4 of the Most Underrated Movies About Gambling

4 of the Most Underrated Movies About Gambling

What is it about glitzy casinos and games of chance that are so appealing on the silver screen? Over the years there have been umpteen movies made which revolve around gambling, with the hero often staking it all on a single throw of the dice or spin of the wheel. More often than not, they overcome the odds – even if only eventually.

But while films like Ocean’s Eleven, Casino and any number of Bond titles invariably dominate lists of the best gambling movies, we feel that there are certain movies that fly under the radar in this respect. That’s why we’ve compiled our own rundown of some of the most underrated cinematic efforts which deal with gambling, casinos and associated themes. See for yourself if you agree with our selection.

Uncut Gems

Has there ever been a more high-adrenaline film about gambling than this explosive thriller from 2019? Directed by the accomplished Safdie brothers and featuring Adam Sandler in an uncharacteristically nuanced role as an under-the-cosh jewel dealer with a penchant for taking on the odds, the film puts the pedal to the metal from the first scene and never lets up. You’ll either find yourself unable to take your eyes off it – or unable to peek through your fingers – as Sandler’s Josh digs himself into deeper and deeper holes.

Hard Eight

The directorial debut of Paul Thomas Anderson, Hard Eight features one of the most underrated actors of all time, Philip Seymour Hoffman, as an unassuming and solitary gambler who has learned to live by his wits in the cutthroat world of Vegas. Although this understated introduction to Anderson lacks the chutzpah of later works like Boogie Nights, the stylishness of Inherent Vice and the marriage of both in Licorice Pizza, it’s a gem of a film that perfectly captures the quintessence of Sin City.

Owning Mahowny

Hoffman stars again in this unflinching look at the life of a serial gambler. Based on the true story of a bank manager from Canada who absconded from his work and his native land with a large amount of public money, the film details how Mahowny used his ill-gotten gains to fund a string of high-risk bets in Atlantic City. Although almost painful to watch, the film is a razor-sharp depiction of what addiction looks like up close and its predictably tragic finale is a lesson in temperance for all of us.

Cheaters

We’ll wager you’ve never come across this 1984 cult classic from France (original title Tricheurs) – and if we’re right, we’re confident it’s the best film about gambling that you’ve never heard of. In it, two avid gamblers join forces in a Portuguese casino with a masterplan to overcome the odds by cheating them. With the pair so thoroughly caught up in whether they win or lose that they almost don’t care if they’re caught, it’s a recipe for disaster that’s thoroughly entertaining to watch unfold.

Have you seen these four underappreciated gems about the world of gambling? Do you rate them highly? Or are there others you’d put ahead of them? Let us know.

Greg Stanley