Hollywood’s fascination with the casino scene goes back many years. The real-deal appeal of Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Monte Carlo is legendary; actors have graced the stage, with award-winning performances on the silver screen with casino-themed movies of note. The list of spectacular performances runs the full gamut, including legendary titles such as the Cincinnati Kid, The Cooler, The Hangover, Ocean’s 13, Casino, Mississippi Grind, Casino Royale Rounders, Croupier, Rain Main, The Gambler and even 21. Over the years, producers and directors have focused on a veritable glut of fabulous casino-themed flicks. Without further ado, let’s jump into the thick of it with a quick synopsis of these highly-rated casino flicks.
The Cincinnati Kid – directed by Norman Jewison in 1965
The Cincinnati Kid is a poignant drama starring Edward G. Robinson and the inimitable Steve McQueen. Set during Franklin D Roosevelt’s first term, the story tracks The Kid a.k.a. Eric Stoner, a card player who seeks to dethrone Lancey Howard a.k.a. the man. However, it proves to be an insuperable challenge getting The Kid and The Man to meet until a crafty gambler by the name of Slade sets things up. Most everybody agrees – Steve McQueen and Edward G. Robinson were in top form as razor-sharp card players seeking to gain the advantage in this battle royale for poker supremacy.
The Cooler – directed by Wayne Kramer in 2003
The cooler is a drama/romance story which is set in an archetypal Las Vegas casino. The film garnered extremely positive ratings for its dramatic acting performances, and stars the talented William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, and Maria Bello. Such was its masterclass, that it was even nominated for an Oscar, and collected 9 wins and 25 nominations from film ratings academies across the board. The Cooler is gambling parlance for a player who puts a damper on another player’s lucky streak. In this case, the unluckiest of all players – William H. Macy plays a character known as Bernie Lootz. He is the best possible asset for the casino. Without revealing too much, The Cooler delivers on expectations in a big way.
The Hangover – directed by Todd Phillips in 2009
It’s near impossible to speak about casino-themed movies without at least paying homage to The Hangover. This outlandish, extraordinary, and side-splitting comedy shattered box office records at the time, and remains one of the most referenced Crazy Vegas stories of all time. The Hangover stars the unbridled talents of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Heather Graham, Ken Jeong, and Mike Tyson. This story is more outlandish and bizarre than this quick synopsis could possibly explain. Suffice it to say, The Hangover is truly epic comedy from Tinseltown’s brightest minds and best talents.
Ocean’s 13 – directed by Steven Soderbergh in 2007
The Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13 movies were so utterly engaging that they amassed hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide. The unbridled blockbuster appeal of the Ocean’s movies was evident in the stellar cast that took on these roles, including the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould, Al Pacino, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac, and Carl Reiner. A-grade casts like that are hard to come by, and Ocean’s 13 was certainly a major step up in the series. This casino-themed movie tracks the ongoing life and career of Danny Ocean. A new casino is being built, and the team wants one last job as revenge for what happens to a dear friend. This heist is not for the money – it is personal. The mass winnings scene in Ocean’s 13 is worthy of mention – the ensemble cast shows just how talented they are when Bernie Mac the dealer and other roulette dealers get the players fired up for the ultimate roulette diversion in the casino. The Ocean’s 13 crew devise an ingenious power down that sees the slots games, (if you would like to take part in the action try online slots available online at slotheaven.com in New Zealand) blackjack games, and baccarat games behaving utterly bizarrely, allowing the team to score huge wins in the process. A magnetron-style device causes the casino’s servers to shut down and reboot. That is when all hell breaks loose for 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Just enough time to make the biggest cheating bets imaginable. What a score for the Ocean’s 13 team!
Casino – directed by Martin Scorsese in 1995
Casino is arguably the #1 best casino-themed movie of them all. It is rich with character development, including the larger-than-life method acting of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. Based on the award-winning book by Nicholas Pileggi, Casino tells the incredible story of mob-run Vegas through the years. The notorious Sam Rothstein played by Robert De Niro attempts to run a gambling empire, balancing the interests of management and the mob in a gritty, violent, and utterly captivating storyline. The name of the casino is the Tangiers, and the film features the stunning Sharon Stone as Ginger – Sam’s love interest. James Woods makes an excellent impression on audiences, and the film scores top marks to anyone interested in the mob scene running Vegas out of Chicago. There’s plenty of casino-themed fun in this one, whether it’s dice, card games, or roulette, and old school Vegas justice reigns supreme.
Mississippi Grind – directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden in 2015
Mississippi Grind tells the story of Gerry played by Ben Mendelsohn who is down on his luck. However, as fate would have it, Gerry teams up with another suave and sophisticated gambler known as Curtis played by Ryan Reynolds. These two gamblers are intent on recuperating their losses, and play monster pots on the card games table games they drop anchor at. The film goes to great pains to underscore the problem gambling culture that is pervasive around the world. The angst, despair, and elation that the players writhe through is palpable and emotionally jarring. Overall, it’s a tale of woe, but one that is expertly crafted and deserving of a watch.
Casino Royale – directed by Martin Campbell in 2006
Just when James Bond was starting to lose his appeal as an action star, Casino Royale shattered expectations. Bond is back, played by Daniel Craig, as a hard, gritty, and unrelenting force on the scene. He is ably supported by the likes of Mads Mickelson as Le Chiffre, and Eva Green as Vesper Lynd. While the current generation of younger moviegoers have likely not had the pleasure of seeing Casino Royale, it is unparalleled in terms of its sublime filmmaking, incredible storyline, and fantastic action sequences. On his very first mission as a 00, James Bond is ready to take on the world, starting with the #1 terrorist, Le Chiffre at a high-stakes game of poker. During the opening scene, which lasts for an interminable amount of time, Bond is taken to task in a high-stakes game of poker. Thanks largely to his 6 of spades and 8 of spades, Bond forms an open-ended Straight Flush Draw, meaning that the 4 & 9 of spades will give him an unbeatable poker hand in the tournament.
There you have it folks! The greatest casino-themed movies of all time. Of course, there are many other great casino movies to see such as The Gambler starring Mark Wahlberg, Rain Man starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, Croupier starring Clive Owen, and Rounders starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Enjoy the fun and games with these flicks!