The last game you bet on just ended and now you can mindlessly watch TV before looking at the next day’s card. After flipping aimlessly for 15 minutes, you decide to browse Netflix (and Amazon Prime), but can’t find anything that really catches your eye. We’ve all been there.
Well, after this exact scenario happened to me the other day, I Googled “best Netflix gambling movies” (which I’m sure you’ve all done, too) and didn’t find much. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.
The Action Network staff came up with a list of 10 gambling movies that are currently available to stream on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. We watched, reviewed and rated each one on a scale of 1-5 (using green check marks, naturally). The films run the gamut from raw documentaries to historically significant films to absolute jokes. The only common theme is gambling.
If you’re in the mood for binging some gambling flicks, our hope is that you’ll use our ratings as your guide for where to start — and which movies to skip altogether.
And don’t worry — this is only Part 1. I have a list of many more we will eventually review. We’d also love to hear any gambling movies you would like included — whether you loved or hated them. — Stuckey
All movies were available as of Aug. 1, 2018.
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Site: Amazon Prime
Reviewer: Michael Leboff
Five-word plot: My break is coming soon
Overview: Let’s hear it for some great casting. Ben Mendelsohn knocks it out of the park playing the guy we all know (and maybe are). He’s a down-on-his-luck gambler who is convinced his big break is right around the corner. That big break manifests itself in the form of Ryan Reynolds. With Reynolds by his side, Mendelsohn can’t lose, and the two new friends begin to gamble their way down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.
Review: The movie does a great job of marrying all the things we love about road movies with what we love about gambling movies — all while paying homage to brick-and-mortar gambling haunts. Americana, baby. Come and get some.
The Best Of It
Site: Amazon Prime
Five-word plot: Do you like ODU tomorrow?
Overview: An incredibly honest look at the grind faced by professional bettors in Las Vegas. From the joy of a winning a close bet to the agony of a losing streak, this documentary does a great job of capturing the ups and downs of a bettor.
It focuses on a number of well-known pro gamblers in Alan Boston, Dink, The Shrink and Lem Banker. A few of their eccentric personalities really help carry the movie. Some of the topics covered include: what makes a wise guy, touts, money management, the overall grind and getting the best of the number (obviously). The lighter moments that cover their pets, wives and assistants are balanced nicely by the potential darker side of being a professional bettor.
Review: If you’ve ever sweat out a game or filled a notebook with lines on a Saturday morning in October, you’ll enjoy the watch. I just have to share my favorite scene of the movie, which I’m sure many can relate to.
Lay The Favorite
Reviewer: Tim Livingston
Five-word plot: The sharpest stripper in Vegas
Overview: The film is based on Beth Raymer’s memoir (also titled “Lay The Favorite”), which recounts her move from Florida to Vegas in the 90s — where she falls ass-backwards into a job with a professional gambler (Dink, featured in “The Best of It”) played by Bruce Willis.
Review: It seems like a monumental challenge, but director Stephen Frears (“The Queen,” “Philomena”) and writer D.V. DeVincentis (“High Fidelity”) manage to make a gambling story with Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Vince Vaughn into an absolutely unwatchable piece of garbage.
Skip the movie and buy Raymer’s book. No way it’s as bad as the film.
Reviewer: Josh Applebaum
Five-word plot: Ace handicapper takes on Vegas
“Listen to me very carefully. There are three ways of doing things around here: the right way, the wrong way and the way that I do it. You understand?”
Overview: In this 1995 Scorsese classic, Robert De Niro stars as Ace Rothstein, an expert handicapper sent by the Chicago mob to manage the Tangiers casino in Las Vegas. Set in the 1970s and based on a true story, De Niro and his enforcer Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, must navigate the inner workings of casino life. This involves skimming money off the top to pay the mafia, evading the FBI and dealing with Nevada politics and the Gaming Commission.
Review: Viewers get an unparalleled, firsthand look at what Vegas casinos were like in their heyday, before corporations took over and turned them into the Disneyworld resorts we see today.
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas
Site: Amazon Prime
Reviewer: Mark Gallant
Five-word plot: What the hell is this?
Overview: When people think gambling movies, “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas” is generally not the first one to come to mind. This 2000 box office flop has a couple fatal flaws:
- Fred Flintstone is played by a Brit. Why?
- Stephen Baldwin, future father-in-law of Justin Bieber, has a really annoying Barney impersonation.
The first half hour or so is oddly laced with sexual innuendo. The second portion of the film takes place in Rock Vegas, complete with casinos like the Magma Grand and Molten Nugget. Fred at one point says “building my bankroll” before he eventually ends up 1.4 million clams in debt.
