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Directors TOP 10 & HONORABLE MENTIONS LIST of Films Featuring Poker (1 Viewer)

Nils Luehrmann

Senior HTF Member
Mar 21, 2001
(list will be continually updated as suggestions are posted)


A few recent events got me thinking about favorite films that feature poker.

One of them is the heavily hyped new series on the "Travel Network" that just started last month called 'The World Poker Tour'. My wife and I watched two of the tournaments which are shown each Wednesday night and even she was fascinated (and she is not exactly keen on poker). (click here for a recent review of the show)

Another was the official start of the 2003 'World Series of Poker' which is held at Binion's each year since 1970 and is certainly the most famous poker tournament in the world! ESPN will cover the final rounds and ESPN2 has been replaying last year's tournament. The 2003 tournament officially started on Tuesday, April 15th but the finals wont happen until May 19th.

The other is an upcoming poker night with a bunch of us Austin HTFers: - Poker Night -

So here is what I have so far, but please comment and add to the list:

Current TOP 10 LIST:

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/35/02/60m.jpg] [/url]
1) 'The Cincinnati Kid'
This Norman Jewison classic was certainly inspired by 'The Hustler'. Instead of pool, it's poker - and substitute Steve McQueen for Paul Newman, Edward G. Robinson for Jackie Gleason, and Ann-Margret for Piper Laurie. That said, it is still a very compelling story with spectacular performances and excellent direction. The ending was absurd, but perfection in film is hard to come-by.

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/89/75/60m.jpg] [/url]
2) 'A Big Hand for the Little Lady'
This is a personal favorite of mine regardless of the genre. Obviously written as a play, it was wonderfully adapted to screen by Sidney Carroll and directed admirably by Fielder Cook. The real gem though is the outstanding performances of all the main characters: Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Paul Ford, Charles Bickford, Burgess Meredith, Jason Robards, Kevin McCarthy, Robert Middleton and John Qualen. If you love poker, classic poker player caricatures, "The Big Show Down", and the "Sting" - this is the one for you!

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/46/43/81m.jpg] [/url]
3) 'Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler' (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler)
As much as I admire Fritz Lang's work and consider him to be one of the finest directors of all time, I have not yet seen this film. :frowning: Considering its high praise and apparently great poker scenes - I thought I should included it here.

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/99/75/11m.jpg] [/url]
4) 'The Plainsman'
I have been wanting to see this Cecil B. DeMille classic for years, and now I am waiting for it to come out on DVD. It features Gregory Peck as Wild Bill Hickok - the most famous/notorious poker players of all time. There is even a poker hand named after him, "Dead man's Hand", which is a two-pair aces over eights. Wild Bill was shot dead holding this hand by a fellow poker player who was convinced Wild Bill had cheated.

[url=http://images.amazon.com/images/P/6300181294.01._PE_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpg] [/url]
5) 'My Little Chickadee'
W.C. Fields and Mae West tossing around their classic banter around the poker table - you just know it has to be great!

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/00/77/10m.jpg] [/url]
6) 'Rounders'
The first time I saw this I guess I wasn't all that impressed, but since then I have seen it twice more and with every screening it grows on me. There are certainly some flaws and the scene early in the movie where Matt Damon's character walks in on his professor's poker game and then proceeds to announce what every player at the table is holding was ridiculous. That said, most of the film is quite realistic, and offers a very compelling look at the underworld of poker.

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/85/49/41m.jpg] [/url]
7) 'The Gambler'
This is another favorite of mine thanks to some excellent poker scenes and fine performances by James Caan and Paul Sorvino.

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/88/10/32m.jpg] [/url]
8) 'California Split'
This may not be one of Robert Altman's finest films, nor is it one of his worst, but it has its moments and deserves to make it on the list - although I suspect once the submissions start coming in it will likely drop down to the "Honorable Mentions".

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/18/94/80m.jpg] [/url]
9) 'Maverick'
This really could have been a fantastic film. The performances and story were excellent up until near the end where the tournament begins - then it all fell apart at the seams. As much as I really liked most of the film, I was soooo disappointed with the ending that I certainly hope this gets bumped down to the "Honorable Mentions".

