When it comes to sports betting, even Hollywood has seen the potential to make some quick quid. And the best sports betting movies in recent years have delivered some pivotal plot lines, not to mention memorable characters. But, unsurprisingly not every film that features sports betting as part of its plot is a box office smash. And some are better disappearing into obscurity altogether.
So we've rounded up 10 of the best films featuring sports betting, according to our online betting experts. If you're going to watch any gambling movie, make sure it's one of these.
This 2005 release stars acting heavyweights Matthew McConaughey and Al Pacino in the two central roles. McConaughey plays Brandon, a once college football hero, who suffers a career-ending injury that throws his world off course in a heartbeat. Enter Walter Abrams (Pacino), Walter is a renowned sports gambling tout who takes Brandon (McConaughey) under his wing. Walter is probably the worst role model you can imagine, but the two develop a close bond and Brandon discovers a knack for sports betting he never knew he had. Well, for a while at least. We won't drop any spoilers here, but needless to say not everything about Walter is as it seems.
This comedy caper takes place in the bright lights of Vegas, arguably the world's gambling Mecca. It stars Bruce Willis as Dink, a professional sports bettor who runs his own agency. Much to the joy of his wife Tulip (played by Catherine Zeta Jones) who loves to spend the money he rakes in. Things get complicated when Rebecca Hall's character Beth enters the picture. A failing exotic dancer, Beth gets picked up by Dink and promptly falls for him. But Beth also has a hidden talent for the betting business. This one shows a much lighter side to gambling. Not to mention, there's a bunch of other crazy characters, which also make Lay The Favourite a true guilty pleasure viewing.
Bookies seems to divide opinion but we think it shows a good flip side to the usual gambling film genre. And hey, critics at Sundance liked it so who are we to disagree? It follows three American college students who, after losing a ton of money in a bet, decide to start their own bookmaking business. Soon enough the trio are raking in the dollar bills taking real money bets on sports games. But, as their success reaches unbelievable heights, their operation attracts the attention of the local mafia, who aren't especially pleased to have competition. Bookies stars Nick Stahl, Lukas Hass, and Johnny Galecki (of Big Bang Theory fame) as the three central characters.
The first of our pre-noughties film picks, Let It Ride stars Richard Dreyfuss as Jay Trotter, a taxi driver who, after getting a tip on the horse races, brings home a big win. The tagline for this film is "he drinks, he smokes, he gambles, he curses, he thinks about committing adultery. You'll love him" and we couldn't sum it up better ourselves. Trotter's run at the racing track is an average bettors dream day out. No matter what bet he makes, the guy just can't seem to lose. It didn't win any Oscars, and it never would, but as rainy day films about horse racing go, this one's worth a punt.
And from a film that didn't make Oscar history, to one that did. Silver Linings Playbook stars a top cast in widower Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany) and mentally unhinged teacher Bradley Cooper (Pat). But the real stand out performance, in our eyes, and reason for inclusion on this list, comes in the form of Robert De Niro's character Pat Senior (Cooper's dad). Who loves to place a sports bet on his beloved Philadelphia Eagles. In fact, Pat loves a bet on just about anything. As is evident when he makes a wager on the outcome of his son's seemingly doomed dance contest with partner Tiffany.
Released in 2006, this sobering tale of gambling addiction boasts an all-star cast led by Kim Basinger and Forest Whitaker. Basinger plays Carolyn, a novelist with an affliction to slot machines that's left her drowning in debt. But she's not the only tale of gambling woe to feature in Even Money. Two bookies also appear in the film, one suspected of murder, and another rigging games to help his brother. Each of the stories plays out in turn; presenting the audience with a bleak and cautionary tale about gambling's darker side.
Another sports betting film that involves college and drug lords (apparently it's a popular formula). Big Shot, released in 2002, tells the story of Benny Silman (David Krumholtz) a maths wizard studying at Arizona State Uni in the USA. Benny is good at wagering on sports, and even cuts in his bookie at one point too. But before long Benny branches out on his own, seeking even bigger wins by becoming a campus bookmaker himself. Obviously, as with all cautionary tales of gambling, good things don't last, which is about the time the aforementioned drug lord makes his first appearance.
This 1988 feature film is based on the true story of baseball players accepting bribes to deliberately lose the 1919 World Series. It's more about the baseball and the trial of the players (oops, spoiler alert they get caught). But it does feature sports betting as a key part of its plot line, and it's a pretty good film all the same. Not least because it's based on actual real life events. Plus, it happens to be one of the few films on this list equally popular with both critics and audience members alike. And that in itself earns Eight Men Out merit alone. John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, and Charlie Sheen star in this one.
Another production based on a true story (and one where sports betting only features fleetingly as part of the plot line). Owning Mahowny stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dan Mahowny, a man who made headlines in the 80s when he was arrested for embezzling more than $10 million from his place of work. His crime was fuelled by an addiction to gambling, first on sports betting, but later at the casino tables. Mahowny was just 24 and a trusted assistant manager at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Until, he ripped it off of course. This one makes for compelling viewing.
Infamous when it was released in the 90s, White Men Can't Jump stars Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes as two basketball players who join forces to hustle unsuspecting bettors for money. Harrelson's character also happens to be in debt to a no good bookmaker with a penchant for violence, thanks to an old college game that didn't go to plan. Snipes and Harrelson set about conning their marks out of cash, as they put their skills to practice on the basketball courts. Hustling anyone who'll take them on. This is pure 90s nostalgia at its best.
A few standout lines from our favourite sports betting films.
They say real life is stranger than fiction, and for these top 3 sports bet winners we've no doubt that certainly rings true.
In 2005, Adrian Hayward dreamt Xabi Alonso would score a goal from his half of the pitch. A bookmaker gave Adrian odds on that coming true. Xabi scored that goal in Liverpool's 5-3 win against Luton. Adrian pocketed £25,000.
In 2010 a fan watching Mali take on Angola in the Cup of Nations put a £5 bet on a draw with 11 minutes left. Mali was 4-0 down. Amazingly, Mali went on to score 4 goals and tied with Angola, netting the punter £5,000.
At the time his son was 15, Gerry Mcllroy bet a bookmaker £200 that he would win the British Golf Open within 10 years. The bookie gave him odds of 500 to 1. In 2014, Mcllroy's son did in fact win the title. Mcllroy won £100,000.