Movies about gambling have been popular since the very beginning of cinematography. Casinos are glamorous settings for meetings between superspies and supervillains, and they symbolise a wildcard that draws ordinary people to test their luck. Casino settings are full of glamour, action, and drama.
That’s why there’s a half-century of famous casino movies that are still worth watching today. Who doesn’t love great films like Rounders, Casino Royale, and Ocean’s Eleven?
And no, the list doesn’t end there, which is why we decided to share some of the all-time top-rated films with casino themes. These are terrific movies that happen to be about gambling. We think everyone should watch each of them at least once.
Featuring Clive Owen in the title role, Croupier is one of the most remarkable and distinctive casino films ever made. Most movies set in casinos usually present the gambling world from the gambler’s point of view.
Croupier describes this distinctive world from a professional dealer’s perspective. The film relates a story about the dark side of casinos, revealing what’s on the other side of the table.
Jack Manfred, portrayed by Clive Owen, is an ambitious aspiring author who is searching for source material for his first novel. He becomes a croupier to make ends meet and unexpectedly finds inspiration at his day job.
The people and events he encounters at a big casino inspire him – and add up to one of the industry’s top must-see casino movies. It will keep you glued to your seat from the beginning till the end.
Manfred finds himself drawn to a woman who is a gambler at his table – a serious transgression of the casino’s rules for employees. Under pressure from creditors, the woman asks Manfred to be the inside man for a robbery at his own casino. Manfred must evaluate the stakes and consider what he is willing to risk.
The bottom line? Croupier is a character study of one man as he faces temptation – which turns out to be a common theme among movies about casino gambling. Intrigue, suspense, insights, and a powerful performance by Clive Own earn Croupier a spot on our list of the best casino films.
Rain Man (1988)
When it comes to choosing the best Vegas films of all times, it would be a crime to leave Rain Man off the list.
Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman gave the performances of their careers portraying brothers Charlie and Raymond in this emotionally charged drama.
Cruise is a spoiled businessman, Charlie Babbitt, who is perplexed and annoyed by his father’s will. He makes a series of hasty decisions in what can only be called one of the best gambling movies you’ll ever watch.
What jumpstarts the plot in Rain Main is the fact that all Charlie’s got after his father passes away is a bed of roses – and an unexpected encounter with his autistic older brother, Raymond.
Because Raymond has the ability to count cards extremely quickly and to remember which have been played, the two end up in Las Vegas. Charlie takes Raymond to the blackjack table in hopes his card-counting gift will help Charlie win. And so their journey begins.
The movie is much more than a story about attempting to cheat the system. Rain Man is one of the movies you must watch because it tells us a lot about the importance of family, of differences in mental astuteness, and how easily one can cross the boundaries of what is legal.
When you think about the best movies for poker players, you have to start with Rounders. With Matt Damon and John Malkovich in one movie, you know the film will be worth your time. Add poker and gambling to the mix, and you’ve got Rounders helping you make the best of your weekend poker movies night.
Damon plays Mike McDermott, a law student who discovers he’s more than just good at playing poker. But it isn’t until he loses his money in a game against Russian gangster Teddy KGB, played by John Malkovich, that McDermott learns the true stakes and nature of gambling.
McDermott decides to stop gambling and focus on getting his college degree. But his best friend, a poker player named Worm, needs McDermott’s gift to help him pay off a dangerous debt. A cycle of trouble starts all over again.
Ultimately, Rounders is one of the best casino movies and one of the most educational poker films because it illustrates some of the consequences of compulsive gambling. This drama also demonstrates very clearly how important it is to know just what it is you’re betting when you enter the world of gambling.
California Split (1974)
The plot of California Split revolves around a gambler, Charlie, who befriends a fellow gambler named Bill. Their pranks, pick-ups, games, and misadventures ultimately lead them to a big win in Reno.
Director Robert Altman must have recognised himself in the characters of Bill and Charlie, and we believe that’s what makes California Split one of the greatest casino movies of all time.
Altman seems to have tried to acknowledge and describe his own complicity when struggling with an addiction through the film’s protagonists. Ultimately, we have to say that this is more than just another movie about gambling: It’s a beautiful description of boys-will-be-boys friendship as well.
Casino Royale (2006)
If you are looking for an action-packed film that combines the glamorous worlds of gambling, espionage, and secret agents, Casino Royale is the safest bet. The 2006 version starring Daniel Craig is one of the top-rated and most-watched casino movies on Netflix. It is also widely recognised as one of the top movies in the 007 series.
The remake of a 1973 original, this James Bond movie beautifully presents a world of high stakes bursting with wealth, risk, and class. The plot revolves around the world’s most famous secret agent – James Bond – on his mission to stop Le Chiffre from winning a high-stakes game of Texas hold ’em at a glamorous casino – Casino Royale – in Montenegro.
What makes Casino Royale so popular is the 007-style mixture of secret missions and high-class gambling. It is no wonder that this James Bond remake has quickly made a place for itself on our list of the best and most famous casino movies.
Like other 007 films, Casino Royale provides plenty of violence, intrigue, romance, and dirty mind tricks, all wrapped up in classic Bond style. Casino Royale truly is a classic that you have to watch at least once in your life – especially if you are a fan of James Bond and his legendary service to the British Secret Service.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Do you like fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek, Rube Goldberg heist movies? If the answer is yes, Ocean’s Eleven is definitely one of the gambling movies you must see. If the answer is no, you should probably see it anyway. It’s a lot of fun.
