The Best Sports Betting Movies of All Time

Sports betting is hugely popular around the world. The industry is estimated to be worth USD 84 billion. What’s more, it is nowhere near staying at this level.

It is expected to grow at over 10% each year up to 2030. While bettors have waged stakes on sports for a long time, the growth of online betting options and easier regulations has given it a fillip.

Reinforcing the popularity of sports betting are successful gambling films. They introduce the audience to the world of betting on their favourite games, possibly encouraging it in the process. Here are some of the best known such films.

The Gambler

The popularity of this sports betting film is obvious from the fact that it has been made not just once, but twice. It was first made in 1974, with James Caan playing the lead role of an English professor with a gambling addiction.

Based on a book by Fyodor Dostoevsky, the movie shows his desperate moves to get rid of debt. As an avid sports bettor, he asks a student to underperform in college sports. It has its consequences though, as his win attracts the mafia.

The 2014 remake is less liked, for its characterisation of the main character as unpleasant. But the key themes are the same, which include the thrill in the dangers of betting. And also the self-inflicted desire to lose from a sense of guilt.


Starring the much liked Keanu Reeves, fresh from his success of The Matrix, this 2001 movie sees him as a sports bettor. Hardball is a warm hearted movie about him playing a coach to a young and troubled baseball team to pay off his debt.

He is reluctant at first to take on the responsibility. But as the team succeeds, he is himself inspired to face his life’s issues head on.

Lay the Favourite

This is unlike most other gambling films that revolve around the pressure of debt or an uncontrollable betting addiction. The Bruce Willis film made in 2012, actually shows bettors studying statistics and making educated bets rather than following their gut.

In Lay the Favourite, Bruce Willis’s character is in charge of a professional sports betting business based in Las Vegas. He hires a cocktail waitress called Beth with a flair for working out number combinations. It also has a side story, in which Vince Vaughn’s character runs a sports book.

Also starring Catherine Zeta-Jones, the movie has a star studded cast. And it is one that sports betting fans can enjoy as well as a comedy based on a true story.

Eight Men Out

This one is actually a true story. Based on the Chicago White Sox scandal of 1919 about the team that played a fixed game. It is one for baseball lovers as well as sports bettors.

There are nuances of the game that might miss the rest of us. And it shows the complexity of the game, where not every player is part of the scheme.

There is also the idea that the players should not be seen in just black and white terms. Sporting conditions were very different a century ago than they are today. Their payments were exploitative and the players might not even have had formal education. Ultimately, it is a reflection of what a long way society has come.

Bonus gambling films

If you enjoy sports betting movies, chances are, you will enjoy gambling films as such. Some of the best known Hollywood flicks have been based around or incorporated elements of gambling in them.

A big one is Oceans Eleven, which was followed up by a sequel as well. Starring some of the best known movie stars like George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, it is a casino heist film.

Another unforgettable one is The Hangover, about a bunch of friends who run into comic situations at their friend’s bachelor getaway. Set at the Caesar’s Palace casino in Las Vegas, it is a pack of laughs all the way. So popular is this betting movie, the Caesars brand will always be associated with The Hangover from the movie’s release.

Responsible sports betting

These are just a select few movies based on sports betting and gambling in general. There is a plethora of others, including multiple James Bond films that feature casinos. The thrill of betting and the edge-of-the-seat suspense of watching games are sure fire recipes for sustained audience interest.

But these movies are more than just entertainment. They also touch upon facets like the consequences of gambling addiction. The guilt that can consume addicts and match-fixers. And also the societal conditions that lead to such behaviours. Ultimately, they encourage the audience to enjoy the game. But also know that it needs to be done so responsibly.