Sports Betting in Cinema: When Victory Is More Than a Game

    Sports betting and other forms of gambling have long been intertwined with our popular culture. Even the tuxedo, for our example, was firmly engraved onto our collective consciousness by gambling culture.

    Cinema is obviously one of the most popular expressions of pop culture, and this is another area closely connected with sports betting. The effect has worked both ways – sports betting has significantly impacted the stories of plenty of films, and films have also impacted how we see betting, and use online bookmakers, today.

    There are tons of popular movies and TV shows related to sports betting. We believe these, however, to be some of the most famous of all.

    Uncut Gems

    This is comfortably the most impactful such movie of recent times. Released in 2019, Uncut Gems received rave reviews not only for Adam Sandler’s uncharacteristic performance, but also for its gripping plot.

    That plot, of course, revolved largely around sports betting. The gems in question get inextricably linked with Sandler’s character’s gambling habit, which grows to such high stakes that it even draws in real-life NBA star Kevin Garnett. While an extremely fun and enjoyable movie, this is certainly a cautionary tale on taking betting too far.

    The Gambler

    Released in 2014, this compelling Mark Wahlberg movie – as the name suggests – is all about gambling. As with Uncut Gems, our main character here has a gambling habit which he takes too far. His debts with illegal bookies become so great, in fact, that he’s given only seven days to pay them off before he’s killed. Talk about high stakes…

    The Gambler admittedly didn’t exactly receive critical acclaim. It’s still a fun and fairly tense movie, however, which Wahlberg’s name alone drew plenty of people to see.

    Silver Linings Playbook

    Speaking of critical acclaim, this was easily one of the best-received movies of its time. Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for 12 Oscars in 2012, with Jennifer Lawrence taking home the Best Actress award.

    The plot doesn’t ‘revolve’ around sports betting here. It’s a more realistic portrayal because of that, however, since – instead – betting is shown as a popular pastime that draws together an ageing father (Robert De Niro) with his son and friends. Questions are certainly raised, however, as to whether that father takes his amateur bookmaking a little too seriously.

    The Sting

    We’re going back a way here, all the way to 1973 in fact, but it’s absolutely worth it. The Sting will always be an iconic movie, since it reunited Paul Newman and Robert Redford after their brilliant turns in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. While not quite as famous as that movie, this is still not only a classic, but one of the most popular sports betting movies ever.

    In short, Paul Newman plays a hustler looking for revenge after his friend gets murdered. He decides to set up a fake horse racing bookie to trick his enemy into betting – and losing – everything he’s got. Watching the betting scenes nowadays gives a fascinating insight into how gambling used to be conducted (secretly, and relying on the use of tickers, phones, and so on), and how much it’s changed in the intervening decades.

    The Hustler

    This is another classic, once again featuring Paul Newman, who seems to have had a penchant for gambling-related roles. It differs somewhat from the other movies on this list, since it involves betting on the character’s own sporting performance, rather than that of others.

    Regardless, it carries plenty of tension, and the plot holds our attention nicely as it evolves. That plot would be continued over two decades later, of course, in the semi-sequel The Colour of Money, with Tom Cruise starring alongside Newman.

    Abbie Wilson
    Abbie Wilson
    An experienced writer, Abbie has written for several publications, including Homaphy, covering various niches, including film and television, gaming, fashion, and the arts.

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