Rational Choice Theory as featured in Win It All (2017), Netflix-Film

Posted on: 10th May 2023


Theory Application Paper

Rational Choice Theory- (WIN IT ALL netflix flim)

To help you understand and get experience applying the theories we studied in the first half of the semester, you will watch an assigned movie and apply the corresponding theory to that movie. The goal of this paper is to make theory less dry and abstract while at the same time teaching you the application of theory to ‘real life’ (as depicted in these Hollywood movies). I want you to be able to visualize the theory through your movie

I want to emphasize that this is NOT an opinion essay, I am NOT looking for an analysis of the relevance, likeability, relatability, etc. of the movie you are assigned. You are simply supposed to show me that you understood the theory you were assigned and can apply it appropriately.


Application of the theory to the film

I would expect this paper to be approximately 4  pages in length. Your introduction and conclusion should be about half a page each, and your main focus should be on applying the theory to the movie.

Format of the Paper

Your paper should have 4 parts:

1.    Introduction to the topic ( the theory) with a thesis

2.    Detailed explanation of the theory

      This should include any variations in and history of the theory

      As well as any issues with the theory and how modern variations on the theory might have addressed these issues

      .You must read the assigned readings (i.e. assigned the same week as the textbook chapter) that correspond to the theory you choose, and cite them on your reference page (see 5.a.) Textbook- Tibbets, S.G. (2019).

Criminological Theory: The Essentials, 3rd Edition.

SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks,

CA. (ISBN 9781506367897)

      You do not need to provide a detailed summary of the flims storyline except

For instances where you are explaining the theory in terms of the flim. A short

Synopsis of the flim at the beginning of this section is enough to show why this

Film was chosen in relationship with the theory. Then focus on the part of the flim

That specifically relate to the theory

Your focus should always be to anayze and not summarize the flim.

5. Conclusion

1. Refer back to your intro and thesis and explain what your thesis was and how you proved it using the film.

6. References

1. All sources used (including your textbook, the corresponding readings and the film you chose) must be listed here in APA format.

Requirement references- Textbook- Tibbets, S.G. (2019).

Criminological Theory: The Essentials, 3rd Edition.

SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks,

CA. (ISBN 9781506367897) - use the textbook to help you on the theory you are writing about.

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Rational Choice Theory as featured in Win It All (2017), Netflix-Film

Introduction and Background

Economics plays a strategic role in analyzing human behavior based on the element of decision-making from multiple viable options. Indeed, human beings are greatly motivated by the aspect of money and profiting- through undertaking an assessment (calculation) of the possible benefits as well as costs associated with the choice of a given action (Tibbetts, 2018). As such, the stated economic approach of thinking depicts the foundations of Rational-Choice theory. By definition, the Rational-Choice theory postulates that individuals (rational actors) apply rational calculations to determine rational choices and generate (achieve) outcomes that are completely aligned- in line- with their individual (personal) objectives. From a historical perspective, Adam Smith was among the first prominent economists to establish the rational-choice theory’s underlying rules (principles) in 1776 (Rutar, 2019). Homans George- a renowned sociologist and reputable scholar- in 1961 pioneered the Rational-Choice theory by laying the fundamental framework for the useful exchange theory whose key hypothesis is derived from behavioral psychology. Certainly, Rational-Choice theory has a wide application in various disciplines of academia including, psychology, sociology, economics, criminology, education, and business studies (Juraev, 2018). From the backdrop, an in-depth review and analysis of the application of the Rational-Choice theory as featured in the Netflix-based film Win It All (2017) forms the foundation of the paper.

A Comprehensive Review (Analysis) of the Rational-Choice Theory

Variations and History of the Theory

The Rational-Choice theory has a rich history that traces back to the 18th century during Beccaria Cesare's era in the late 18th century. The theory represents a collection of foundational concepts and principles relating to the element of human behavior and the basic motivation for human action (Tibbetts, 2018). In the year 1776, an outstanding economics’ scholar and philosopher, Adam Smith, coined the inaugural framework for the operation of the Rational-Choice theory. Further, other innovative and modern scholars have offered strategic variations that fit the modern context of the economic and social theory (Tibbetts, 2018). In 1961, Homans George presented his perspective on the fundamentals of the Rational-Choice theory, whereas later on, other scholars such as Cornish, Derek B. and Clarke, Ronald V. introduced a modernistic version of theory- in relation to criminology- in the year 1986 (Tibbetts, 2018). Indeed, numerous studies and schools of thought have presented their dissents from the original theory (Rational-Choice theory) and exposed the limitations in applying the theory to the current world.

Assumptions and Limitations of Theory

From research, the Rational-Choice theory takes into account the following assumptions in its application. Firstly, all actions (human-oriented) are fundamentally rational and are realized based on the consideration of costs and relevant rewards. Secondly, the economic theory assumes that the reward or benefit of a given relationship (action) must be greater (outweigh) the input (cost) involved in executing the action (Tibbetts, 2018). Further, the theory asserts that when the attached value of the benefit (reward) declines (diminishes) to a value below the stated costs of the action, then the individual will cease the continuity of the action- or relationship. Again, the theory proposes that human beings will utilize resources within their reach (disposal) to optimize or maximize their benefits (Rutar, 2019). Critiques in socio-economic theory and philosophy vehemently oppose the appropriateness of the Rational-Choice theory based on particular issues.

