As you can imagine, my favorite pastime is playing cards, but right next to it is watching good movies. Sometimes I get lucky and those two are combined and a card playing scene shows up in a movie.
Poker is most popular with the movie makers. Probably because of the dramatic aura that Poker is surrounded by. You will come across it in movies in all languages and in all variants. In “Bob Le Flambeur”, a movie made by the French film master Jean-Pierre Melville in 1956, high roller Bob plays “Five Card Draw” in the backroom of a shady club on Place Pigalle. “Five Card Draw” is also played in the comedy “The Odd Couple” with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. The movie was a big box office hit in 1968. In the opening scene a group of friends are playing their Friday night game. The dialogue of the players is sharper than their poker game. Paul Newman’s poker game is sharp in the 1973 movie “The Sting”, in which “Five Card Draw” is also played. In the classic “The Cincinnati Kid” from 1965, with the “King of Cool” Steve McQueen, Ann-Margret and Edward G. Robinson as the main characters, the game is “Five Card Stud”, considered to be the most dangerous of all the poker variants, because you see all your opponent’s cards but one. The film proves that the coolest guy is not always the best poker player. Another poker classic is “Rounders” with Matt Damon. The movie, that came out in 1998, undoubtably played a big role in the rise of “Texas Hold’em” as one of the most popular card games in the world. When James Bond played it in “Casino Royale” in 2006 it was already on top of the card game pyramid.
Card games make regular appearances in the always entertaining Bond movies. The noble game of Baccarat was even played in four of them, in “Dr. No” (1962), “Thunderball” (1965), “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969) and in “GoldenEye” (1995). In the already mentioned “Bob Le Flambeur”, the game of Baccarat, can also be seen.
Back to Bond, James Bond, where in 1964, in “Goldfinger”, the antagonist is a exposed as a cheater and a sore loser in a game of Gin Rummy. Similar revelations take place in “The Flamingo Kid” from 1984, with Matt Dillon. It is not the best movie you will ever watch, but the card scenes are some of the best, and it is always nice to see a cheater getting busted. The game here is Rummy, and the cheat is exposed at the end of the movie.
Card counting can be witnessed in several movies. Everybody knows ‘Rain Man” from 1988, with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, but the most memorable scenes of Blackjack card counting can be seen in “Casino”, Martin Scorsese’s master piece from 1995. Be warned though: it does not end well for the counters.
There is a famous scene from the 1930 comedy “Animal Crackers” where a game of Contract Bridge is played in the typical absurd style of the Marx brothers, between two ladies and Harpo and Chico. Other than that, I do not remember coming across Contract Bridge in a movie, but I am sure there will be some.
It is a bit unfortunate that card games in movies are often associated with a world of crime, but then again, a peek in that kind of world, that most of us do not know anything about, often is what makes movies interesting. I have never seen a family game of Hearts or Spades show up in a movie, probably because these games miss a bit of “movie drama”, although I can guarantee you, I have witnessed enough drama playing Hearts or Spades in person. Anyway, if you have ever seen a game of Hearts or Spades or any other card game in a movie, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.