Bright lights, gambling, an energetic vibe, and plenty of big money. That scene at a casino can make for a great setting for a film, and Hollywood has taken advantage of this gambling scenario for decades. From gambling-based films to heists and capers to those simply using Sin City or another exotic location such as Monte Carlo as a backdrop, casinos have played a major role in numerous movies mixing in some gambling and casino action.

Those who enjoy hitting a casino for some gambling probably love checking out some casino-related films as well. Hollywood has delivered plenty and here are a few that stand out and run a wide spectrum.

➔    For further reading, check out 888poker’s complete look at poker films every player should see.

Table of Contents


Synopsis: Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci star in this ode to old Vegas. The story is based on real-life mobsters Frank Rosenthal and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, who managed the Stardust, Fremont, Marina, and Hacienda casinos from the ‘70s through 1981. In the film version, the two head up a Las Vegas casino run by the Chicago Outfit and the film shines a light on what Vegas was like when the Mafia was in charge. Mobsters love cash businesses and casinos offer a great source of cash.
Sam (De Niro) ensures the money keeps flowing to the mob. However, Nicky (Pesci) is getting out of control – break-ins, violence, and murders are par for the course and the FBI begins taking notice. It’s a great ride for fans of both gambling films and mobster movies with De Niro and Pesci at their best.

Setting: Las Vegas
Release date: 1995
Box office: $116 million
Major quotes: “I was a hell of a handicapper, I’ll tell you that. I had it so good that I ran paradise on Earth. I had one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas to run – the Tangiers.”


Synopsis: This has become a bit of a casino classic and was one of the first to take a look at the life of real gamblers. Fans of the “buddy film” will enjoy this one. Bill and Charlie (George Segal and Elliot Gould) meet and team up after being falsely accused of collusion at a poker table. Their adventures involve plenty of casinos, gambling, and drinking.

From a gambling perspective, this film has a little of everything – nice scores, big losses, bookies, and more. Legendary poker player Amarillo Slim even makes an appearance. Apparently quite the gambler himself, Gould later said his character offered a bit of a glimpse into his life at the gaming tables. It’s become a favorite among gamblers.

Setting: California; Las Vegas
Release date: 1974
Box office: $5 million
Major quotes: Elliot Gould, playing the character Charlie, tells a bartender as a juicy poker game plays out nearby: “My partner here’s a player, and I guess I’m a drinker.”


Synopsis: This is a more modern look at the gambling lifestyle with two down on their luck buddies embarking on a road trip. They’re hoping to turn their luck around as they make their way to casinos throughout the southern United States with a big poker tournament in New Orleans as their ultimate destination.

There is plenty of gambling as part of the trip with loan sharks, hustlers, criminals, and more. Can they win it big at a poker tournament in the Big Easy? The film may not have scored well at the box office, but received nice reviews. It’s worth streaming on the couch for sure.

Setting: American South
Release date: 2015
Box office: $422,746
Major quotes: Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), sitting down at a new poker game, says “Aces are good, right?”


Synopsis: This film chronicles the life of legendary mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. Warren Beatty plays the role of Bugsy with his real-life wife Annette Bening playing his love interest. Siegel was a Vegas visionary, who was the first to bring a luxury hotel and casino to Las Vegas in the 1940s.

The city was mostly desert back then, but Bugsy saw the potential of what the area could be and eventually set about to build the Flamingo hotel and casino. Funding those plans came courtesy of the mob, but bosses grew unhappy when the project ran way over budget. Ultimately, the Flamingo became a huge success and paved the way for the growth in Las Vegas in the decades to come. For Bugsy, things didn’t end as well however. The film received multiple Oscar nominations, winning two.

Setting: Las Vegas, Los Angeles
Release date: 1991
Box office: $49 million
Major quotes: “I’m talking about a hotel. I’m talking about a place where gambling is allowed.”


Synopsis: James Caan plays Axel Freed, New York City English professor with a major gambling problem. He owes tens of thousands of dollars to his bookie and heads to Las Vegas in hopes of running up a nice win and paying back what he owes. Freed isn't always on the up and up however, even paying a student basketball player to shave points so that he can win at the books.

