There have been a lot of movies that have featured casinos, either as the main location or as a backdrop to an important scene. And in many of those, poker has been the game of choice. But which are the best poker movies of all time? Here are a few suggestions.
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
This movie starring the legendary Steve McQueen is set in 1930s New Orleans and tells the tale of Eric Stoner, a back room stud poker player. His poker skills are put to the test when the best player in the game, Lancey Howard, arrives in town. The movie features blackmail, double-crossing and high tension as the action moves towards the high-stakes game in which the up-and-coming youngster must defeat the master. Like the other films on our list, this movie features real life poker games. More recently, we have started to see films in which the characters play poker online such as Runner Runner (2013) starring Ben Affleck. While that one didn’t quite make the list, it is perhaps a sign of things to come for poker-themed releases. The popularity of online poker on sites such as redbet is surely helping bring the online version of the game to the forefront, providing inspiration for studios and directors.
Casino Royale (2006)
The movie that rebooted Bond (Daniel Craig) as a more serious and troubled character, charts the rise of the secret agent to 00 status and follows him on his first major assignment. His aim is to bring crooked banker Le Chiffre to justice. After losing the deposit of a terrorist client, Le Chiffre heads to Montenegro to take part in a poker game to try and recover the money. Bond is sent to stop the villain from winning and enlists the help of HM Treasury liaison officer Vesper Lynd, the CIA’s Felix Leiter and French secret service agent Rene Mathis. The ensuing game is perhaps one of the tensest depictions of poker ever seen on the big screen.
This 1998 movie featuring Matt Damon revolves around a lost bankroll, Russian mobsters, an ex-con and a law student. The poker playing protagonist sets about using his skill to help his childhood friend out of a sticky situation. However, in true movies style, the situation gets a lot worse before it gets better and the pair have to decide whether to flee New York City, or stick around to play one final all or nothing game.
Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
A couple and child arrive in a Texas town intending to buy a farm. At the same time, the regions richest men have gathered for a poker game. The man, named Meredith (Henry Fonda), cannot resist but to join in the game even though his poker skills are weak. He proceeds to lose the family’s savings but attempts to win it back. After being dealt a strong hand but without the cash to continue, he passes out and his wife Mary (Joanne Woodward) is forced to take his place.
“Playing Poker” (CC BY 2.0) by jaimezarate1
Other examples of classic poker films include The Grand (2007), Maverick (1994), Lone and Angry Man (1965), Deal (2008), Mississippi Grind (2015) and All In: The Poker Movie (2009). The latter is a documentary featuring legendary player Amarillo Slim. It looks at the recent resurgence in popularity of one of America’s oldest games and how, to many people, it represents the American Dream.