The Greatest Casino-Themed Cinema Classics

Since the mid-1940s, the world of gambling has been a source of inspiration for some of the greatest filmmakers. It all began with the release of the film "Gilda" by Charles Vidor. This film, blending elements of film noir, drama, and thriller, features Ballin Mundson, the director of a casino, who decides to take young American Johnny Farrell, played by Glenn Ford, under his wing after saving his life. Since the release of this masterpiece in 1946, the theme of the casino has continued to be celebrated on the big screen. Over the years, it has evolved from the realm of gangsters to that of entertainment for all.

Top 10 Best casino and Gambling Movies

GAMRFIRST presents to you the 10 most well-known films about gambling and casino.

1. The Sting (1973)

Produced by George Roy Hill and written by David S. Ward, this film hit theaters in 1973, transporting us to the Chicago of the 1930s. Johnny Hooker and his partner Coleman unwittingly steal from Doyle Lonnegan, a fearsome New York gangster. Coleman is promptly killed, and Hooker seeks refuge with Henry Gondorff, a con artist expert. Together, they orchestrate an elaborate con to bankrupt Lonnegan, making him believe he can access race results before they are officially released. Their goal? To avenge Coleman's death.

For his work on "The Sting," George Roy Hill received the award for Best Director from the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the American directors' association. In 1974, the film received several Oscars:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Original Screenplay for David S. Ward
  • Best Art Direction for Henry Bumstead and James Payne
  • Best Costume Design for Edith Head
  • Best Film Editing for William Reynolds
  • Best Original Score for Marvin Hamlisch

"The Sting" was added to the National Film Registry (NFR) in 2005.

2. Casino (1995)

Directed by Martin Scorsese, the American film "Casino" stars Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. The story is directly inspired by the book "Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas" by writer Nicholas Pileggi.

In the early 1970s, Sam "Ace" Rothstein is sent to Las Vegas by the Chicago mafia. Assisted by childhood friend Nicky Santoro, he manages the Tangiers hotel-casino, one of the most prosperous in the city. Rothstein's path takes a dark turn, and in the meantime, he marries a con artist virtuoso. Ginger McKenna still has feelings for Lester Diamond, her former pimp. The troubles for the film's hero start after his marriage.

Martin Scorsese's "casino" received numerous accolades, including:

  • Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for Sharon Stone
  • Nomination for the Golden Globe for Best Director for Martin Scorsese
  • Nomination for the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain for Joe Pesci

3. The Lady's Money (1972)

This biting Italian comedy was produced by Luigi Comencini and features Alberto Sordi, Silvana Mangano, and Bette Davis. The film revolves around a wealthy American woman with a passion for card games. During her stays in Italy at her magnificent rented villa, she particularly enjoys playing "scopone scientifico." During her card games, she challenges Peppino and Antonia, a couple of ragpickers living in a Roman shantytown. Having never won in seven years, they dream of taking the "lady" for a ride.

This film is a perfect illustration of the class struggle, forever pitting the powerless against the powerful. It portrays the illusion that the poor have of turning the tables in their favor and the arrogance of the rich.

4. The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

"The Cincinnati Kid" is an American film directed by Norman Jewison and stars Karl Swenson, Andy Albin, and Steve McQueen. In New Orleans, an ambitious poker player aims to solidify his reputation by facing off against the discipline's champion. A substantial sum of money and the title of the best poker player are at stake.

5. The Gambler or California Split (1974)

This American film is based on the meeting of a reporter, Bill Denny (George Segal), and Charlie Waters (Elliott Gould) around a poker table. Very quickly, the two men become friends around a common passion: gambling. It leads these two unlucky gamblers from town to town until the day Bill finally wins the jackpot.

6. Casino Royale (2006)

The American-British-German-Czech espionage film Casino Royale was directed by Martin Campbell. It brings together actors such as Daniel Craig (as James Bond), Eva Green, and Mads Mikkelsen. It is the 21st installment in the series of James Bond films created by EON Productions. This film is actually a cinematic adaptation of Ian Fleming's novel Casino Royale, published in 1953 in the United Kingdom.

