While poker exploded as a hobby in the 80s and 90s, it’s become a widespread activity since The World Series of Poker moved to the Rio in Las Vegas in 2002. The sport was mainstream long before that, with Hollywood having infused the sport into pop culture—both onscreen and off—for years. And against all odds, Hollywood has successfully made poker interesting and fun to watch. Here are 10 films that capture that excitement.
Rounders is a 1997 film that tells the story of Johnny “Cash” Burke, a poker player and former high school basketball star who ends up running his own illegal poker games in Texas. Written by Matt Damon and Edward Zwick and directed by John Dahl, the film stars Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Tracy Letts, Joan Cusack, and Kevin Spacey.
2. Casino Royale
Part of the huge Bond film franchise, Casino Royale tells the story of British secret agent James Bond, who assembles a team of experts and tasks them with winning a high-stakes poker tournament in Montenegro. As the team learns more about this tournament, the circumstances surrounding it, and the competitors, they realize that one of them might be working for the enemy.
3. The Cincinnati Kid
The Cincinnati Kid is not the first movie about poker, but it is the only one I had seen until a few months ago. It’s a 1951 black and white film directed by John Huston and starring Cole Porter, Richard Conte, and Gloria Grahame. The plot focuses on Joe Gould; a Chicago gambler discovered to be a savant with high-paying skills at the card game of poker.
4. The Godfather
One of the most interesting poker movies ever made is the classic “The Godfather.” The Oscar-winning film details the life of a fictional Mafia family, highlighting some of the most intriguing players that have ever played the game of poker.
A poker player named Maverick, won three World Series of Poker bracelets during a World Series of Poker run that spanned six years. Garner starred in the 1970’s movie Maverick as the title character, and that movie inspired this list of the best movies about poker.
6. The Grand
“The Grand” was one of the best movies about poker, and even if your poker knowledge is basic, you’ll enjoy the amazing story portrayed on the big screen. Watch “The Grand” to learn an important lesson: nothing is guaranteed in the world of poker.
7. King of the Hill
If you’ve ever watched an episode of “King of the Hill,” you know that sometimes the best moments are the ones where nothing much happens. That’s especially true of this show’s more minor characters, but Hank Hill (the main character) has big moments where he displays his poker skills.
8. Rounders: A Poker Romance
Lucky You is the best movie poker you could ever imagine. It is filled with poker scenes that will never be topped. Lucky You is a movie of epic proportions, just like any movie about poker should be. Director by Curtis Hanson and written by Eric Roth.
9. The Big Hustle
The Big Hustle tells the story of the 1978 World Series of Poker. A documentary crew follows the 11 players as they alternately cruise and struggle on their way into the Main Event, including a young Phil Hellmuth, who would go on to win, and a young Jack Binion, who would go on to lose.
10. The Hustler
The Hustler was Richard Brooks’ 1961 breakthrough hit, a sexy and gritty film that turned Paul Newman into a major star. Made at a time when the movie industry glorified gangsters, The Hustler turned the tables and gave us a sympathetic view of a poker pro. After the music stops and the lights come up, you are left with a bittersweet feeling: the protagonist’s descent into a life of crime and his brief redemption.