Casinos have long been a popular setting for movies, with the drama and tension making them ideal for spicing up any type of movie.
So, while some use unrealistic plot devices and larger-than-life characters, which films have done the best to capture the authentic atmosphere of the casino?
This 2007 movie should be realistic because it’s based on something that happened in real life. The story follows a MIT student team who traveled to Las Vegas to test their theory that they could win at blackjack by counting cards.
You may have seen the same subject covered in the book called Bringing the House Down, which this film is based on. 21 received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics feeling that it glossed over the original story and replaced important details with personal drama created to broaden its appeal.
One of the cool things about this movie was that it was heavily supported by casinos. The filmmakers expected casinos to object because it drew attention to card counting.
However, the casinos correctly assumed that it would provide them with good publicity and that not many people would understand how to count cards anyway. Nowadays, some people even use algorithms and online casinos even provide help for beginners so that they don’t need to count cards. You can find out for yourself here.
The Last Casino is a 2004 Canadian film on the same subject. However, it adds to the tension by creating an additional story about a loan shark that the varsity team has to pay back.
This 1998 effort is widely regarded as giving the most accurate on-screen depiction of poker to date. It stars Matt Damon and Edward Norton as a pair of skilled poker players who work as a team to try to earn the money they desperately need.
As with most movies based on casino games, the writers added extra tension by racing it against time to earn players the money to pay off some unsavory characters. That means it’s a far cry from most people’s casino experience. The arrival of online casinos has made it an even more relaxed affair than before.
On the other hand, the poker scenes are intense and exciting but are they accurate? It’s common for movies about this card game to focus too much on bluffs and amazing hands like royal flushes, which aren’t as common in the real world as they make us think.
Rounders does a good job usually by showing us the world of high-stakes card games. They added a few details that aren’t particularly accurate for the games most of us play, but that’s part of the appeal of watching this kind of movie.
Released in 1995, Casino was Martin Scorsese’s sprawling epic on the gambling industry. Robert DeNiro leads the cast as Sam “Ace” Rothstein, who runs a Las Vegas casino. Joe Pesci plays mobster Nicky Santoro, while Sharon Stone portrays Sam’s wife, Ginger McKenna
This film is based in part on real-world characters and it gives us fascinating insight into how Vegas changes over the years after Sam took over in the late 1960s. We follow the trials and tribulations characters over the decades as crime syndicates are phased out and a new corporate approach takes over in Las Vegas.
It turned out to be an extremely popular story, thanks in large part to the captivating plot and excellent performances by the main characters. However, it must be remembered that this is a fictionalized version of a Las Vegas that no longer exists.
While modern gamers won’t see much in this depiction of gambling and casinos that reflects their own current experiences, the film has been widely praised for its authenticity. So maybe it works best by showing us what this industry was like and how it has evolved since then.
High Roller: The Story of Stu Ungar
This film takes us into the life of famous poker player Stu Ungar. Some critics have suggested that it lacks some of the most important aspects of his life that should have been shown, but there’s no doubt that the film is interesting and feels authentic in many parts.
Strangely, one of the more unlikely games is actually based on a real poker game. This is the hand where DJ successfully bluffs based on a 7-2 out of suit starting hand, which is commonly known as the worst starting hand in poker. It really happened when Jack “Treetop” Strauss raised despite this terrible hand.
High Roller’s reviews are mixed and some people think it would have been more beneficial to show some of the major issues that Ungar has to deal with, but the end result is a gripping movie that shows us some of the aspects of card games that have has made them so popular over the years.