Every card fan knows the lure of a casino, especially at the card tables. And especially when it’s watching stories of other people using their own cleverness to game the system, or go behind-the-scenes at the shady dealings. We compiled this list of our favorite movies that spend plenty of time in the grandeur of casinos.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
We could watch this movie over and over again, and we do. The entire film is a colorful, quotable roller coaster of tension and hilarity. If you somehow missed this remake of the 1960s flick, put it on your list. The all-star cast, the colorful casinos, the sweeping shots of Vegas, the snappy writing—it all leads to a twist ending that still has us shaking our heads at the cleverness.
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
It’s the classic tale of a kid (er, 35-year-old Steve McQueen) thinking he can take down the man. Eric “The Kid” Stoner, a talented rookie card player, thinks he has what it takes to defeat master of the game Lancey “The Man” Howard, so they plan a match. The Kid’s pals are determined to help him win via cheating, but the Kid is determined to beat The Man without help. This line of thinking leads to. . . well, if you haven’t seen it, we won’t spoil it. Watch it!
Hard Eight (1996)
This little-known movie was director Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature film, and its cast of great actors makes its dark, understated tone resonate. In it, Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) teaches John (John C. Reilly) how to gamble, and the two hang out in Vegas with a security guard (Samuel L. Jackson) and a cocktail waitress (Gwyneth Paltrow). Things go downhill quickly—a hostage situation, life-ruining secrets, blackmail—all against the backdrop of Vegas in the 90s.
While the title makes it an obvious choice, there’s a reason this film made the list: it’s a total classic. Take Martin Scorsese as the director, then add him to stars like Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci, and you’ve got a formula for success. Casino tells the story of Sam, a smart guy who (expertly) runs a casino for the mob until his enforcer’s violent temper makes trouble for all of them. Things spiral out of control, to put it lightly, until everyone is in over their heads and the FBI gets involved. Sounds just like the Scorsese we know and love, doesn’t it?
We’ve told you our favorites, and even managed not to mention Rounders—unlike how these lists usually turn out. What are your favorite casino films?