Top Ten Poker Movies - The Cincinnati Kid still Number One
On Saturdays, there are always a western movie on in the morning. On this particular Saturday, "A Big Hand for the Little Lady" (1966) with Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward, was on. I've never heard of this movie before so I thought I'd just watch a few minutes of it while lazily sipping my morning coffee. I didn't know it at the time, but I was about to watch one of the top ten poker movies ever dealt in Hollywood. It is actually a really fun movie, the poker action is legitimately exciting, there are lots of hard hitting lines, like...
"Now look, mister, the first rule of the game of poker, whether you're playing Eastern or Western rules, or the kind they play at the North Pole, is put up or shut up!"
... and you'll even laugh a couple of times, like when the rich players were ribbing Henry Fonda's character...
"What do ya have anyway? Five deuces?"
and believe me, they were not playing Deuces are Wild.
The story goes like this... A naïve couple (Henry Fonda and Joanne Woodward) and a young son stopped in Laredo on their way to San Antonio, Texas to buy a farm there. There is a poker game between the five richest men in the region. The husband, after watching a few hands, joins in the game betting all the family's life savings The guy gets one lousy hand after another until finally he has dealt himself a winning hand, but does not have the cash to continue. The husband suffers a heart-attack. His wife has no choice, but to continue with his hand, in order to win back their money. The men were in total shock by this turn of events and started arguing heatedly. The men finally get tired of arguing and let the wife play. The wife says,
"Gentleman all. All such gallant gentlemen."
To which Jason Robards' character retorts,
"Yeah, we're gallant on Sunday. This is Friday, and we're playing poker. Now, you wanna play with us, you ante up $500."
Then the wife says in a most polite way
"Can someone please explain to me how the game is played?"
That's when they shot the lady dead.
Ok ok they didn't.... but they sure wanted to.
It was one of the best poker movies I have ever seen. It was delightfully funny, suspenseful, with a great surprise ending. If you love poker and you haven't seen this movie, go to the nearest Blockbuster and rent this old movie. Or put it in your Christmas list.
Let the countdown begin...
# 10 - A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
Starring Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards.
Directed by Fielder Cook.
# 9 - The Gambler (1980)
Starring Kenny Rogers, Christine Belford, Bruce Boxleitner, Harold Gould.
Directed by Dick Lowry.
This 1980 made-for-TV movie was based on Kenny Rogers' semi-ballad song, "The Gambler." It tells the lonely tale of a jaded, burnt-out gambler offering sage advice to an eager stranger on a train bound for nowhere. Along the way, he befriends that stranger on the train and gets himself in countless predicaments and wacky situations.
"You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run." (Of course!)
# 8 - Loaded Pistols (1948)
Starring Gene Autry, Chill Wills, Jack Holt.
Directed by John English.
This movie is filmed in glorious black and white. It's got everything from pissed off sheriffs to irate lynch mobs, with gobs of fist-smacking action and hot-lead death for countless bad guys. And of course, there's a healthy dose of Autry's famous honey-sweet singing voice. Some people might say "They don't make 'em like this anymore."
Best quote: (Gene Autry singing)
"The sharpies were taking him for fair
He said, 'I'm wise this here game ain't square
I mean them loaded dice just ain't gonna do
Cause I've got something else that's loaded too.'"
# 7 - Sunset Trail (1939)
Starring William Boyd, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Russell Hayden.
Directed by Lesley Selander.
The twenty-second of sixty-six Hopalong Cassidy movies. Hoppy has been sent to deal with land grabbers and assumes the identity of the inept Easterner, Harold, as cover. The plot is predictable. But Bill Boyd's performance was great, if not outstanding. There is a swagger in his walk and a gleam in his eye reminiscent of the sharp-dressed, high-living Boyd of the 1920s. He deftly handles the comedy and energetically pokes fun at the Cassidy image.
"There's no braver man than a scared one when he's cornered."
# 6 - Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Starring Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Jason Statham.
Directed by Guy Ritchie.
