Updated August 28, 2023 - 10:54 am
Hollywood loves poker.
Starting with the 1912 silent comedy “A Cure For Pokeritis,” the game has been depicted in films for more than a century. Whether it’s cowboys playing in the saloons during a Western or James Bond in “Casino Royale,” there’s not much that matches the suspense of a good poker scene.
Several movies could have been included on this list, but here are six must-watch films that center around poker:
Mississippi Grind (2015)
Ryan Reynolds takes a break from making people laugh to star as Curtis in this road drama about two poker players traveling through the South hoping to win big. While Curtis knows Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a losing player, he can’t cut him off, either, and learns about friendship along the way.
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)
This biopic starring Michael Imperioli chronicles the tragic life of the three-time World Series of Poker Main Event winner. Ungar is widely regarded as one of the greatest card players of all time despite battling a drug addiction and other personal issues until his death in 1998.
Molly’s Game (2017)
Based on the true story of Molly Bloom, who ran high-stakes poker games that eventually caught the attention of the FBI. The fun part for viewers is trying to figure out who the celebrity high rollers are in real life. For instance, the detestable Player X (Michael Cera) is obviously Spider-Man.
California Split (1974)
George Segal and Elliott Gould star as a couple of degenerate gamblers who become friends after a chance meeting and hit the road. In 2021, Vulture.com named the comedy-drama as the best movie ever about gambling. “Amarillo Slim” Preston appears as himself during a poker game in Reno.
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
“There’s always a younger man waiting to take over,” the trailer says. Steve McQueen plays Eric “The Kid” Stoner, who travels to New Orleans to take on “The Man” (Edward G. Robinson) in a no-limit, five-card stud game. The final hand is one of the most debated in poker cinema history.
Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) and Lester “Worm” Murphy (Edward Norton) return to the New York underground poker scene hoping to win enough money to pay back Russian mobster Teddy KGB (John Malkovich). It’s too bad Gretchen Mol turned in a terrible performance as Jo. She really was the rake.