Did you miss these slick gambling scenes in classic Hollywood movies?
One doesn’t have to be the biggest gambler to enjoy the thrill of watching people gamble on the big screen. The high-tension drama – if the movie does it right – will keep you invested, feeling your skin tingling as if you were in one of the best US casinos, sweating on the floor while the roulette ball is still spinning, about to decide your fate.
Even when the scene’s purpose is nothing beyond gut-busting comedy and you personally carry no risk of losing, the excitement is enough to arouse the most latent of gambling fantasies.
Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic gambling scenes in movies that are worth re-watching. It doesn’t take a gambling fan to point out that scenes like these enriched the world of cinema.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
If there was a vote for the best poker face of all time, it had to be Paul Newman’s face in Cool Hand Luke. Online poker is fun, but real casino poker is all about that bluff. The claustrophobic scene in which Paul Newman’s title character manages to tilt his opponents by executing a legendary poker face, saying nothing throughout the game.
Newman’s stoic expression transitions into a winning smile, as he delivers arguably the best line about poker ever spoken on film. “Yeah, well, sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.”
Rain Man (1988)
Rain Man is not a movie about casinos, gambling and the razzle-dazzle of a Vegas life. It is a wholesome story about two brothers, an unlikely pair, played by cinema legends Tom Cruise (Charlie Babbitt) and Dustin Hoffman (Raymond Babbitt). The casino scenes are a bonding tool for the brothers, as Charlie takes Raymond to Nevada casinos, using his incredible memory to win money to cover his debt in a Las Vegas blackjack card counting adventure.
You will not pronounce “Hit me!” ever again without thinking of Hoffman’s Raymond, wearing a matching suit with his brother as club music enhances the ambience in the highest-grossing US film of 1988.
When you know that the main protagonist of Maverick is Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson), a great card player and con artist, there can be no shortage of epic gambling scenes in the movie. Poker rounds feature heavily in the film, and the ones at the final tournament are surely worth watching.
Giddy Jodie Foster is another highlight of the movie, but if you come for that, at least stay for Mel Gibson reaching the top three in the tournament. The madlad doesn’t look at his final card until it’s time to reveal his hand. When it’s time, he reveals the Ace of Spades, winning him both the game and the pot.
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you have some serious catching up to do. Martin Scorsese’s brilliance combined with the perfect cast consisting of Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone will sweep you off your feet, casino fan or not. Martin Scorsese said in an interview included on the Blu-ray that the movie has no plot at all – and it lasts three hours!
It’s hard to choose any one casino scene, since the entire movie is pure perfection, but the most fun one is probably the one where a cowboy rests his feet on the gaming table and gets mercilessly thrown out for refusing to remove them. Manners, folks! Even if you are a patron in a casino run by a gangster played by Robert De Niro. Especially then.
Atlantic City (1980)
Atlantic City is an underrated movie, a true hidden gem, with a certain quality to it that makes it both timeless and outdated at the same time. Rotten Tomatoes critics do rate it 100%, so that’s nothing to sneeze at. The film features young Susan Sarandon as a casino waitress dreaming of becoming a dealer.
Gambling itself is not the main focus of the film, but it plays a silent part in this examination of certain dying aspects of American culture at that point in time. Sally Matthews (Susan’s character) dealing cards while being distracted with a spilled drink is one of the memorable scenes. The strict and autocratic teacher Joseph explains how focus and concentration are essential for a blackjack dealer to be good.
If westerns are your thing, Tombstone is a must. You watched it already? Watch it again. There isn’t nearly enough of Val Kilmer’s Doc Holiday in our lives. Who cares about Wyatt Earp when you have Doc Holiday all liquored up after 36 straight hours of poker, sharp as ever and in a good mood.
His quick wits and quick draws never abandon him and he’s even prepared to ace a spelling contest. Val Kilmer’s performance as the notorious gambler/gunslinger was one of the best of his career. According to many, he should have won an Oscar for it. Instead, he remains our favorite huckleberry by a long shot.
Hard Eight (1996)
Hard Eight was Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film. It was shot in 28 days. The craps scene featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman is an immortal piece of film that simply attests to the immense improvisational skills the actor had. It was two o’clock in the morning at a casino in Reno when the scene was shot. It was even the first scene Hoffman did for the movie, the first time he stepped on set.
The mere concept of the scene is outrageously good. The young, annoying, overly confident dude with a mullet versus the veteran gambler in a perfect suit battling over the craps table, both trying to establish dominance in their own way. This one is another hidden gem, so make sure you watch it before you search for the latest movie on Netflix.