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Top 10 casino movies

Gambling, casinos, and everything that goes with them have always been an inspiration for the movie industry. From big wins and glitz, to hitting rock bottom, casinos have seen it all over the years, so it is no surprise that there is a long list of films inspired by the subject of gambling.

Recently, we provided our list of Top 10 poker movies, but even if you primarily are a poker player, this week’s list of movies are still the kind of films you will most definitely enjoy.

10. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas isn’t a movie for everyone, but if you love gambling and a twisted sense of humor, you can’t go wrong with this film.

Starring Johnny Depp (Raoul Duke) and Benicio Del Toro (Dr. Gonzo), this black comedy takes the “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mantra to the extreme. There isn’t all that much gambling going on, but if you want to see a movie that will leave you scratching your head in disbelief when the final credits start to roll, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ought to do it.

John is a down-on-his-luck gambler who had pretty much lost it all.

John is a down-on-his-luck gambler who had pretty much lost it all.

9. Hard Eight (1996)
John, played by John C. Reilly, is a down-on-his-luck gambler who had pretty much lost it all, almost like Bill Hickok with his famous dead man’s hand.

However, John’s luck changes when he meets Sydney (Philipp Baker Hall), who takes him to Reno and shows him many tricks of the trade, teaching him how to get free stuff and win at gambling. Things are finally looking up for John, until he meets Clementine, played by Gwyneth Paltrow.

8. The Cooler (2003)
The Cooler is an interesting story based on the superstition about certain croupiers being “coolers”, i.e. the ones to send in when someone is winning too much to stop their winning streak.

Bernie is, by all accounts, the unluckiest man in all of Vegas and he is used by mobsters running the casinos for this very purpose whenever there is someone whose streak needs to be broken.

However, his jinx suddenly stops working when he falls in love and this creates a completely new set of problems in his life.

7. Mississippi Grind (2015)
We haven’t been seeing too many great gambling movies lately, so Mississippi Grind was a really nice surprise. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn, this is an interesting and somewhat touchy story about a strange friendship between two gamblers, who find much more than just some poker games.

The friendship takes them on a trip down the Mississippi River where they go through all the usual motions – winning, losing, and having to find some money to get back in the game. Through it all, the two men develop a strong bond – or at least as strong as it can be between gamblers. The movie culminates with one final session at a casino after a lucky win, which will determine the rest of their lives.

6. Bugsy (1991)
The story of Las Vegas and how it came to be what it is today is a really interesting one. The 1991 film Bugsy presents us with a Hollywood version of this story focusing on a New York gangster Ben “Bugsy” Siegel (Warren Beatty), the man who started the gambling boom in Vegas.

Bugsy saw the business potential hidden in the middle of the desert and became obsessed with making his dream true even to his own detriment.

5. Croupier (1998)
The 1998 movie Croupier tells the story of Jack (played by Clive Owen), a failed writer struggling to make the ends meet and takes on a job as a dealer in a casino.

However, things start to get complicated when he becomes close to one of the regular players, Jani, who manages to persuade him to help her organize a casino heist. This is a solid and exciting crime movie with some interesting plot twists, so it definitely deserves a spot in the top 10 list.

4. The Gambler (1974)
The Gambler is somewhat of a cult movie, initially released in 1974, starring James Caan (Axel Freed) and Lauren Hutton, but experiencing a remake in 2014 (featuring Mark Wahlberg).

It is a story about a college professor who just can’t stop gambling as the stakes get higher and higher. The life of a gambler takes Freed on a slippery slope where he is left with just one option – going for one huge gamble to get out of the vicious circle for good.

The film talks about the group of six MIT students who took casinos in Las Vegas for millions.

The film talks about the group of six MIT students who took casinos in Las Vegas for millions.

3. 21 (2008)
Released in 2008, 21 is another casino movie based on real-life events. The film talks about the group of six MIT students who took casinos in Las Vegas for millions by playing the perfect game of blackjack.

These students learned everything there was to know about playing blackjack, mastered frequencies and math, including perfect card counting techniques, and used them on the casinos floors across Vegas, earning big money before casinos finally caught up to them.

2. Owning Mahowny (2003)
Owning Mahowny may not be as famous as some other names on this list but it is one of the personal favorites. It reveals the world of gambling from a different perspective – that of a true gambler who doesn’t really care about winning and losing.

Mahwony is a bank manager with access to huge amounts of money and serious gambling addiction. He plays just for the thrill of the game and casinos don’t ask any questions – they very much welcome his money.

Of course, at one point it all crashes down and Mahowny, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, has to face the music. The movie is based on a true story about one of the biggest one-man bank frauds in history of Canada and it is really an interesting watch, especially for those with a more intimate knowledge of gambling.

1. Casino (1995)
You can’t make a list of casino movies without the movie actually called Casino. Well, perhaps you could, if it wasn’t such a great film.

Directed by none other than Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci, Casino takes us to Las Vegas during the 1970s and 1980s, when the mob involvement with the gambling industry was very strong.

It’d be a shame to spoil any of the plot for those who still haven’t seen this masterpiece but if the names of the people involved with this movie aren’t enough to convince you to see it, nothing will ever be.

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