As the title suggests, this is a list with my favorite casino movies. My choosing criteria is based on movies where the main characters gamble, even if the action doesn’t always happen in Las Vegas. I hope you will like what I wrote and the movies as well.
21 – first of the casino movies on the list
21 is one of my favorite casino movies ever produced. It is about mathematics and calculus more than gambling per se. It is a movie about winning with your brain and beating the ruthless Las Vegas casinos with their own rules. They will rarely let you win, they are always the winners. Using your head you can also play from the cosines of your home, without the danger of being punched by a security casino thug.
Directed by Robert Luketic, it is written by Peter Steinfeld and Allan Loeb, based on the novel “Taking Down the House” written by Ben Mezrich. It stars Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey.
Rounders is a Texas Hold’em movie with the perspective of playing poker in Las Vegas at the World Poker Championship. It is a lesson on how to calculate and estimate when you also have a hunch at what you’re doing, but it is more about the curse than about the joy of winning. Anyway, the character played by Matt Damon finds his fulfilment more in poker playing than graduating from Law School or living in peace love life with his future lawyer colleague (Gretchen Mol). A “rounder” is a high stakes seeker.
Directed by John Dahl and written by David Levien with Brian Koppelman, it stars Matt Damon, Edward Norton, John Turturro, Gretchen Mol, Famke Janssen, John Malkovich and Martin Landau.
Casino Royale 2006
Casino Royale has “casino” in its title but it is a total James Bond action spy movie. It is loosely based on the first ever published Ian Fleming novel and also the first Daniel Craig chapter in the franchise. Instead of playing Baccarat as in the novel, they play Texas Hold’em poker. Bond (Craig) wins with a spectacular hand, crushing his opponents, with no less than spectacular ones.
Directed by Martin Campbell and written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, it stars Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Simon Abkarian and others of the same caliber.
Revolver – 2005
This movie is about revenge in winning. A trickster found an universal gambling formula allowing him to win every game in any situation. This is based on chess rules learned in prison from “professional” players, but with a daring price.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, it stars Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore and André Benjamin. It is written by Ritchie together with Luc Besson.
The Cooler – 2003
Being classified as a romantic drama, this movie is about a very unlucky guy, professionally spreading his shady aura on the other gamblers in a Las Vegas casino. Where he sits, all the others around him lose at whatever they play (21, roulette, baccarat, poker). He also knows how to play, but he’s cured. He finds love and goes further. He changes his own luck and of course, that’s showing around him too. The casino starts to lose money and things become complicated.
Starring William H. Macy, Alec Baldwin, Maria Bello and Ron Livingston, it is directed by Wayne Kramer and written by Kramer with Frank Hannah.
Hard Eight – 1996
This is a real Las Vegas casino movie. It was originally named “Sydney”, after the main character played by Philip Baker Hall. Beside him, it stars John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Melora Walters. One can learn a lot to survive in a casino, but you have to know the trade as well.
It was written and directed by the twisted Paul Thomas Anderson.
Croupier – 1998
This is a movie about an aspiring writer who is very good at gambling but he needs money, so he went to work as a croupier in a British casino. The croupier is admirably played by Clive Owen.
Directed by Mike Hodges and written by Paul Mayersberg.
Casino – 1995
I left the famous Martin Scorsese’s Casino at the end of this list, because it is the movie closest to my original idea. You can experience the gambling thrill from home without exposing yourself to all the cheating characters lurking in a real-life casino. This movie is about a man overseeing the casino’s day to day operations. One needs to know how to play and when to stop.
Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, this casino movie is directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Nicholas Pileggi (with Martin Scorsese).
You will find some more lists like this with titles more or less like this one. You will find as casino movies the Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen trilogy, which are heist movies, less about gambling than about the brain and acting talent one team needs to rob casinos.
I hope by watching these movies you’ll be wiser in your gambling. Usually you are sharing the same odds with all the others.
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