Billiards in Pop Culture Through the Years: Part I

Billiard Movies

Pop Culture. The entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitude and images that are within the mainstream of the Western world.

Pop culture is affected by history.

Billiards. A game of cue sports that includes pool, carom billiards and snooker.

We’ve talked a lot in our blogs about why you should play pool and why pool has gained extensive popularity as a competitive and professional sport, but did you know that our pop culture has actually revolutionized this sport?

Let’s talk history. Yes, get ready for a short school lesson. Billiards was first played in Northern Europe in the 15th Century, though its beginnings may have occurred earlier.  It started as a lawn game similar to croquet and our earliest accounts of the game came from royalty, although all types of people have played since inception. Billiards has always men a male sport and women were forbidden to play up until the last couple hundred years.  Making our way into the 20th century, pool has become a common social game consuming our extra hours and weekends both in our own homes and in pool halls.

To learn more about the history of billiards, check out our recent Billiard History Blog.

Now for the good stuff.

We have compiled a list of the top movies in billiard history. If you haven’t seen them all, make sure you do! Really. If you are looking to brush up on your “hustling” techniques, you have come to the right place.

Pool Sharks - 1915

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        • First black and white silent billiard film

        • The film was written and stars William Claude Dukenfield (W. C. Fields), who was an American comedian, actor, juggler and writer. This was his first film role.

        • The film features early stop motion animation during the pool game.

        • The film follows how Fields and his rival both play a game of pool to win the heart of a woman.  They both are pool sharks, so they play very well, which makes it very unlikely that either will win. The game gets out of hand and the woman ends up denying them both.  

The Hustler - 1961

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline: They called him "Fast Eddie"... He was a winner... He was a loser... He was a hustler.

    • The Hustler is about a pool hustler, "Fast Eddie" Felson (Paul Newman) and his desire to get into professional hustling.  He has tons of talent, but a self-destructive attitude.  He plays against the best player in the country, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason).  He initially loses to Fats and gets involved with an unscrupulous manager. When they face off again, Eddie must pay a terrible personal price to do so.

    • Real pool player Rudolf Wanderone, who was originally known as "New York Fats" and "Chicago Fats", claimed to be the inspiration for the Minnesota Fats character and he eventually adopted the name as his own.

    • Pool champion, Willie Mosconi, had his voice and hands in this movie.

  • All the pool shots in the movie are performed by the actors themselves except one. The massé shot was performed by Willie Mosconi.

The Baltimore Bullet - 1980

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline: Hide your women. Lock up your cash. Billie Joe & the Baltimore Bullet are on their way!

    • A story about two pool hustlers in the United States. Released in 1980.

    • The movie’s screenplay was written and produced by legendary film and stage dancer John Brascia.

    • Several professional players made cameos in the movie including Lou Butera, Willie Mosconi, Steve Mizerak, Mike Sigel and Jimmy Mataya.

    • The "Baltimore Bullet”, Nick Casey, is a legendary pool player who teaches his young sidekick all he knows. In the end, they both compete in a major match with a former rival of Casey.

  • According to IMDb, during filming, one of the actors Omar Sharif was staying nearby and sent his cousin to tell the Director where he was staying and ask for his blue pages. Due to their resemblance, the Director thought he was Sharif and rushed him into makeup!

The Baron and the Kid - 1984

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline: Nothing to lose ... Everything to win.

    • Johnny Cash stars in this film as the “Baron”, a legendary pool shark is reunited at a charity exhibition game with his long-lost son the “Cajun Kid.” Through various adventures, they grow to know each other better and draw closer.

    • Premiered in November 1984.

    • The movie is based on Cash’s hit song “The Baron.”

    • The Baron and The Kid was a competitor with Kenny Rogers' similar TV-movie, The Gambler.

    • Cash’s second wife, Jane Carter, co-stars in this movie with Cash.

  • The movie was directed by American television and film director Gary Nelson, known for many TV series including Gilligan’s Island and Happy Days.

The Color of Money - 1986

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline:  The Hustler isn't what he used to be, but he has the next best thing. A kid who is.

    • The story of Fast Eddie is continued from the original movie, The Hustler made in 1961.  It takes place about 20 years after the original movie with Eddie retired. Retired pool hustler, Fast Eddie Felson, finds a young and promising pool player named Vincent (Tom Cruise) in a local bar.  Eddie offers to teach Vincent how to be a hustler.  As he begins teaching him his hustling ways, he eventually gets back into the hustling game and plays Vincent.

