Nothing quite emulates a game of poker or blackjack quite like a Hollywood movie. In fact, for many people, the desire to gamble is driven by the razzle dazzle, adrenaline-filled casino atmosphere they have observed for several years on screen.
Our minds are aroused by the whole atmosphere before we even get within a couple of feet of a real life casino. Having witnessed the excitement and thrill of a gambling experience on TV for so many years, many of us are hungry to experience the real deal.
So which movies are driving us to crave the thrilling gambling experiences we have watched for so many years? We explore the greatest gambling movies of all time.
Without a doubt, at the top of the list of the greatest gambling movies of all time is the very aptly named Casino. The 1995 Martin Scorsese directed crime drama stars none other than Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone. The film is based on a non-fictional book of the same name and is based around the activities of top gambling handicapper Sam “Ace” Rothstein, who is hired by the Italian Mob to manage the day-to-day operations of a top (fictional) Las Vegas casino. Rothstein takes advantage of lax gaming laws and doubles the casino’s profits before run-ins with tax agents and other mob “personnel” take their toll. It is a great story with lots of twists and turns…and of course lots of gambling footage!
The movie was Scorsese’s eighth with Di Niro, and certainly followed in the same vein as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, gaining huge critical acclaim and making $116 million worldwide. Sharon Stone was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe for her role as Ginger McKenna .
Ocean’s Eleven brought the movies back to Vegas and helped excite a generation of gamblers to hit the roulette tables both online and off.
Starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon, amongst a plethora of other a-list names, it follows Danny Ocean’s attempts to rob the Bellagio and make away with $150 million. Of course that involves a woman, and not only does he attempt to steal the millions but also the heart of Tess, played by Julia Roberts.
It’s excitement from start to finish and typifies everything about Las Vegas. There’s drama, thrills, a lot of fun, and a plot like no other. It made the Fountains of Bellagio infamous, and certainly brought the cool back to casino.
Rounders is a real “cult” film, only really gaining popularity long after its release. Released in 1998, this captivating drama brings you behind the scenes of the underground world of high-stakes poker. It follows two friends who need to turn to playing poker to pay off a large debt. “Rounder” is the term used to describe a person who travels around from place to place seeking high-stakes cash poker games, and this is exactly what the characters played by Edward Norton and Matt Damon set out to do. Of course, it doesn’t go as smoothly as they would hope!
For years fans have been after a Rounders 2 with Edward Norton in only December stating that it could happen, and IMDB still saying a film is in development. It’s certainly something we’d love to see, particularly if the all-star cast, which includes John Malkovich and John Turturro, was to return in full once more.
When an up-and-coming writer is hired as a croupier (the casino dealer who conducts a game), he decides that the lifestyle of a croupier would make for the subject of a stunning novel. In order to really get under the skin of the role of a casino croupier, he befriends other croupiers – something which is highly frowned upon. Soon he finds himself drawn right into the casino world and at the center of some corrupt behavior. Croupier gave Clive Owen his major breakthrough in the U.S. and received excellent critic reviews.
It’s often overlooked as one of the best British films of all time, despite a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Peter Travers of Rolling Stone describing it as ‘taut, tense and enthralling.’
The 21st film in the James Bond Series, Casino Royale was the first to star Daniel Crag in the lead role. When terrorist financier Le Chiffre, sets up a high-stake Texas Hold’em poker tournament at the Casino Royale in Montenegro, MI6 enters James Bond into the tournament, hoping that a defeat would force a virtually bankrupt Le Chiffre into co-operating with them. We won’t reveal the outcome of the game but let’s just say a thrilling action sequence ensues!
The film resurrected the Bond franchise and took it in a more action-packed direction with the brawn of Craig a far cry from the smoothness of Connery, or charm of Brosnan. Instead he became a cold, ruthless killer, and that’s just on the poker table.
