LUCKY YOU + THE COOLER + MOLLY’S GAME + MAVERICK: 25 Years Later And Its A Cult Classic But Is ROUNDERS The Best Poker Movie Ever?
It’s been around 25 years now since the film Rounders was released. And in that time, it’s become a cult classic. It was before Matt Damon was Bourne-ing it up and starring in hit action flicks and a time when indie movies were all the rage.
It was also a time when poker was becoming a popular game (even more so after the release of Rounders), and online gaming was coming into its own. But almost a quarter of a century later, is Rounders still the best poker movie ever? We certainly think it might be.
How well do you remember Rounders?
If you’re a fan of the film, maybe even own a DVD copy of it, you will undoubtedly know how it plays out. But if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, here’s a quick reminder of why it stood out.
Matt Damon stars as Mike McDermott, who dreams of winning the World Series of Poker. He takes part in underground games, loses to a mobster, and tries to win it back with the help of his friend, Worm, recently released from prison. Obviously, it doesn’t go smoothly, with losses along the way, cheating, beating and some impressive high-stakes poker games that leave you on the edge of your seat.
Of course, if you really want to see how it plays out, you can stream it or download it. Or just read a full synopsis online.
So, what makes this the Big Trouble in Little China of poker films? The notion of gambling and playing table games was becoming a big thing at the end of the 90s. Online gaming was growing, too, but we still didn’t have the internet speeds that we do today. How better to show the world by getting Hollywood A-Listers to star in a film about poker?
It’s not just a poker film, though - it ticks all the boxes that sports films had. A talented star wins, loses, gets in trouble, and ultimately beats the bad guy. Add to that there is a definite noir element to the film, yet still maintaining just the right amount of Hollywood gloss to appeal to a wide audience.
Even better, there’s an over-the-top John Malkovich, really hamming up the Russian accent in his role as villain Teddy ‘KGB’. Even if you’re not into poker, it’s worth watching just for that!
You can understand why people are always revisiting the film. It’s got its action sequences, its stereotypical east European villain, but where it shines is on the poker table. It gives insight into different poker moves, showing how much research had gone into the making of this film. They didn’t just have actors pull faces and ‘call bluffs’; it’s serious when it comes to the game. That also makes this great if you’re not a poker player. Non-poker players can enjoy Rounders but for the best experience, learn the poker hand rankings first so that you understand the game scenes better. You do that, and no doubt you’ll be revisiting the movie time and time again too.
But is it the best poker movie out there?
Of course, there are contenders. Here’s a brief look at some of the other poker movies that could try to knock Rounders off the top spot.
Lucky You – Eric Bana stars as a superstar poker player. Robert Duvall is an even bigger superstar poker player (and plays Bana’s dad). Let’s just say it was a disaster at the box office.
The Cooler – While not a massive focus on poker, but instead craps, this is one of William H Macy’s indie hits. He plays a professional loser who ruins any high roller’s hot streak just by being at the craps table. Some indie fun that deserves a mention.
Molly’s Game – If you love dialogue. And we’re talking Aaron Sorkin dialogue, then this directorial debut of his gives you that. It follows Molly Bloom, a champion skier who enters the world of underground poker in this clever thriller after a terrible accident.
Maverick – Back when Mel Gibson was a bankable star, he starred in this light-hearted film that centres around poker. But it also uses the Western setting and other subplots to add some excitement and action to the movie.
But top of the list? It still has to be Rounders as the best poker movie out there. It really does focus on the game at the heart of the film, rather than just using it as a plot device when needed. The others just don’t do the game justice.