We could say that gambling has been one of our favourite pastimes since the dawn of civilization. The first playing cards appeared in 9th century China and the first known casino was opened in Venice in 1638.
Over the centuries, casinos have grown into lavishly decorated halls that inspire awe and give an indication of the riches that can be won there. Astonishing building complexes have been erected in order to accommodate the almost primaeval need to win and entire cities such as Las Vegas or Monte Carlo are primarily known as places you would visit to try your luck. Of course, nowadays an online casino will bring the fun to your home via a computer screen or even to your pocket in the form of a smartphone app. It’s no wonder that casinos entered so many elements of our culture, given that such splendorous surroundings drive the imagination of their visitors. This inspiration has also found its way into the world of the silver screen, and we have compiled a short list of the top five casino-inspired movies of all time.
The story in the novel Casino Royale by Ian Fleming had to wait 53 years to get a proper, big-screen adaptation. In the film, Daniel Craig plays a younger James Bond who has just recently got the “00 status” and a license to kill. His mission is to prevent one of the antagonists called Le Chiffre from winning a high-stakes Texas Hold ‘em poker game in Montenegro. Mads Mikkelsen superbly portrays the character as a ruthless personal banker to the world’s terrorists. The plot takes our favourite spy all around the world, until he saves the day, of course, after keeping you on the edge of your seat to the very end, in true Bond fashion.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The city of Las Vegas has a specific feel of indulgent freedom, which is exactly what you’ll witness in the famous flick, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Directed by Terry Gilliam, the film portrays the life of the ’70s through the eyes of a drug-experimenting journalist. This dark comedy shows us mostly narcotic-induced adventures of Raul Duke played by Johnny Depp and his attorney and friend Dr Gonzo played by Benicio Del Toro. You’ll feel the fear, you’ll feel the paranoia, you’ll get a glimpse at the most famous casinos of old, and even if you’ve never been under the influence in Vegas, you’ll know exactly how it feels.
How would you go about robbing a modern Las Vegas casino with a high-tech surveillance system and a seemingly impenetrable vault along with serving a little revenge on the side? With the brain of a thief and ten like-minded friends, that’s how. In the 2001 version of Ocean’s 11, Danny Ocean, a former convict played by George Clooney, gathers a team of professionals to steal 150 million dollars from his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. Terry Benedict, played by Andy Garcia, is a greedy and ruthless casino owner who is going to lose an enormous amount of money as well as his girlfriend in a spectacular and most creative way. This is a classic caper film wrapped in Las Vegas splendor.
Two skilled poker players and childhood friends need just one last game to settle some old scores. Shortly after leaving prison, Lester “Worm” Murphy, an unapologetic cheat played by Edward Norton, amasses a huge debt. He contacts Mike McDermott (Matt Damon), an honest player, who has also promised his girlfriend he’d stay away from gambling since he lost to a Russian gangster (John Malkovich). However, when Mike finds out that his friend’s debt is owed to Teddy, he decides to make one last effort to beat the Russian. This film is all about the game, the strategy and going out with a bang.
Martin Scorsese took Nicholas Pileggi’s book and turned it into a big-screen masterpiece. The plot is set in 1970s Las Vegas, where a low-level mobster, Sam “Ace” Rothstein played by Robert De Niro, runs the mob-owned Tangiers casino. When he first started, he was a great success in his job, but as the years go by, the plot thickens while the characters’ lives become untangled. Problems with his loose-cannon enforcer Nicky Santoro start to emerge and things get really complicated with the help of his ex-hustler wife and her con-artist ex, Lester Diamond. A handful of corrupt politicians are added to the mix to put Sam in ever-increasing danger.
The thrill one feels while playing games of chance is indisputable. The suspense gets the adrenaline pumping and the blood rushing through your veins until you feel that vigor which keeps you playing. However, those who don’t frequent real or online casinos, can still find enough excitement in the above mentioned blockbuster movies (and many more) that have successfully captured the magic of the game and brought it to the big screen with a bang!