Another gambling film which initially received mixed reviews but has since gone on to become quite the “cult” film is 21. Ben Campbell (played by Jim Sturgess) is a student who needs to make some quick bucks to pay his college tuition fees. He and a group of fellow students, under the leadership of Professor Mickey Rosa (played by Kevin Spacey), use their brilliant math skills to seal a big win in Las Vegas casinos. However all is not so sweet when they have to face a casino enforcer played by Laurence Fishburne.
Based on the infamous math students of the MIT Blackjack Team, the film showcases the Las Vegas lifestyle and certainly defines the ‘what happens in Vegas’ way.
This 1998 crime thriller focuses on Sydney, a veteran gambler in his sixties who still spends his time at the casinos. When he meets John, a man down on his luck having lost all of his money, he decides to help him by becoming a kind of “mentor.” He takes him to Reno and teaches him all the tricks of the trade when it comes to being a seasoned, successful professional gambler. However, the world of small-time professional gambling is not without its misfortunes and John’s life is soon turned upside down.
An all-star cast takes on Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature, with Samuel L. Jackson, Philip Baker Hall, and John C. Reilly all dazzling, with the latter going on to star in Anderson’s classics Boogie Nights and Magnolia.
Revolver isn’t exactly the finest Guy Ritchie movie of all time, but it certainly stands out when it comes to gambling films. Starring Jason Statham as Jake Green, a card player with quite the reputation, the film delves into the underworld with Dorothy Macha, a gang boss played by Ray Liotta, hiring Jake to play for him.
As you’d expect with a Ritchie film, twists, turns, and plenty of gunfire follows, ending with Statham having to spend time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Revenge is in the cards and Green, along with Avi, played by Andre Benjamin, set up the ultimate con to get back at Macha.
If you’re a Guy Ritchie or Jason Statham fan, you know what you’re getting, and it’s certainly one that ticks all the boxes you’d expect with from the pair.
Rain Man is comfortably one of the best films of all time, starring two men who are modern day legends of the silver screen. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman teamed up for this 1988 classic, winning four Oscars in a sophisticated and thrilling movie.
The film sees Charlie Babbitt (Cruise) discover his estranged father has died, leading him to his long-lost older brother, Raymond, who has autism. Ray, played by Hoffman, is a math wizard and when it comes to probabilities is truly excellent. This comes in handy when they head to Las Vegas, as most casino games require logical thought that is often unintuitive to the average player. For example, people love to talk at the roulette table about ‘Hot’ and ‘Cold’ numbers (those drawn frequently and infrequently, respectively), but few realize that these numbers have no significance on the outcome of the next spin. When Charlie discovers his brother’s talents for logical thinking at the blackjack tables, he uses it to his personal advantage.
The film is much more than a gambling movie however, and takes us on a journey through their emotions as they develop a brotherly bond.
The Cincinnati Kid
This gambling film dates back to 1965. The Cincinnati Kid focuses on a rising poker star who tries to establish his name and prove himself as an up-and-coming poker player. To do so, he agrees to partake in a high stakes match against one of the all-time poker greats in the business. This film is a true classic and a must-watch for any poker fans.
Steve McQueen is perhaps the coolest man with the cards out of all these movies, and it showcases one of the most thrilling rivalries in film between McQueen and Edward G. Robinson as Lancey Howard, the old hand and long-time master of poker.
Bugsy Siegel is one of the most interesting men in Las Vegas history. In fact, if it wasn’t for him, the Strip probably wouldn’t look like it does. He was one of the first gangsters to land in Sin City and alongside Meyer Lansky opened the Flamingo Hotel – the first on the Strip.
This 1991 classic tells the story of how Siegel left New York for Vegas, how he became incredibly famous, befriending the likes of Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and Frank Sinatra. Las Vegas was ultimately his demise, as he was shot at his home less than a year after the Flamingo opened.
Warren Beatty heads up the cast as Bugsy, with Sir Ben Kingsley as Meyer Lansky. The film came following over a decade of Beatty wanting to shoot a movie about the legendary gangster.
It earned huge critical acclaim, with eight Golden Globe and 11 Oscar nominations, and is a must-watch for anyone with an interest in the entertainment capital of the world.