This is a guest post from Jack Conrad.
Casino films have been around for decades, and over the years they’ve provided us with some incredibly memorable characters and moments. But even in films packed with memories, there are always a few scenes that stand out the most over time.
Here are the top-five casino scenes in cinematic history.
5. The Hangover – A New Rain Man
We’ll get to the real Rain Man in a little bit, but in the meantime The Hangover‘s spoof of one of the most iconic gambling scenes in history was spot on. Zach Galifianakis is simply hysterical while dressing like Rain Man, slicking his hair back, and counting cards. Also, Bradley Cooper is a blast, whether screaming at the dealer or yelling “Shut up, bitches!” to no one in particular when they win a big hand. This scene is a nice reminder that there’s something funny about the drama of casinos.
4. Rounders – Judge’s Game
Many of us know Rounders as the best poker film of all time, and it’s actually even been credited with inspiring Chris Moneymaker and kicking off the real-life boom in amateur poker at the turn of the 21st century. In this scene, Matt Damon approaches a back-room poker game between professors and prominent legal figures associated with his law school. He narrates the scene, and in doing so perfectly characterises the allure of poker games just like these. Then he gets in on a bet, and bets a summer clerkship on his ability to read every player at the table. When he pulls it off and is subsequently invited to join in the game, he declines, saying he doesn’t even play cards. It doesn’t get much smoother than that.
3. Casino – Get Your Feet Off The Table
Often ranked as the best gambling film of all time, Casino holds a pretty iconic spot in film history. It’s arguably more of a mob movie than a classic casino film, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have scenes that exemplify both the reality of major casinos and our imaginations’ embellished views of them. This scene demonstrates both, as Robert De Niro approaches a gambler who has his feet up (socks, no shoes) on a table while playing cards. De Niro shows off the understated but absolute control of a casino overlord, confronting the rude gambler and then having him unceremoniously thrown out. It’s something that we imagine should happen in a mob movie, but which might happen in a real-life casino as well.
2. Casino Royale – All In
For a film that’s primarily a James Bond movie, Casino Royale really worked in some captivating gambling moments. Several of them take place at a climactic VIP game in Montenegro, but this scene to close out the game tops them all. This is essentially the ultimate fantasy of a high-stakes poker game—elite figures from different corners of the world gambling tens of millions on one massive hand. Everything in this scene works: the players’ attire, Mads Mikkelsen’s enviable chip-flipping trick, the gasps and hushes of the spectators around the room. It’s really a flawless casino moment.
1. Rain Man – Let’s Play Some Cards
It may not be a full-fledged casino film, but Rain Man is known for its Vegas casino sequence, in which Tom Cruise learns that Dustin Hoffman can count cards. Everything about the scene epitomises the appeal of casinos: the shots of bright, blinking lights; the jingling jackpot noises in the background; the matching suits Cruise and Hoffman wear; and the visuals of chips and cards stacking up on a classic felt table. It’s almost like a three-minute highlight reel of why we like casinos. But even better is Cruise, who conveys the joy of a budding winning streak at the table better than anyone else in Hollywood.