HomeNewsFive Rare Oscar-Nominated Movies About Players and Poker

Five Rare Oscar-Nominated Movies About Players and Poker

This article is about poker movies and choosing the best ones. Today we’re looking at five films that were nominated for Oscars (two of them even won).

The Criteria We Used to Pick These Films

This list is a little different. We tried to find rare movies you probably haven’t seen. We used three criteria:

  • The film was nominated for an Oscar in any category.
  • The main character is a “player.”

These criteria helped us cut out some popular movies (if you haven’t seen them, you should!):

  • Molly’s Game (2017) – nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.
  • Maverick (1994) – nominated for Best Costume Design.
  • Casino (1995) – nominated for Best Actress.
  • The Sting (1973) – won 7 Oscars.
  • Titanic (1997) – won 11 Oscars.

We were left with five movies you probably haven’t seen yet. We’ve listed them in order of their Kinopoisk rating, from lowest to highest.

Important Note: The films on this list were made decades ago. The pacing on screen was different back then. So some movies might seem a bit slow (each film is a little over 2 hours long). But trust us, they’re worth watching.

Havana (1990)

Genre: Lyrical and Political Drama

IMDb Rating: 6.1/10 (8,134 ratings)

Oscar Nomination: Best Original Score

The main character, Jack Weil (Robert Redford), is a professional card player. He even has a diamond sewn into his hand in case he loses everything. Jack leaves America for Cuba on a ship, where he meets Roberta Duran (Lena Olin), the wife of Cuban revolutionary Arturo Duran. Jack and Roberta develop a liking for each other.

Newspapers soon report that Arturo Duran has been killed. Jack sets out to rescue Roberta, and he succeeds. But instead of leaving for Miami on a yacht and enjoying a life together, Roberta stays in Cuba to continue the revolution.

“Havana” is a film about nobility and unconditional love. It’s also about what’s more important: personal life or public service. The film remains relevant in 2022.

There’s not much poker. At the beginning of the film, Jack wins a decent amount from the ship’s captain. They’re apparently playing Five-Card Draw Poker. We don’t see the showdown. The second time poker appears on screen is in the middle of the film when Jack is invited to a game at a hotel with the local elite. In this scene, they’re playing the rare Five-Card Stud (and a four-card flush turns out to be better than a pair of Aces).

Oscar and Lucinda (1997)

Genre: Historical melodrama “on the edge of adventure and tragedy”

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10 (6,957 ratings)

Oscar Nomination: Best Costume Design

Oscar Hopkins (Ralph Fiennes) is a priest. He’s very strange, awkward, and different from everyone else. Gambling gave him a chance to get ahead in life. He used his winnings to pay for his education and a ticket to Australia.

Lucinda Leplastrier (Cate Blanchett) is a “businesswoman.” She inherited a fortune from her parents, which she used to buy a glass factory. Lucinda, like Oscar, has a passion for gambling.

These two meet on a ship, get acquainted, and sparks fly between them. Then they make an unusual bet: Oscar promises to deliver a glass church built at Lucinda’s factory from Sydney to Bellingen. If he succeeds, Lucinda promises to give him all her fortune.

This film has a lot of Australia and references to Christianity. The passion for gambling is an allegory for the fall from grace, and glass is an allegory for human life. As the film progresses, Oscar “collects deadly sins,” and his fate becomes clear towards the end.

There are no poker hands in the film. Well, we see some kind of heads-up between Oscar and Lucinda on screen, but we couldn’t identify what they’re playing. If you recognize the games shown on screen, please write in the comments or in the chat on Telegram.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Genre: Drama, Western

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10 (25,447 ratings)

Oscar Nomination: Best Actress

The early 20th century. John McCabe (Warren Beatty) arrives in a remote mining town in the northwestern United States. He’s made a fortune playing cards and came here with one goal: to open a saloon, a gambling house, and a brothel.

John McCabe’s business partner is Mrs. Miller (Julie Christie, Oscar nominee) – an experienced prostitute from Sydney. She arrives not alone, but with her girls. McCabe’s brothel becomes the top spot. Eventually, people want to buy his business, but McCabe asks for a huge price. This upsets the potential buyers, and they send three hired killers to town.

“McCabe & Mrs. Miller” is not a typical Western, but a beautiful, complex film. The action takes place in winter (unusual for Westerns). The film is beautifully shot. The good music adds to the atmosphere.

This film is among the top most significant films in the history of the Western genre. It’s also one of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite films.

There is a little poker in the film. The main character plays a couple of hands of Five-Card Stud.

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Genre: Drama, Crime

IMDb Rating: 8.10/10 (178,030 ratings)

Oscar for Best Supporting Actor

Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) goes to prison for two years for drunkenly using a wrench to smash coin-operated parking meters.

Luke gets the nickname “Cool Hand” for never giving up. He falls and gets back up during his fight against Dragline (George Kennedy – who won the Oscar for his role). He bluffs without any emotion during the poker game. And he tries to escape prison again and again.

The film will appeal to those who like the theme of man versus system. In our opinion, it’s just as good as “The Shawshank Redemption” or “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“Cool Hand Luke” is included in the National Film Registry, which has films of “cultural, historical, or aesthetic” significance.

They play the rare Five-Card Stud in the film. Luke forces his opponent to fold a stronger hand. The film also features a bet: Luke bets that he can eat 50 boiled eggs in an hour. By the way, a similar bet happened in real life. However, the participant in the bet, Subhash Yadav, died after eating 41 eggs.

The Hustler (1961)

Genre: Drama, Sports

IMDb Rating: 8.0/10 (82,565 ratings)

Oscar for Best Cinematography (Black and White Film)

Oscar for Best Art Direction (Black and White Film)

Eddie Felson (Paul Newman), nicknamed “Fast,” is a professional pool player. He plays for small stakes, but dreams of hitting the jackpot. One day, Felson gets into a game against Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). After 25 hours of nonstop ball racking, Eddie wins $18,000. But alcohol, fatigue, and an inflated ego play a cruel trick on him, and Eddie loses all his money.

The whole plot is Eddie Felson’s attempt to get back on his feet, get his life back together, and get revenge on Minnesota Fats. The film has interesting discussions about whether talent or character is more important, and interesting thoughts about justifying losses.

“The Hustler” (other titles: “The Billiard Player” and “The King of Billiards”) is recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest sports films in history; and it’s also included in the National Film Registry, which features films of “cultural, historical, or aesthetic” significance.

By the way, the actors perform all the shots themselves, except for the shot on the back spin, when two balls go into the pocket.

Poker appears on screen for only a minute. Eddie Felson accidentally stumbles onto a game, puts in $20 with a $1.5 bet (it’s not clear what discipline they’re playing), loses all his money, and realizes that poker isn’t his game.