Given that casino games are so naturally exciting, it makes a great deal of sense that Hollywood would tap into this excitement to create some outstanding films. This is why there are dozens of movies that use casino games as a central plot device. Drama and excitement flows naturally from casino games, and movies certainly benefit from this in a number of ways.
There are so many movies based around casino games, in fact, that it’s a combination that all but makes up its own unique genre. Most of the movies are great, but it pays to take a look at the top gambling based movies, so a person knows where to start when diving in for the first time.
Here are some of the best movies of all time that use gambling as a central plot device.
California split may be a pretty old movie by modern standards, having come out in 1974, but happens to not only be a good gambling movie, but also a great all round movie in general. The focus of the film is on two gamblers who become best friends, one being a veteran gambler, and the other being an amateur. The two have a shared common interest, and so become fast friends, spending much of their time hitting up the casinos.
The arch of the story involves the amateur gambler, Bill Denny, all but giving up his normal life to pursue a life of gambling with his veteran friend, Charlie Walters. Bill goes into debt, however, not being an experienced gambler, and lands up having to pawn belongings in order to keep gambling. In a final and tense climax, Bill manages to win big, get back his belongings, and learn to gamble more responsibly.
It may not be a new story, but California Split was one of the first movies to have this plot of risk and redemption. A must see film.
Also released in 1974, The Gambler is another classic movie based around the world of casinos. However, where California Split was a movie about redemption, The Gambler is more about how wrong things can go when a certain personality type gets involved in games of chance.
In the film, Axel Freed is a professor who gets into gambling. It goes wrong for him, however, as would be expected for dramatic movie tension, and he is faced with debt. Axel does manage to pay off his debt, but in a movie plot twist that is all but astonishing, Axel uses his love interest as a means to keep gambling, with less risk to his own bank account.
Its an interest, harrowing move, not afraid to take a serious look at a person with a dysfunctional personality. Also a must see movie, and certainly one that is sure to draw a few gasps from the viewer.
Starring Mel Gibson, and based on an early television series of the same name, Maverick is a much more light hearted and charming look at the life of a gambler. If the previous two movies sounded too serious, then this is probably the one you’re looking for.
The film tells the story of a charming conman, Bret Maverick, who is on a mission to enter into a high stakes poker tournament. Maverick must first raise the entrance fee required, and then take the plunge and try winning the tournament itself.
The movie is full of laughs, unexpected twists, and is an all round great time. It’s the sort of movie where there really isn’t much question about whether Maverick will win the tournament, but rather about how he actually goes about doing it. An excellent popcorn movie that is sure to put smiles on faces.
Perhaps one of the most acclaimed movies of all time, The Sting is an absolute classic. It tells the story of two con men who aim to get revenge for a murdered friend, and go about pulling off a con so complicated that it takes dozens of people, and weeks of work to pull off.
The two con men, Johnny Hooker and Henry Gondorff, go through enormous lengths, and take incredible risks to make sure their scheme goes according to plan, and to say that the movie has unforeseen twists is an understatement.
The focus of their con is on horse racing but still falls into the category of games of chance. Either way, The Sting is such an excellent movie that it deserved to be on this list. Of course the fact that the film won seven Academy awards really does speak for itself. It’s an absolute must see classic film, and may well catch the viewer by surprise on so many occasions that they’ll wonder why modern films are so tame by comparison.