One of the crucial premises of attack to the theory presents that the theory limits its scope to individual action. Thus, the theory fails to capture the essence of certain actions that vary from human action. Further, critique opines that the Rational-Choice theory fails to account for the element of instinct- or intuitive thinking (Tibbetts, 2018). The theorists argue that the theory may be unfit for scenarios (decisions) that instantaneous decision-making since there is a limitation of time required to undertake a benefit versus cost analysis- as stipulated in theory.

Link of the Theory to Criminology

The Rational-Choice theory has a deep correlation to the field of criminology based on the understanding that crime has a relationship to human behavior. Criminology refers to the scientific study of criminal behavior (delinquency) and crime- through a review of causation, prevention, and correction- while relying on principles (rules) in the area of sociology and other relevant fields such as psychology, and philosophy, and economics (Tibbetts, 2018). The Rational-Choice theory emerges from the essential doctrines (tenets) of classical criminology that postulate that individuals freely decide (choose) on their character and behavior, and they derive motivation through avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure (Rutar, 2019). By integrating a utilitarian concept, the Rational-Choice theory then proposes that crime is principally a matter of individual choice and an outcome (result) of personal decision-making activities- or processes (Tibbetts, 2018). Therefore, the theory provides that people are responsible for their choices; hence, persons who offend the law should carry the blame for miscreant behavior- criminality.

Application of the Theory to the Film- Win It All (2017)

Brief Synopsis

The film- Win It All (2017), is a premier gambling-comedy Netflix film produced by Swanberg Joe and Johnson Jake in 2017. The film features the story of a desperate and voracious gambler- Edie-Garrett, who wallows into the murky waters of gambling and lavish lifestyle (Swanberg & Johnson, 2017). The main character in the film pursues two ambitious but demanding goals; securing a big win at the poker table and relentlessly pursuing his dream-girl, potential lover.


The foundations of the Rational-Choice theory profoundly relate to the life’s choices made by Eddie Garrett in his quest for wealth-making through gambling and the desire to have a beautiful companion- a girl. Eddie feels that it is alright for him to use all his money to gamble his way out of nothingness to stardom and riches (Tibbetts, 2018). The basic premise of the Rational-Choice theory states that human behavior is motivated by rewards or benefits. In this regard, Eddie's major motivational factor or reward is the big winner at the casino that will definitely multiply his returns (Swanberg & Johnson, 2017). The element of costs- assessment in the Rational-Choice theory is brought to light in the outcome of the decisions made by Eddie since it is evident that Eddie fails to capture either of the precious pursuits. 

Indeed, Eddie gets himself into huge debts as he gambles away his money while his dream woman is no longer within reach. Eddie makes poor choices- he serves at a parking lot and uses his dues to play poker-game at the casino, and he loses meticulously on all his bets, thus leaving him penniless. Later in the film- after discovering a stash of cash left under his custody by a friend, Michael- involved in crime-Eddie uses the money to gamble at the nearby casino as he pursues the jackpot win (Swanberg & Johnson, 2017). Truly, as one of the doctrines in the Rational-Choice theory postulates- individuals (rational actors such as Eddie) are solely responsible for the outcome of their decisions since they have the liberty to undertake cost-and-benefit analysis on the choices they make (Tibbetts, 2018). The movie illustrates the theory.

Essentially, the movie exposes the soft underbelly under which gamblers in the casino operate since they end up losing their hard-earned money in the desperate attempts to become overnight millionaires; hence, illustrating the workings of the Rational-Choice theory (Tibbetts, 2018). Such is the life exemplified by bad choices (decisions) made by Eddie-Garrett in his gambling lifestyle (Swanberg & Johnson, 2017). Thus, the reward (benefit) that Eddie derives from his gambling role falls below the cost implied in the losses- the audience witnesses as Eddie gambles a whopping 10,000 obtained from his friend Mike.


The in-depth review and analysis of the application of the Rational-Choice theory as featured in the Netflix-based film Win It All (2017) has been effective in the discussion. Certainly, through the bad decisions and choices made Eddie Garrett- the main character-, the elements of the Rational-Choice theory are demonstrated in the outcome of Eddie’s activities at the casino. The losses suffered by Eddie represent the cost factor, while the desire to make an incredible sum from the big jackpot wins at the casino illustrate the rewards factor in the Rational-Choice theory as applied in the 2017 film Win It All.



Juraev, J. (2018). Rational choice theory and demand for petty corruption. Journal of eastern European and Central Asian research5(2).

Rutar, T. (2019). For an integrative theory of social behaviour: Theorising with and beyond rational choice theory. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour49(3), 298-311.

Swanberg J. & Johnson J. (2017). Win It All. Netflix Film.

Tibbetts, S. G. (2018). Criminological theory: The essentials. Sage Publications.

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