movies

You've probably noticed that poker movies often feature big-name actors and actresses in leading roles. These stars enhance the overall experience of watching these films and help to showcase the skill, strategy, and thrill of poker. Let's dive into how some of these notable actors have left their mark on poker films.

In the movie Rounders (1998), you'll find a fantastic duo of Matt Damon and Edward Norton. Their on-screen chemistry brings the story to life and portrays the complex relationship between poker players and the challenge of remaining honest in a world of deception. Matt Damon's portrayal of a skilled poker player showcases his dedication and passion for the game.

Casino Royale (2006) features the suave Daniel Craig as James Bond and the alluring Eva Green as his love interest. The poker scenes in this movie are intense and realistic, capturing the high-stakes atmosphere of high-end games. Daniel Craig's cool demeanor and Eva Green's enigmatic performance make these scenes truly unforgettable.

The film Maverick (1994) stars none other than Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster. Their unique and charming characters have great chemistry, and they create a wonderful balance between lighthearted comedy and high-stakes poker. The captivating performances of these two great actors make this poker movie truly entertaining.

Mississippi Grind (2015) stars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn. Ryan Reynolds plays a young gambler, while Ben Mendelsohn portrays an older, down-on-his-luck character. Their contrasting personalities form the backbone of the movie, illustrating the various paths and struggles people face in the world of gambling.

Legendary actors Robert Redford and Paul Newman teamed up in The Sting (1973), an iconic film that involves poker and large-scale cons. Their charisma and talents shine through, making this movie an instant classic.

Actress Shannon Elizabeth, better known for her role in American Pie, stunned everyone with her role in Lucky You (2007), featuring Robert Duvall. She showcased her poker skills and proved that she is more than a talented actress – she can hold her own at the poker table.

Finally, Judi Dench's legendary performance as M in the James Bond franchise showcases her incredible talent, allowing her to leave a mark on the poker movie scene through her commanding presence.

In conclusion, the star power in poker movies not only adds to the overall entertainment value but also enhances the integrity and realism of the films. These actors and actresses have left an indelible mark on poker cinema, making these movies memorable for years to come.

The Role of Directors and Screenwriters

When it comes to poker movies, the directors and screenwriters play a vital role in delivering an engaging and authentic portrayal of the poker world. You might be familiar with some critically acclaimed names like John Dahl, Richard Donner, Aaron Sorkin, Paul Schrader, Steven Soderbergh, and Martin Scorsese, who have contributed to this genre.

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John Dahl is best known for directing “Rounders” (1998), starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton. This film became a cult classic due to its engaging storyline and accurate portrayal of the underground poker scene. As for the screenplay, it was co-written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who themselves were poker enthusiasts.

Aaron Sorkin donned both director and screenwriter hats for “Molly's Game” (2017), based on the true story of Molly Bloom, a woman who hosted high-stakes poker games for celebrities and the elite. Thanks to Sorkin's writing prowess and Jessica Chastain's powerful performance, this film achieved critical acclaim for its gripping narrative and insight into the world of high-stakes poker.

Richard Donner, known for his work in the “Lethal Weapon” series and “Superman,” directed the fun poker movie “Maverick” (1994). With a screenplay by William Goldman, this western comedy explored the exploits of a poker con artist (Mel Gibson) trying to win a high-stakes poker tournament. The film's lighthearted and entertaining approach made it a favorite among poker fans.

Paul Schrader directed the biographical film “The Gambler” (2014), starring Mark Wahlberg as a literature professor with gambling issues. Although not centered exclusively on poker, the movie delves into the world of the protagonist's compulsive gambling behavior, which includes poker games, showcasing Schrader's adeptness in creating psychological drama.

Steven Soderbergh directed “Ocean's Eleven” (2001), a classic heist movie that involves a poker game as part of the plot. Soderbergh's keen eye for detail and ensemble cast of talented actors, including George Clooney and Brad Pitt, created an unforgettable experience for the audience. The film's success led to two sequels, “Ocean's Twelve” (2004) and “Ocean's Thirteen” (2007), which also featured poker scenes that were integral to the storyline.

Lastly, you can't ignore the impact of Martin Scorsese on the poker movie genre. The director's masterpiece, “Casino” (1995), provided a gritty portrayal of the gambling industry, with poker being a vital part of the storyline. Scorsese also directed “The Color of Money” (1986), a billiards-focused film that shared thematic similarities with the poker world.

So, as you explore these poker movies, pay attention to the remarkable work of these directors and screenwriters. They have managed to capture the essence of poker while providing captivating stories that keep poker enthusiasts entertained.

