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Top 100 Movies Of The 1990's: #31 Rounders

Box Office: $22.9 Million

Oscar Nominations: None

Oscar Wins: None

MovieRankings.Net: 84/100

Available To Stream: Paramount+

Rounders is a movie that is less about poker or friendship and much more about following your dreams. Mike McD (Matt Damon) is told by everyone that he shouldn't go to Las Vegas to play against the best poker players in the world. He's almost the anti-Will Hunting in a way. In Good Will Hunting, everyone tells Will to leave town and chase his dreams.

Giphy Images.

Roger Ebert compares Rounders to a traditional sports film and he's not entirely wrong. It does have the standard sports movie beats of a talented guy needing to win the big game/beat the best team or player. But it's a much less traditional movie than that by the way it treats the people around Mike McD. 

Worm (Edward Norton) is the type of character you usually don't get in movies. He's not a bad guy but does shitty and selfish things. He's not a good guy and has no redemption in the movie at all. You don't usually get characters with such moral ambiguity in movies, I really respect the script by David Levien and Brian Koppelman (who both went on to create the show Billions) allowing audiences to look at this world and not hold their hand during it. 

Miramax. Shutterstock Images.

I don't know how to feel about Edward Norton's career. He's been in some great movies (#48 The People Vs. Larry Flynt, The 25th Hour, Moonrise Kingdom) and even has another movie on this list. He's been nominated for three Oscars (and hasn't won). But I feel like his career didn't live up to what the expectations were. He was really supposed to be the next De Niro. He was even in a heist movie called The Score in 2001 with De Niro and Marlon Brando and everyone was saying at the time that these were the three best actors of their respective generations.

Then Leonardo DiCaprio was in Catch Me If You Can and Gangs Of New York a year later and no one said that about Norton anymore. Norton is also someone that may be too smart for his own good. He started to get more and more controlling on sets and wanting to change screenplays. People started to not wanting to work with him anymore. I'm not sure how I'd even describe his current career. In this decade, he's had smaller parts in two Wes Anderson movies and was in Knives Out 2. That's it. Watching him in this, you are so quickly reminded how great of an actor he is.

The director John Dahl made some noirs (Red Rock West and The Last Seduction) before making Rounders and you do see that style here. In a normal movie, the Joey Knish character wouldn't have cleaned his hands of Mike McD. But it felt realistic. Other characters like Mike well enough but money almost always comes first with these people in this world. In a bizarre way, that cold authenticity makes the movie work. 

I know some people are split on John Malkovitch's performance as Teddy KGB. I personally love it. I know it's wild overacting and the accent is so bizarre but it works for me. I don't think a Teddy KGB-centered movie would work but as a bad guy you really only see twice in the movie, it's perfect. He's the ideal bad guy.

Finally, we all agree that there is no way Matt Damon just lets Famke Janssen leave that apartment. That's just stupid. I can't defend that.

Dave Lewis. Shutterstock Images.

31. Rounders

32. Unforgiven

33. Trainspotting

34. The Game

35. Out Of Sight

36. Carlito's Way

37. Seven

38. L.A. Confidential

39. Speed

40. Gattaca

41. Misery

42. Tombstone

43. Ransom

44. Wayne's World

45. The Insider

46. Back To The Future Part III

47. A Bronx Tale

48. The People Vs. Larry Flynt

49. Eyes Wide Shut

50. The Sandlot

51. Happy Gilmore

52. Contact

53. The Green Mile

54. Man On The Moon

55. Boyz N The Hood

56. Grosse Pointe Blank

57. Independence Day

58. The Rainmaker

59. Go

60. The Firm

61. Magnolia

62. The Talented Mr. Ripley

63. Tommy Boy

64. The Usual Suspects

65. In The Line Of Fire

66. My Cousin Vinny

67. Awakenings

68. JFK

69. Toy Story

70. Home Alone

71. Jerry Maguire

72. Titanic

73. Billy Madison

74. Apollo 13

75. Braveheart

76. Edward Scissorhands

77. Cape Fear

78. The River Wild

79. What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

80. 12 Monkeys

81. Stir Of Echoes

82. Mission: Impossible

83. Total Recall

84. Quiz Show

85. For Love Of The Game

86. Being John Malkovich

87. Men In Black

88. Scream

89. Alive

90. Three Kings

91. Glengarry Glen Ross

92. Die Hard With A Vengeance

93. The Blair Witch Project

94. Twister

95. Dirty Work

96. Election

97. Tremors

98. Any Given Sunday

99. The Wedding Singer

100. Clerks