Tom Moyse, from online casino comparison site Jackpot.co.uk, pulls back the curtain on why gambling films are so popular with global audiences
When you think of gambling movies, you think of classics such as Ocean’s Eleven and Casino. But the genre offers so much more than audacious heists and feared mobsters.
From celebrating the art of card counting (21) to cutting open the dark underbelly of the home of casinos and gambling, Las Vegas (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), casino flicks cover a broad range of stories and characters.
And that is part of the reason why they are so popular with audiences around the world, and across generations. Here at Jackpot.co.uk we recently looked back over the past 60 years to compile the top ten gambling films of all time.
Our list is, of course, entirely subjective an open to debate, but putting it together made us realise just how many gambling films had been released – literally hundreds – and how many of them had turned out to be major hits.
Whether achieving critical acclaim, box office success, or legendary status amongst audiences around the world, the genre has the power to excite, educate and entertain in ways that others cannot.
But why are gambling films so popular?
There are several factors at play. But one of the most powerful is the way they tap into our psyche. A gambler lurks in all of us, and while some have a higher propensity to wager – and a higher risk threshold – we all like to try our luck.
That means it is a genre we all understand and can connect with.
So, whether a film telling the story of a young addict defrauding the bank where he works of $10m (Owning Mahowny) or a young up and coming poker player taking on the best in the business (The Cincinnati Kid), plots are accessible and engaging.
The flexibility of the genre also gives it mass appeal. Poker and blackjack aficionados can get their fix from true to life flicks such as 21 where the dark art of card counting is showcased and celebrated.
While those who enjoy the occasional flutter are catered for with the likes of Casino Royale and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, which feature some gambling action but it doesn’t form the core strand of the story.
Location is also a big draw for casino flicks, especially the bright lights and seductive showgirls of Las Vegas, which transfers perfectly to the silver screen. Sin City is vibrant and bold, and has been used as the backdrop to countless gambling films.
From The Hangover (filmed in Caesars Palace) to Ocean’s Eleven (filmed at the Bellagio), The Strip has featured in numerous movies and is as interesting and intriguing as the stories and plots set against it.
But more exotic locations also draw in audiences. Take Casino Royale, for example, which transports the viewer to Montenegro, or Maverick, which is set in the American Old West. Such diversity prevents the genre from being typecast to one place.
Another reason why gambling films go on to achieve blockbuster status is the talent they attract. From the most skilled screenwriters, to veteran directors, via A-list actors and actresses, casino films bring together the industry’s finest.
This has a lot to do with the stories and characters that are the driving force behind casino films. Whether real or imagined, the genre has the power to inspire and shock, to portray the best and worst of life and people.
And when it comes to it, that is what we all look for in a film. We want to be engaged and entertained; transported to interesting and exotic locations and to follow incredible stories with even more incredible people.
The gambling genre offers that and so much more. So while we whittled it down to our top ten, in reality there are literally hundreds of gambling films out there, and each and every one of them is worth watching.
So, settle on the sofa, grab a box of popcorn, and get bingeing.