The Lasting Legacy of The Hustler and The Color of Money

Unlike other sports such as basketball and football, pool is rarely the movie’s main plotline. But when you have two revered classics from some of the biggest names in cinema, it makes up for it – you know the saying, quality over quantity.  

The two movies are celebrating anniversaries this year – as the Hustler turns 60 and the Color of Money turns 35 – so now is an excellent time to revisit these Hollywood classics. 

A lot has changed in the time since The Hustler and even The Color Money. Pool was a bar game, and betting on pool was done underground – compared to today when people can easily watch pool on television, bet on pool online to help clear their rollover betting requirement, and enjoy pool video games on their phones.  

It is still fun to go back and watch these movies – as they can help us appreciate the advancements in the game of pool while also gaining some perspective of where the game once was. 

“The Hustlers” by EmpireOnline is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

The Hustler Remains A Classic 60 Years Later

This year marks the Hustler’s 60th anniversary – and 60 years later, the movie still holds up well. The film received near-universal acclaim upon its release and continues to receive strong reviews – holding a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and making it into the website’s top-100 classic movies

In my opinion, the Hustler is a better movie overall, but its pool scenes are not quite as good as the sequel. They also play a different style of pool than people play now, and while the consistent drinking is part of the story, it does seem Paul Newman and other pool players in this movie are impervious to the effects of alcohol.

Still, the story is good, the bar and pool scenes are fun, and Paul Newman’s performance is superb.  

The Color of Money Provides Scorsese a New Type of Success

This movie is one of the more interesting choices in Martin Scorsese’s filmography. Scorsese wanted to prove to the world he could step outside the realms of New York and make something successful without casting Robert De Niro. 

The results were a film that grossed nearly four times its budget, holds an 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, helped cement Tom Cruise’s status as a bonafide movie star, and won Paul Newman the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Its impact on the game of pool was by highlighting nine-ball – showing pool played at a much faster pace than the original. It also brought the game to the big stage – showing the stars engaged in a fierce battle at a tournament in Atlantic City. The movie does retain some of the original’s charm, with a flock of side characters populating the pool halls the characters visit throughout the film. 

The pool scenes are better in the sequel, but the characters are not quite as developed, and the ending leaves a bit to be desired. Overall, though, Scorsese does a good enough job directing the picture that fans of pool will enjoy the film. 

“The Color Money” by EmpireOnline is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Should Netflix Add a Third Part to the Series

A loose sequel, a reimagining, or a modern take on these movies could serve Netflix or another streaming giant well. The spacing between the three makes it almost like a family, with each piece representing a different time and generation.

It would also allow filmmakers to capitalize on the growing popularity of pool and showcase how much the game has changed since 1986.  

Scorsese is unlikely to helm a sequel – as The Color of Money is not his favorite movie – but Netflix has done a great job recruiting filmmakers and giving them the reigns to make things the way they want.  

We think it would actually work better as a 10 episode series or even as a vignette with different hustlers playing different variations of pool over the last 60 years.

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