While casinos might not be the most in-demand theme in film, some of the finest directors of all time have tried their hand at making an iconic casino film. However, some films that can often fly under the radar also fit into this genre. Casino films have starred huge names like George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Robert De Niro over the years, and although there are dozens of big titles to choose from, there are a handful that stand out.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest ever films to grace the silver screen, Casablanca was made over 80 years ago and still holds up phenomenally well through the prism of time. Set in a casino during World War II, the film focuses on people's struggles during this difficult time in history. However, the main protagonist of the piece, Rick Blaine, played by the iconic Humphrey Bogart, is a casino manager, and this plays a significant part in the backdrop of the movie.
Casablanca covered a unique period in gambling history, where classic games like baccarat and blackjack dominated the landscape. Although other games may have entered the picture and forced baccarat to take more of a backseat, a strong, core group of bettors still enjoy playing baccarat. Unlike some games that have gone through a cycle of variations, baccarat rules have remained the same. Third card rules at LeoVegas highlight how these old traditions are still a pillar of baccarat gaming. As the game has remained the same for a considerable period, it’s transitioned flawlessly from land-based casinos, such as the one in Casablanca, to online, modern gambling.
Before Matt Damon became one of the most prominent acting talents, he starred in several critically acclaimed films throughout the early to mid-1990s. The star-studded cast featured many top actors and actresses before they reached the zenith of their careers, with Damon, the film’s main star, fitting into this category.
This 1998 film involves Damon’s character playing casino games to help his old friend out of a tight financial spot, soon finding that he enjoys the trials and tribulations of casino games such as poker and blackjack. Although the film was modestly reviewed in 1998, revisions have placed it as one of the top casino-based films of the 20th century.
The incredibly successful partnership of director Martin Scorsese and his central leading men, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, is usually a recipe for success. Although some critics stated that Casino wasn’t up to the same standard as Goodfellas, it’s also unfair to compare the two, as Goodfellas is considered one of the greatest films ever. Casino, in its own right, is still an excellent film and holds up well nearly 30 years on.
The film itself is arguably the most casino-themed on this list, focusing completely on the main character, Sam Rothstein, and his problems with managing a casino in Las Vegas during a period when organized crime had a far-reaching impact on the industry. Rothstein, played expertly by De Niro, is a career casino manager who understands how the business works and is rewarded by being appointed to manage one of the top casinos in the city, where a lot of the story is played out. Renowned for its excellent soundtrack and phenomenal performance from Sharon Stone, the film consistently ranks among the best work of Scorsese’s career.
We’d say any casino-themed films outside of these three are second-tier. Ocean’s Eleven had one of the finest casts of its generation, but in terms of quality, it didn’t reach anywhere near the same levels of acclaim as the films we have discussed in today’s article. Casino Royale is another film that opens up a debate in this genre, as despite having a pivotal scene at a poker table and the film actually having the word casino in the title, it is a James Bond film that stretches beyond a casino theme.
The Casino Royale plays a fairly significant part in the film, but it is not the foundation of the entire plot as in Rounders or Casino (1995). However, it shows what the allure of a casino can do for a film and how it can inject great excitement into the plot when balanced with the overall story.
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