Seven Best Movie Casino Scenes of All Time
High stakes casino scenes in movies leave lasting impressions on people. There’s usually a risky play, followed by baited breath as people wait for the outcome of the round—it’s enough to get anyone’s adrenaline pumping. The thrill is even greater for casino players who know exactly how the games work and can follow along. Get the popcorn ready because we’re going to look back at seven of the best movie casino scenes of all time.
Dr. No: 1962
Dr. No is the very first film adaptation from the James Bond series written by Ian Fleming. In it, the world is introduced to Bond in a memorable casino scene that made baccarat famous in the USA. Sean Connery plays Bond, and Eunice Gayson plays Sylvia Trench, who later becomes Bond’s girlfriend.
Sent on a mission by the British Secret Intelligence Service to find out what happened to his fellow agent, Bond is seated at a Chemin de Fer table in an upscale casino. First, we see Trench playing aggressively against the stranger, who keeps winning every hand. When she asks his name, he lights a cigarette and introduces himself as “Bond, James Bond,” which goes down in history as one of the most famous film introductions to a character ever. 007 was always going to feature in our best movie casino scenes of all time.
Rain Man: 1988
Directed by Barry Levinson, Rain Man features Dustin Hoffman as Raymond and Tom Cruise as Charlie—two brothers who don’t know each other exist until their father dies and leaves an inheritance to an institution that cares for Hoffman—an autistic savant with incredible computing abilities. Upon learning about it, Charlie sets out to find his brother and tries to blackmail his doctor to get control of the inheritance, but ultimately fails.
While driving to Los Angeles, Charlie comes up with an alternate plan to use Raymond’s counting abilities and incredible memory to count cards at blackjack tables in Las Vegas. The two brothers are able to generate the funds needed to repay Charlie’s debts despite being asked to leave the casino.
Run Lola Run: 1998
This experimental German film centres on the character Lola (Franka Potente), who must come up with 100,000 Deutschmarks to save her boyfriend Manni from being killed after he lost money he was responsible for delivering. The movie takes viewers through three different series of events that all start with Lola leaving her apartment.
The third series has Lola enter a casino and place all of her money on No. 20 on the roulette table. She wins and then places her winnings back on 20 a second time. As the wheel spins, Lola lets out a shrill scream that almost seems to force the No. 20 to come up again. She takes her money and runs to Manni, who has managed to retrieve what he lost.
Ocean’s Eleven: 2001
Based on the 1960 version that featured Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., the 2001 Ocean’s Eleven takes into account the technological obstacles of a modern casino with heightened security. The Steven Soderbergh-directed film features George Clooney as Danny Ocean, Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan and Julia Roberts as Tess Ocean, Danny’s ex.
Ocean is the mastermind behind the operation, and he selects a team of 11 talented people to target three major casinos in Las Vegas that are all owned by the same nefarious individual. Their goal is to take $150 million. The movie is full of stylish casino scenes that were filmed at the Bellagio, none more compelling than the moment the casino owner, Terry Benedict, realizes that he’s lost his money and girlfriend to Ocean.
Casino Royale: 2006
This James Bond movie is based on Ian Fleming’s first book of the series and sees Daniel Craig make his debut as James Bond, who’s on his first mission as a 00 agent. The villain, Le Chiffre (played by Mads Mikkelsen) works as a financier to international terrorists.
M16 (Bond’s employer) learns that Le Chiffre will be playing a high stakes No Limit Hold’em poker game in Montenegro in order to retrieve lost money and solidify his position supporting terrorism. Bond must join the table and ensure Le Chiffre doesn’t win, leading to a beautifully-shot poker scene where Bon and Chiffre exchange looks while facing off on the felt.
See what happens when math professor, Micky Rosa (played by Kevin Spacey), assembles a team of five highly-trained blackjack players from his students at MIT in Boston to take down several casinos in Las Vegas. 21 is based on the book “Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions” and follows working-class MIT graduate, Kevin Lewis as he’s invited to join the MIT Blackjack Team in 1993.
Determined to make enough money to attend Harvard School of Medicine, Lewis works with other members of the team to count cards and use hand signals to maximize profits from casinos. Once he gets a taste of success, greed corrupts his initial plan to generate enough cash to cover tuition and then quit.
The Hangover: 2009
One of the great modern comedies, The Hangover (directed by Todd Phillips) was released in 2009 and filmed at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Five friends go on a road trip from Los Angeles to Vegas for their buddy’s bachelor party and encounter a problem.
The morning after they get there, four of the friends wake up in a hotel suite in disarray and realize the groom is missing, yet none of them can remember what happened the night before. As they piece things together, we get a scene at El Cortez Casino where Alan (played by Zach Galifianakis) pulls off a card counting stunt while his friends do their best to distract management. They’re on a race against time to find the missing groom before the wedding ceremony begins, or they’ll have to explain to his bride that they lost him. It’s a more lighthearted entry into our top seven, but is deserving of its spot in the best movie casino scenes of all time.