Upon being released from prison, suave thief Danny Ocean gathers the gang and heads to Las Vegas, determined to organise the greatest heist in history. The team of highly talented risk-takers concoct a mission to steal from the three biggest casinos in Las Vegas — The MGM Grand, the Mirage, and the Bellagio — all property of Terry Benedict.
The group faces many obstacles and challenges which they, quite naturally, manage to get out of cleverly. Because they succeed in their exceptionally complex mission and deliver an unexpected twist in the end, this movie deserves its spot on the list of the best casino movies in the history of cinema.
One of the great things about this movie is the cast. George Clooney plays Danny Ocean. His team includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliot Gould, and Andy Garcia. Their performances help make Ocean’s 11 such an appealing movie.
We also recommend the 1960 original, which starred Frank Sinatra as Danny Ocean, aided by Rat Pack members Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, Casino includes an A-list cast led by Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and blonde bombshell Sharon Stone. Whip it all up with a lot of gambling and you get one of the most popular gambling movies of all time.
Casino revolves around Sam “Ace” Rothstein, an ex-gangster managing a great casino in Vegas. His friend Nicky Santoro is a mafia underboss. Everything is going fine until an ambitious woman named Ginger joins the game.
This movie gives you everything you expect from the genre: the thrill, the rush, the guns, and the gambling. Scorsese illustrates the good and the bad side of Las Vegas: intoxicating glitz and glamour mixed with brutality and cruel dealings.
Casino depicts the epic story of the traditional casino gambling culture in Las Vegas. As it is based on a true story, Casino easily earns a place on the famous casino movies list. Thanks largely to Scorsese’s strong directing, this classic has contributed a great deal of popularity to the glamorous and mysterious Las Vegas lifestyle.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s best-selling novel, cult-favourite Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas follows the gonzo journalist on a psychedelic road trip across Western America. The writer is played with deliberate madness by a young Johnny Depp. The film’s theme is no less than America’s abandonment of the American Dream and its promises.
Like other gambling films, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas takes us into the rotten world of gamblers and drug dealers. Accompanied by his friend, the Samoan lawyer Dr. Gonzo, Hunter Thompson is headed to Las Vegas with a writing assignment to cover a motocross event for a magazine.
He has spent the magazine’s large cash advance on narcotics, which he indulges in liberally as he transforms his assignment into a search for the American Dream. Before they know it, the two friends are wrapped in a world of gamblers, dealers, druggies, and corrupt cops.
When you get Terry Gilliam to direct a biographical gambling movie based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel, it’s more than clear the result won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you are open to a mix of scary, gross, hilarious, and bizarre elements, you’ll definitely love it.
21 is inspired by the real-life experiences of a talented MIT math student who pursues the goal of conquering casino blackjack to score a big win.
Jim Sturgess plays the protagonist, Ben Campbell. Ben’s college professor, Mickey Rosa, persuades him and a group of other mathematically advanced students to join a special team.
The professor, played by Kevin Spacey, will later use the team’s skills to count cards at blackjack tables in Las Vegas.
One of the best gambling movies of all time, 21 is a must-see for anyone who is curious about blackjack and card counting. 21 was a major success at the box office, the top-grossing film in North America for the first two weekends after it was released.
The Gambler (1974/2014)
Whether you go for the original 1974 version of The Gambler or you decide to watch the contemporary remake, this cautionary tale deserves a place on your to-watch list.
Axel Freed, played by James Caan in the original, heads the cast of the film as a gambler who is also an inspiring English professor and author. A gambling addict, he finds himself in serious debt. He steals $44,000 from his own mother and heads to Vegas, looking for a big score so he can settle all of his financial obligations.
The Gambler tells a powerful story about the ferociousness of addiction as well as alienation and all the temptations a person can be overwhelmed with when facing very high stakes. Both James Caan and Mark Wahlberg in the 2014 remake managed to breathe life into one of the most famous gamblers in movies. The result is a drama that we continue to watch today.
Mississippi Grind (2015)
Gerry is a talented Texas hold ’em player whose adventures start once he encounters Curtis during a poker game in Iowa. The two instantly become friends and come up with an idea to try their luck in all the major cities along the Mississippi River. They will play until they win a high-stakes poker game at a casino in New Orleans.
The accurate representation of gambling psychology is one of the reasons this film is worth watching. Unlike other movies about poker we’ve listed here, this one features characters who are convinced they will magically strike gold. Nothing ever manages to shake that confidence. The pursuit of a big win keeps them headed down the river.
Like most gambling films, this one includes a big win for the protagonists. But Mississippi Grind eventually ends up being Hollywood’s archetypal tragicomic casino movie. Why? We won’t spoil it for you. This is a movie you should see for yourself.
The Hangover (2009)
Most of the casino movies on our list are about the glamour and risk of poker, blackjack, and games of chance. This comedy is different. It perfectly illustrates the aptness of the adage “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
Four men – Doug, Alan, Stu, and Phil – go to Las Vegas for a stag night, awakening the next morning with the worst hangovers of their lives. While they can’t remember anything from the night before, the hangovers will then remember the trip to Las Vegas forever. This film was so popular a series of sequels came out in the following years.
Although it revolves around the search for a missing groom-to-be, The Hangover still manages to be one of the best casino movies you must see. It portrays Las Vegas and its casinos in the most exaggerated way possible. With Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, and Ed Helms in the leading roles, this movie guarantees a good laugh.