One of the biggest gambles in business is producing a multi-million dollar feature film, and then hoping people will fill the seats in theaters to see it. But it seems that making a movie about gambling is a safe bet, as we look back at a few of the most successful gambling of all time.
Starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford in an elaborate con game to win a fortune from a crooked banker, The Sting is set in Chicago in 1936. It won the 1973 Best Picture Academy Award, as well as many technical Oscars, and has become one of our most beloved and iconic films, partly due to the memorable Scott Joplin ragtime piano music.
The Hustler pits wannabe pool shark “Fast Eddie” Felson (played by Paul Newman) against the reigning champ “Minnesota Fats” (played by Jackie Gleason) in a film that went far beyond the unsavory pool hall setting to explore the relationship between winning, losing, and character development. The movie is credited with sparking a resurgence in interest in the game of pool, and in the pool hall culture.
Like many of the most riveting movies about wagering, The Cincinnati Kid explores the world of poker, featuring the young upstart looking to unseat the pro. It stars Steve McQueen as Eric “The Kid” Stoner and the dramatic climax, a single hand of poker to decide it all, is so iconic that Wikipedia provides a card-by-card summary.
This movie shows both the glitter of Las Vegas, and its seamy underbelly of greed, deception and murder. Featuring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci, this classic Martin Scorsese production follows two best friends, a casino owner and a mafia boss, as they brutally battle over a gambling empire.
While Ocean’s Eleven is not a film about gambling per se, it is set in Vegas and it involves tons of money and unbridled greed. In fact, it’s such a good film that it was made twice – in 1960 starring Rat Packers Dean martin and Frank Sinatra, and again in 2001 starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney. This well-paced comedic thriller tells the story of Danny Ocean and his 11 accomplices as they plan to rob three major Las Vegas casinos at the same time.
Paul Newman reprises his role of “Fast Eddie” from The Hustler, but this time he has slowed down and become a successful businessman. The young up-and-comer is played by Tom Cruise, and the duo start out as fast friends. In the end, they face each other as mortal adversaries in a tense Atlantic City pool tournament.