Top 5 Poker Movies You Must Watch
Over the past century, poker has permeated pop culture, especially when it comes to motion pictures. Long before the “Poker Boom”, and even before the World Series of Poker (WSOP) was a thing, poker had already made its big screen debut.
Over the decades, poker fans have been treated to a plethora of poker movies, some good and others not so much. Some well-received poker films include the western comedy Maverick (1994), Survivor host Jeff Probst’s debut film Finder’s Fee (2001), the improv-inspired The Grand (2007), indie comedy darling Hitting the Nuts (2010), and the high-profile Hollywood flick Molly’s Game (2017).
Top 5 Poker Movies
All of those are among the best poker movies of all-time, and if this article was “Top 10” instead of “Top 5 Poker Movies,” chances are they’d make the final list. However, the PokerNews crew got together, along with input from social media, to determine the top five must-watch poker movies of all-time.
Note: We deliberately left off any poker documentaries, of which there are plenty of good ones including Bet Raise Fold: The Story of Online Poker (2013), All In: The Poker Movie (2009), Kid Poker (2015), and No Limit: A Search for the American Dream on the Poker Tournament Trail (2006).
Here are our top five best poker movies of all-time you must watch.
#5 – A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
Four years before the WSOP was even a thing, Warner Brothers released A Big Hand for the Little Lady, also known as Big Deal at Dodge City. It may be a little old for today’s poker audience, but those who don’t mind watching a classic are sure to have fun.
The film has a 7.3 out of 10 rating on IMDB, as well as an 86% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film, written by Sidney Carroll and directed by Fielder Cook, is a comedy western in which a man named Meredith, played by Henry Fonda, is traveling with his wife, played by Joanne Woodward, and children when he finds himself in a high-stakes poker game. He finds himself in over his head and his wife has to step in, though all may not be as it seems.
Is A Big Hand for the Little Lady realistic?
Billed as “the wildest poker game in the west,” the poker featured in A Big Hand for the Little Lady is realistic in that it portrays several common poker motifs such as degeneracy, high stakes, and the con. The “big hand” that results in a massive pot of $20,500 – remember it takes place in 1880, so that’d be equivalent to about $550,000 in today’s dollars – is a lot of fun, though today’s poker audience might take issue with the betting.
While players today are used to table stakes, there was no such thing in the old west. It was played no limit, and that’s what they meant. If you couldn’t afford to call a raise, then you were out. Simple as that. We mention that fact as it’s a bit plot point in the movie.
How can I watch A Big Hand for the Little Lady?
There are so many options to watch movies these days, so you may be wondering how to watch A Big Hand for the Little Lady. You can always try to find a copy on DVD, but in the day and age of streaming services here’s what you need to know.
Is A Big Hand for the Little Lady on Netflix?
No, A Big Hand for the Little Lady is currently not on Netflix. There are currently no plans to have the movie on Netflix.
Is A Big Hand for the Little Lady on Amazon Prime?
Yes, A Big Hand for the Little Lady is available on Amazon Prime to either rent of buy. Similarly, you can rent/buy it on both Vudu and AppleTV.
Is A Big Hand for the Little Lady on Disney+?
No, A Big Hand for the Little Lady is currently not on Disney+ and likely will never be given it’s a Warner Brothers film.
#4 – Mississippi Grind (2015)
After the “Poker Boom,” a lot of lackluster poker movies were released. Players and fans were never really impressed, instead waiting for a movie that did the game justice. For many, that came in 2015 with the release of Mississippi Grind, a drama written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck and starring Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds.
The film has a 6.4 out of 10 rating on IMDB, and while its audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is 55%, it is certified fresh with a 91% on the Tomatometer.
Mississippi Grind centers on a pair of poker players, one a true degenerate and the other a bit more put together. The two wind up taking a road trip through the South seeking to win a poker fortune. It’s a drama with comedy elements, and as Rotten Tomatoes says, it’s “a road movie and addiction drama that transcends each of its well-worn genres.”
Is Mississippi Grind realistic?
Yes, Mississippi Grind is one of the more realistic poker movies out there. In fact, that’s one of its strengths. Anyone who’s played poker can seemingly relate to the characters and situations in which they find themselves. There aren’t a lot of Hollywood liberties taken, and that tends to be something the poker audience appreciates.
How can I watch Mississippi Grind?
If you’re wondering how to watch Mississippi Grind, it’s available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and several streaming options exist including it being available with an HBO Max subscription.
Is Mississippi Grind on Netflix?
No, Mississippi Grind is currently not available on Netflix, though given it’s a relatively new movie, it’s possible it could circulate into their library in the future.
Is Mississippi Grind on Amazon Prime?
Yes, Mississippi Grind is available on Amazon Prime to either rent or buy. Similarly, you can rent/buy it on both Vudu and AppleTV.
Is Mississippi Grind on Disney+?
No, Mississippi Grind is not a Disney movie, and given its more adult themes and “R” rating, it’s unlikely it’ll ever be on the streaming service.
#3 – Cincinnati Kid (1965)
Not a lot of poker films are iconic, but The Cincinnati Kid certainly is. Released in 1965, the movie stars legends such as Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret, and Edward G. Robinson. The film has a lot of great moments, including one of the game’s all-time greatest lines: “You're good, kid, but as long as I'm around, you're only second best.”
