8 Great Casino Movies To Check Out
There’s nothing that carries an air of glamour and mystery in cinema quite like the casino. Placing bets and watching the dice fall where they will is always an intriguing and attractive prospect, especially if you’re watching a suave, slick protagonist game against a dastardly villain. While it’s true that many casino movies aren’t quite the heroic tales that others are, there’s no denying that these movies have an enduring appeal.
With coronavirus lockdown in effect around the world, there has never been a better time to hunker down and check out these casino movies. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even try a little flutter yourself. The Casimba online casino UK-based readers have access to is probably the best option if you’re looking to do so, but there are others, too. If you’re not feeling up to it, luckily, there are still a whole lot of great casino-based movies to check out. Here are 8 of the best ones.
Casino Royale (dir. Martin Campbell, 2006)
Daniel Craig’s first outing as superspy James Bond carries with it a definite air of “how can we respond to Bourne?”. Matt Damon’s spy thrillers had a gritty realism about them that Bond had never favoured, so Martin Campbell’s 2006 outing decided to add a little more spice to the mix. What followed was easily the best Bond outing in twenty-five years and arguably one of the best ever. Craig is a revelation as Bond, but it’s Mads Mikkelsen who steals the show as his slick, psychotic opponent Le Chiffre.
Ocean’s Eleven (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
Stylish, slick, and endlessly watchable, Ocean’s Eleven is a hit parade for the most bankable stars on the planet at the time of its creation. George Clooney’s Danny Ocean is looking to rob three Las Vegas casinos, so he puts together a team of experts to help him do it. Soderbergh’s penchant for snapping briefcases and locking mechanisms gives a sing-song rhythm to Ocean’s Eleven, but it’s also a darn fine heist movie in and of itself.
Casino (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1996)
Casino isn’t often remembered as one of Scorsese’s best, but that’s only because he’s had such a stellar career. It’s still an excellent movie, with lead actor Robert de Niro in fine form playing against Joe Pesci. Scorsese’s visuals pop and fizzle, but the dark heart of Vegas is fully on display here, creating a juxtaposition between the exciting cinematography and the bleak narrative. If you want to see de Niro and Pesci go head-to-head in the acting stakes, this is where to do it.
Leaving Las Vegas (dir. Mike Figgis, 1995)
While not strictly speaking a casino movie, Leaving Las Vegas does take place in the titular town of glitz and glamour, so we’re counting it. Nicolas Cage is brilliant (and that’s not a sentence we get to say often) in this cautionary tale of a screenwriter who decides that Vegas is the perfect place to go to drink himself under the table. There, he meets Elisabeth Shue’s Sera, a prostitute who may finally be his shot at redemption. It’s a brutal, wonderful story that still holds up today.
The Cincinnati Kid (dir. Norman Jewison, 1965)
Eric “The Kid” Stoner is a poker player looking to prove that he’s the best at what he does. Lancey Howard is his rival, an old hand with skills to spare. Steve McQueen and Edward G. Robinson are electrifying in this movie; it can take quite a lot to make on-screen poker exciting from a narrative perspective, but obviously McQueen and Robinson have what it takes. The Cincinnati Kid’s far more well-remembered cousin may be The Hustler, but Kid is still a very, very fine casino picture in and of itself.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (dir. Terry Gilliam, 1998)
Gilliam is best-remembered for head-trip movies like Twelve Monkeys and Brazil, but he’s also a master of dark satire, making him the perfect match for Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo opus. Again, this isn’t strictly-speaking a casino movie, although Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo do touch down at one during the events of the movie. Still, it’s a rollicking odyssey through the dark side of bizarro America, with leads Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro on fine form.
The Hangover (dir. Todd Phillips, 2009)
While the next two Hangover movies would sully the legacy of the first to some degree, Phillips’ screwball ode to guy culture is still eminently watchable today. Bradley Cooper and his troupe of misfits make their way through Las Vegas fueled by a cocktail of testosterone and alcohol, with the results ending up pretty much exactly as you’d expect. You should definitely stay away from Parts 2 and 3 of this trilogy, but the first hasn’t lost its lustre.
Rounders (dir. John Dahl, 1998)
Matt Damon’s abilities as an actor have been vastly understated by the media, and nowhere is this more evident than in John Dahl’s Rounders. Damon plays Mike McDermott, a man who vows to help his friend escape from debt by doing what he’s best at: playing poker. Damon is excellent, and Dahl’s direction shows both his acting range and the amount of drama that can be extracted from a good poker game. Essential viewing for casino fans.