This incredibly funny and entertaining movie is about four young "criminals" out for big money. Four London working class stiffs pool their money to put one in a high stakes card game, but things go wrong and they end up owing half a million pounds and having one week to come up with the cash. It's a very fast paced film, great story line, and a hilarious cast. A very entertaining movie.
"Armed? Armed with what?"
"Er, bad breath, colorful language, feather duster... what do you think they're gonna be armed with? Guns, you tit!" (Ooops, can we say the "t" word?)
# 5 - Kaleidoscope (1966)
Starring Warren Beatty, Jane Birkin, Susannah York.
Directed by Jack Smight.
This movie is set in Swinging London and Europe of the 60's. The dialogue is flippant; the characters are so offbeat. Warren Beatty plays Barney Lincoln, a card-cheating playboy with romantic pretensions. The climax is a high-stakes, winner-take-all poker game, and it's a highly suspenseful scene. Added to this is a kidnap-and-rescue sequence, which is almost as clever. This is a good fun movie where the hero doesn't play by the rules.
"We'll have some tea, Mr. Lincoln. Would you like scones or sticky buns?"
"Sticky buns, of course."
Rounders starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro
# 4 - Rounders (1998)
Starring Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro.
Directed by John Dahl.
Matt Damon plays a law school student who swears off poker and turns his life around, only to get dragged back in when his slimy buddy Worm (Ed Norton) slithers back into his life. The result? He ends up deeply in debt to a Russian crime boss, played with reckless abandon by John Malkovich. As far as modern-day poker movies go, Rounders is one of the best. The poker play itself is unrivaled and Johnny Chan's cameo is absolutely priceless.
"Listen, if you can't spot the sucker at the table in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker."
# 3 - Maverick (1994)
Starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner.
Directed by Richard Donner.
This movie is a recreation from the James Garner 1950s TV program. Mel Gibson (the "new" Maverick) is a gambler who would rather con someone than fight them. He needs an additional three thousand dollars in order to enter a Winner Take All poker game that begins in a few days. He tries to win some, tries to collect a few debts, and recover a little loot for the reward, all with a lighthearted air. He joins forces with a woman gambler with a marvelous, though fake, southern accent as the two both try to enter the game.
This is a fun movie to watch. A good mix of comedy, drama, suspense and nice scenery all make this a pleasing viewing experience. And, I like the inclusion of TV's original "Maverick" - James Garner - in this film.
"From the moment I slapped eyes on this hombre, I smelled trouble. And refried beans."
# 2 - California Split (1974)
Starring George Segal, Elliott Gould, Jeff Goldblum.
Directed by Robert Altman.
This gambling tale is light and sad at the same time. It stars George Segal and Elliot Gould as booze-soaked, hard-luck gamblers in California. They form an unlikely bond based mostly on getting drunk and losing money (either in the casino or at the hands of muggers in the parking lot). It's only a matter of time before bad luck and deep debts catch up to the pair, and they mortgage their future on one last dance with Lady Luck. A must-see for Robert Altman fans.
"What do you have to say? This man just called you a cheater."
"What do I have to say? I say the man doesn't know how to play poker. The man is bad. He's a complete asshole. We all know that, right? The man goes broke, he can't handle it. The man is on tilt. You wanna hear any more?"
# 1 - The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
Starring Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret, Karl Malden.
Directed by Norman Jewison.
Steve McQueen plays Eric Stoner, the main character in Norman Jewison's 1965 hard-boiled classic, The Cincinnati Kid, who comes to New Orleans in the '30s to prove himself at the poker table and in the sack. He challenges the reigning king of town to a high-stakes game while juggling the advances of two southern belles. This is one of those rare movie that will please hardcore poker aficionados and moviegoers at the same time. It's filled with intense action and loads of suspense. It's the kind of movie that you'd want to see again and again.
"How the hell did you know I didn't have the King or the Ace?"
"I recollect a young man putting the same question to Eddie the Dude. 'Son,' Eddie told him, 'all you paid was the looking price. Lessons are extra.'"
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