[url=http://ia.imdb.com/media/imdb/01/I/01/79/02m.jpg] [/url]
10)'The Gambler from Natchez'
It has been years since I saw this film at a revival theater, and while not a true classic, it offered some excellent poker scenes and dynamic caricatures.

Well there is the list as it stands now, but please feel free to comment and add to it.

Here are a few other 'TOP 10 LISTS':
'Top 10 War Related 'comedic' Satires'
'TOP 10 & HONORABLE MENTIONS of Hollywood Celebrity/Film Making Satires!'
'Favorite Classic Detective Film-Noirs'
'Favorite Modern Detective Film-Noirs'
'Favorite "Guy's Guy" Movies/Games' (pt1)
'Favorite "Guy's Guy" Movies/Games' (pt2)
'Favorite Horror Films on DVD - Classic & Modern'
'Favorite Horror Films on DVD - Classic & Modern' (continued)
(for more just scroll down the page from that post)

Brad Porter

Jun 8, 1999
That's a good list. So many films use poker as a set piece but give the viewer no more insight into the game than a short bit of table talk and some chips being thrown around. Some examples of good films which have poker scenes but aren't really poker films would have to include:

The Lady Eve
The Odd Couple
Cool Hand Luke

Two other films which have poker scenes (but aren't as good):
Sleep With Me
Honeymoon In Vegas

Also, you may want to check out the new series on the USA Network called Lucky. The central character is a skilled poker player and the game has played a central role in both episodes aired to date.


Randy B A

Supporting Actor
Feb 11, 2002
tombstone and silverado featured some scenes with poker. the movies were not all about poker though.


Mar 18, 2003
Thanks for the list...There are some there that I haven't seen.

The problem is, it's too expensive to watch these movies. Everytime I watch one, I find myself at the casino later that night:D

Another movie that isn't really about poker, but has some pretty decent card playing is The Flamingo Kid...Yea, I know it's Gin, but I like this movie (some people like corn).

Patrick McCart

Senior HTF Member
May 16, 2001
Georgia (the state)
Real Name
Patrick McCart
It's a 2-reeler, but still one of the best poker playing scenes...

Out West

This is a classic (and hillarious) parody of westerns starring Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. In one of the bar scenes, Keaton shoots one of the players. He looks at the cards and says "He would have lost, anyways."

Jeff D Han

Supporting Actor
Mar 2, 2003
The poker game in THE STING between Newman and Shaw
is one of the best scenes ever in film.

I also enjoy ROUNDERS- mainly because I'm a Norton fan
and some of the card scenes were good.

Nils Luehrmann

Senior HTF Member
Mar 21, 2001
Wow, great additions everyone! There are a few that I have not seen and as such you have encouraged me to seek them out.

As pointed out by Brad Porter, I was really only considering films where poker plays a lead role, but maybe it would be worth while to add another sub list of "Greatest Poker Scenes on Film"?

Mark Bendiksen

Mar 16, 1999
Here's an obscure one, but it's the sort of film that you don't forget once you've seen it: Music of Chance
You stole my suggestion! The Music of Chance is one seriously trippy movie. (The novel its based on is very good as well, and has a better ending, IMHO.)


Jan 24, 2000
love 'Rounders'
love 'House Of Games' though poker plays a very small part in the movie and it is more about 'cons'


Senior HTF Member
Jan 17, 2001
Las Vegas
Real Name
John Steffens
Don't they play poker(with coupons) a couple times in Mr. Mom?

and can we have a sub-catagory-- Movies with Strip Poker:)


Stunt Coordinator
Jul 31, 2001
My personal favorite is Rounders

I have seen this movie numerous times now .

It plays to me in the same way as Swingers or movies in that area. To whatever the mood, I can always pop this in and enjoy.

I just love the whole purpose of the movie, who in their right mind would go the other way in writing where Damon's character's ambition is to enter a Poker Tournament to which he has to drop out of Law School. All of this is prompted by Martin Landau's character in suggesting him to pursue that path.

Also, how can a poker movie be bad when the opening line is

" If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker. "


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