Significant Locations Featured in Poker Movies

Hey there! Are you a fan of poker movies? If so, you must have noticed that several enthralling locations have served as the backdrop to these captivating stories. Let's take a quick trip exploring some of these picturesque poker movie destinations. Don't worry – we'll keep it brief and fun!

Las Vegas, the Sin City and undeniable heart of the gambling world, has been a popular choice for many poker-themed movies. For instance, the 1998 classic Rounders features Vegas as one of its prominent locations. The city's bright lights, luxurious casinos, and bustling atmosphere make it an ideal spot to showcase the intensity of high-stakes poker.

Another significant location in poker films is Montenegro, particularly the stunning coastal town of Budva. Remember the eye-catching setting in the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale? Bond playing poker against the villain, Le Chiffre, in an extravagant casino – that's Budva! The breathtaking scenery of the Adriatic coast truly adds an air of opulence to the film's poker scenes.

Next up, we have Chicago. Known for its spectacular architecture and vibrant arts scene, it's no wonder that the Windy City was chosen for several poker movies. Take The Sting (1973), for example, where the storyline follows two grifters as they team up to pull off an elaborate scam involving a poker game. The city's historic charm and urban allure make it a natural fit for the gritty atmosphere of this movie.

Lastly, let's not forget the South. Southern charm, intriguing characters, and poker go hand-in-hand, and movies like The Cincinnati Kid (1965) showcase this beautifully. Set in New Orleans, the film follows a young poker player as he tries to establish himself as the best in the business. The unique culture, lively music, and iconic scenery of this Southern gem combine to create a memorable backdrop for this poker classic.

So, there you have it! These four iconic locations – Las Vegas, Montenegro, Chicago, and the South – have contributed immensely to the allure and excitement of poker movies. Now, why not gather some friends, pick one of these films, and enjoy a cozy movie night?

Influence of Poker Movies on Pop Culture

Poker movies have been a significant part of pop culture for decades, influencing various genres such as comedy, action, and western films. With high stakes poker and gambling at their core, these movies have captivated audiences worldwide and led to the widespread popularity of the game.

Many poker movies showcase the excitement and tension associated with high stakes poker games. Films like “Rounders” and “Casino Royale” highlight intense gambling scenes that have enthralled viewers. These high stakes moments resonate with audiences, making poker an even more thrilling and sought-after game.

World Series of Poker (WSOP) events have also found their way into the movies. Films like “Lucky You” and “All In: The Poker Movie” bring the exhilarating atmosphere of the WSOP to the silver screen, and in doing so, they inspire poker enthusiasts to join the fray and take their shot at glory.

But it's not all about high-stakes action. Poker movies also inject comedy and lighthearted fun, like in “Maverick” and “The Grand.” These films engage viewers with humor while still offering a glimpse into the world of poker, making it attractive even to those who may not be familiar with the game's intricacies.

Moreover, poker movies have crossed over into the realm of westerns, with films like “Tombstone” and “A Big Hand for the Little Lady.” These movies present exciting stories of gunslingers and outlaws engaging in high-stakes poker games, further accentuating the exotic appeal of poker in pop culture.

So, whether it's through tense gambling scenes, hilarious antics, or western adventures, poker movies have left an indelible mark on pop culture over the years. They've made poker more accessible, and as a result, the game's popularity has grown exponentially. No matter your personal preference, there's a poker movie out there that speaks to you.

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Understanding Poker through Movies

Hey there! Have you ever wondered if you could truly understand the world of poker through movies? Well, you're in for a treat! Some fantastic films touch on several essential aspects of poker, including loan sharks, mobsters, cheating, addiction, risk, high-stakes poker games, and more. So, let's dive into this thrilling journey through film.

Ever watched a movie where the hero gets dangerously deep into debt, only to deal with the wrath of a vicious loan shark? These characters are usually driven by desperation, having borrowed money to enter a high-stakes poker game ultimately hoping to change their lives forever. Movies like “Rounders” perfectly encapsulate this struggle, giving you a window into the high-pressure world of poker addicts.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Some movies inject humor into the game, showing you that poker is more than just a high-stakes game of risk. Take “The Grand” for example, a hilarious movie that follows a documentary crew tracking several poker players as they enter a winner-take-all tournament. You get to see the human side of poker, with all its quirky, weird, and wonderful characters.

Now let's talk about the darker side: the mobsters and cheating. Have you ever imagined what it's like to play a game of poker with lives hanging in the balance? Movies like “Casino Royale” and “Molly's Game” showcase the tense atmosphere of high-stakes poker games, where a single hand could decide someone's fate—or even their life. These films illustrate how the seedy underworld of organized crime intertwines with poker, perpetually changing the stakes.

