The Best Gambling Movies and TV Shows of All Time

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Man eating popcorn watching poker on tv
BetMGM Jun 12, 2023, 4:43 AM

The great thing about playing casino games online is the ability to multitask. For instance, is there any better way to spend a couple of hours than watching a movie while enjoying your favorite online slots?

This article runs through some of the very best casino movies and television shows ever created. Although each production is entertaining in its own right, these recommendations also make the perfect pairing for a session of online gaming.

21 (2008)

This Robert Luketic movie is one of several silver screen productions that has helped to popularize the idea of card counting in blackjack. Although embellished somewhat, the storyline is based on the real-life antics of a group of MIT students. 

Led by Professor Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey,) the group trains hard before heading out to Las Vegas, where they eventually make millions of dollars. But the trip doesn’t always run smoothly, especially when they encounter the tough security official Cole Williams (Laurence Fishburne.)

The Gambler (1974)

Professor of literature Axel Freed (James Caan) is well and truly bitten by the gambling bug. Unfortunately, he is unable to quit and ends up losing everything, compounding the problem by racking up debts with shady underground loan sharks. We can only watch in horror as he continues to spiral out of control, struggling to regulate his inner demons.

Written by James Toback and directed by Karel Reisz, “The Gambler” is a cautionary tale that warns against the dangers of gambling addiction. Caan’s performance is particularly gripping, which is one more reason this Golden Globe-nominated movie remains a classic of the genre.

Rain Man (1988)

After his father’s death, Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) discovers that he has an autistic older brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman.) With most of the family inheritance bequeathed to his sibling, Charlie is unhappy, opting to remove his brother from the institution where he lives.

The two embark upon a trip to LA, where Charlie tries to use Raymond’s uncanny mathematical skills to beat casino games like blackjack. Initially full of resentment and selfishness, Charlie quickly grows fond of his new sibling. The film, showcasing a moving bond between the brothers, won four Academy Awards.

Casino (1995)

This critically acclaimed Martin Scorsese classic boasts a star-studded cast, including Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone. The plot centers on professional gambler ‘Ace’ Rothstein (De Niro,), tasked by the mob with running a Las Vegas casino. Ace transforms the fortunes of the Tangiers Casino, drawing unwanted attention from the problematic Nicky Santoro (Pesci.)

A gritty crime drama based on a true story, “Casino” features some incredible performances as it explores the ugly side of gambling. The movie also deals with topics such as addiction, loyalty and power, all emphasized by Scorsese’s typical energetic and visual style.

Cheating Las Vegas (2000)

James Woods narrates this documentary, which recounts the stories of several famous cheaters in Las Vegas. The hour-long show explores various methods employed to extract money from the casinos, including chip manipulation and collusion tactics. For example, one particular cheater — a jeweler —  minted special coins to use in slot machines.

If you’re looking for something a little different to watch while you play casino games, “Cheating Las Vegas” is a terrific choice. It’s interesting without being taxing — which means it’s the ideal show to have running in the background!

Rounders (1998)

At one time, it was impossible to sit at a poker table without people quoting from “Rounders.” This “guilty pleasure” of a movie tells the somewhat cheesy story of law student and aspiring poker player Mike McDermott (Matt Damon.) The protagonist struggles to find the right balance between playing cards, studying and maintaining the relationship with his girlfriend. A situation not helped by his troublesome best friend, Worm (Edward Norton.)

“Rounders” provides several of the most iconic moments in casino movies, notably the scene where Mike plays against Teddy KGB (John Malkovich.) The brutal Eastern European has a penchant for Oreo cookies, which ultimately proves useful for Mike, offering him a vital “tell.”

The Cincinnati Kid (1965)

Directed by Norman Jewison, “The Cincinnati Kid” stars Steve McQueen as Eric ‘The Kid’ Stoner. The movie follows this up-and-coming hotshot in the big-money poker world as he seeks to prove himself against top players. His most notable foe is Lancey ‘The Man’ Howard, played by Edward G. Robinson.

“The Cincinnati Kid” is especially well-known for some particularly dramatic poker scenes and its thrilling portrayal of high-stakes gambling. No list of classic gambling movies would be complete without this legendary title, with its stellar cast and expert direction. 

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

A remake of the 1960 original, “Ocean’s Eleven” features a veritable galaxy of star names, including George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. The iconic movie, directed by Steven Soderbergh, focuses on Danny Ocean (Clooney,) an ex-con planning a Las Vegas casino heist.

Ocean puts together a motley crew, including talented con artists and tricksters, explosives experts and hackers, with the intention of stealing millions from three casinos. Blending drama and suspense with comedy and sophistication, it’s easy to see why “Ocean’s Eleven” was so well-received by cinema audiences.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Something of a cult classic, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel of the same name. Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro, the two main characters take a drug-fueled trip to Sin City, finding themselves in all kinds of weird and wonderful situations.

The movie explores the 1960s counterculture movement and all its excesses, offering a critical social commentary. Directed by Terry Gilliam of “Monty Python” fame, the story often takes surreal and psychedelic twists while the plot is dripping with dark humor.

Play at BetMGM While Enjoying These Great Movies and Shows

If you’re interested in movies about gambling, you might also wish to learn about games with themes from the silver screen. Why not enjoy one of these popular online slots based on movies while watching the production in question?

Whatever online casino games you like to play, you’ll find hundreds of thrilling titles at BetMGM. Register today to play poker, table games and the very latest slots.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.