For most of us, a trip to the casino or sportsbook has a high probability of resulting in the loss of a few dollars – if we’re lucky. Perhaps it’s for this reason that movies about high-rolling gamblers playing for millions of dollars strikes a chord within.
Over the course of cinematic history, there have been plenty of exciting examples of what is possible if you’re able to manipulate the casino through legal, but mainly illegal, means.
In this article, I’ll lay out four gambling movies that you need to watch before your next real money gambling adventure.
I’m starting off the list with the Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey classic, because it’s probably my favorite gambling movie of all time. If you haven’t seen it – this should go to the top of your “must-view” list.
So, with no other viable options for coming up with that kind of cash, it was somewhat of a serendipitous occurrence when Micky Rosa – a professor at MIT – asked Ben to join the MIT blackjack team.
Comprised of a half-dozen brilliant students and led by their intrepid professor, the entire team conducts regular meetings to hone their skills in card-counting. Their ability to master the art (or rather, the science) gives them a substantial edge against the house.
Once Micky feels comfortable that his team is ready to take on the biggest stage, a few trips to Vegas prove lucrative beyond anyone’s belief…especially Ben, who was able to justify the decision to manipulate the casino by telling himself the money will only be put toward his Harvard tuition.
The plan was going smoothly until Ben recognizes that he actually enjoys the high-rolling Vegas lifestyle. This leads him to break from the team’s strategy during an outing…frustrating Micky, the team’s leader, and also causing significant friction with the team’s other members.
The casino staff gets tipped off by an “inside” source that Ben is counting, and he subsequently gets roughed up and told not to come back under any circumstances.
How does it end? That’s something you’ll just have to find out for yourself.
Uncut Gems (2019)
Adam Sandler and Kevin Garnett star in this exciting, if not anxiety-inducing, depiction of a gem salesman in New York City who needs to secure an expensive gem in order to pay off gambling debts he’s incurred recently.
Luckily, through his Jewish connections in the diamond mines Africa, he’s able to secure an extremely valuable gem that could be the answer to his debt nightmares.
Another connection, this time his business associate, helps Ratner land some rather impressive clientele. NBA star Kevin Garnett – who is played by the former MVP himself – walks into Ratner’s jewelry store and upon seeing and feeling the rare black opal he recently obtained (the aforementioned valuable diamond from Africa), asks to keep it in his possession for the game that night.
Reluctantly, Ratner (Sandler) agrees, but only under one condition: he gets to keep Garnett’s 2008 NBA Championship ring as collateral.
Like any good gambling addict trying to find a way to pay off his debts, Ratner swiftly pawns the ring and places the money down on a six-way parlay (because those always work out, right?). Whether it as foolish intuition or a genuine belief in the powers of the gem, every bet in the crazy sports betting parlay involved Kevin Garnett performing at a very high level.
The next day, Ratner should be waking up with the relief of knowing his debts can be paid – his parlay should have netted him roughly $600,000. However, Garnett doesn’t want to give up his new prized possession, which he believes helped him perform at a high level.
In the end, there would be another massive win for Ratner, but the price was simply greater. I won’t spoil the ending as I would recommend this movie to anyone who wants to experience the constant anxiety that comes with living on the edge.
The Ringer (2005)
Let me start off by saying that this movie, funny as it might be, would almost certainly not be made today. Politically-correct culture has at times made concessions for the arts, but in all likelihood The Ringer probably doesn’t get the greenlight even just a couple years after it was completed.
Comedy king of the early 2000’s, Johnny Knoxville, stars in the story of a man who does the wrong thing for the right reasons. Following an accident where a close friend, who is later revealed to be lacking health insurance, loses his fingers, Knoxville’s character (Steve Barker) feels obligated to come up with the $28,000 needed to reattach his friend’s lost fingers.
With time running out before the fingers are gone for good, Barker’s uncle, a degenerate gambler, hatches a plan to fix the Special Olympics in order to rectify his big gambling losses and their friend’s fingers. Obviously this idea is more than distasteful, but Barker (Knoxville) justifies it by reminding himself that he’s doing it for his friend.
Steve pretends to be high-functioning, but still mentally challenged, as he competes in the games. His uncle, assuming his able-bodied nephew will win the gold medal, bets against the odds-on favorite for a price of $100,000.
Again, I’ll continue on with the theme of not spoiling the ending. I will say that this movie has enough laughs to keep you entertained, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel a little bit dirty afterward. All in all, I’d recommend watching it with close friends who won’t judge you for putting it on.
Beyond the Edge (2018)
Russian gambling film Beyond the Edge might not have been the critic’s choice for best gambling movie, but it does provide viewers with a unique and creative take on the traditional casino flick.
Instead of finding the smartest people around like in ’21,’ this team revolves around players with superhuman qualities that come in quite handy to cheat the casinos. For example, members of this particular group are able to move small objects like a roulette ball or a die, change the cards in a player’s hand during a game of poker, or even simply manipulate the cameras within the establishment so that their nefarious deeds go unnoticed by the house.
Now, with the strength of superpowers on their side, it seems like the team headed by Michael has the world at their mystical fingertips. Which is important because he has a huge debt to repay, and the consequences could be dire if he doesn’t come up with the money.
Michael is surprised to find that the superhuman forces his team possesses might not be enough to clear his debts, as they’re facing an opponent with similar abilities. Unable to find out exactly why they aren’t able to win as expected, a struggle ensues that will determine the fate of the “good guys” in the film.
Fans of science fiction are typically not indulged by casino movies, but this one is sure to hit the spot.
Regardless of your cinematic tastes, there is no shortage of good gambling movies to keep you entertained. From the absurd, to the irreverent, even the supernatural, studios across the globe have tried their hand at a movie that revolves around gambling.
On this list in particular I’ve included a few of my personal favorites, but there are many others out there to be explored. If the movies don’t include the disclaimer, I will here: after watching, just don’t try this at home.