Good Casino Movies

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 6:41 am

This list of good casino movies is written in honor of my trip to Los Angeles to take part in the first annual Turner Classic Movies Film Festival. I’m trekking all the way from Texas in my friend’s extended cab pick-up truck (no, not everyone in Texas drives a truck), and we’ll be staying at the Sandia Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico at the conclusion of day one. While I’m not much for gambling, I am a big fan of movies, so here’s a list of entertaining films at least partially set in a casino. I’m not saying these are the only good casino movies ever made, but they’re a safe bet for the uninitiated.

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Casino (1995) – If you’re going to create a list of good films set in a casino, including this seedy masterpiece from Martin Scorsese is a must. Robert De Niro sets his usual menacing skillset aside and evokes sympathy as Sam Rothstein, a skilled handicapper who gets sent to Vegas to oversee the daily operations of a casino owned by the mob. Things get increasingly difficult when he’s joined by the volatile Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) and falls in love with a beautiful con-artist (Sharon Stone).

Rain Man (1988) – While the focus of this Barry Levinson film is on the developing relationship between the selfish Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) and his autistic older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), there’s still plenty of time to head to Vegas and engage in a little card counting. 2009’s The Hangover (another good casino movie) also parodied the classic escalator scene, with Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis filling in.

21 (2008) – Based on details from the book Bringing Down the House, this film tells the story of the MIT Blackjack Team led by Professor Mickey Rosa (Kevin Spacey) and their adventures while counting cards in Las Vegas. Not the most compelling subject matter, but the filmmakers do a nice job of spicing things up with romance, conflict, and an ominous casino security chief (Laurence Fishburne).

Bugsy (1991) – The story of gangster Bugsy Siegel (Warren Beatty), his love for actress Virginia Hill (Annette Bening), and his dream of building a casino in the Nevada desert. While the facts have been altered, Bugsy still remains an engaging look at a man with a grand dream. Ben Kingsley and Harvey Keitel co-star.

The Cooler (2003) – Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is a cooler–a person whose bad luck rubs off on other casino patrons and gives the house an extra advantage. But when he falls in love with a casino waitress (Maria Bello), his luck changes for the better. This, however, does not set well with old-school casino boss Shelly Kaplow (Alec Baldwin), a heavy-handed thug who’s willing to resort to blackmail, intimidation, and even murder. If you love nudity, you’ll be delighted by frequent looks at Macy and Bello engaged in lovemaking.

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) – Jack Singer (Nicolas Cage) and Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) are a couple who head to Vegas for a quickie wedding. But before they can do so, Tommy Korman (James Caan) shows up and beats Jack in poker to the tune of $65,000. Since Betsy reminds him of his late wife, Korman agrees to cancel the debt if he can spend a non-sexual weekend with her. The couple initially agrees, but Jack soon has second thoughts and embarks on a series of misadventures to get her back. Not many films have skydiving Elvis impersonators playing a pivotal role, but this one does.

Vegas Vacation (1997) – The Griswolds head to Vegas and get into one hilarious adventure after another. While some may have already tired of the franchise, this one still offers enough goofy laughs to warrant a recommendation. Marisol Nichols and Ethan Embry play the Griswold children this time, and Wayne Newton cameos as himself (who knew he was so skilled at painting centaurs?).

The Grand (2008) – This improvisational comedy boasts an ensemble cast of veteran actors, with a fictional poker tournament championship (and a $10 million pot) on the line. No winner was scripted, and the actors actually played poker to determine the outcome. The cast includes Woody Harrelson as a gambler who’s been married 75 times, Cheryl Hines as a successful female poker player, David Cross as her less-successful brother, Chris Parnell as a numbers genius with poor social skills, Dennis Farina as a crusty veteran, Werner Herzog as the dreaded German, Richard Kind as an online qualifier, and Ray Romano as a poker husband obsessed with drafting Peyton Manning in fantasy football.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – George Clooney heads up an all-star cast that includes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Julia Roberts, and loads of others. The plan revolves around robbing The Mirage, MGM Grand, and the Bellagio, with over $150 million on the line. But if things don’t go off perfectly, they’ll have to face the wrath of Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), the owner of all three casinos. To complicate matters, Danny Ocean’s (Clooney) ex-wife (Roberts) is now the main squeeze of Benedict. Two sequels would follow.

The Hangover (2009) – To celebrate their friend’s impending marriage, a group of guys head off to Vegas to have some fun. The following morning, there’s a baby in the closet and a tiger and the bathroom, and their soon-to-be-married pal is nowhere to be found. As they try to piece together the events of the previous evening, they encounter Asian crime lords, friendly strippers, and a pissed-off Mike Tyson. Even though it’s overrated, The Hangover is still a fun flick for the unpretentious film fan.

Instead of blowing your money at the craps table, why not roll the dice over at Netflix? They have all the good casino movies listed above, as well as thousands of other products on DVD and Blu-ray. We do get a small commission for sending you there, but I promise not to lose any of it to the likes of Doyle Brunson.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 at 6:41 am and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Good Casino Movies”

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June 14, 2010

Gamble

The Hangover Is one of the best party/chill movies you will ever watch if you like somewhat realistic comedies :P would recomend people to check it out.

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