Best Movies About Sports Gambling
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 11/17/2008
Often time the sports gambling movie genre gets lumped in with all gambling movies. While the market has been flooded over the years with movies about poker, casinos and just gambling in general, movies about sports gambling are few and far between. Many movies have passing mentions of sports betting but few fully dive into the world of sports gambling. I have ranked the top three best movies about sports gambling.
An underrated and low budget movie, this 2003 Mark Illsley directed piece delves into the rising hotbed of sports gambling on college campuses. Three college friends become small-time bookies and they watch as the money and the stakes increase exponentially. Every bettor knows what it's like to watch a last second shot go up in the air or a last second field get kicked while the point spread hangs in the balance and the feelings that come with that. "Bookies" captures those feelings and you get a very good idea of how much these games mean to these kids.
The college friends get involved with attempting to fix basketball games on campus and the mob gets involved as well once the college bookies start to cut into their profit. Nick Stahl, Johnny Galecki and Lukas Haas star as the college bookies and Rachael Leigh Cook also plays a part as an interested girlfriend who wants to learn more about sports gambling. What the movie lacks in flashy theatrics it more than makes up with presenting a realistic college gambling scene.
2) "Two for the Money"
This was the first real sports gambling movie to make it mainstream. Most movie goers and critics were not sure how to receive the movie when it debuted in 2005 with a subject they knew very little about but "Two for the Money" was greeted with above average reviews. D.J. Caruso directed this star-studded cast that featured Al Pacino, Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Piven and Rene Russo.
McConaughey plays Brandon Lang, a former college football player who got into the field of work of predicting point spread winners, making very little money despite catching fire picking with impressive results. Once Walter Abrams, played by Pacino, hears of this boy wonder he invites him to New York City to work for him, predicting games. The success he enjoyed back home follows him to the big apple, but like all gambling hot streaks, Lang's starts to slow down.
This movie is more about gambling advisors. They are people who sell their picks to bettors. Two for the Money sheds a lot of light on some of the darker corners of this industry as no movie to date even attempted.
Where the movie struggles is trying to please gamblers and at the same time attempting not to confuse the average moviegoer. While gamblers may be asking for more, non-gamblers might still be confused by what is going on and how it's legal. Still, "Two for the Money" serves as a landmark movie for sports gambling because of the attention it drew to the industry and the light it helped shed on it.
3) "Eight Men Out"
While "Bookies" explored the life of a group of illegal bookmakers and "Two for the Money" delved into the gambling advisors industry, "Eight Men Out" explores an entirely different aspect of sports gambling. For a movie that describes an incident from nearly 100 years ago, "Eight Men Out" is still relevant. While entire teams throwing games may be a thing of the past, international sports are constantly keeping their eyes on match fixing scandals, especially in tennis.
"Eight Men Out" was released in 1988 and describes the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox" team that threw the World Series that season after taking payoffs from gamblers. The movie was received with critical acclaim much like the book it was based on.
The local gambling syndicate led by Arnold Rothstein saw a window of opportunity as the White Sox were unhappy with team owner Charles Comiskey, who did not seek to reward his players for what could have been a championship season. Rothstein was able to put more money on the table for the "Black Sox" to lose the series than the team would have been rewarded for winning the series.
With the high salaries of today's professional athletes this is an unlikely scenario in professional sports but the movie is a good lesson on what can happen when gambling influences sports.