Top 10 Gambling Films in Modern Cinema
The stars of these movies are Las Vegas casino halls.
Hollywood has had somewhat of an infatuation with Las Vegas, ever since such 1960s classics as The Cincinnati Kid (1965, starring Steve McQueen) and The Sting (1973, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford). Gambling-oriented movies have proliferated since the 1990s. We bring you a list of 10 of the best in that period (in order of year produced).
Based on the book of the same name by Larry Shandling and Nicholas Pileggi, this academy award-nominated film was directed by Martin Scorsese.
Robert DeNiro plays Chicago bookmaker Sam "Ace" Rothstein (based on the real-life character Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal), who is sent to Las Vegas to run casinos for the Mafia in the 1970s. With the help of Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) Rothstein secretly runs the casino operation while also being involved in a love triangle with wife and former prostitute Ginger (Sharon Stone), who remains in love with her pimp, Lester Diamond (James Woods).
At the time, this movie held the record for the most times the word "fuck" had been used in a feature film, with a grand total of 422 times.
Set in London, Clive Owen plays Jack Manfred, an aspiring writer who takes a job as a croupier. Manfred soon finds out his new profession could provide him with lots of material for his old profession as he gradually gets drawn into the temptations of gambling.
Jack's voiceover - which is used throughout the film - tells us of his plans to turn his casino experience into a best-selling novel. He eventually succeeds in doing so, but not without becoming too involved a protagonist and losing his girlfriend along the way.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
The film that brought director Guy Ritchie international acclaim, Lock, Stock follows four friends trying to find a way to pay off 500,000 British pounds lost to a crime boss in a rigged game of the poker variant Three Card Brag.
The four hatch a plot to rob some drug-dealing neighbors. But the scheme falls to pieces when it turns out there are others with their eyes on the same treasure, leading to a thrilling conclusion to the movie.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels spawned a successful sequel - Snatch (2000).
Matt Damon stars as law student Mike McDermott. The word "rounders" means somebody who earns a living by playing cards, which is what McDermott does in order to finance his expensive education. McDermott decides to quit after losing his entire savings of $30,000 in a poker game, until his best friend and ex-con Worm (Edward Norton) drags him back to the poker table and into more financial problems.
The film ends with a tense final scene in which Mike faces and defeats his old adversary Teddy KGB (John Malkovich) for the prize of $60,000.
Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Featuring a star-studded cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, this 2001 film is a remake of the 1960 heist film featuring all five members of the Rat Pack.
Clooney plays con artist Danny Ocean, who together with a group of thieves tries to bypass heavy security to break into a vault holding $150 million from three Las Vegas casinos - the MGM Grand, Mirage and Bellagio. The side-plot revolves around the fact that Danny's ex is dating the owner of the three casinos the group targets.
The Cooler (2003)
A gambling movie with a difference, The Cooler stars William Macy as a man who brings bad luck to anybody he sits near. A Las Vegas casino catches on to his special power and employs him to act as a "cooler" to gamblers who are on a hot streak.
However, Macy falls in love with a waitress at the casino and starts bringing good luck rather than bad, causing casino owner Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin) to intervene.
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)
Based on the true story of one of the greatest poker players of all time, Stu Ungar (played by Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos). Imperioli portrays Ungar's incredible knack for success at all card games, as well as his crazy lifestyle and addictions that eventually lead to his tragic end in a Las Vegas hotel room.
The film's name is a term for deception in the world of gambling, and this is eventually what the plot revolves around.
Starring Sylvester Stallone as skilful card shark "The Dean", Shade follows several people who come up with schemes to topple him and win a big payout. Of course, while everyone is trying to hustle The Dean, they are all trying to hustle each other as well, making for some interesting sub-plots.
Casino Royale (2006)
The 21st James Bond film, and the first starring Daniel Craig as MI6's most famous fictional spy. Agent 007's nemesis this time is Soviet agent Monsieur Le Chifre (The Cipher), who runs a baccarat game at a French casino.
Bond plays out an intense, hours-long game of baccarat against Le Chifre in the hope that his opponent's gambling debts will lead to his assassination at the hands of his own agency. Predictably, Bond succeeds, but not without encountering a series of potentially fatal barriers along the way.
The latest edition to the gambling genre, 21 is based on the true story of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Blackjack Team, who came up with complex card-counting techniques and strategies to beat casinos at blackjack.
The film stars Kevin Spacey and Laurence Fishburn.