The Best Gambling Movies You Need To See: Uncut Gems, Casino & More

Uncut Gems (2019)

Saturday Night Live icon Adam Sandler is mostly known for his success in the world of comedy films, but one of his most critically-acclaimed performances was in the Uncut Gems (2019) thriller.

Sandler took center stage in the blockbuster that was filmed by brothers Benny and Josh Safdie. The gambling world and lifestyle are the key focal points of Uncut Gems, which stars Sandler as Howard Ratner, Julia Fox as Julia De Fiore, Lakeith Stanfield as Demany, Idina Menzel as Dinah Ratner, and Basketball Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett as himself.

Garnett’s career with the Boston Celtics is an instrumental role in the plot. Howard Ratner is a jewelry store owner in New York, but a gambling addiction greatly jeopardizes his personal relationships with loved ones and even his own life.

Uncut Gems was released just over two years before the Empire State launched mobile sports betting. It went live in January of this year, and the BetMGM New York sportsbook is offering new customers up to $1,000 in risk-free bets.

At BetMGM New York, you can place a variety of bets that include futures (division and championship winners), parlays, prop bets, and more.

Aside from the entertainment value, Uncut Gems greatly stresses the lesson of gambling responsibly and not letting it take over your career, personal life, or individual well-being.

For his role in Uncut Gems, Sandler won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. Fox received a 2019 Gotham Awards nomination for the Breakthrough Actor Award, which was won by Taylor Russell for her role as Emily Williams in Waves.

Casino (1995)

Five years after the release of Goodfellas (1995), Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci once again teamed up with Martin Scorsese for a blockbuster crime drama.

It’s hard to ignore the many similarities between Goodfellas and Casino. In both films, De Niro and Pesci are close friends that are involved in the organized crime industry. The late Frank Vincent also plays a supporting character that was vital in both movie plots.

Casino is based off of Nicholas Pileggi’s book, Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas which detailed the way organized criminals controlled Las Vegas-based casinos.

De Niro’s character, Sam “Ace” Rothstein, is based on real-life gambler Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal. Lefty ran several casinos in Las Vegas and was involved in organized crime.

Ace is put in control of managing a Casino in Vegas. At the start of the film, Rothstein has practically everything going for him.

But with law enforcement closely watching over his shoulder and several personal hardships along the way (a strained marriage and a falling out with his best friend), Rothstein learns that you can lose everything valuable in the blink of an eye.

Pesci’s character, Nicky Santoro, is based on Chicago mobster Tony Spilotro. Sharon Stone plays Rothstein’s wife, Ginger McKenna. The latter is based on Rosenthal’s real-life wife, Geri McGee.

For her role as McKenna, Stone won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. Stone also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, which was won by Susan Sarandon for her role in Dead Man Walking.

The Gambler (1974)

One of the first true classic films based on the gambling world, The Gambler stars James Caan (Axel Freed), Lauren Hutton (Billie), and Paul Sorvino (Hips).

Like Uncut Gems, the main character of The Gambler (Freed) is a gambling addict residing in New York. Unfortunately, Freed racks up a giant gambling debt and immediately puts the lives of his loved ones in danger. It’s now on Freed to win back the necessary amount of money to spare their lives.

Caan received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama. The award was won by Jack Nicholson for his role as J.J. Gittes in Chinatown.

A remake, also called The Gambler, was released in 2014. It starred Mark Wahlberg (Jim Bennett), Brie Larson (Amy Phillips) and John Goodman (Frank).

Maverick (1994)

The star-studded cast of Richard Donner’s 1994 blockbuster includes Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Graham Greene, Alfred Molina and James Garner.

This film is based on the iconic ABC western series, Maverick, which starred Garner as Bret Maverick. Donner’s film follows Maverick (played by Gibson) and his journey to earning enough money so he can participate in a poker contest.

Unfortunately, Maverick runs afoul of Angel (played by Molina) and must flee from him with his life in danger.

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