The way casinos are portrayed on screen varies wildly depending on the type of movie you are watching. They can provide an opulent backdrop for machiavellian masterminds to get their comeuppance at the hands of a suave spy, or offer an all-night venue for an impromptu drunken wedding.
Whether you want to be drawn into an intriguing plot that will leave you marvelling at its complexity or just want a fun film to watch with friends, there is a perfect casino movie for you. Some of the most famous include:
While some films rely on the glamour and glitz of a casino setting to impart some atmosphere to key scenes, this tale about a couple’s attempts to put their daughter through college is at the other end of the scale. Starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as the Johansens, this film tells the tale of well-meaning parents who start an underground casino in their house in an attempt to raise tuition fees.
As you might expect from the comedy duo, there are several misunderstandings and unexpected plot twists that lead to an investigation on the part of their local city councillor. As they get closer to the total needed for tuition, they fall foul of a local crime boss as well as the net closing in from the city council.
The tuition money is passed from one ill-intentioned antagonist to another as the couple find themselves on the brink of losing everything and a car chase results in a final showdown. Revealing that he intends to steal the money for himself, the city councillor ends up being arrested, leaving the Johansens to make off with the cash after all.
Part casino movie, part buddy film, this film tells the story of a law student and his ex-con friend trying to win at poker to repay a debt before violent enforcers get the better of them. With their lives in danger, they play to win money that will clear their debt, but the two find themselves in several scrapes along the way while trying to avoid a Russian mobster known as KGB.
Starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, this film wasn’t a massive box-office hit when it was initially released, but it has subsequently become a cult classic among those who appreciate the interplay between the two characters as the story unfolds. Poker enthusiasts rate the film for its realistic depiction of the game and some professional players credit the film with influencing their early games.
What Happens in Vegas
Some of the most famously exciting casino scenes feature games with a psychological element such as poker, with players trying to bluff their way into winning a fortune. However, there’s something hugely appealing about the random nature of slot machines such as fishin frenzy, and the simplicity of pulling a lever and potentially changing your life forever.
This is one of the main premises behind What Happens in Vegas, as Joy Ellis and Jack Fuller, played by Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, end up meeting completely by chance when they are both assigned the same room in a Vegas hotel. This chance occurrence kickstarts a chain of unlikely events culminating in a drunken wedding that they both regret the next day.
Before they can untangle their legal situation, however, Jack wins three million dollars using a quarter Joy gave him and their attempts to divorce are thwarted by a judge who insists they must try and make the marriage work for six months. The idea that someone’s life can be completely shaped by a random event makes this film so appealing.
While most casino movies feature someone desperately trying to win, William H Macy’s character, Bernie Lootz is employed to share his own bad luck with potentially high-rolling wagers to help the house maintain its edge. The idea that someone can have such bad luck that they can turn it into a profession is an interesting one, especially when it’s revealed that Bernie’s role at the casino is his way of repaying a debt.
When things start looking up for Bernie, his ‘cooling’ powers appear to fade, frustrating the casino boss who has come to rely on him. His new relationship and newly found lucky streak prove detrimental to his career, but getting away from the casino isn’t quite as easy as he had hoped.
This film marked Adam Sandler’s return to form in a role that saw him earn praise from movie-goers and critics alike. He plays Howard Ratner, a jewellery store owner in New York who ends up in debt to his own brother-in-law and in pursuit of a rare black onyx that he’s hoping will solve all his problems.
Unfortunately, things are not quite as simple as that and the film follows Howard’s journey as he tries to wage his way out of debt while attempting to reconcile with his soon-to-be ex-wife.
Casino movies are often themed around the idea of luck versus probability, and now you don’t need to leave it up to luck to find one that will appeal to you.
Luciana joined our team as a mum blogger in 2020. A dedicated mum to a lively daughter and a dog, Luna, Luciana brings authenticity and passion to every post. Her expertise in parenting and lifestyle topics offers practical, relatable advice for real-life situations.