For his very first mission, James Bond challenges Le Chiffre, a private banker at the head of a large criminal group. To finish ruining him and dismantling his network, agent 007 must succeed in winning a poker game against him at Casino Royale. He is accompanied by the beautiful Vesper, attached to the Treasury. Her mission? To ensure that Bond takes care of the British government's money used as a stake. Obviously, nothing will go as planned. As James Bond and Vesper try to escape Le Chiffre's assassination attempts, feelings arise between them, making them even more vulnerable...

Casino Royale was rewarded with multiple honors:

  • Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film
  • Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media for "You Know My Name"
  • BAFTA Award for Best Actor for Daniel Craig

7. Bob the Gambler (1956)

Bob the Gambler is a French film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, starring Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy, and Roger Duchesne. It inspired the American film The Killing, before being the subject of a film adaptation by Neil Jordan in The Riviera Man in 2022.

Bob, a former repentant crook, is addicted to gambling. Consumed by his passion, he scours the cabarets where gambling is played in Montmartre and meets Anne, a young woman without means. She is about to fall into prostitution. Bankrupted by gambling, Bob is forced to return to service. He then sets his sights on robbing the mythical casino of Deauville...

8. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is the first feature film by British director Guy Ritchie. It accumulated 3,845,668 admissions in Europe. Its main actors are:

  • Nick Moran
  • Jason Statham
  • Jason Flemyng
  • Dexter Fletcher

The film won no less than eight awards, including the MTV Movie Award for Best New Filmmaker and the British Comedy Award for Best Comedy.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels tells the story of Eddie, JD's son, a real card genius. With his friends Soap, Bacon, and Tom, he raises the sum of £100,000, constituting the entry fee to the table of Boss Harry. With his right-hand man Barry the Baptist, they cheat, and Eddie loses everything. The boss gives Eddie, Tom, Soap, and Bacon a week to raise £500,000. If they fail, the gang leader promises to cut off their fingers and take Eddie's father's pub. The four friends then decide to rob Eddie's neighbors. Tom buys two very old rifles to help them. He doesn't know that these weapons are actually worth a lot of money and that Harry the Hache wants them back at any cost.

9. Ocean's Eleven (2001)

This American thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh is a remake of Ocean's Eleven by Lewis Milestone, released in 1960. Its ensemble cast includes actors such as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, Elliott Gould, and Carl Reiner. Between 2001 and 2009, the film Ocean's Eleven was selected 25 times in several categories. It obtained four awards, including the Gold Bogey Award and the NBR Award for Top 10 of the Year.

After two years in prison in New Jersey, Danny Ocean regains his freedom. He sets up a coup that seems impossible to accomplish: to rob three sumptuous Las Vegas gambling establishments: the Bellagio, Mirage, and MGM Grand casinos. At stake, $150 million. To succeed in the robbery, Danny and his friend Rusty Ryan form a team of ten crooks, each a master in their specialty.

10. Croupier (1998)

Croupier is a British film about the casino world, directed by Mike Hodges. It follows Jack Manfred, a young writer lacking inspiration. He reluctantly accepts a job as a croupier his father found for him in a London casino. Efficient and skillful, he impresses his colleagues and boss, but fails to enjoy his work. His girlfriend, Marion, disapproves of his change of career as she believes he compromises his talent. However, night after night, Jack gathers ideas for his next book. One day, he meets Jani. This beautiful South African woman quickly turns his head and convinces him to take part in a casino heist.

The casino, an endless source of inspiration for movie directors

Many masterpieces of the Seventh Art are set in casinos. These places of madness and fantasy have fascinated and will always fascinate the public. Film directors quickly realized this and regularly produce movies that immerse us in the world of gambling. Their success is based on a winning trio:

  • A captivating plot
  • Memorable characters
  • Thrilling action scenes

In the 1930s, gambling was frowned upon on the other side of the Atlantic. The first casinos had a bad reputation, mainly frequented by cowboys. It wasn’t until the end of World War II that Americans began to show interest in gambling. By portraying them differently, cinema contributed to changing mentalities. Film after film, it popularized the casino among the general public.