Card sharks, card counters, brilliant mathematicians and just plain old lucky gamblers – the long list of gambling movies that have been released over the last eighty years have them all. There is something about the excitement of winning big or losing it all that makes a really great cinematic experience!
Some of these films are based in the bright lights of Las Vegas while others portray the smoky back rooms of illegal gambling dens, and each setting brings something new to the table.
Directed by Robert Luketic and starring Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth, 21 follows the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team from the best-selling novel called Bringing Down the House. After being accepting into Harvard Medical School, the main character, Ben Campbell, has to devise a way to pay for his school fees. He then joins the blackjack team in an attempt to win it big and pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.
2. Owning Mahowny
The year is 1982. A Toronto bank employee named Dan Mahowny, played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, seems to be the model employee and a very average guy. The thing is that Dan Mahowny has everyone fooled. Under his mild-mannered, outward appearance is the soul of a heavily compulsive gambler. As a rising star at his bank, Mahowny is given access to some of the largest accounts on the books. Unable to control his addiction, Dan begins skimming money from the bank to take trips to Atlantic City. The deeper Dan dives into his addiction, the more complicated things become.
Starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci, and directed by Martin Scorsese, this gambling film classic is based off of the book “Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas.” The year is 1970, and Midwest mafia man Sam “Ace” Rothstein has been sent to Vegas in order to run the Tangiers Casino. Even though the casino is still waiting on its license, gaming laws allow for it to operate. Ace is able to make massive amounts of money because of this, which he quickly sends off to the mafia before the income is reported to the tax agencies. Things turn sideways when the mafia sends an enforcer as protection for Sam’s operation, and instead of protecting Sam, he decides it’s time to extort, rob and shakedown multiple casinos in Vegas.
Ace law student and poker player Mike McDermott, played by Matt Damon, is desperate to make it to the World Series of Poker. Unfortunately for him, a bad play in a game of Texas hold’em against Teddy “KGB” sees him lose $30,000. Seeing the loss as a sign, Mike puts his poker obsession on hold to focus on his studies at law school. All is going fine until Mike’s friend Lester is released from prison. Lester is a cheat and had accumulated a massive debt before being put away. In order to help his friend, Mike vows to help Lester earn the money back before time runs out and “KGB” comes to collect.
5. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Jason Statham, Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher and Nick Noran, this cult classic follows the story of a card shark that loses big bucks to the wrong people in a fixed game of three card brag. Desperate to pay off the money, he recruits his friends to rob a smaller neighbourhood gang. Needless to say, things don’t quite go as expected.
Did your favourites make our Cabaret Club list? Have you seen all of the movies above? If not, it’s time for a movie night!