The best casino movies of all time
Popcorn goes down well when watching your favourite casino movies. The jury is always out on which casino movies deserve to make it into any fan's list of Top 10 or Top 5. True, there are only so many movies that actually fit the bill of being a genuine-article casino-focused movie. This would, of course, discount movies that focus mostly on poker, or some other type of gambling pastime. I've compiled a list here of the movies which I thought would fall squarely into the parameters that make a good casino flick. Here they go, from bottom to top:
Number 5: Casino Royale
Okay, so this particular movie skirts the very restrictions I just spoke about; it's technically about a very, very money-heavy poker game, but it's played at a great land-based casino. The movie is action-packed and filled with usual shebang of casino shenanigans that international men of mystery and espionage escapades can come up with, and plays fairly fast and loose with those adrenaline-fueled moments of tension and excitement that you might actually experience while betting on high stakes. This is a standard thing in any Bond game, but arguably, the entire scenario where all the players are seated around the table and doling out massive amounts of cash is enough to make anyone nervous. So I'm putting it on the list because it's got all 'round appeal and covers a great range of points that any casino movie should hit.
Number 4: The Cooler
This movie works on a distinctly bizarre element that often exists in the casino world; a 'cooler' is a person that is generally considered to have bad luck, enough so that this individual is sent into a casino and directed, by the management, to bring down the luck of anyone with a winning streak. William H. Macy plays the role of a brilliant yet downtrodden, literally down-on-his-luck cooler who meets a waitress, played by Maria Bello. As a result of his sudden spurt of happiness, his own luck changes and he becomes the opposite of his job function, which causes his boss, played by Alec Baldwin, to try and get rid of him. A great movie that adds a touch of romance and of being human to the glitzy world of gambling, and worth the number four spot in the list.
Number 3: Croupier
Taking the number three spot, Croupier is a movie that plays off in the casino and takes place through the eyes and views of a casino dealer. The primary character, played by Clive Owen, provides an interesting side to the gritty aspects of casinos, by default adding an element of 'behind the scenes' and presenting a fairly bleak picture. Then again, the film does take place in London, and is robbed of the lights, glitz and glamor that you'd associate with a traditional casino film. Clive Owen brings his usual stoic self to life as the dealer in the film, giving us a quirky, left-field take on the standard fare of casino-motivated movies that takes number three on the list.
Number 2: Casino
Okay, so this is probably the ultimate in casino-type movies, a fact neatly underscored by the title itself. This Martin Scorsese film presents an even darker take on gambling, in the form of what happens when gangsters and mafia bosses get involved in the glamorous world that everyone knows and loves about casinos. Robert DeNiro and Sharon Stone shone in this 1995 film, also redefining the way and frequency that the f-word can get used in one movie, not to mention one charged desert scene of three minutes that sports a total of 21 instances of the word. A simple-seeming love triangle between DeNiro, Stone and Joe Pesci escalates into the full-blown storyline that involves a casino running aground while the mafia slowly but surely loses its grip on Las Vegas' high-roller lifestyle. Gripping, gritty and not for the faint-hearted, Casino is the world of gambling and its oftentime darker side brought to breathtaking life. A well-deserved second place for this one!
Number 1: Ocean's 11
Although this movie was a remake of an original Rat Pack flick from the 60s, this modernized take excels with a stellar cast and a quirky, witty running conversation between all the character pairings in the film. Brad Pitt and George Clooney delivered a stunning rendition of the two best friends who decide to get personal when the manager of the fantastic Las Vegas hotel, the Bellagio (the manager is played by a very ruthless Andy Garcia) starts dating Clooney's on-screen wife in the film, played by Julia Roberts. A complex and ultimately rewarding escapade involving robbing the Bellagio and pulling one over Garcia, both financially and personally, yields a fast-paced film that explores the best of the casino world and also stays true to that old adage: the hero always gets the girl, even if Clooney's portrayal of the heroic central character is one of scruffy mores and vengeful intent. Also, every other individual in cahoots with the scene ended up as a winner in some form, so the movie actually carries through a nice feel-good vibe. This movie might not be the cult-classic cream of the crop in terms of casino movies, but it still scores the top spot in my list of best casino movies of all time!