The film has a 7.2 out of 10 rating on IMDB, and on Rotten Tomatoes it has a 78% audience score and 86% on the Tomatometer.
The Cincinnati Kid tells the classic tale of an up-and-coming young gun poker player working his way up to take on the best player in the game. There’s plenty of high-stakes drama in the movie, which is only bolstered by strong characters.
Is The Cincinnati Kid realistic?
Yes, The Cincinnati Kid is realistic for its time period. This is another classic film, so applying today’s poker standards to it might not hold water. However, if you’re willing to go with it, the movie is a helluva ride. One thing to remember is that back then no-limit hold’em wasn’t really played, while the popular game at the time was Stud. In the case of The Cincinnati Kid, it was five-card stud, which means one card down and four cards placed face up one at a time with a round of betting between each street.
How can I watch The Cincinnati Kid?
The Cincinnati Kid is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on several streaming services. You can watch The Cincinnati Kid with an HBO Max subscription, otherwise, you’ll need to either rent or buy.
Is The Cincinnati Kid on Netflix?
No, The Cincinnati Kid is currently not available on Netflix.
Is The Cincinnati Kid on Amazon Prime?
Yes, The Cincinnati Kid is available on Amazon Prime to either rent or buy. Similarly, you can rent/buy it on both Vudu and AppleTV.
Is The Cincinnati Kid on Disney+?
No, The Cincinnati Kid is an MGM film and unlikely to appear on Disney’s streaming service.
#2 – California Split (1974)
Before there was Rounders, there was California Split. The film was released the same year Johnny Moss won his last WSOP Main Event (1974), It’s a comedy-drama directed by Robert Altman, and while on its face it may seem lighthearted, California Split cuts much deeper.
Roger Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times review explained it best: "At the end of California Split we realize that Altman has made a lot more than a comedy about gambling; he's taken us into an American nightmare, and all the people we met along the way felt genuine and looked real."
The film has a 7.2 out of 10 rating on IMDB, and on Rotten Tomatoes it has an 83% audience score and 87% on the Tomatometer.
California Split, which stars George Segal and Elliott Gould, features a cameo appearance by Poker Hall of Famer Amarillo Slim Preston, offers an intimate look at how things can quickly devolve when chasing that “big score.” Anyone who’s ever sat down in a poker game can relate, which is why California Split hits so close to home. Trust us, if you haven’t seen this poker movie do yourself a favor and watch it!
Is California Split realistic?
Yes, California Split offers an acutely accurate look inside the world of gambling, which of course includes various poker games. Not only that, it does an excellent job of taking you on a wild ride alongside the two main characters, Bill Denny (played by George Segal) and Charlie Waters (Elliott Gould). As a viewer, you’ll try to hold on as you experience the same ups and downs while the stakes keep getting higher!
How can I watch California Split?
California Split is available on DVD, though it is hard to find. However, you can watch California Split on several streaming services.
Is California Split on Netflix?
No, California Split is currently not available on Netflix.
Is California Split on Amazon Prime?
Yes, California Split is available on Amazon Prime and is free to watch for those with an account. California Split is also available to rent/buy on both Vudu and AppleTV.
Is California Split on Disney+?
No, California Split is from Columbia Pictures and is unlikely to appear on Disney’s streaming service.
#1 – Rounders (1998)
The best poker movie of all time is pretty clear-cut to most. Rounders was released in 1998, and while it didn’t hit big at the box office, it became a sort of cult classic five years later during the height of the “Poker Boom.” Screenwriters David Levien and Brian Koppelman were fans of poker and went to great lengths to accurately portray both the game and lifestyle. It resonates with poker players around the world to this day.
The film has a 7.3 out of 10 rating on IMDB, and on Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% audience score and 64% on the Tomatometer.
The movie tells the story of Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, a reformed gambler who gets pulled back into the game due in no small part to his friend Worm, played by Edward Norton. John Malkovich, Grethchen Mol, John Turturro, and Martin Landau all played supporting roles in a well-conceived New York underground poker world.
Is Rounders realistic?
Yes, one of the primary reasons poker players love Rounders is that it’s an accurate portrayal of the game. From the characters to the action, everything in Rounders rings true.
How can I watch Rounders?
Rounders is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and on several streaming services to either rent or buy.
Is Rounders on Netflix?
No, Rounders is currently not available on Netflix.
Is Rounders on Amazon Prime?
Yes, Rounders is available on Amazon Prime to either rent or buy. Similarly, you can rent/buy it on both Vudu and AppleTV.
Is Rounders on Disney+?
No, Rounders is a Miramax film and unlikely to appear on Disney’s streaming service. Additionally, the subject matter isn’t really something Disney would air.
Other Poker Movies
When PokerNews took to social media, a lot of other poker movies were mentioned by fans.
As such, we thought it’d be worthwhile to share a list of poker films you may want to watch.
|Poker Face (2022)||Smart Money (1931)||Poker King (2009)||Luna’s Game (2001)|
|The Card Counter (2021)||Casino Royale (2006)||Lucky You (2007)||Runner Runner (2013)|
|Poker Night (2014)||Shade (2003)||Gutshot Straight (2014)||Cold Deck (2015)|
|Five Card Stud (1968)||No Limit: A Search for the American Dream on the Poker Tournament Trail (2006)||Win It All (2017)||High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)|
You can also check out our Top 5 Casino Movies you MUST watch.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.