Movies centred around the casino are inherently interesting since they are about risk. However, not every director, writer, or cast can bring out that tension. As such, not all casino-themed movies are good. If you are a cinephile looking for something in the world of casinos to watch, this list recommends some great titles.
Since online casino Canada players check out casino reviews before choosing where to play, or anyone looks for reviews to narrow down a search, we think the same is true of films- hence this list.
We all (gamblers, film lovers, a mix of both) like to see someone put something on the line and have the potential consequences (bad and good) hang over them. It is fascinating to watch. Some of these films are a slow burn, and others take a quick pace. Before we start, we will twist the format a bit and give you the honourable mentions first to keep you guessing who made the top five.
For this selection, we picked films that bring out the tension and risk involved in the act of gambling as well as stellar performances. Let’s begin!
Our honorable mentions are by no means uninteresting. After you finish the top five, they’ll make for interesting viewing.
- The Card Counter (2021)
- Rounders (1988)
- The Sting (1973)
- The Color of Money (1986)
- Casino (1995)
- The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
- Mississippi Grind (2015)
We want to mention many more, but for now, here are the top five, in no particular order.
1. Uncut Gems (2019)
To say that the Safdie Brothers birthed a masterpiece with ‘Uncut Gems’ is an understatement. From the first moment we are introduced to the film, the feeling we get is that of anxiety being injected slowly into our bodies, as though by an IV.
At some point, the audience begins to wonder, ‘is he going to get out of this problem?’
The film doesn’t answer us, but we hold on to hope anyway. Howard (played by Adam Sandler in a rare showing of his acting talent) cannot stop until gambling destroys him. We, too, in the audience, watch, fascinated by his never-ending hunger to want more, never looking away until the tragic end.
2. California Split (1974)
The director behind this film, Robert Altman, picked Elliot Gould to star in the movie because he thought that Gould would be perfect for the film- and he was. In his own words, he said to Altman, ‘I’ve always wanted to pay this guy.” Altman replied with, “you are this guy.”
The way Gould and Steven Segal flirt with risk in that movie is an iconic reminder of the seventies and its penchant for buddy films. There is a lot of gambling in the film, which Altman brings through with mastery and care.
The movie feels like it is letting us in on everyone’s secrets, which raises the tension all that higher. California Split is frankly an underrated Altman classic. The ending will probably get you right in the gut so, prepare for that.
3. The Gambler (1974)
The Gambler presents us with the story of a man who seems to want to get into even more trouble. Jack Toback, the screenplay writer who based the movie on his own life, weaves a tale that’s intriguing just based on how weird the titular character is.
As the movie progresses, we are forced to reckon with a gambler who takes risky chances, simply to take risky chances. That approach is not too unfamiliar, though. What makes Axel unique in this movie is that he argues that the dangerous situations he’s gotten himself into are the real rush that even winnings can’t match.
How the director (James Caan) manages to get the audience to rationalise, condone and even wait for Axel’s next rush is a secret only he knows.
4. Hard Eight (1996)
In his debut film, Hard Eight, Paul Thomas Anderson showed the world that he would be a heavy hitter. The film is based on a short film he made earlier known as Coffee and Cigarettes, a film whose name PTA hates.
The movie may be less showy than his later releases (think Boogie Nights), but it is a deep exploration of a mysterious but unassuming man who meets people that might need his help. Despite the lack of spectacle, it will move you.
You will also get the chance to savour the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman in one of his most iconic roles.
5. Croupier (1998)
Though Clive Owen is now a less-than-stellar presence in the acting scene, the breakout role that put him in the stratosphere was in Mike Hodges’ Croupier. In the film, Owen plays the role of a struggling writer who takes up a job in a casino.
A struggling gambler approaches him about a heist at the casino.
The film managed to recreate the feel of an old-style casino- dingy and immersive, which paired well with the depiction of deep sadness and loss experienced by the people whose lives are ruined at the tables.
Gambling is fascinating, whether you are doing it or watching it. These films serve as cautionary tales, an opportunity to learn some things about the games (when depicted clearly), and simply as entertainment for film lovers.
Whether we are rooting for a hero to get out of dire straits or watching a movie-long car crash that ends in tragedy, these films resonate with us because they depict the human condition, with thrills thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!