The world of gambling is certainly intriguing. There’s plenty of glitz and glamour, life changing wins, and even a history of links to organised crime and the mafia! People have also been trying to beat the house, honestly or dishonestly, for as long as there have been casinos.
All of this makes for very compelling storylines, and the perfect fodder for a film script. Over the years, major casino destinations like Las Vegas and Atlantic City have been the inspiration for memorable movies, and gambling itself has always played a major role.
There are dozens of films that feature gambling, but we’ve rounded up our absolute favourites. If you’re feeling inspired after you’ve read through our list, you can also enjoy a super range of Canadian online slots at our casino. You’ll feel just like a film star, and you may well win big too!
The outlandishly fabulous life of the world’s favourite secret agent is the perfect setting for the mysteries, double deals and huge wealth that are associated with land-based casinos. Casino Royale was made in 2006 and was the first 007 movie to star Daniel Craig in the titular role. A 1967 release of the same name starred David Niven and Peter Sellers, and was actually a spoof on James Bond.
Making a serious Bond film with the same name was a clever tongue-in-cheek nod to the impact that the franchise has had on the film industry. With a storyline that focused on Bond’s origins as a spy, while earning his licence to kill, this was especially true. The plot centres on the agent’s assignment to bankrupt Le Chiffre, a terrorist financier, in a high-stakes Texas Hold’em Poker game.
The game takes place at Casino Royale, in Montenegro. The action that unfolds includes Bond deducing Le Chiffre’s tell, and other agents being dealt in as they bargain for the prize of being able to kill the terrorist or take him into custody. This sophisticated caper will remind you of how beautifully complex Poker can be!
Blackjack is the most popular card game in the world. One of the main reasons for this is because it involves strategy, rather than just luck. In the 2008 film 21, Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth lead a cast that shows what can happen when this element of skill is taken too far.
The story is based on the real-life events of a team of brilliant MIT students and their professor. Together, the developed a system of covert signals and card counting to earn huge profits at Blackjack tables.
In-fighting, backstabbing and the suspicions of casino security ensure, until finally the scheme is exposed. At the end of the movie the corrupt actions of some of the characters are rewarded, but for others – including the main player who originally just wanted enough money to pay for medical school – this is not quite the case.
This 1995 masterpiece looks back at when American casinos had strong ties to the mafia, and is one of the most famous films in this genre. Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone, it was directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese. De Niro’s character, Sam Rothstein, is based on Frank Rosenthal.
Rosenthal was recruited by the Chicago Outfit crime syndicate to run the Stardust, Hacienda and Freemont casinos, just as Rothstein is tasked with managing the operations of the Tangiers in the movie.
The drama that ensues as the characters betray each other is a warning about what can happen if profits and revenge become more important than anything else. Ultimately, the story’s main players are all brought down.
A neo-noir thriller made in 1996, Hard Eight stars Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. Reilly, Samuel L. Jackson and Philip Baker Hall. Baker plays Sydney, a gambler in his 60s who teaches a young man named John, played by Reilly, all he knows about playing and winning. Paltrow plays a cocktail waitress and prostitute named Clementine, who gets involved with John. When the couple almost accidentally takes a hostage, they panic and call Sydney.
The movie is character-driven, with fantastic performances all around, and we get to glimpse them because they are set in the 24-hour casino world of Reno. As Roger Ebert says in his review, gambling is the background drumbeat to everything they do.
The original movie was made in 1960 and starred 5 members of the Rat Pack, including Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The debonair, crime caper feel was recreated in 2001 in the Steven Soderbergh remake. Casting actors Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon and other actors who share similar friendships and personas as the original Rat Pack members was an integral part of maintaining that atmosphere.
The story follows Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan, who recruit friends to help them pull off a huge casino heist after Danny is released from prison. They plan to rob the MGM Grand, Mirage and Bellagio in Las Vegas, all in one night. Witty banter, clever antics by the charming criminals and the fact that they get away with it all made this the fifth-highest grossing film the year it was released. On top of everything else, Danny gets his girl!