So many great movies about gambling are among the best ranked movies in the world, according to both critics and fans, movies like Casino, Rounders, and Casino Royale just to name a few. These films were beautifully done and really capture the gambling scene in an honest and oftentimes raw way.
When you’re on a hot streak at the poker table, it can often be difficult to step away from the game. It can do the heart and mind some good to step away and recharge, so what could be better than watching a flick about your favorite games while doing so?
There are countless lists all over the web about the best poker or casino games out there, so it isn’t hard to find yourself a recommendation.
However, you’re not going to find a list about the gambling movies out there that should be avoided at all costs. As I’m sure you’re aware, movies in general can be really hit or miss. It’s kind of crazy how many bad movies there really are out there. Sure, a lot of this is subjective, but some of it can be as plain as the nose on your face.
I think because gambling is such an interesting and exciting topic, and because the history behind gambling in many countries can be so fraught with intrigue and danger, that a lot of people just want to keep telling stories about it.
Unfortunately, some of those stories are really bad.
I’m going to go over 3 of the worst gambling movies of all time (in no particular order) in hopes you don’t accidentally ruin your evening.
1- Runner Runner
Released in 2013, Runner Runner might have had a somewhat promising cast, but promising is the opposite of what this film turned out to be. A simple search on google will immediately reveal a disappointing score of 9% on rotten tomatoes.
To put that in perspective, great movies are usually in the top 90s.
The plot goes like this: believing that he has been totally duped, a Princeton grad student named Richie (Justin Timberlake) goes to Costa Rica to confront an online gambling tycoon by the name of Ivan Block (Ben Affleck).
Block lures in Richie, using his high amounts of wealth and power to seduce him. Richie will then learn the appalling truth about his new Mentor. When Richie is pressured by the feds to aid in bringing Ivan Block to his knees, he faces the most challenging and largest gamble of his life, having to outmaneuver these two outside forces closing in on him.
The film really does have the opportunity to be a good film but has way too many hurdles to jump over for that to be possible. Poor chemistry between Timberlake and Affleck is a huge annoyance while watching the film.
The script itself just feels… incomplete. Poor writing rarely turns into a great blockbuster, no matter how much money the studio throws at it.
With having an incomplete script, poor acting, poor direction, and poor cinematography, it’s no wonder why this film received a 9% rating on rotten tomatoes. The poor script kind of can create a lack of empathy towards the characters in the film.
I didn’t really care whether or not a character died, lived, got locked up, etc—that’s how bad it was. It’s sad when you witness a supposedly A-list actor like Ben Affleck get completely outacted by some of the most insignificant characters that are present in the movie.
Need I say more?
Please, do not waste your time with this one.
2- Ocean’s Twelve
Ocean’s Twelve for me was a let down compared to its predecessor, Ocean’s Eleven. This can happen often times with movies and their sequels. They so often hit or miss that it’s kind of a running joke at this point.
In Ocean’s Twelve, we see the unfolding of a maybe-sometimes-fun-but-more-often-disappointing plot. After having successfully robbed 5 casinos in one evening, we see Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his star studded crew of thieves run into some serious inconveniences.
Despite successfully pulling off one of the greatest heists ever seen in the history of Las Vegas, the crew has unfortunately already spent much of their earnings from the previous robbery and find themselves once again in need of money (now that’s a common gambling story if I’ve ever heard one).
Casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) demands that the crew return all of the stolen money plus millions more dollars in interest. When Ocean is unable to come up with the money, the crew is forced to come together and attempt to pull off a series of more heists, this time in Europe.
While watching the movie, it’s apparent the cast is having a great deal of fun together. I suppose that this might be a factor that can keep the audience engaged, but for many people, the fun being had was not enough to make this film one that will be remembered.
This is such a disappointment for me because Steven Soderbergh, the man who directed Ocean’s Twelve, is a director who has made some of my favorite films of all time. Traffic, Out of Sight, Eric Brockovich, The Limey… believe me, I could go on. Two of those movies came home with Oscar’s.
When a movie receives an Oscar, you oftentimes have the expectation that every film produced by the Oscar-winning director is going to be a film to remember. Many critics refer to Ocean’s Twelve simply as “a mess.”
Ocean’s Twelve came home with $100 million less than its predecessor, Ocean’s Eleven. Scrolling through rotten tomatoes and other sites that hold space for movie reviews, some audience members seem to be okay with the film, not all, but some. Critics on the other hand were not so friendly.
The Washington Post called the film “fluff.” The Guardian said the movie was “cheesy, flatulent, and dull. Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D+ and even went on to say that it was the worst sequel of all time.
Maybe the movie was misunderstood?
Definitely was not my favorite, consequently earning a spot on this list.
3- Vegas Vacation
National Lampoon’s 3rd sequel, Vegas Vacation, was probably one of the biggest let downs for me on this list. Christmas Vacation, a very popular movie among my family, is honestly probably one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. I’ve watched it hundreds of times, and even still, it never gets old.
Vegas Vacation, however, is a movie I would have rathered not watched, and audience and critic reviews are saying the same thing unfortunately.
In Vegas Vacation, we see the Griswolds off again on another family adventure, this time to Las Vegas. Each character has their own misadventures throughout the movie. The always happy and positive Dad Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) immediately starts to lose his money at the blackjack table, while his wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angely), takes a liking to a lounge performer named Wayne Newton (Wayne Newton).
We find young Rusty (Ethan Embry) playing dice, while his sister, Audrey (Marisol Nichols), ends up in night clubs across the Vegas strip. It leaves us with the question: will the family be able to come together in the end while staying away from trouble?
You’ll just have to watch for yourself to find out, or, not watch and read a spoiler for the sake of saving an hour and a half of your life.
When a movie has a rotten tomatoes score of 13%, that’s a movie I just avoid. From a writer from The Washington Post, we can read a review that gently (compared to other critics) lays out the opinions of most of the audience and critical reviews:
“After a somewhat promising opening, the movie falls flat. The running joke—Clark losing $27,000 at the blackjack table—just is not funny, and the rest of the filler is not very fulfilling. There is one rather funny scene in a sort of ‘alternative gambling’ casino offering ‘Pick a Number From One to Ten,’ ‘Scissors and Rock’ and other children’s games, and a couple of other scattered laughs.
But I will lay out to you 3 to 1 odds that by the end of this flick even fans will be thinking that this wasn’t a trip worth taking. Contains nothing too offensive, but only about 5 minutes of humor and 90 minutes of NOT humor.”
It’s sad that this storied series had this unfortunate entry, but that’s often the case with sequels. You never know what you’re going to get, and this time, you got nothing.
I’ll be the first to admit that there are tons of bad movies out there about gambling. Are there other movies that could have made this list? Let me know in the comments!