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Oscar Winners – Casino-Themed Movies

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A real-life casino has all the ingredients of a blockbuster: drama, suspense, heroic deeds, epic failures, naive people, and sharks. Casinos have fascinated gamblers since the first one opened its doors in 17th century Italy. Not by chance; they’re a recurrent background for movies and novels. Indeed, sometimes it’s even hard to tell reality from fiction and documentaries from dramas.

This article is for those casino enthusiasts that also love movies about casinos; here, you’ll find only the best ones. Check it out!

Betting on the 7th Art

There are plenty of movies about casinos, but like real-life casinos, not all of them deserve your attention. Some poorly cast and directed stories, sometimes even including great actors, failed miserably at the box office and with critics. Movies like Runner Runner with Ben Affleck receive an embarrassing 9% rate on Rotten Tomatoes. For comparison, De Niro’s Casino, which tops our list, was ranked with 93%.

Don’t you worry, though: here, we only have space for the best titles of the kind. If you get in the mood of risking a few chips after watching them, it’s also absolutely normal. In this case, look at the 6 Best online casino games for Beginners. Now, grab some popcorn and turn off the lights. 

Casino (1996) – Martin Scorsese

Cast:

  • Robert De Niro
  • Sharon Stone
  • Joe Pesci

Casino is an unbeatable classic of casino-related movies. Here, Scorsese uses all his expertise with movies about gangsters to give life to Nicholas Pillegi’s non-fictional book. It’s not a documentary, but it’s based on true people and true events, and it’s done with incredible realism. 

Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci play the gangsters, Sam Rothstein and Nicky Santoro, respectively. Rothstein manages four casinos in Las Vegas for the mafia, with some help from his childhood friend, Nicky Santoro. Sharon Stone is the call girl Ginger McKenna, who marries Rothstein. In real life, their names were Frank Rosenthal, Tony Spilotro, and Geri McGee, respectively.

Ocean’s Eleven (2001) – Steven Soderbergh

Cast:

  • George Clooney
  • Brad Pitt 
  • Matt Damon
  • Julia Roberts
  • Andy Garcia

If there were an award for the movie with the most star-studded cast, Ocean’s Eleven would bring it home, hands down. In fact, the list above doesn’t do justice to all the stars in the movie, which also includes Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Don Cheadle, and others. The movie is a remake of the original, a huge success in the 60s. 

In the plot, Danny Ocean (Clooney) plans to heist the biggest casinos in Las Vegas right after leaving jail. He pulls a team that is crazy enough to accept the job with the help of his partner Rusty Ryan (Pitt). Julia Robert is Tess Ocean, Ocean’s ex-wife, now married to Terry Benedict (Garcia), who owns the Bellagio, which Danny Ocean plans to heist.

Casino Royale (2006) – Martin Campbell

Cast:

  • Daniel Craig
  • Eva Green
  • Mads Mikkelsen
  • Judy Dench

Casino Royale is the first James Bond story to become a movie, and it’s also the first of a series of novels with the hero. The book was released in 1952, and the first movie came a bit after, in 1960. Casino Royale tells about a much more reckless Bond, with less unrealistic gadgets and fewer lovers. 

In this movie, 007 must stop a mob banker named Le Chiffre, who’s funnelling money to terrorists. The poker scene, when James Bond plays against the villain, is one of the most memorable. Daniel Craig is a formidable 007, and the 2006 version owes nothing to the original one. Casino Royale was nominated for multiple film awards in 2007.

The Gambler (1974) – Roman Polanski

Cast:

  • James Caan
  • Lauren Hutton
  • Paul Sorvino

The Gambler is a casino-themed classic, a stark reminder of the dangers of gambling addiction. James Caan plays Axel Freed, a university professor with a severe addiction to gambling. The story unfolds as Axel bets and loses almost everything he has, to the point of putting his life in danger. 

The plot gets increasingly tense as Axel plunges into debt, being eroded by addiction and decadence. There’s also a remake, where Mark Wahlberg plays Axel, but it didn’t live up to the original version. The Gambler won an Oscar for James Caan’s brilliant performance.  

Rain Man (1988) – Barry Levinson

Cast:

  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Tom Cruise

Rain Man isn’t exactly about casinos, but casinos play an important part. It won three Oscars: Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Picture. The film tells the story of Charles Babbitt (Cruise) and his adventures with his autistic brother, Raymond (Hoffman). The brothers spend almost the entire movie on the road. Raymond’s talent with numbers, and impeccable memory, give the brothers quite a ride in Las Vegas.  

The film begins with Charlie struggling to save his business of imported luxury cars. Then, he learns that his father, who had no relationship, passed away. On occasion, he also learns about an autistic older brother he’s never met and a 3 million dollars trust in his name. Both men couldn’t be more different, and even though there’s a lot of money involved, they develop a close and sincere friendship. 

The Sting (1973) – George Roy Hill

Cast:

  • Paul Newman
  • Robert Redford

Redford and Newman got together once again after Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. The story unfolds during the middle 30s, and the protagonists play a pair of scammers. The Sting is sure to please those who love poker, as there’s plenty of poker playing in the story. Like a good poker game, the story is also full of surprises and twists, keeping the audience glued to the screen during its 129 minutes. 

The Sting is a crime movie but still manages to be a light-hearted one. Sure, there’s violence, but it doesn’t come close to defining the plot. At least no one is getting his hands pounded by a mallet for stealing, like in Casino (1996). It won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1973.

More Popcorn

Are you ready for the marathon? There are over 15 hours worth of the best stories about casinos, told by brilliant directors and played by fantastic actors. You’ll be excused if you feel like risking a chip or two in your favourite casino game after such an entertaining cinema session. 

Author: Harry Green

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