The 12 Greatest Casino and Gambling Movies of All Time

Casino gambling is attractive.  It’s high-class, it’s well-dressed, and it’s full of drama and intrigue.  Therefore, it’s little wonder why so many big movies are based in the heart of the casino lounge.

Other movies like to make gambling the focus because of the high stakes involved.

We’re not suggesting you sit watching someone lose at craps for an hour and a half, but there are some truly great gambling-themed movies out there.

Here’s our pick of 12 of the best.

1. The Hangover (2009)

Ok – so we genuinely hope no one has a casino experience quite like this one – but The Hangover really changed the game as far as casino movies are concerned.

Directed by Todd Phillips, this movie brought stars such as Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper into the spotlight.

It’s a hilarious screwball comedy which focuses on what could go wrong on a bad night in Vegas.

2. 21 (2008)

While there has been some controversy over the casting over the years, 21 tells the true story of card-counting experts bound from MIT to Vegas.

Can the biggest casinos really be gamed when it comes to mathematics and skill?

This movie sought to explore that, with stars such as Kevin Spacey and Kate Bosworth heading up the cast.

3. Casino (1996)

Naturally – Casino is a great casino movie.  A later entry in the famous De Niro and Martin Scorsese partnership, this dark, gritty thriller shows you what happens when you fall in with the mob – against a backdrop of high stakes gambling.

While you’re unlikely to find this kind of action in your local Admiral’s in Bognor Regis, it’s brilliant escapism for all betting fans.

4. Rounders (1998)

Two years later, Matt Damon took to the big screen in a casino movie that’s still a cult classic.  If anything, it’s considered one of the best gambling movies of all time.

That’s high praise for a movie which focuses on a gambler spiralling in his pursuit of money to help a friend.

Much like Casino, there are shady loan sharks hanging around, and let’s face it, you’re going to want to stay out of their water.

5. Maverick (1994)

This fantastic movie starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster takes a little bit of a different angle on the gambling theme.

Focusing on poker, this movie focuses on what it takes to build up enough winnings to submit to a high-stakes event.

While it’s not one of Gibson’s best-known movies, it’s a thrilling picture well worth watching if you love the odd poker night.

6. Casino Royale (2006)

It’s only natural that we’d get to Bond at some point.  Daniel Craig’s debut as 007 is one of the finest James Bond epics of all time, and helped to cement his name as one of the best actors to have played the role.

Casino Royale is, of course, full of the usual Bond bluster, but there’s a scene or two at the card table which make for thrilling viewing.

7. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Boasting an all-star cast, George Clooney heads this re-imagining of the classic heist story.

Followed up by three sequels (Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen and Ocean’s Eight), this casino-busting movie is the height of heist fantasy, as Clooney recruits the likes of Matt Damon and Brad Pitt to break three joints at once.

Can they manage it?  If they don’t, there’s plenty of time left in the sequels!

8. The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

In a similar vein to Maverick, this movie’s heart is based in the game of poker.  It’s a Steve McQueen classic, where the central character finds himself rising up the poker game ladder in an effort to beat the best.

Think Rocky, but with poker, and without all the running up and down steps.  It’s one of McQueen’s most iconic roles and a great gambling movie.

9. The Sting (1973)

The Sting may actually be better known for its jaunty ragtime soundtrack than its actual plot, but it still goes down as a classic.

Against a backdrop of gambling and its various ups and downs, this famous movie puts together two Hollywood legends – Paul Newman and Robert Redford – as a tale of revenge and con artistry unfolds.

10. Owning Mahowny (2003)

Starring the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman, Owning Mahowny may not be the best-known gambling movie going, but it’s one of the most compelling.

Inspired to go all-out on a client’s high-risk account, a bank manager takes the law – and the art of gambling – into his own hands, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Watch it from between your fingers.

11. Rain Man (1988)

Dustin Hoffman’s performance as the autistic Raymond Babbit is amongst some of the finest the big screen has ever seen.  His brother Charlie (Tom Cruise) encourages the savant to take to the casino tables to count cards.

It turns out that Raymond is adept at running a great game of blackjack – but his brother isn’t so good at looking out for his family’s interests.

12. The Gambler (1974)

Finally, let’s focus on a gambling movie with a bit of a difference.  The Gambler, starring James Caan, might offer glitz and glamour at first, but it soon shows you what people are willing to do to get a big win.

It serves as a great cautionary tale.  However, most people aren’t likely to steal over $40,000 from family to gamble and clear debt.  Most, not all!

What do you think?

Let us know your thoughts and your favourite casino movies below!

Now you’ve seen the best movies, you might also be interested to know the 13 best casinos in the world. Have a look at our top picks and see if they match yours!