To help keep many club and hotel managers and staff entertained through the next week here are the top 10 movies with a gambling theme. So, bring out the popcorn, Zoom in your masked staff 1.5m apart, and let the show begin!
1. 21 (2008)
It can be a little tough to find a true story gambling movie that’s jam-packed with suspense, thrill, and humour. Robert Luketic classic film 21 provides you with all these and then some. It’s serious yet comical, which is why IMDB’s score of 6.8/10 doesn’t do it justice.
How the movie unfolds can make you forget that it’s based on a true story of 6 MIT students who were taught by their unorthodox math professor Micky Rosa (played by Kevin Spacey) how to count cards. After several weekend trips to Las Vegas, they eventually took The Strip casinos for millions of dollars in blackjack winnings.
Perhaps the most heart-warming story is that of Ben Campbell (played by Jim Sturgess), a gifted student and an aspiring medical doctor. With no way of getting $300k to attend Harvard Medical School, Ben decides to join the card-counting team. Unfortunately, power and greed get the best of the students, putting their plan in jeopardy.
IMDB’s score: 6.8/10
2. High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)
If you keep a tab on what’s happening in the world of poker, then Stu Ungar needs no introduction. He’s well-known poker guru famed for becoming the first-ever player to scoop 3 WSOP Main Event tournaments in the history of World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, he lost the vast majority of his poker winnings on horse racing.
High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story is an indie biographical film about the fascinating life of the high roller Stu Ungar, who is played by Michael Imperioli. Vidmer’s docudrama features every aspect of the player’s life, from when he had everything and hedonistic highs to when his life caved in. The film spares nothing, capturing Stu’s dramatic rise to the zenith of poker gambling, and then his equally meteoric downfall.
IMDB’s score: 6.1/10
3. The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
If you are looking for a classic gambling film, look no further than The Cincinnati Kid. The movie walks us through the exploits of the Kid (played by Steve McQueen) as he tries to cut a niche for himself in the gambling during the Great Depression. To do this, the Kid must outdo Lancey, considered one of the best poker players in the era.
The Cincinnati Kid has everything you can wish for in a dramatic classic poker film – the underhand moves, the betrayal, women, guns, actions … the whole shebang to keep your adrenaline pumping. It is a fast-paced thriller that unravels the world of gambling piece by piece.
IMDB’s score: 7.3/10
4. Rounders (1998)
It’s a little difficult to find a gambling movie that offers plenty of humour and inspiring drama. Rounders gives you a slice of everything, with a drama-filled script, great rating and a star-studded cast (with Matt Damon as the main star, as well as Edward Norton and John Malkovich).
Rounders follows the story of Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) who must beat Teddy “KGB”, a Russian gambling baron in a high stakes poker game. At home, McDermott is being pressured by his girlfriend Jo to call it quits from gambling. However, he must pay his college fees with poker winnings. The push-and-pull between the couple continues until Lester (a friend of McDermott’s) comes out of the slammer and is required to pay off an old debt owed to the KGB. The showdown unfolds right before your eyes, with lots of table banter and poker bluffing strategies.
IMDB’s score: 7.3/10
5. The Hangover (2009)
The Hangover is a fun play on the Vegas saying: “Whatever happens in Las Vegas stays in Vegas.” The movie itself isn’t centred around gambling, but there are several gambling scenes dotted throughout the flick.
It follows a mishap-filled story of Doug (played by Justin Bartha) and his 3 friends – Alan (Ed Helms), Stu (Zach Galifianakis), and Phil (Bradley Cooper). The odd crew decides, 2 days before Doug’s wedding, to make a trip to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.
The next morning, however, the trio wakes up and draws a blank on whatever happened last night. Funny enough, they’d also lost and can’t seem to locate the whereabouts of the groom. The three groomsmen have to put their thoughts together and try to find their friend just hours before the wedding.
The first Hangover movie was a huge hit, so much so that Warner Bros. released Hangover II in 2011 and Hangover III in 2013. Every film in this sequel is not only hilarious but gives an exaggerated look of Las Vegas and its imposing casinos.
IMDB’s score: 7.3/10
6. Casino Royale (2006)
Perhaps one of the most notable gambling films ever, Casino Royale follows the exploits of James Bond (aka 007, played by Daniel Craig) as he tries to defeat Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a well-known financier of terrorist organizations.
After getting word that Le Chiffre wants to use high stakes poker to raise money for terrorist activities, MI6 enlists the help of Mr. Bond to try to beat him at the poker table. Not only does Bond show off amazing bluffing strategies but it also manages to break down Le Chiffre organization.
Casino Royale remains one of the most loved and watched movies in the Bond franchise.
IMDB’s score: 8.0/10
7. Casino (1995)
It’s all in the name. This is an early epic drama by famous film director Martin Scorsese. Based on the book Casino: Love and Honour in Las Vegas, this movie is star-studded. Some of the big names included Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone and the one and only Robert de Niro.
The movie depicts the two faces of gambling in Las Vegas: the cruel and brutal dealings happening behind the scenes, juxtaposed with the glitz, ritz, and glamour that is often shown by mainstream media.
Ace (de Niro) is a Vegas casino operator with mob connection, but he lives a seemingly normal and civilized life with his family. However, when Santoro (Pesci) lands in town, Ace’s life turns upside down. Interestingly, Santoro is his childhood friend and now a well-known mafia lynch-baron.
If you are looking for a casino movie jam-packed with murder, power, money, deception, and greed, Casino will simply knock your socks off.
IMDB’s score: 8.2/10
8. Honeymoon in Vegas (1992)
Vegas is probably not the right place to go for your honeymoon, a subtle fact Jack Singer (played by Nicolas Cage) learns the hard way. After burning through his life-savings of $65,000 at the poker table, Jack who’s about to get married to Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) is forced to lend his fiancée to the winning opponent and con artist, Tommy Korman (James Caan).
Betsy, who resembles Korman’s late wife, starts to develop feelings for the con man. It’s now upon Jack to quickly track the “couple” down to Hawaii before it is too late. Who will get hitched to Betsy?
IMDB’s score: 5.8/10
9.Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Nothing brings together crime, mystery and comic relief quite like a good gambling film, and Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is a classic example.
The premise of the film revolves around 4 English friends who decide to pool money to beat a gangster named Hatchet Harry in 3-card brag (UK’s version of poker). Unfortunately, Eddy (the leader of the group) loses everything to Harry, who by the way cheated. After losing the botched poker game, the quartet must raise £500,000 to pay off Harry’s gambling debt or Eddy will lose his dad’s pub. You have to see this thriller for yourself to discover the violence, heists and clowning these guys must go through to evade Harry’s wrath.
Probably the biggest lesson is that you should never gamble more than you can afford, plus be careful when picking your poker allies.
IMDB’s score: 8.2/10
10. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
If you love casino heist films, the chances are very good that you have watched Steven Soderbergh’s crown jewel Ocean’s Eleven.
As you might expect, there’s a ringleader, Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney), and a team of high risk-takers who want to execute one of the most elaborate casino heists in history. Ocean’s 11 target three of Vegas largest casinos – the MGM Grand, the Mirage and Bellagio. In this film, the three casinos are owned and operated by scum-bag tycoon Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia).
Even though Ocean and the team have laid out a highly detailed and elaborate plan, the heist faces plenty of turns and twists. Will the Ocean’s 11 make away with millions of dollars from the tycoon’s coffers? If you have 1hr 57min to spare, this is a casino heist movie that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
IMDB’s score: 7.7/10