Five Lesser-Known Gambling Movies

Gambling movies never fail to draw a crowd: the suspense, drama, action, and of course – money – are all winning elements that make for a thrilling Hollywood caper. However, you’ll be surprised to find that there are thousands of gambling movies out there that you’ve never heard of!

Here are five lesser-known – but equally as fun – movies about the exciting world of gambling.

1. A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)

This classic comedy western opens in the typical style of the times, with a long coach ride across the American plains accompanied by dramatic cowboy music. As a wealthy gambler pulls into town for an exclusive, high-stakes poker game, a young couple arrives at the same time and the husband, a reformed gambler, can’t resist the temptation.

The game progresses swiftly and after gambling away all their savings, the husband has a heart attack. In steps his beautiful wife, who uses her typical feminine guile to persuade the bank manager to consider a loan to continue the game. When he asks for collateral, she shows him her husband’s last hand and he agrees to back her. The game continues…

2. Came a Hot Friday (1985)

This comedy aptly describes life in rural New Zealand in 1949, after the war had ended and people were keen to celebrate and start living again. Friday and Saturday nights are now a time for dancing, drinking, and having fun as only ‘Kiwis’ (New Zealanders) know how. Nowadays, Kiwis typically gamble online at sites like real money slots NZ but at that time, illegal gambling was rife and people stormed the bookies to place their bets on the horses.

Naturally, con-men were everywhere and this story traces the antics of two mates who run a scam with the help of Tainuia, an eccentric Maori who thinks he is a Mexican bandito. However, they don’t bank on becoming involved in arson, bootlegging, and murder. A huge hit among New Zealand movie buffs with plenty of action and comedy.

3. 29th Street (1991)

The movie opens with the lead character Frankie being arrested just after he hears he has won the lottery. The story unfolds in flashbacks as Frankie, an Italian from Queens, explains his actions to the police. It was clear from day one that Frankie had a lucky streak and while he made a name for himself playing dice, he attracted the unwanted attention of some local mobsters known as the ‘Wiseguys’.

Frankie’s dad, who is heavily in debt to the Wiseguys’ boss Louie Tucci, hears that Frankie is in the running to win the lottery and persuades him to sell him his lottery ticket to pay off the debt. Although the plot becomes a bit long-winded, it’s worth watching for both the insightful look into the Italian-American way of life and the thrilling climax.

4. Owning Mahowny (2003)

Dan Mahoney’s character is based on the true story of a Toronto bank manager who successfully pulled off one of the most daring single-handed heists in history. He is portrayed as a quietly successful, modest, and mild-mannered man who spends time betting on sports scores. Popular with his customers and trusted by his superiors and colleagues, no-one ever suspects Mahoney of his secret life.

The odd bet on sporting scores becomes a gambling obsession and soon, Mahoney is visiting casinos over the border in America where he draws the attention of an Atlantic City casino manager, Victor Foss. Foss ensures Moahoney becomes a regular, which results in him abusing his position in the bank by swindling funds through bogus accounts. Despite losing his girlfriend and essentially destroying his life, Mahoney remains unable to admit that he has an addiction.

5. Two For the Money (2005)

Stellar performances from Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey lift this sports betting movie to new heights. McConaughy plays Brandon Lang, a young ex-footballer living in Vegas, who has a phenomenal ability to predict the outcome of any sporting event. Walter Abrams (Pacino), a master manipulator and sports betting advisor, invites him to come and work for him in his hugely successful organization in Manhattan.

He transforms Brandon into a suave, confident, and professional adviser who he introduces to his clients under a different name. Brandon enjoys his new image and very soon learns to convince high-stakes gamblers to part with their money. However, when he realizes the corruption behind the scheme and the effect it has on people’s lives, he wants out. Of course, it’s not quite that easy.