The intoxicating glamour and allure of casinos makes them the perfect setting for some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. With the glitz of high rollers, casinos offer an ideal blend of action, adventure and thrills. Want to swot up on the most iconic casino movies out there? We take a look at 10 of the best.
Based on the true story of Frank Rosenthal and directed by Hollywood heavyweight Martin Scorsese, Casino offers the archetype of the glamorous lifestyle at the felt in this legendary 1995 movie. Known as one of the finest gaming films ever made, Casino tells the true story of two lifelong friends who create their own gambling empire. The actors were trained by real-life parolees and FBI agents to prepare them for their roles and the costume budget was over $1million!
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
George Clooney heads up a stellar cast in this fast remake of the 1960 Rat Pack heist caper, which tells the story of the biggest heist in history. Also starring Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, the cast liked to play cards with each other while off set, with Brad Pitt tending to take the winnings. Though it has since spawned a whole host of sequels, the original Ocean’s Eleven still reigns supreme (though don’t ask George Clooney to corroborate that!)
Another epic casino film starring Matt Damon, who portrays a gifted poker player and law student dreaming of playing in the World Series Poker. Also starring Edward Norton and with an unforgettable cameo by John Malkovich, this movie is single-handedly credited with spawning the Poker Boom in the early 2000s which catapulted the game into the mainstream. Many fans have commented on the accurate portrayal of the adrenaline rush of playing poker.
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)
Based on the true story of real life high roller Stu “The Kid” Ungar, this film charts the rise and fall of one of the most gifted poker stars in history. Michael Imperioli delivers an engaging and convincing performance as Stu Ungar, capturing the essence of a life spent at the felt. Though the movie did not have a large budget and subsequently received mixed reactions on its release, it is regarded as a great portrayal of a man who was faster and larger than life.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Taken from the cult novel of the same name, Fear and Loathing is a psychedelic roller-coaster ride through Las Vegas, as seen through the eyes of Hunter S. Thompson (played by Johnny Depp). The film was released in 1998 and features cameos from Hunter S.Thompson and director Terry Gilliam who had taken over from Alex Cox (Sid and Nancy (1986)) due to creative differences. The casino scene was allegedly inspired by the Circus Circus Casino.
Run Lola Run (1998)
Ok, perhaps not a casino film as such – but the roulette scene in this offbeat German movie is iconic in its own right! Given 20 minutes to save her boyfriend, eponymous heroine Lola has to raise 100,00 Deutsche Mark as fast as she can. Good job she had a mastery of the not-so-obvious rules for roulette! Featuring allusions to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, there are also several references to German culture throughout the film.
This movie follows the saga of talented MIT students who continually make big wins at Las Vegas. Inspired by the book Bringing Down the House, which tells the true story of 6 students playing big in Vegas, 21 stars Kevin Spacey as Professor Mickey Rosa. Prepare yourself from some truly exhilarating casino scenes and a dependably solid performance by all the cast.
Rain Man (1998)
Tom Cruise depicts a selfish, narcissistic businessman who spots a business opportunity when he meets his autistic brother (Dustin Hoffman) for the first time. Dustin Hoffman is incredibly loveable in this epic portrayal of family bonds and the casino scenes are particularly unforgettable as they cement the assumption that only geniuses can count cards. Both Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro turned down the part of savant Raymond, despite this, the movie went on to become one of the most successful comedy-dramas of all time.
A 90s classic, Maverick stars Mel Gibson as a poker player trying to get his hands on the money needed to buy in to an upcoming poker tournament. The highest grossing western film since 1979, the movie showcases the life of a traveling card shark in the 19th Century and his attempts to take part in the biggest poker showdown of his life. Based on a television show of the same name, Maverick made $183million at the box office.
Following the story of struggling writer (Clive Owen) who lands a job as a croupier, this film takes a look at the spectacular highs and bad beats associated with the casino lifestyle. Shot in a film noir style, Croupier is one of the most underrated films of its genre; a rare combination of both intelligent scripting and engrossing storytelling. If this one isn’t on your bucket list already, you’re in for a treat!
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