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It is very infrequently that there are entire films based on gambling, but when they are done well, and the films below are, then moments fraught with tension and slick cinematography can capture the thrill of laying all of your money down on the line. Here are the top five casino films.
Martin Campbell's James Bond reboot may not be ostensibly about gambling, but the consequences of this particular game of Texas Hold'em are no less dire than when Bond (Daniel Craig) takes on Le Chiffre with Her Majesty's millions on the line. If Bond wins, he'll have a pleasant memory to take home, if he doesn't, 007 will have directly funded terrorism. The stakes have never been higher in a poker hand.
Matt Damon and Edward Norton need money and they need it quickly in this 1998 tale of two underground poker players looking to break it big, or get their legs broken. The authentic poker lingo is just one of the film's many attributes along with John Malkovich as a card-shark with severe anger issues. All players across the spectrum are portrayed: Mike (Matt Damon), the prodigy, Worm (Edward Norton) the slickster who plays at any cost and detriment and guys like Joey (John Turturro) who folds his way into a steady living. Never has gambling looked as cool as when Mike walks into a card game full of judges and tells them all exactly what they're holding. Absolutely aces.
1998 also featured another film about unsatisfied writer (Clive Owen) who dons a croupier uniform to take a closer look at "the punters" whose money casino owners thrive on. Everyone takes risks, Manfred (Clive Owen) reminds the audience, you are either a gambler, or a croupier. In the process of finding out exactly which end of the spectrum you fall, Croupier manages to capture all of the minute details of the gambling culture in the UK.
Actual card-playing takes place more frequently in Ocean's Thirteen, but who would list that over Steven Soderbergh's first glitzy ensemble effort? There could be no more of a gamble than attempting to steal from one of the biggest casinos in Las Vegas. The MGM Grand, the Bellagio, and the Mirage also make appearances before they are taken for a big score. One hundred and fifty million dollar score: can you say Jackpot City?
Bernie Lootz (William H. Macy) is the biggest loser Vegas has ever seen, so much in fact that he is hired by an old-school casino head, Shelley Kaplow (Alec Baldwin, in one of his finest performances to date) to bring down the winners around him. He does his job until he turns his luck around when he meets his lady luck in the form of a new cocktail waitress (Maria Bello).