It’s been about 25 years now since the movie Rounders has been freed. And at that time, it became a cult classic. This was before Matt Damon starred in Bourne and starred in blockbuster action movies and a time when indie films 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 games came into their own. But almost a quarter of a century later, Rounders still the best poker movie of all time? We certainly think that might be the case.
How do you remember Curves?
If you’re a fan of the movie, maybe even own a DVD copy, you’ll no doubt know how it pans out. But if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, here’s a quick recap of why it stood out.
Matt Damon stars as Mike McDermott, who dreams of winning the World Series of Poker. He participates in underground games, loses to a gangster and tries to win him back with the help of his friend Worm, recently released from prison. Obviously, it doesn’t go smoothly, with losses along the way, cheating, knockouts, and impressive high-stakes poker games that leave you on the edge of your seat.
Of course, if you really want to see how it goes, you can stream or download it. Or just read a full summary online.
So what makes it the Big problem in little China poker movies? The notion of gambling and table games was gaining momentum in the late 90s. Online gaming was also growing, but we still didn’t have the internet speeds we have today. How do you show the world better by getting the Hollywood A-Listers to star in a poker movie?
It’s not just a poker movie, though – it ticks all the sports movie boxes. A talented star wins, loses, gets in trouble, and ultimately defeats the villain. Add to that that there’s a definite noir element to the film, while still retaining just the right amount of Hollywood gloss to appeal to a wide audience.
Even better, there’s an over-the-top John Malkovich, who really boosts the Russian accent in his role as ‘KGB’ villain Teddy. Even if you don’t like poker, it’s worth watching just for that!
You can understand why people always revisit the movie. It has its action sequences, its stereotypical Eastern European villain, but where it shines is on the poker table. It provides insight into the various poker moves, showing how much research went into making this movie. They didn’t just ask the actors to make faces and “bluff”; it’s serious when it comes to gambling. It’s also great if you’re not a poker player. Non-Poker Players Can Enjoy Rounders but for the best experience, first learn the poker hand rankings to better understand the game scenes. You do this, and you will undoubtedly return to the movie again and again.
But is it the best poker movie?
Of course, there are suitors. Here’s a quick look at some of the other poker movies that could try to hit Rounders out of first place.
lucky you – Eric Bana plays the role of a superstar poker player. Robert Duvall is an even bigger superstar poker player (and plays Bana’s father). Let’s just say it was a box office disaster.
The cooler – Although it does not focus heavily on poker, but rather craps, it is one of William H Macy’s indie hits. He plays a professional loser who ruins any high roller’s good streak just by being at the craps table. Independent fun that deserves a mention.
Molly’s Game – If you like dialogue. And we’re talking about Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, so his directorial debut gives you that. It follows Molly Bloom, a ski champion 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 poker-centric lighthearted flick. But it also uses the Western setting and other subplots to add excitement and action to the film.
But at the top of the list? It must still be Rounders like the best poker movie out there. It really focuses on the acting at the core of the film, rather than just using it as a plot device when needed. The others just don’t do the game justice.