The world of casinos and high-stakes gambling has long been a natural inspiration for Hollywood. After all, every table holds a multitude of stories, each one with great dramatic potential and emotional depth. Casino gaming has tension, narrative and consequences, as characters we love or hate stand to win or lose everything they have.
As well as the drama, casinos provide a glamorous backdrop of style, riches and beautiful people, a fantastic paradise with just the right amount of darkness and potential deceit to keep things interesting. In the movies, the world of organized crime is never far away, and that’s as it should be, as gangsters, ruthless criminals and audacious conmen have long provided the lifeblood of Hollywood storytelling. Here are six of the best casino movies out there.
Kevin Spacey stars as an MIT professor who trains his students in the art of card counting in order for them to win big at Blackjack and so pay off their tuition fees. Based on a true story, this film looks into the science and math of card games and features a number of different casino settings. Card counting won’t work online, but interested players can hone their skills at a number of casino websites UK and play for real money from the comfort of their own homes at any time of day or night.
This Martin Scorsese mobster movie is an all-time classic that focuses more on the machinations behind the scenes than the drama at the tables. A killer cast includes Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci and James Woods, in an epic account of Mafia involvement in the Las Vegas casino business during the 1970s. De Niro’s character is based on real-life casino executive Frank Rosenthal.
Casino Royale (2006)
Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond bought a new realism to the long-running franchise, and that was evident in the film’s tense and lengthy poker scenes. Craig plays a young Bond on his first mission as 007, taking on banker to the world’s terrorist organizations Le Chiffre, who is hoping to win back the vast amount of his client’s money he lost after Bond foiled one of his operations. The poker table at Montenegro’s Casino Royale is at the film’s heart throughout, making this a must-see film for poker enthusiasts.
Clive Owen stars as aspiring writer Jack Manfred who becomes interested in gambling after taking a job as a casino croupier. Searching for material for a novel, he becomes an ‘inside man’ for down-on-her-luck player Jani, and gets more than he bargained for.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
This remake has become better known and loved than the original, and has spawned two well-received sequels so far. George Clooney stars as ex-con Danny Ocean, putting together a crack team to exact revenge on the casinos that saw him incarcerated. This film captures all the glamour and style of the casino scene, and features three of Las Vegas’s most iconic gaming houses, even if the gang is out to rob them rather than win at the tables.
Real-life poker player Matt Damon appeared in Ocean’s Eleven as pickpocket Linus Caldwell, but he also starred in this earlier, less well-known film as a poker player desperate to win the money needed to pay off a debt to Russian gangster KGB (John Malkovich). Mike McDermott (Damon) and his pal Lester ‘Worm’ Murphy (Edward Norton) do the rounds of high-stake poker games from city to city, with just five days to pay off what they owe. The realism and tension of the poker matches have won this film a cult following among poker fans.
There’s no doubt that casinos will continue to be a popular setting for films, and the drama of gaming will continue to inspire great stories. Here’s betting there’ll be many more incredible casino movies to come.