The movie industry has long been fascinated by the gambling world, and it’s easy to see why; the glitzy glamour of big-time casinos and the dark, seedy atmosphere of secretive poker dens provide enthralling backdrops to the highs and lows of a gambler’s life.
Iconic games such as poker, blackjack and roulette build tension and suspense, and the buzz and spin of slots and jackpots keep up the pace as protagonists head towards fabulous fortune or deplorable downfall. Read more about online gambling here.
Here is our list of casino movies that we think are winners if you’re looking for a generous return on your stake.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
George Clooney stars as Danny Ocean in a casino heist movie based on the 1960 Rat Pack comedy of the same name. The film portrays the whimsical glamour of Vegas – think glitz not grit – as eleven experienced criminals plan an ambitious heist to loot 150 million dollars from three Las Vegas casinos.
It’s worth watching for the famous poker scene where Clooney’s character is revealed to be in cahoots with Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) as they scam the other players present.
Here we encounter the dark side of gambling, as we are drawn into the seedy world of London’s hidden card rooms. This neo-noir film is shown from the perspective of Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) – a professional dealer looking for inspiration for his novel.
As he delves further into a murky underworld, Jack finds himself embroiled in a labyrinth of corruption and sleaze. Intelligent and surprising, the film ends with a twist that few will see coming.
The Cooler (2003)
In this romantic drama, William H. Macy plays Bernie Lootz, a magnet for bad luck in debt to the Shangri-La Casino. He begins to pay off his debt by working as a ‘cooler’ – he plays next to high-stakes players in the hope of spreading his misfortune around to stop big wins.
However, Lady Luck enters Lootz’s life in the form of cocktail waitress Natalie Belisario (Mario Bello), and his fortune begins to change. Things get nasty when mafia boss Shelley Kaplow (Alec Baldwin) tries to ruin the romance.
Casino Royale (2006)
A James Bond spy film, Casino Royale is set in the captivating, opulent world of criminal masterminds and high-rolling casino aficionados. Agent 007 (Daniel Craig) is on the tail of Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelson) – a banker to terrorists who’s hatched an evil plot around a poker game at Casino Royale in Montenegro.
Bond and Le Chiffre face each other over the card table, and the high-stakes game has fortune switching sides more than once.
Bugsy is a sprawling crime drama that tells the story of real-life gangster Bugsy Siegel (Warren Beatty) and his mistress Virginia Hill (Annette Benning). What we now know as the Las Vegas Strip arose out of Bugsy’s exploits and ambition, and his obsession with creating a gamblers’ getaway.
Inspired by a run-down casino in the Las Vegas desert, mobster Bugsy began to build his dreams with the construction of the Flamingo Hotel. Troubled and dangerous encounters were everywhere, but Bugsy’s vision eventually leads to the billion-dollar industry that is Las Vegas today.
A film operatic in its vision and its scope, Casino is Martin Scorsese’s dazzling depiction of the fall of the mob and the rise of new, corporation-built gambling houses that replaced the glamourous, old-school casinos of Vegas in its heyday.
Robert De Niro plays Sam “Ace” Rothstein, a low-level mobster based on Frank Rosenthal, who ran Vegas casinos in the 1970s and 80s. Ace is recruited by mafia bosses to run the Tangiers Casino in the early 70s, and De Niro’s narration tells how mobsters stole millions from Vegas as they controlled casinos before a dramatic downfall.
Poker takes centre stage in this movie that seems to celebrate compulsive gambling, no matter how destructive it becomes. Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott – a gambling addict who loses almost everything against Russian gangster Teddy (John Malkovich). Mike swears off gambling until his friend Lester Murphy (Edward Norton) is freed from prison and needs to earn cash to pay off a debt.
The friends team up in an attempt to win the money as the film takes us on a tour of high-stakes poker games in New York City’s underground card clubs. This is the dark and dangerous side of poker where players risk everything – and the onscreen poker games will have viewers on the edge of their seats.
So, there you have it – our seven-hand selection of casino-themed films that are a must for movie buffs and poker players alike. From lavish splendour in old-style casino halls to derelict dens in dingy digs, the onscreen world of gambling stories has enough range to satisfy fans of any genre.