Whether you’re a diehard casino-loving gambler or a regular Joe who likes the extravagant atmosphere of casinos, you can get some of the rush of betting big on your TV screen. Here’s our choice of the top five casino movies to watch next.
1. The Sting (1973)
Director: George Roy Hill
Stars: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
Running time: 129 min
The Sting tells the gripping story of Johnny Hooker, a young con-man in 1930s Chicago, who accidentally crosses mob boss Doyle Lonnegan during one of his stunts. This mishap gets Johnny's partner killed and, fearing for his life, Johnny flees the Windy City.
After meeting up with master con-man Henry Gondorff, Johnny plots an elaborate scheme to relieve Lonnegan of a huge sum of money. With the help of a team of tricksters, a high stakes game is set up with more than just a lot of money on the line. From poker to horse racing, the play for money is as intense as it can be. To pull it off, Hooker and Gondorff will not only need huge playing skills; they’ll also need guts.
The Sting was a hugely successful movie and although dated, it still makes for great viewing. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, in 1974.
2. Bugsy (1991)
Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel
Running time: 136 min
Released in 1991, Bugsy is an American crime-drama that tells the tale of mobster Bugsy Siegel, the man who dreamt it big in Las Vegas and founded the seemingly impossible, the extravagant Flamingo Hotel & Casino. The story of how Bugsy became a driving force in the development of The Strip as a gaming haven started off almost by accident. Flying in to Los Angeles in order to gain control of betting parlours from rival gangs, Bugsy visits a gambling den in Las Vegas and sets his sights on constructing a casino right in the middle of the desert, in a state where gambling was legal.
The financing of the Flamingo soon goes off the charts, as its budget tops $6 million. Bugsy is determined to see it finished, fueled also by his desire to impress Hollywood starlet and seductress Virginia Hill. However, betrayal and murder threaten the fulfillment of Bugsy’s dream.
If the movie was redone today you’d probably find some young Turk trying to fund set up a site where punters could play games online. Oh wait, that was already done in Runner Runner - a film which did NOT make this list. Bugsy brings old school class to mob gambling and makes this an excellent film in all respects.
3. Swingers (1996)
Director: Jon Favreau
Stars: Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham, Jon Favrea
Running time: 96 min
Let’s hold off the drama for a moment and unwind with some laughs. Swingers is a comedy film that recounts the troubles of two single, unemployed actors living in California and waiting for their big break.
When Mike is dumped by his girlfriend, he decides to leave New York and heads out on his own to Hollywood, where he meets his friend Trent. Seeing him so dejected, Trent takes Mike to Las Vegas to cheer him up a bit and teach him about living the good life. From one misadventure to the next, the two friends realize that life is a lot harder than the movies, and in Sin City only the toughest can win.
Swingers rides on the swing revival that took the early 90s back to the classy elegance of the 40s. The film was a commercial success and shot Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau to stardom.
4. Hard Eight (1996)
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Stars: Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow
Running time: 102 min
Hard Eight’s style harks back to the classic noir films with its gritty storytelling full of intrigue and twists. The film opens with a shot of John, a washed out gambler brooding over his recent losses, at a diner. Fate, however, seems to have an unexpected card to deal to him in the form of Sydney, a veteran gambler who agrees to turn John into a star player and help him raise enough money for his mother’s funeral.
Through Sydney’s coaching, John becomes a successful professional gambler and starts dating Clementine, a cocktail waitress who moonlights as a prostitute. Clementine’s lifestyle doesn’t seem to bother John, until they get married and dark secret about Sydney’s past threatens to turn their lives upside down.
Hard Eight isn’t your usual movie fare, but with its solid acting and tight plot, it guarantees a riveting viewing experience to share with your casino-loving friends.
5. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts
Running time: 116 min
Danny Ocean and his gang have entered movie history with their thrilling heist involving three Las Vegas casinos being robbed at the same time. This 2001 release was a modern take on the classic Ocean’s Eleven from 1960 that starred the Rat Pack. Soon after he is released from prison, Danny Ocean meets up with this partner-in-crime Rusty Ryan with a fresh idea for their next caper. The plan consists of an ambitious and complicated scheme to rob three of Las Vegas largest casinos: the Bellagio, The Mirage and the MGM Grand, simultaneously.
A plot this big cannot be pulled off by the two of them alone, so Danny and Ryan seek out the help of their millionaire friend and former casino owner Reuben Tishkoff who explains to them the obstacles they’re likely to meet in this endeavor. Undaunted by the enormity of their project, Danny and Ryan recruit eight of their former colleagues and band together to execute the heist of the century.
The movie was wildly successful at the box office, grossing over $450 million and wowing critics all over the world. Ocean’s Eleven spawned two sequels, each adding an additional member to the original cast. Although the 2001 version and the original one from 1960 largely tell the same story, both come highly recommended for your next movie night.
It’s show time!
Now you know what’s showing at your next DVD night -- heck, we got five planned out for you and your friends. Switch on the telly, dim the lights, and for tonight, pass the popcorn, not the poker chips.