Review: I’m guessing it flopped because the jokes were too crappy for the adults looking for a trip down memory lane and too vague for the kids to understand. My favorite scene was probably when Fred and Barney landed in the Rock Vegas Jail and “For a good time, call 867” was written on the cell wall.
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Site: Amazon Prime
Reviewer: Danny Donahue
Five-word plot: A lost episode of Entourage
Overview: I had never seen this episode of “Entourage.” And to be honest, I didn’t like it as much as the others. I never thought Vince was a very good character, so I wish we saw some more of Ari or Drama, but what can you do?
Anyways, this movie is all over the place. Vince (actually named Alan Jensen in this movie and Adrian Grenier in real life) plays for the Harvard basketball team. He’s given $100,000 to throw a game against Dartmouth — money he needs to help his parents who lost their house in a tornado. The FBI eventually gets involved because of his stupid girlfriend. He’s also high on LSD for most of the movie, which doesn’t really have any plot relevance.
Review: I still can’t decide if the movie was actually so bad that it was good. I think it was definitely bad, though. Oh, and Ray Allen for some reason plays like the seventh-most important role in the movie. Curveball city.
Reviewer: Stephen Geiger
Five-word plot: Genius MIT students counting cards
Overview: One of my all-time favorite gambling movies. It’s based on the true story of a bunch of MIT students who tried to rob Vegas casinos by playing blackjack and counting cards. So, let me give you a quick run-down.
The main character, Ben Campbell, gets accepted into Harvard Medical School after MIT, but can’t afford to pay the $300,000 tuition. However, he just so happens to be a mathematical genius who attends MIT. He ends up getting recruited by one of his professors to join a blackjack team of other genius MIT students who have extremely complex systems for counting cards.
After some initial hesitation, Ben joins the team and they spend their semesters flying back and forth from Vegas working their system. As the money and greed grow, things begin to fall apart — leading to some pretty sweet action scenes and heavy drama.
Review: Again, the fact that it’s based on a true story takes this movie to a different level. This is a classic gambling movie that every gambler should see. I watched it all the time in college, and it always made me want to start learning how to count cards.
Eight Men Out
Site: Amazon Prime
Reviewer: Steven Petrella
Five-word plot: “Say it ain’t so, Joe”
Overview: “Eight Men Out” will be 30 years old this September, and it still holds up as a wonderful depiction of how baseball and American culture meshed perfectly after World War I. But this film’s display of that perfect fabric getting torn apart when the White Sox threw the 1919 World Series as 3-1 favorites against the Reds is what sets it apart from many other baseball movies.
Review: The acting is excellent and the script is written well enough to enjoy even if you know the end result. Plus, the cultural significance can’t be understated. The Black Sox scandal gave purist fans and the American sports leagues pause when it came to gambling for nearly 100 years. It may not seem like your typical gambling movie because there are no playing cards, casino chips or huge wads of cash, but this story has had a tremendous impact on the betting landscape.
Site: Amazon Prime
Reviewer: Blackjack Fletcher
Five-word plot: Cop investigates crimes in casino
Overview: Nicolas Cage plays a dishonest detective on the night of a major heavyweight fight in Atlantic City. Hometown hero and undefeated heavyweight champion Lincoln Tyler is defending his title at a new casino, but there’s more going on than anyone initially realizes.
After a controversial fight, Cage ends up investigating a seedy bookmaker, while Cage’s best friend, a high-ranking military officer played by Gary Sinise, tries to hunt down an assassin. There’s a lot going on, but it all works.
Cage and Sinise play their roles beautifully in this twisting, turning drama set in a casino in the East Coast’s gambling capital. Carla Gugino also stars as a very interested and involved third party.
Review: “Snake Eyes” has a special place in my heart, partially because I want Nicolas Cage’s character to play myself when my life story is made. From the clothes to his attitude, it’s all perfection. That said, it’s also a stellar movie.
Win It All
Site: Amazon Prime
Reviewer: Conor Davidson
Five-word plot: This movie ain’t about gambling
Overview: A local Chicago criminal asks Eddie, a degenerate gambler played by Jake Johnson, to hold onto a giant bag of money while he serves time –which Eddie gambles away. That all happens within the first 30 seconds. Instead of exploring those stakes, Eddie spends the next hour-plus working hard and falling in love.
Then, in an attempt to “Win It All” back, Eddie’s Gamblers Anonymous sponsor (who for some reason is Keegan-Michael Key) tells him to join a $15k buy-in poker game. After an hour of zero gambling, the final 15 minutes have moderate amounts of gambling.
Review: I feel the need to re-emphasize how little gambling this movie contains. I watched it with my roommates, who felt compelled to ask after an hour when the movie about gambling would have gambling.
If you want to watch a rom-com, watch this movie. If you want to watch a gambling movie, don’t watch this movie.