The Top Casino Movies of All Time

A thumb on a remote button with TV in the background.

When you need a break between playing amazing casino games but want to enjoy something casino-related, what better way to pass the time than watching a movie? Here’s our list of top casino movies, including intense dramas, more light-hearted films, and scandalous documentaries.

Our list is organized primarily by IMDB scores, but don’t be afraid to check out some of the “lower” rated films on our list — you may have more luck with them than some of the higher scoring films.

1 – Casino (1995)

IMDB Score: 8.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%

Starring: Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, Joe Pesci

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Yet another classic from director Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed), Casino is the story of handicapper and Casino executive Sam “Ace” Rothstein (De Niro), his encounters with the mob, including friend Nicky Santoro (Pesci), and his love for hustler Ginger McKenna (Stone). We follow Sam as he tries to manage his relationships, the demands of the mob, and how even though he reached the top, it all came crashing down around him.  

This movie was based on the real-life story of Frank Rosenthal, who operated four of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas in the 70s: the Stardust, Fremont, Marino, and Hacienda. His story was told in the book Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas and was written by Nicholas Pileggi.

Martin Scorsese’s intimate epic about money, sex, and brute force is a grandly conceived study of what happens to Goodfellas from the Mean Streets when they outstrip their wildest dreams and achieve the pinnacle of wealth and power — Todd McCarthy, Variety

2 – Croupier (1998)

A croupier on a poker table holds up a six of spades

IMDB Score: 7.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%

Starring: Clive Owen, Nick Reding, Nicholas Ball 

Directed by: Mike Hodges

Jack Manfred (Owen), an aspiring writer, begins working as a croupier in a casino to pay the bills, but soon finds himself drawn into a world of money, sex, and danger. He breaks the rules after he agrees to help an out of luck gambler pull off an inside job, but will his bets pay off, or will he be unable to escape the choices he’s made?

For once, here is a British film that is both tough and intelligent, and so well-researched that it will probably tell you more about how casinos work than had it been a documentary — George Perry, 

3 – Ocean’s 11 (2001)

IMDB Score: 7.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Danny Ocean (Clooney) is out on parole when he decides to pull off one large heist. Okay, technically it’s three large heists, but they’re all at the same time. And these aren’t just any heists: he wants to hit three of the biggest casinos in Vegas. In order to get it done and get out, he’s going to need a team of thieves and con-artists who are crazy enough to pull it off.

Soderbergh’s crisp, funny heist flick makes out like a bandit. George Clooney and Elliott Gould steal the show – Stephanie Zacharek,

4 – Hard Eight (1996)

A man sits at a poker table with an empty wallet and his head in his hands

IMDB Score: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%

Starring: Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Many of us know John C. Reilly for his more serious roles, but in Hard Eight, Reilly plays John, a simple man who needs money to pay for his mother’s funeral. While he sits at a diner, wondering what to do, Sydney (Hall), a gambler and hustler notices the young man. John explains his situation, and Sydney offers to teach him everything he knows. Soon John’s doing pretty well for himself, but things go awry after he meets Clementine (Paltrow).

This first feature by writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is impressive for its lean and unblemished storytelling, but even more so for its performances — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

5 – California Split (1974)

IMDB Score: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%

Starring: William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin

Directed by: Robert Altman

When Bill Denny (Segal) meets Charlie Waters (Gould), the two become quick friends over their shared passion: gambling. However, things get a bit out of control when Bill soon finds himself deep in debt and has only one way to get out: sell what little he has and bet it all on a high stakes poker game in Reno.

A fascinating, vivid movie, not quite comparable to any other movie that I can immediately think of. Nor is it easily categorized — Vincent Canby, New York Times

6 – Owning Mahowny (2003)

IMDB Score: 7.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt

Directed by: Richard Kwietniowski

This film is based on the true story of Brian Molony, a Toronto bank employee who became addicted to gambling and stole millions of dollars from the bank he worked at to fund his addiction. The film follows the same basic storyline, with Dan Mahowny (Hoffman), going about his regular life working at a bank. To all those who know him, he’s a nice enough guy who is quiet but reliable. Little do they know about Dan’s out of control habit that will eventually destroy his life.

Whether or not you think of gambling as a vice, you can bet on Owning Mahowny — Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel                 

7 – The Cooler (2003)

A croupier holds the ball before the Roulette wheel is spun.

IMDB Score: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%

Starring: William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin

Directed by: Wayne Kramer

The Cooler is a story about Bernie Lootz (Macy), a guy so unlucky that his bad luck spreads to those around him. That’s why he works at a casino, where his only job is to make sure that gamblers on a hot streak suddenly go cold. It’s a simple life for Bernie, until he meets and falls in love with cocktail waitress Natalie (Bello). He soon finds his bad luck and his ability as a “cooler” is fading, which can only end badly for Bernie in the long run.

A B-movie in the best sense: Unpretentious. Raffish. Just trashy enough to be six kinds of fun without making you hate yourself in the morning — Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

8 – 21 (2008)

An ace of clubs and ten of spades float above a blackjack table.

IMDB Score: 6.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 35%

Starring: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey

Directed by: Robert Luketic

21 is based on the exploits of the MIT Blackjack Team, a true story in which students from MIT managed to “beat” blackjack and get rich in the process. In the film, Ben Campbell (Sturgess), is drawn into an unusual situation thanks to his math professor, Micky Rosa (Spacey). Rosa has decided to teach his students how to count cards, and for Ben, who doesn’t have the money to finish his studies, it could be the ticket he needs to complete his studies at MIT.

The real story is told by Ben Mezrich in the book Bringing Down the House, however, much of the book is believed to be exaggerated. Even though the film itself got less than stellar reviews from critics, audiences enjoyed it and it became a box office hit.

Although it’s definitely a fictionalization of a true story, they get the essence of this insanely crazy double life that these kids led as they were breaking the bank in Vegas — Richard Roeper, Expert & Roeper.

9 – Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010)

IMDB Score: 7.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

Starring: Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, William Branner

Directed by:  Alex Gibney

Unlike the other eight films on this list, this is a documentary about one of the greatest con artists, and truly corrupt people to ever find themselves connected to the American government — Jack Abramoff. It details how Jack, a Washington lobbyist, led one of the greatest corruption scandals and how it eventually led to him being convicted of fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion. The title of the film alludes to the role Jack had in the looting of the tribal treasury. 

The narrative trots all over the globe, including stops for labor exploitation in the Marianas Islands, dealings with Russian mobsters, ripping off Indian tribes in the desert southwest, and jetting to Scotland to golf with impressionable politicians — Ian Buckwalter, NPR

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