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The Top 10 Casino Movies Of All Time

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Gambling movies, it’s time to cash in your chips! We’ve been giving this film genre some serious thought, and we’ve put together our take on the ten best casino or gambling-inspired films of all time.

Anyone who’s ever pulled their best poker face and sweated over the cards in their hands knows what makes gambling so exciting; it’s the thrill of an instant win or loss, and the joy that comes with taking a strategy from a small win to a fortune over time. We associate casinos and gambling with money and glamour, from the strip of Las Vegas to the sophistication of Monte Carlo. Online casinos are one of the fastest-growing private industry sectors in the world, and that’s largely because gambling is now one of the most popular and widespread hobbies out there. Everyone likes the idea of making a fortune overnight, and for the lucky few, the casino or it’s sister site is where you can make it happen.

We all want to know what it feels like to hit the jackpot, or play the perfect hand and win it all, and these movies have allowed us to experience that sensation through the drama on screen. Without further ado, here’s our winning ten!

  1. Croupier

This was the film that launched the career of Clive Owen in the USA. Brought to the screen by Mike Hodges, who back in 1998 was fresh off his success with ‘Get Carter,’ the film earned plaudits for its neo-noir style, blending casino thrills and spills with an atmosphere like a detective movie. Ostensibly about a struggling writer who turns croupier to pay his bills, and then slowly falls in love with the job, it might even have won an Oscar – but was disqualified from the running after being shown on Dutch television.

  1. High Roller – The Stu Ungar Story

You may not have heard about the life and tragic death of Stu Ungar, but this film offers you the chance to find out all about it, and you really ought to. Even in the modern era, where games like poker are more popular thanks to online casinos, many still consider Ungar to be the best poker player who ever lived. His stratospheric rise to fame, during which he amassed $30m in winnings and blew the lot, is about humanity as much as it is gambling, and contains a message for all of us.

  1. The Cincinnati Kid

This is another film that may have escaped your attention unless you’re a big fan of leading man Steve McQueen. It tells the tale of a young up-and-coming poker star facing an established hand in the finals of a major poker tournament, with everything on the line. It occasionally plays fast and loose with the conventions of the game – and the likelihood of some of the hands that are played – but it captures the look and feel of a high stakes game better than almost any other movie.

  1. Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels

Yes, we’re counting this as a gambling movie. There’s plenty of gangster action in this film, but none of it would happen without that fixed high-stakes game of three-card brag that happens right at the beginning. This is the movie that kickstarted the careers of both Guy Ritchie and Jason Statham, and allowed American viewers a glance into the seedy underworld of East End London. Plus, the main character is a card shark, so it’s integral to the plot.

  1. The Gambler

They say the best stories are rooted in reality, so that’s probably why The Gambler has landed on our list. It’s best known for James Caan’s utterly mesmerizing and convincing performance in the lead role, but there’s more to the story than that. The first half of the film is all writer James Toback’s real-life experience. He really was a university lecturer, and he really did get addicted to gambling. As for the highly dramatic second half? Maybe not so much!

  1. Owning Mahowny

With the much-missed Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead role, Owning Mahowny is another movie which uses real-life incidents as its inspiration. The character of Dan Mahowny is based on Canadian Brian Maloney, who stole millions of dollars from the bank he worked for to pay for his gambling addiction. It was a box office flop, but Roger Ebert felt that it was one of the ten best films of 2003. We agree with him.

  1. The Sting

Why make a movie about one form of gambling when you can cover them all? There’s poker, roulette, and horse racing to place bets on in The Sting, and all of them are corrupt! This is a fast-paced thriller with a retro ragtime style, and features an all-star cast in Robert Redford, Paul Newman, and Robert Shaw. Someone’s trying to sting (or con) someone else, but who’s actually holding all the cards? You’ll have to watch it to find out.

  1. Ocean’s 11

We’re going with the Rat-Pack movie from 1960 here, not the Brad Pitt-led remake. Nothing against the remake, but there’s something that feels more pure and simple about the original! This movie is all about a plan to rob the casinos of the Las Vegas strip on a scale that’s never been seen before – a plan that doesn’t go smoothly. Legend has it that when the script was pitched to Frank Sinatra, he found the robbery plan so foolproof that he expressed an interest in performing the ‘job’ instead of making the film.

  1. Casino

There was no way we could leave this Scorsese classic off the list. Casino depicts the way in which an organized crime syndicate takes over the day to day running of a Las Vegas casino, and seems far-fetched until you find out that it’s based on a true story. The Mafia really did run several of the casinos in Sin City (perhaps they still do, who knows?) and this is how they went about their business. You might believe you know how this one’s going to turn out based on that description, but trust us – until you’ve seen it, you really don’t!

  1. Rounders

If you really want to understand how high stakes poker works – and how high stakes poker players think – you need to watch Rounders. This wasn’t a huge success when it was first released in 1998, but it’s found a new audience since online casinos and their sister sites led to a poker boom during the early part of the 21st century. The plot of the film revolves around students who need to pay off a large debt, and choose poker as their best bet for doing it, but the star of the movie (with apologies to the always-excellent Matt Damon and Edward Norton) is really the game itself.

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