Casinos are always fascinating, whether you gamble or not. There are many types of casinos from glitzy five-star operations that surround you with every distraction possible just to keep you returning refreshed to the tables, to low-cost joints that are run down and hold a few empty tables and broken machines. In between, there are thousands of standard casinos that provide varying levels of games to play with, from dollar tables to private games where millions are the entrance key.
No matter which joint you go to, they are populated by the same people; gamblers. Gamblers are everyone; there is no stereotype, the only similarity between them is categorized by their addiction to gambling and the games they prefer to play. As such, casino and casino related movies focus less on the game and more on the people, where everyone is a target and the games are just there as scenery.
In this article, five of the Best Casino Related Movies of All Time are presented, these were taken based on multiple site reviews and are an unbiased list, thanks to Trustworthy Casino Sites List on gmblsites.com. You will note that most of the movies predate or are around the emergence date of the Internet before online gambling became a thing. As such, casinos and gambling was a social event, unlike today, where it’s a mug’s game that doesn’t realize playing the odds doesn’t work online.
No.1. Casino, 1995
The film is more about the history of Las Vegas, and the Mob connections that help build it and control it, even today. Las Vegas is not about the law, it’s about mob law and here, and you either gamble, entertain, or maintain the life of the beast.
The casino is set in the early-1970s where a low-level mobster called Sam “Ace” Rothstein played by Robert De Niro is promoted by his bosses to head the Tangiers Casino. Initially, he’s very successful, but over the years one of his enforcers, Nicky Santoro played by Joe Pesci, and his wife Ginger played by Sharon Stone together with her ex, the con artist Lester Diamond played by James Woods confuse the lines of a perfect seamless system. With the addition of corrupt politicians (naturally), Ace comes under pressure from his bosses.
Casino focuses on the relationship between the mafia and the management and is based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book that portrayed the life of a real casino boss that ran four Las Vegas casinos.
The movie is directed by Martin Scorcese, so you get all the visuals, audio and plot designed to heighten every macabre sense that unfolds. Scorcese stays true to the concept of the book and shows how the machine that is Las Vegas doesn’t slow down for anyone doesn’t have emotions and is only concerned with keeping the show on the road.
No 2. Leaving Las Vegas, 1995
Leaving Las Vegas is all about misery, but not from gambling, from self-pity. It’s a portrayal of how people cannot handle loss, and in this instance, the loss is not about money at the tables, it’s about losing your family and giving up on life, but being too scared to either finish it quickly or move on and live it fully.
The movie revolves around Ben portrayed by Nicholas Cage. He lost his family and wallows in self-despair, immersing himself in alcohol to numb the pain of memory. He travels to Las Vegas and is so drunk he ends up on the streets where a prostitute called Sera, played by Elisabeth Shue, takes him home and starts to care for him.
While he is given a second chance at life with a woman that cares for him, Ben will not give up drinking and tells Sera so. Sera accepts Ben for all his issues and just has someone to care for and cares for her.
The movie is set in the poor and lonely sections of Las Vegas, in alleyways and car parks, and in sleazy pits and bars where gambling, smoking, drugs, sex, and booze mix together in one continuous ride to self-destruction.
No 3. Croupier, 1998
Croupier is a genius film that takes us in between the gambler and the bosses; it’s all about the people that work in Casino’s or to be exact, the croupiers. In this film, an aspiring writer named Jack Manfred, portrayed by Clive Owen, decides to work in a casino. His father, a gambler and womanizer, suggest to his son to find work in a London casino to help support his living.
Jack lives in a small flat with his girlfriend Marion played by Gina McKee, who is a store detective that was once a policewoman. He writes during the day and works as a croupier at night. Jack shows off a cold calculated exterior of a man that does not gamble and is in total control. He writes about his experiences in the casino as the plot for his book.
All seems fine and boring, but this is a film about casino’s gambling, bosses and the laws that divide the inside and outside of this world. This movie is pre-internet era, which means it’s a social painting. Now you might ask why his dad sent him to work in a casino, well the story unfolds when a South African named Jani de Villiers comes into his life. Jani is portrayed by Alex Kingston and sets him down a path that is aimed at defrauding the casino.
In this movie, we see how cold exteriors are mostly clay masks covering the true identity of the person trying to control the emotions that are within. We also encounter the power of suggestion, where women have a lot of persuasion over men, and we are in a time when going to the casino was popular, after all, there was no online gambling yet.
No 4. Rounders, 1998
When it comes to recruitment films, you don’t think of gambling as inspiration. However, this is what you get in Rounders.
Rounders stars Matt Damon as the hero, a New York law student that loses his money, home and girlfriend from too much gambling and rather than change his lifestyle, he embraces it and finds a way to improve his poker skills rather than move on.
So what happens in the movie? Well, Mike loses his tuition money playing against a Russian gangster called Teddy “KGB” played by John Malkovich. He then gets an ultimatum from his girlfriend Jo, played by Gretchen Mol to stop gambling, which he agrees to. BUT! Yup, there is always a but in the move is, and in this one, it comes in the form of Mikes friend, actor Edward Norton playing the role of Lester “Worm” Murphy that gets out of jail and joins up with Mike.
The two try to cheat and get caught, and Mike finds out that his debt from cheating is owed to Teddy “KGB”, so he decides to pay it off by challenging Teddy to a game of Poker.
In real life, you would find Mikes body, together with Lester and maybe even the Jo’s in a dumpster. However, this is a movie and not real life, where the hero (anti-hero) might win, who knows, we never find out. As a gambling movie to promote Poker, it’s a winner, and all poker players feel a rush when watching this one.
No 5. The Cooler, 2003
Cooler is all about superstition, love and the weird sides of the casino world, where any edge the house can gain is used to assure a profit.
Our hero in this movie is played by William H. Macy acting as sad-eyed Bernie Lootz. Bernie has a knack of making people unlucky and is used by his boss Shelly Kaplow, played by Alec Baldwin to sidle up to winning streak players. His proximity seems to affect the player’s luck.
Bernie is what Shelly calls a “Cooler”, and they work in the Shangri La Casino in Las Vegas. The casino is managed old style, and in the emerging new age of digital, the casino is bought out by new bosses that send in a management specialist that will vamp up the casino and bring it into the modern age.
Now, Bernie is lonely, single and a loser maker, and among all the confusion that erupts around the new management process, Bernie also falls in love with a waitress called Natalie Belisario portrayed by Maria Bello. This love affair affects Bernie’s jinxability, and Shelly is getting frustrated that his Cooler is becoming ineffective. As such, the film revolves around how Shelly tries to break up the relationship between Bernie and Natalie. What we really see is how superstition and gambling go hand in hand, and every method to secure a profit is considered viable.