9 of the Best Gambling Movies

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The glamour and glitz of the casino world has created enthralling film entertainment since the early days of the “talkies.”

Waaay before our online casinos with their attractive welcome offers, free spins, and casino bonus codes, casino films have been popular since the film classics when stars of the ‘30s and ‘40s starred in scenes in French Riviera casinos.

Today, the popular casino movies often feature ways in which technology plays a part in the casino-goers plans and plots.

Regardless of the plot, gambling aficionados have always loved to watch the way that actors and actresses portray the energy of the drive to win, the despair of losing and the attempt to obtain advantages in their drive to pursue the goal of winning.

Casino movies seem to bring more people to the movie theatre than almost any other genre of film.  The glamorous dress, the big money, the fine dining and the casino action is enthralling. The best gambling movies, however, incorporate additional themes such as romance, suspense, intrigue, conspiracy, espionage and duplicity. If you’re looking for a casino film you can find any of those along with themes of humor and absurdity.

Today, any gambling-themed movie that you want to watch can be found on popular streaming services and on many cable stations. Some of the best of this group of films include:

The Sting

The Sting won the 1973 Oscar for Best Film along with a slew of other Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song Score, Best Director, Best Actor (Robert Redford) and Best Costume Design.

The Sting storyline revolves around small-time con-man Johnny Hooker who cons crooked police lieutenant William Snyder and a big crime boss. Both vow to kill him but Hooker manages to team up with master conman Henry Gondorff who device an elaborate con that involves staging an underground sportsbook where Lonnegan is enticed into placing all his money on a “fixed” horse race.

In actuality, there is no race but the con succeeds in, not only getting Lonnegan to put his money down on the non-existent horse but on convincing both Lonnegan and Snyder that Hooker is dead, leaving them with no one on whom to exact revenge. Hooker and Gondorf head off into the sunset while their friends enjoy the fruits of the scam.

The Hustler and Color of Money

The 1961 Hustler follows Fast Eddie Felson, a young upstart who challenges pool-legend Minnesota Fats to a tournament. The stakes are high, both for the winning prize as well as for the reputation of the two men.  Eddie loses to Fats but a new manager, Bert Gordon, starts Eddie training to prepare him for a rematch. Eddie must decide whether following Bert’s ruthless strategies is worth beating his nemesis if he goes against his core beliefs.

A sequel, The Hustler, was made, 25 years after the original film. Paul Newman returns as a much older Eddie and attempts to teach young up-and-coming pool player Vincent (Tom Cruise) the lessons that he learned when he confronted Minnesota Fats.

The Cincinnati Kid

The Cincinnati Kid dates back to1965 film when Clint Eastwood, Edward G. Robinson and Ann-Margaret collaborated in games of high-stakes poker. Eric Stoner is “the Cincinnati Kid” who lives in New Orleans in the ‘30s. Eric believes that if he, an up-and-coming gambler, can take on and beat card shark Lancy Howard, he can earn Howard’s title of “Greatest Poker Player.”  The Kid finds out about a plan to rig the game and that’s when the sparks fly.

21

21 is based on the book Bringing Down the House, the true story of “coach” Bill Kaplan who formed a team of MIT students that won at blackjack at Las Vegas casinos using statistical analysis through strategic card counting.

Kaplan chose his students carefully, instituted strict training and used a standard betting and counting system. Kaplan tracked the team members’ successes and failures so that he could maximize wins and minimize losses.

The team consisted of 9 players. They doubled their initial stake within 3 months, earned a lucrative salary and helped the investors walk away with an annual return of over 250%.

The story follows the nuts and bolts of the account but also dramatizes relationships among the team. In the end, the movie illustrates how casinos confront card counters so that they can ban them including the casinos’ own successes and failures in this effort.

The Gambler

The Gambler tells the story of a high-stakes gambler Jim Bennett who indulges in a high-stakes poker obsession. His career as an English professor, and his life, are threatened after he takes out a loan from the underworld and finds that he can’t repay it.

To solve the dilemma Bennett arranges for the loan shark to compete with the owner of a gambling ring. He plays both sides and in the effort sinks into the world of the underground as he risks everything.

Ocean’s 11,  Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13

The popular franchise started with Ocean’s Eleven when ex-con Daniel Ocean starts planning revenge against nemesis Terry Benedict. He gathers together a team that is intent on wiping out all the cash in Benedict’s three Vegas casinos.

Each team member brings his/her own particular skill to the effort — pick-pocket, tech genius, get-away driver, pyrotechnician, professional card dealer, Chinese acrobat artist, and weapons expert. The group times the heist to coincide with a big sporting event that the Benedict casino empire is planning to host – with  $150 million dollars in cash in the casino’s safe. The heist succeeds and the group disperses.

Ocean’s 12 demonstrates that Benedict may be down but not out – he has tracked down the group members and threatened them with murder if they don’t return the money. The group must now hatch a new plot to return the money to Benedict.

Ocean’s 13 returns the gang to Vegas where they set out to exact revenge against tycoon Willy Bank who has double-crossed Ocean’s friend and taken control of his casino project. The elaborate plot succeeds, and the crew is left with a nice bundle of money that they can use to invest in……Vegas.