Casinos and Hollywood have a lot in common — bright lights, glamorous people, and the allure of fame and fortune. It makes sense, then, that some of Hollywood’s most memorable and well-received releases center on the world of casinos. Take a look at 5 of the best casino movies ever made and the characters that brought them to life:
Casino – 1995
This film had a big title to live up to and big-name stars like Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone to help carry it. The stars aren’t what makes the movie such a hit, though. It’s the behind-the-scenes portrayal of a mob-run casino that is so captivating. Fans on IMDB.com rank it as the most popular among all casino films. Gambling is a big part of the movie, of course, and slot machines, sports books, table games, and more are featured prominently. The movie made $116 million in the box office.
Rounders – 1998
Regarded as one of the best poker movies ever made, this Matt Damon cult classic follows a yet-unknown player as he tries to get a friend out of debt and make bankroll to enter the World Series of Poker. The authenticity is what fans praise most – from the realistic hands played to the subtle poker lingo exchanged between players. The film brought in $22.9 million at its box office release.
Casino Royale – 2006
Is there anything cooler than James Bond sitting at a poker table? This film was highly-anticipated for its introduction of modern-day Bond portrayed by Daniel Craig and the casino tie-in made him even edgy to fans. According to some critics the film could have benefitted from coaching from a poker expert because of two unrealistic card showdowns between Bond and villain Le Chiffre (portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen). Still, fans weren’t complaining. The film brought in a whopping $599 million USD and ushered in the modern-day age of Bond on the big screen.
The Gambler – 1974
This thrilling casino movie was later remade by Mark Wahlberg but it’s tough to top the original. The film follows Axel Freed (played by James Caan) and he tries to figure out how to pay back $44,000 in gambling debts. The storyline is about more than gambling, however, and delves into the psychology of addiction of all kids. Indiewire says that the film “nails the paranoia of its dark corners and the stylish seduction of winning.”
Hard Eight – 1996
This independent film is based on the Paul Thomas Anderson short film “Cigarettes and Coffee” and expands Anderson’s thoughts to full-length (he directed both). It follows John (played by John C. Reilly) as he tries to win enough in a casino to bury his recently deceased mother. Along the way he meets a hardened veteran gambler who mentors him to success – in gambling and in life. It all falls apart tragically, though, leading viewers on an emotional journey. This film was so well received because of its ability to touch on universal emotions, like grief and intimidation, and how all of that can be tied into a few hours in a casino.