When many people think about billiards, they are really thinking about pool (also known as pool billiards or pocket billiards).
Specifically they think of one of the numerous variations of pool, such as eight-ball, nine-ball, straight pool, or one pocket, that are played on a 6-pocket table of 7-, 8-, or 9-foot length.
Certainly, in North America, one reason people commonly equate billiards with pool is because pool is the only game they’ve played. According to research done 10 years ago by the Billiards Congress of America, about 90% of billiards players in the US primarily play pool; the rest play snooker or carom billiards. But, another reason for the global association between billiards and pool is because of popular culture. Conduct any informal survey in which you ask people to name “billiards movies” and the most common responses are The Hustler (1961) and The Color of Money (1986).
Fortunately, there have been a handful of billiards movies that don’t focus on pool.
So, if you’re looking to expand your familiarity with some of the other cue sports, get your Netflix or Amazon Instant Video queue ready and read on. Snooker Snooker is a billiards game played on a 12’x6’ table using a cue and 22 snooker balls (one white cue ball, 15 red balls, and 6 balls of different colors and point values). The object of the game is to score more points than one’s opponent by potting the object balls in a predefined order. Red balls must be potted in order to attempt to pot one of the colored balls.
If you liked The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you’ll enjoy this film based on its camp/cult value alone. But, even if musicals are not your thing, you’ll get a thrill out of watching the exceptional snooker playing, particularly in the final showdown.
Other snooker movies you might wish to check out include Legend of the Dragon (1991, Hong Kong), which actually features snooker champ Jimmy White, and Number One (1985, UK), a made-for- TV movie starring Bob Geldof and Alfred Molina. Three-Cushion Billiards Three-cushion billiards, one of the most popular and challenging cue sports in the world, consists of three balls and a pocketless pool table. The object of the game is to carom the cue ball off both object balls, but to make sure the cue ball hits the rail cushion at least three times before hitting the second object ball. A point is scored for each successful carom.
A humorous, tongue-and-cheek film that prominently features three-cushion billiards is Carambola (2003, Mexico). In this low-budget drama, shot entirely in one location, the character “El Vago,” having won a carom-billiards saloon from the character “El Mexicano,” must now figure out how to restore honor and popularity to the game of three-cushion billiards. A lot of mishaps occur, especially in his decision to recruit “El Perro” (the fabulous Diego Luna) as the manager, who feels three cushion billiards is an old man’s game. Amazing three-cushions shot are scattered throughout the movie, and there is a comedic skit in the beginning, in which El Vago attempts to make an instructional video about the rules and nuance of the sport.
The best way to visualize Goriziana is to watch the romantic comedy The Pool Hustlers (1983, Italy), also known by its Italian name Io, Chiara e lo scuro. The story focuses on Francesco, a skilled Goriziana player, who never plays for money. He challenges Scuro, the reigning Goriziana champion (played by real 9-pin billiard legend Marcello Lotti), for a “spiked cup of coffee” wager. When Francesco wins, his newfound confidence leads him to break his own no-betting rule, and he quickly falls into significant debt, losing his rematches to Scuro. This debt leads him to steal money, and ultimately, to compete in the International Single Set Goriziana Championship as a way to pay off his financial obligations, preserve his relationship with his girlfriend Chiara and avoid jail.
The Pool Hustlers was followed by a sequel Casablanca, Casablanca (1985, Italy), which continues Francesco’s love of Chiara and of Goriziana, and then much later by Il signor Quindicipalle (1998, Italy), which is also about 9-pins but with different characters.
So the next time you’re asked to think about billiards, consider the larger universe of exciting cue sports that exist. And, if we’re lucky, maybe there will be some billiards movies about Russian Pyramid or Balkline in the near future.
We could all use some more educating.
Jason Moss is an avid pool player and cinephile. He combines these two passions in his blog, 8 Ball on the Silver Screen, which is exclusively about the 130 billiards movies, shorts, web series, and television shows he has identified to date. His goal is to watch and review every one of them.
Editor: Dana Gornall