Casinos have been the backdrop for scores of movies featuring gambling over the years. From A-list heavy blockbusters like Ocean’s Eleven and The Sting, to independent features like Croupier and Rounders, cinema and the casino have been productive bedfellows. Okay, now dim the lights, open the curtains, grab that popcorn. The trailers are over and the main feature is about to begin. Are you sitting comfortably? Here is our top ten list of the greatest casino movies ever!
10. Rain Man
Barry Levinson’s remarkable film about the Babbitt brothers won five Academy Awards when it was released in 1988, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. It tells the story of Charlie Babbitt (Cruise), a selfish and abrasive young man who discovers he has an older autistic brother named Raymond (Hoffman) after their father’s death. Seeking to gain access to his father’s inheritance, Charlie kidnaps Raymond from the institution where he lives and takes him on a road trip across the country. As the two brothers bond over their shared experiences and Raymond’s extraordinary abilities with numbers, Charlie begins to re-evaluate his priorities and learns to love and appreciate his brother for who he is.
- Directed by: Barry Levinson
- Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%
- Quote: “A journey through understanding and fellowship.”
9. The Sting
The Sting is another multi-Academy Award winning film (bagging seven Oscars in total) that follows the story of two professional grifters, Johnny Hooker (Robert Redford) and Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman). The pair concoct an elaborate scheme to avenge the murder of their mutual friend by a powerful gangster. Their convoluted plan involves creating a fake horse racing betting parlour in order to swindle the mob boss, with twists and turns aplenty along the way.
- Directed by: George Roy Hill
- Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
- Quote: “All it takes is a little Confidence.”
8. The Cincinnati Kid
Steve McQueen is at his most watchable in this classic story of a young gambler, Eric ‘The Kid’ Stoner, a talented young poker player who aspires to be the best. He gets his chance when he is challenged by the legendary poker player Lancey Howard (Edward G. Robinson) to a high-stakes game. Along the way, he falls in love with a lounge singer (Ann-Margret) and has to navigate the dangerous world of gambling and the shady characters that inhabit it. Directed by Norman Jewison, the movie is widely regarded as a classic in the gambling movie genre.
- Directed by: Norman Jewison
- Stars: Steve McQueen, Edward G Robinson, Ann-Margret
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%
- Quote: “His luck is a temptation to every woman.”
21 is based on Ben Mezrich’s 2003 book, Bringing Down The House, about a group of MIT students who used their math skills to try and card count their way to a fortune in Las Vegas. The 2008 movie follows Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess), a brilliant student who is recruited by a charismatic professor (Kevin Spacey) to join the team. As they become more successful, the stakes get higher and the risks greater, leading to conflicts and betrayals.
- Directed by: Robert Luketic
- Stars: Jim Sturgess, Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 36%
- Quote: “In Vegas, you can become anyone you want.”
Considered by Poker players to be the best film ever made about the game, Rounders is a 1998 American drama film that follows the story of Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), a law student and aspiring poker player who must balance his passion for the game with his responsibilities to his girlfriend (Gretchen Mol) and his best friend (Edward Norton), a reformed gambler with a debt to a Russian mobster. Mike’s chance to make it big comes when he faces off against Teddy KGB (John Malkovich), a legendary player with a reputation for being unbeatable. Directed by John Dahl, the movie has become a cult classic and is known for its accurate portrayal of the underground poker world.
- Directed by: John Dahl
- Stars: Matt Damon, Edward Norton
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
- Quote: “You’ve got to play the hand you’re dealt.”
5. Casino Royale
No top ten of casino movies can be complete without at least one James Bond film. Released in 2006, Casino Royale was Daniel Craig’s first appearance as Bond and arguably his best. The movie follows Bond as he earns his license to kill and is tasked with taking down a financier of international terrorism in a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. Along the way, he falls in love with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a treasury agent who is sent to provide the money for the game. Directed by Martin Campbell, the movie is known for its intense action sequences and stunning cinematography. In the book, a game of baccarat between Bond and Le Chiffre sorts the boys out from the men, while in the film, Texas Hold’em is the game with license to thrill.
- Directed by: Martin Campbell
- Stars: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
- Quote: “Everyone has a past. Every legend has a beginning.”
4. Ocean’s Eleven
Ably directed by Steven Soderbergh, this fast-paced heist film follows the story of Danny Ocean (Clooney), a recently paroled ex-convict who plans to rob three Las Vegas casinos at the same time. To do this, he assembles a team of eleven skilled criminals, each with their own expertise, including Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), and Frank Catton (Bernie Mac). Their plan involves complex and elaborate schemes to bypass the casinos’ high-tech security systems, and they must overcome obstacles and setbacks along the way.
- Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
- Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
- Quote: “Nobody else would have dared it because nobody else would have the nerve.”
3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Who better to take on the classic Hunter S Thompson novel of excess, psychedelic drugs, and a trip to Las Vegas than film-maker Terry Gilliam? We follow journalist Raoul Duke (Depp) – a thinly-veiled portrait of the artist – and his attorney Doctor Gonzo as they travel to Vegas in 1971 to cover a motorcycle race. Along the way the pair ingest epic amounts of drugs and come across a cast of bizarre characters. The further they descend into their drug-induced haze, the more surreal and nightmarish their journey becomes.
- Directed by: Terry Gilliam
- Stars: Johnny Depp, Benecio del Toro
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
- Quote: “Buy the ticket. Take the ride.”
The movie that launched Clive Owens’ Hollywood career sees him playing Jack Manfred, a struggling writer who takes a job as a croupier at a London casino to make ends meet. Although initially detached from his surroundings, Jack becomes drawn into the world of gambling and the casino’s rather shady operations, and also gets involved in a love triangle. As Jack becomes more and more embroiled in the murky waters of the casino his life starts to come apart at the scene, leading to a conclusion that most viewers will not have seen coming.
- Directed by: Mike Hodges
- Stars: Clive Owen
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%
- Quote: “Life’s a gamble.”
“Casino” is a 1995 American crime drama directed by Martin Scorsese, which tells the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a gambling expert who is chosen by the mafia to run the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas. With his childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Pesci) as his enforcer, Sam successfully manages the casino, but trouble arises when his wife Ginger (Sharon Stone) starts cheating on him and his own gambling addiction spirals out of control. As tensions rise between the casino and the mob, and the FBI starts investigating their activities, Sam and Nicky’s relationship deteriorates and turns into a combustible rivalry.
- Directed by: Martin Scorsese
- Stars: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone
- Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%
- Quote: “No one stays at the top forever.”