The thrill of risk is something we can all relate to, and the adrenaline-rush of a high-stakes poker game often leads characters down a path of addiction. While it's not always explicitly expressed, some movies subtly explore the darkness of poker addiction and the damage it can cause. You can easily pick up on this aspect in films like “Mississippi Grind” and “California Split.”

You see, poker is a multifaceted game, and movies help us comprehend the different layers of what happens at the poker table and beyond. So, brace yourself for an electrifying experience as you explore the exciting world of poker through film. Happy watching!

The Future of Poker Movies

So, you're curious about the future of poker movies? You've come to the right place! Poker has always been an intriguing topic for filmmakers, and that's not going to change anytime soon. Let's dive into what we might expect in the coming years.

With the rise of online poker, you might think that movies set in smoky backrooms and tense Las Vegas casinos could be a thing of the past. But don't worry, there's still plenty of room for the old-school feel in future poker movies! Directors understand the nostalgic appeal of these settings and will continue to find ways to incorporate them on the big screen, alongside fresh plotlines and characters.

Speaking of characters, you can expect to see a more diverse cast of poker players in future movies. The poker world has been growing and evolving, and the same goes for the characters on screen. Keep an eye out for exciting new stories featuring talented female players, or those from underrepresented backgrounds who make a splash in the poker circuit. You'll probably find yourself rooting for these new faces just as much as the classics.

On the technical side, poker movies in the future might benefit from advancements in filmmaking technology. Imagine watching a high-stakes game in crystal-clear 4K resolution, or even better, in an immersive virtual reality setup. You'll truly feel like you're in the game, reading your opponents' subtle tells and experiencing the adrenaline rush as the cards are revealed.

In summary, the future of poker movies looks promising, with plenty of potential for engaging stories, diverse characters, and innovative settings. Keep your eyes peeled for the next big hit, and who knows? You might even pick up a few poker tips along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some top-rated poker movies to watch?

If you're a poker enthusiast looking for some top-rated poker movies, here are a few popular ones you should definitely check out:

  • Rounders
  • The Cincinnati Kid
  • Maverick
  • Casino Royale
  • Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

These films showcase the excitement, strategy, and high-stakes world of poker.

What is a great poker documentary to watch?

A fantastic poker documentary to watch is “All In: The Poker Movie” (2009). This documentary covers the story of how poker became a widely popular game, its evolution over the years, and the impact of online poker.

Which poker movie stars Matt Damon?

Matt Damon stars in the iconic poker movie “Rounders” (1998), where he plays the role of a talented poker player who navigates the high-stakes world of underground poker clubs and gambles his way through challenges and opponents.

Any recommendations for the best new poker movies?

Some of the best recent poker movies you should not miss include:

  • Molly's Game (2017): Tells the real-life story of Molly Bloom, who ran a high-stakes underground poker game for celebrities and business tycoons.
  • Mississippi Grind (2015): A road movie that follows two gamblers who bond over their love of poker and try to make it big.

These movies offer a fresh take on the poker genre with engaging storylines and performances.

What are some famous casino movies?

Apart from poker-specific films, there are also many famous casino-themed movies that focus on gambling and the exciting atmosphere of casinos. Some of these movies include:

  • Casino (1995): A classic Martin Scorsese film that explores the world of Las Vegas mafia.
  • Ocean's Eleven (2001): A heist film that revolves around a group of thieves planning a complex casino robbery.
  • The Gambler (2014): A drama about a literature professor who battles his gambling addiction.

These films showcase the thrill of gambling and the highs and lows of the casino world.

Which movies showcase the world of underground poker?

If you're interested in movies that delve into the world of underground poker, don't miss the following films:

  • Rounders (1998): As mentioned earlier, Matt Damon's character navigates the risky world of illegal poker clubs.
  • Runner Runner (2013): Starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, this movie explores the world of online poker and its possible dark side.

These films provide a glimpse into the secret world of underground poker, revealing the risks and rewards associated with this form of gambling.

Written by

Matt E.

I've been immersed in the world of poker since 2003. Poker is hard. It has undoubtedly been a roller coaster of experiences for me over the years. My poker journey spans from playing at .01/.02 NL tables to engaging in intense sessions at $5/$10. Poker isn't just a game to me—it's a passion. Outmaneuvering opponents in this test of mental strength and strategy offers an unparalleled thrill. To deepen my understanding of the game and to assist others, I initiated this blog. It aims to elucidate the ever-evolving technologies, strategies, and legal landscapes of poker, especially in the online realm. We're now in the age of solvers, but both online and live poker continue to thrive. A quick visit to a local $1/3 game would be ample evidence of its vitality. Regardless of your proficiency level, from novice to expert, I hope my blog posts offer you valuable insights. Feel free to engage with me through messages or by commenting on my posts. Cheers!

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