Poker is easily one of the most intense, competitive, and glamorous games in the world, so it makes perfect sense that filmmakers have chosen to incorporate it into their hit movies.
While it is a feat to convey the skill and focus poker requires on the silver screen, many directors have managed to deliver the nervousness, tension, and adrenaline rush of the popular game.
Check out the following hit movies with the best poker scenes.
Casino Royale (2006)
At the top of your to-watch list must be Casino Royale, as the whole James Bond flick revolves around poker. The best scene is when Daniel Craig’s 007 makes it his mission to overcome Le Chiffre, portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen when playing a high stakes Texas Hold’em tournament.
While the movie fails in its attempt to explain the rules and etiquette of the game, it manages to convey the intensity often felt at the table. It’s a must-watch for fans of both poker and the movie franchise.
Poker enthusiasts would be smart to spend an evening watching Rounders. Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott, a law student and talented poker player, who is forced to abandon the game when he loses his entire bankroll to Teddy KGB, a Russian gangster played by John Malkovich.
However, when Worm, his childhood friend, is struggling to repay his debts, Mike returns to the table to help him with the financial jam. The most significant and best scene arrives when Mike plays Teddy during a Texas Hold’em heads-up game, but he gains an advantage by identifying the gangster’s poker “tells.”
While history lovers might adore Mel Gibson for his role as William Wallace in Braveheart, poker fans will mostly remember him well for Maverick. After all, it would be hard to forget the scene when Bret Maverick reaches the final table, coming up against Commodore Duvall and Angel.
Audiences were on the edge of their seats as Maverick won the game with a royal flush. However, avid poker fans could argue his slow roll move was both unrealistic and unethical. It was, however, an undeniably entertaining scene.
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
If you are yet to watch a Steve McQueen movie, you would be wise to start with The Cincinnati Kid. The classic movie follows the story of Eric “The Kid” Stoner, played by the legendary McQueen. While the film is enjoyable from beginning to end, the best scene is when the young poker player challenges the finest players in the country to enter a high stakes game of Five Card Stud. It also features a surprising twist that will make your jaw drop, which ultimately proves you should expect the unexpected when you play a game of poker.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Ocean’s Eleven follows the story of conmen attempting to steal from three notable casinos in Las Vegas. However, the best and funniest scene comes from Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan, who teaches a group of actors about the rules of poker before he is joined by Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney.
Not only will the audience observe two talented conmen in action, who claim money during the game, but also admire their chemistry on screen that will make you laugh aloud. It’s a must-watch for poker fans.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
From one poker movie classic to the next, those wanting to immerse themselves in an iconic poker movie should look no further than Paul Newman’s Cool Hand Luke. The famous actor plays Luke, a war veteran who has received the nickname “Cool Hand” due to his deceptive skills and experience.
One scene you are sure to love is when Luke embarks on a fun game of poker with his fellow inmates and wins thanks to his exceptional bluffing skills. It is easily one of the best and most accurate scenes in poker movie history.
The Sting (1973)
Cool Hand Luke isn’t the only Paul Newman movie to make waves in the poker world. That’s because he appeared in The Sting alongside movie veteran Robert Redford in 1973.
Both actors played two conmen who scammed a mob boss to steal a substantial amount of money. One of the most famous scenes from the movie is when they play a high-stake Five Card Draw game on a train, with Newman’s Henry Gondorff playing mobster Doyle Lonnegan.
Despite it being more of a clever con than a real poker game, Newman cheats to win the card game. The hit movie, which won a whopping seven Academy Awards, is filled with tension and suspense that will make you want to watch it time and again.
Big Hand for a Little Lady (1966)
One movie you might not be familiar with is Big Hand for a Little Lady. However, it’s still worth a watch, especially if you are a poker enthusiast. The western stars the imitable Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward.
One scene you will not want to miss is when Fonda collapses in the middle of the game, so his wife is forced to play the hand to save their family’s savings that have been staked at the table. It is a 40-minute scene that features a well-written, surprising twist that will make you wonder why you have never watched the superb movie before.
So, if you want to embrace the buzz, glamour, and intensity of poker in your own home, check out one of the above hit movies that feature the much-loved game.