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Everybody loves a silver-screen hustler: that mixture of roguish charm and deviousness has proved to be a winning combination in a whole host of movies. There is something about the struggle of the underdog and the sheer chutzpah of the hustler that makes us root for him (or her) on screen. Not in real life, we hasten to add, as nobody appreciates the hustlers out there making money on the real thing!
We have picked out some of the best hustler movies of all time for your delectation, and if there are a few on the list you haven’t caught yet then we suggest that you seek them out.
Where else to start than with this stone-cold classic from 1961 starring Paul Newman in his prime as back-street pool hustler ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson. Eddie tries to enter the hustling big leagues by taking on the best in the business, but at what cost to himself? This movie has aged well, and should best be watched in tandem with the 1986 ‘sequel’ in which Eddie takes on a protégé in the form of one Tom Cruise. Newman won the Oscar for Best Actor for his work in the latter.
This black comedy from David O. Russell is as much about the hair-pieces and seventies design as it is about the hustle at the centre of the movie. The star-studded cast includes Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper and the movie received no fewer than 10 nominations at the 2013 Oscars. Sheiks, FBI Agents, Congressmen and mobsters all feature in this convoluted con movie.
A very meticulously planned hustle sees MIT professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) train a crack-team of students in the dark arts of Blackjack card-counting. The team travel to Vegas to try to beat the casino using their new-found skills. This fast-paced thriller was a box-office hit on its release in 2008 and will provide inspiration to those who fantasise about making a big score in their local casino. In fact the movie was greeted warmly by casinos, who felt that even though the movie explained the basics of card-counting, it would simply attract a lot of bad card-counters to casinos where they would lose their cash!
This Ridley Scott directed caper movie passed a lot of people by when it came out back in 2003. It’s worth finding to see Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell bounce off each other as a couple of con-men trying to swindle a fortune out of an arrogant businessman. Lots of twists and turns ensue as one con piles upon another in this head-spinning black comedy. The film didn’t do well at the box office, but it received generally positive reviews from critics upon its release.
Catch Me If You Can
Steven Spielberg directed this highly entertaining drama starring heavyweights Leonardo DiCaprio as fraudster Frank Abagnale and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent pursuing him. Based on a true story, it follows Abagnale as he embarks on a series of scams which involve him posing as an airline pilot, a surgeon and a lawyer, among other roles. The movie manages to mine comedy from the various cons while still retaining a heart, and giving an insight into the loneliness at the core of the main character.
If you are looking for more movies about hustling, then there are plenty of others that didn’t quite make our top five. Ocean’s Eleven (original or remake) plus its sequels is one obvious candidate. British comedy A Fish Called Wanda is also a great flick, while Paper Moon and The Sting remain classics. If we’ve missed out your favourite movie hustle from the list then be sure to let us know!
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