    • Speaking Roles and Cameo Appearances include: Steve Mizerak, Grady Mathews and Keith McCready, Jimmy Mataya, Mark Jarvis, Howard Vickery,  Louie Roberts, Iggy Pop, Richard Price and even the director himself, Martin Scorsese.

    • Tom Cruise did all of his own pool shots in the movie except for one that would take him too long to learn, so it was done by Mike Sigel (a technical director). Cruise mentioned, to prepare for the role, he bought a pool table for his apartment and practiced for hours on end.

    • Ben Stiller, who was a film student at NYU at the time, created a student film, The Hustler of Money, that parodied the movie. The film actually appeared on an episode of Saturday Night Live.

    • Paul Newman was the one who approached Martin Scorsese about doing The Color of Money film.

  • Scorsese got the idea for the movie, Goodfellas, when shooting The Color of Money.

Kiss Shot - 1989

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    • After losing her job, a single mother, played by Whoopi Goldberg, turns to billiards and tries to make a career out of her playing talent. Her journey takes her in search of a new career and new love.

    • The scene in the biker bar, there are a group of bikers standing around watching them play. This group were really Harley Owners Group (HOG) members.

  • Actress Tasha Scott co-stars in this film with Goldberg as a child actress.

Stickmen - 2001

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    • Tagline: Playing the Shots. Covering the Angles. Waiting for the Big Break.

    • This movie was made and released in New Zealand.

  • Dave owns a pool hall that he rents from “Daddy”, where the Stickmen play pool regularly.  When he gets into a bind with money, he gets these three young men to enter into a pool tournament.  The men become involved in the underground pool tournament called “Daddy’s Game” ran by a local Greek crime lord named Daddy. They enter into the pool tournament with the name “The Stickmen” and while the games begin, Daddy’s guys hire women to distract them and prevent them from winning.  In the end, will they save Dave, take home the money and the girls or will they lose everything?

Poolhall Junkies - 2002

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Movie tagline: Sometimes you get a second shot... Make it.

    • There were no camera tricks or special film editing used for any of the billiards shots in the film.  These shots were done by billiards legend Robert LeBlanc.

  • The main character, Johnny, who has an obsession with pool, is held back by his mentor, Joe, a shady hustler who decides how and who Johnny plays. Johnny finally breaks free from Joe, only to end up getting beaten up by Joe’s guys. This leads him to leave the world of pool hustling and getting a normal job.  Years later, he is forced to go back into his old ways as his younger brother begins following Johnny in his hustling footsteps and getting caught up with Joe, Johnny’s old shady pool hustling mentor.   

Behind the Nine - 2003

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline: Trust... is overrated.

  • Behind the Nine is about a pool hustler running an illegal high-stakes pool tournament at his house. The final 8 players are playing for $500,000, which brings in a lot of questionable characters and he is afraid that this prize money will get stolen.

Shooting Gallery - 2005

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline: There's no such thing as luck to a hustler.

  • A street-smart pool player (Freddie Prinze Jr.)  falls in with a pack of hustlers. As he rises in the underground circuit, he lands in the middle of a match between his boss and a crooked cop when he's played as a pawn in the contest.

Turn the River - 2007

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline: Sometimes Your Last Shot is Your First Break.

    • Gulley, who's in middle school, lives with his father and step-mother.  He has secretly been in touch with his mother, Kailey, a pool hustler, who wants to win big and take Gulley to Canada. With the help of Quinette, who runs Quinn's Pool Hall, Kailey may get her big shot.

    • The main character, Kailey (Famke Janssen) did all of her own pool shots in the movie.

  • Many of the extras in the pool hall were actually regulars in the place.

9 Ball Movie - 2012

Youtube Movie Clip:


    • Tagline: Her talent made her a winner. Her heart made her a champion.

    • A young woman forced into pool hustling by her uncle, aspires to” break free” in a struggle for herself and her game, to become a professional player.

    • Jennifer Barretta, the main character, is actually apart of the Women’s Professional Billiard Association (WPBA).

  • Delta-13 racks and banners were featured in several scenes from this movie!

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Then, join us next week for more Pop Culture in our next blog!


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