Sports are a great subject for a dynamic and fast-paced film.
Think of all the great sports movies through time; Escape to Victory, Million Dollar Baby, even The Waterboy. All used sports as a vehicle for a tale of redemption, courage or adversity. There are so many more it is impossible to list, and for every fictional story, there is a real one too. Documentaries have become an important part of cinema. Few were quite as impactful as Senna, the story of Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna, pieced together from actual footage of his life.
Whilst sports are a great way of advancing a story or developing a whole plot, a sportsbook is not. Very few films take the subject of sports wagers seriously, but it is a growing industry in the United States. ESPN explains how there are already 28 states with legalized sportsbooks, which varies from in-person only to mobile wagers. Wagers can be placed on football games, hockey games and a host of other sports. It is a dynamic industry too; fans can even place their wagers during a game, with features such as in-play odds from Ladbrokes. Often, these capitalize on sports unpredictability by giving those watching games a chance to predict if they’re going to turn or not. It’s a booming industry that is growing by the day and may even impact Hollywood soon.
That’s not to say there haven’t been films that have used sportsbooks as a part of their plot. There have been a few, and these are three we recommend you watch. Just remember, there’s nothing you can do in-play whilst watching a film, other than second-guess what happens next for fun.
The Color of Money (1984)
The Color of Money is based around one of the sports that has often seen wagers as part and parcel of the game: pool. Eight-ball is a popular sport across the United States, and it received a huge lift when Paul Newman and Tom Cruise came together in this classic 1984 film. Newman plays ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson, a washed-up hustler who teaches Vincent (Cruise) the ropes. The film culminates in games in Atlantic City, during which plenty of sports wagers are placed.
Eight Men Out (1988)
Sportsbooks have played a major part in big events over the years, perhaps never more so than the 1919 World Series. The film tells the true story of the Chicago White Sox, the best baseball team of the time, losing the title game intentionally against the Cincinnati Reds. Ironically, it is believed to have been at the behest of Arnold Rothstein, who also featured loosely in another film with a sportsbook: Casino. John Cusack stars in this 1988 flick, which sadly flopped at the box office.
Two for the Money (2005)
Another relative box office flop, Two for the Money, brings together two Hollywood greats in Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey. The latter plays Brandon Lang, a promising college football star who has his career ended by injury. He joins forces with Walter Adams (Pacino), based on Stu ‘The Source’ Feiner, the face of sports handicapping. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the world of sports handicapping and well worth revisiting as sportsbook becomes more popular.