5 Underrated Gambling Movies You Should Watch

Gambling has served as the inspiration for many movies over the years, yet while some films enjoy critical acclaim and public adoration, others are overlooked.

If you want to expand your knowledge of gambling’s impact on cinematic storytelling, check out one of the following underrated classics that should definitely be on your watch list.

Owning Mahowny

The late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman is in excellent form in this true life tale of a finance worker from Canada who heads to Atlantic City with a heap of cash purloined from his employer.

Back in 2003 when this film was released, land-based casinos were all the rage, but today anyone can play at an online casino in Canada rather than having to visit in person. Even so, it’s interesting to see how the film tackles the highs and lows of the gambling lifestyle all these years later.


When most people think of Matt Damon’s early career, Good Will Hunting will be at the front of their minds, but he does an equally excellent job of portraying the front and fragility of the 90s male ego in thrilling yet little known poker movie Rounders.

Backed up by a cast of veterans that includes John Malkovich and Martin Landau, Damon’s performance is very well supported, and the relatively realistic portrayal of underground poker games is entertaining for insiders as well as newcomers.


Today, Clive Owen is a major star, but back in 1998 when he appeared in this low-key British movie about a casino croupier who gets mixed up in a plot to take cash from his place of work.

There’s a well pitched noir-ish energy to the whole film, and it’s enjoyable to see how gambling is treated in other cultures outside of the US, where it is normally portrayed in a glitzy and glamorous way. And since this film made just $7 million at the box office, it is unlikely that most people will have seen it, let alone heard of it.

Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels

Another film featuring gambling from the UK, this was also the feature that helped raise the profile of director Guy Ritchie and eventually land him jobs in Hollywood, where he still plies his trade to this day.

While it made a big splash at the time of its release, its time in the sun was relatively short lived, and even Ritchie has struggled to rekindle the magic of this cheap and cheerful Cockney gangster-fest. As such it is high time that it is critically reappraised, if only because the plot is a lot more intricate than it has any need to be, and the mixture of tense gambling scenes, snappy dialogue and extreme violence is a winner.

Poolhall Junkies

Perhaps the reason that this movie has avoided the spotlight for so long is that its name is a bit off-putting. That’s unfortunate, as it manages to tell an unusual and engaging story of a small time hustler who has the chops to go pro, but is hampered by his relationship with an older poolhall player who wants to hold him back and keep him in the world of scams and seediness.

The fact that Christopher Walken is on the cast list should be enough to sell it to you, and there are plenty of low-budget thrills to be had here.

So there you have it; a handful of gambling movies that deserve to be on more people’s radars, especially as the big-hitters in this genre are so widely known and potentially have become stale over time.

Author: Claire Ward