Casinos are ready made for movies. There’s drama at every table, tension anytime someone pulls the slot. There are neon lights and spinning wheels and everyone struggling to walk away with big sums of money. Take that backdrop. Add a few memorable characters and an appealing storyline. It doesn’t matter if it’s a comedy, action or drama, you’ve got the beginning of a compelling story. It’s probably why casino movies are so popular. People can appreciate the underlying themes of money and anxiety and wanting more than you already have. Here are five great movies with casinos at their center.
1) Ocean’s Eleven
The original was a reason for Sinatra’s cronies to hang out in Vegas on someone else’s dime. For the remake, director Steven Soderbergh manages to bring his unique sensibilities to the proceedings without foregoing mainstream credibility. The plan to rob three casinos at the same time is thrilling and funny. It’s a dream cast and they live up to expectations. Though the sequels are stellar, each subsequent film loses something as we come to expect the alleged unexpected.
2) The Cooler
This film didn’t receive a lot of commercial attention though it was positively reviewed. ‘Cooler’ Bernie Lootz is a loser who is supposed to spread his bad luck simply by sitting at the tables. Cast as an oily casino boss, Alec Baldwin is his usual excellent self. They have a great relationship grounded in fear and intimidation. Things get complicated when Bernie finds a companion in Natalie, played by the lovely Maria Bello. Bernie’s luck starts to change. Feeling better about himself seems to give his life a turn for the better.
3) The Hangover
Running to Vegas is an infamous attempt at last minute freedom for bachelors and bachelorettes about to tie the knot. In this hilarious film, four buddies hit the Strip for a night of hi-jinks. The next morning they have no memory of what happened, nor do they know where the bridegroom is. Among the shenanigans, Ken Jeong brings the crazy as an odd could-be gangster. There’s also Mike Tyson, a tiger, a baby, missing teeth and much, much more, all with Vegas shining bright in the background. This movie is a great example of why what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.
The cold and tough world of gambling has never been presented so skillfully. Set in London, Clive Owens plays a croupier with dreams of being a writer. His absorption into the gambling world takes his life into grim territory. His personal relationships fall apart while he develops fleeting, empty relationships with other croupiers and gamblers. Things get complicated when Owen’s Jack gets involved in an attempt to rob his employers.
This is THE casino movie. It’s about glamor and power and money and what we’re willing to do to hang onto it. It’s about the roots of Las Vegas and the mob’s attempts to control it and what happens when they can’t. There are no friends, just associates. It’s about buried bodies and hard fought battles. It’s about respect even when you’ve lost the right to it. Yet it still manages to reveal the allure and romantics that Vegas continues to possess to this day.
Charlotte is a Cinema Enthusiest from Sydney, Australia. She rates these movies as the top 5 that revolve around the theme of casinos. Charlotte isn’t a gambler herself but she likes to play free online games at Slots-Free.