The gambler seems to thrive on the action and the headaches that come with his unique lifestyle along the way. The film was well-received and Caan earned some nice praise for his performance. Critic Roger Ebert loved the film and noted The Gambler “begins as a portrait of Axel Freed's personality, develops into the story of his world, and then pays off as a thriller. We become so absolutely contained by Axel's problems and dangers that they seem like our own.” The film also inspired a 2014 remake starring Mark Wahlberg.

Setting: New York, Las Vegas
Release date: 1974
Box office: N/A
Major quotes: “I'm not going to lose it. I'm going to gamble it.”


Synopsis: This offers quite an entry into the casino heist film genre and is a true favorite for many gamblers. The film featured a deep roster of Hollywood stars including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Julia Roberts. The movie sees ex-con Danny Ocean (Clooney) plot to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from the Bellagio, Mirage, and MGM Grand casinos.

Ocean’s Eleven is actually a remake of a 1960 film starring Rat Packers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Angie Dickinson. Like the Clooney film, the original version was also filmed at classic Las Vegas casinos such as the Flamingo, Sands, Riviera, and Sahara. Both films received mixed reviews but were both major box office hits. It seems movie goers can’t resist a good Las Vegas crime caper and the ‘01 version inspired several sequels.

Setting: Las Vegas casinos
Release date: 2001
Box office: $451 million
Major quotes: “The house takes you unless, when that perfect hand comes along and you bet big, and then you take the house.”

7 – 21

Synopsis: Being able to count cards for thousands and thousands of dollars is a romantic notion for many blackjack players. Dreaming of doing that and actually making it happen are two different things. This story is based on a real blackjack card counting team based out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1990s.

A savvy professor teaches some of the school’s whiz kids the tricks of the counting trade. It’s college classes all week then jetting off to Las Vegas for some card counting on the weekend.  The film is based on real events spelled out in Ben Mezrich’s best-selling book Bringing Down the House. Winning tons of money from the casinos isn’t easy and the team faces obstacles such as  getting banned from playing, group infighting, major losing nights, and the pitfalls that can come with being young and having access to the high life and easy money. 21 is a fun ride with a great cast including Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne, and Kate Bosworth.

Setting: Las Vegas, Massachusetts, various casinos
Release date: 2008
Box office: $160 million
Major quotes: “This is a real-world, first-class money-making business.”


Synopsis: Many of the films on this list offer a real look inside the world of casinos and Croupier (French for the person who collects and pays out bets at a gaming table) offers a look from the house’s point of view. In this case, an inside look at the life of a dealer and his experiences on a day-to-day basis. Jack Manfred (played by Clive Owen) longs for a writing career and his day job pitching cards at a casino helps pay the bills. He meets numerous interesting people and regular players as part of the gig.

This all makes for great inspiration for the book he’s working on, but his life begins to unravel. The casino begins taking over his life and his relationships with others become frayed. As with some casino flicks, a robbery is also part of the plot. This is a great movie from the other side of the blackjack table. When the film made its way to the U.S., Croupier generally received positive reviews and is worth checking out.

Setting: South Africa
Release date: 1998
Box office: $7 million
Major quotes: “You have to make the choice in life, be a gambler or croupier, and live with your decision come what may.”


Synopsis: This obviously doesn’t live up to the standards of the other popular Vacation films, but brings plenty of Sin City to the screen. It also offers a comedy centering around Las Vegas and gambling as a key part of the story. This time seeing Clark (Chevy Chase) heads to Las Vegas with the family, and of course finds a way to foul things up.

The Griswolds bring some laughs along the way and Cousin Eddie even makes an appearance. Wallace Shawn may steal the show, however, playing feisty dealer Marty. This card-dealing dynamo can’t seem to lose, no matter how hard Clark tries to beat him. Clark eventually loses all of the Griswolds’ and faces some tough odds at salvaging the family’s Sin City getaway. Vegas icons Wayne Newton and Siegfried and Roy also make appearances as part of the fun.

Setting: Las Vegas
Release date: 1997
Box office: $36 million
Major quotes: “Eddie this place is great. They don't have any of these games at the Mirage.”


Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Stitcher,,, and other platforms.