How do you recreate the ambiance, atmosphere of a casino in film? It’s surprisingly quite the challenge, with many filmmakers failing to capture the magic of the casino gambling experience and leaving scenes riddled with inaccuracies.
Yet there are plenty of movies that get it right; they capture the very essence of what makes the casino such a draw and below we name five classic casino scenes that really nail it.
Rounders (1998) – The Final Hand
Quite the cult classic, Rounders sees Matt Damon play a small-time poker player who ends up taking on Teddy ‘KGB’, a Russian mobster, to pay back his and his friend’s debts. This scene is the culmination of the movie and sees Damon’s character risk all of his money and possibly his life as well. Given how high the stakes are and what’s at risk, the scene is incredibly tense and the payoff is quite remarkable. Look away now if you want to avoid spoilers.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) – Blackjack with Number Two
One of the more comedic casino scenes, this scene shows just what it’s like when you’re playing blackjack at a table with someone who pretends to know what they’re doing, but really doesn’t.
But as Austin admits: “Cards are not my bag, baby”.
Rain Man (1988) – Let’s Play Some Cards
The casino scene in Rain Man was shot at the legendary Caesars Palace and sees Charlie and his brother Raymond play blackjack by counting cards in an attempt to pay off some debts.
Card counting, the process by which players keep track of high and low scoring cards in the deck on which to base their bets, is a seriously frowned upon by casinos, and can lead to players being thrown out.
Raymond is both a savant and autistic and he uses his superior mental abilities to secure a win, with the casino operators doubting how anyone can card count when using a six deck shoe.
Casino (1995) – Get Your Feet Off My Table
A darker, grittier look at Vegas is what you get with Casino. It’s a critically acclaimed classic based on true events that looks at how the mafia built up a gambling empire and eventually went on to lose it all. The real-life events involved the Stardust Casino, though the film’s set in the fictional Tangiers Casino, with many scenes filmed at the Riviera Hotel & Casino.
Director Martin Scorcese’s really captures that 1970s bustling casino vibe – it is beautifully shot.
These scene ramps up the tension that can arise in a casino when there is a belligerent patron who is losing money. How De Niro’s character will deal this anti-social gambler is utterly gripping.
Contains strong language and violent scenes.
Casino Royale (2006) – Let’s Play Poker
The first of Daniel Craig’s James Bond films sees the titular character assigned to take down terrorism funder Le Chiffre in a very high-stakes game of Texas Hold’Em. The scene is incredibly tense, especially as Bond takes a number of heavy losses before claiming victory, but what makes it stand out is the incredible attention to detail.
To fully enjoy the casino action on show, it may be that you have to brush up on your casino terminology. Thousands of definitions of casino terms are available at Casinopedia.org, in short, easy to understand articles, so you can tell your roulette from your royal flush.