The casino boasts excitement and glamour. It’s a place of taking a chance, of riding your luck. That means thrills, tension, sweaty palms and quickening hearts. That moment before the final card turns in poker; before the dealer shows his hand in blackjack; before the ball comes to settle on a number in roulette; when you wait, fingers bit, to see if you’ve won; there’s something very theatrical, very “Hollywood” about it all. Perhaps that’s why the casino has been the backdrop to some of cinema’s most thrilling encounters, as we’re about to find out.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
The casinos of the French Riviera take centre stage in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a film that begins with a different kind of gamble. Here we see Michael Caine’s Lawrence Jamieson using an act at the roulette table to persuade a rich heiress to parts ways with very valuable jewels and a heap of cash. It’s all in the name of fun as the casino becomes the con artist’s hunting ground, seeking prey by promising untold wealth. Perhaps it’s film’s equivalent of games like Diamond Bet Roulette, which has a unique bonus that could see players winning a similarly life-changing £200,000. This variant of online roulette is popular at platforms including Paddy Power in the UK, which is available here: https://casino.paddypower.com/c/roulette
Bad Times at El Royale (2018)
This dark and twisted thriller takes its offbeat themes to the casino, as Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring finds her life in the hands of the roulette ball and whether or not it lands on red or black. A cult leader, played with menace by Chris Hemsworth, is fittingly sadistic as the scene draws out the tension of the roulette table’s spinning wheel.
Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
A discussion of fascinating casino scenes would not be complete without at least one mention of 007. Diamonds Are Forever is famous for a number of things – from its dazzling opening credit sequence, ranked eighth of all time here: https://www.top10films.co.uk/14298-top-10-james-bond-opening-credit-sequences/ to its iconic Bond girl (Jill St. John’s Tiffany Case). But it’s the casino where some of its best scenes take place. For instance, around the craps table, Bond teases a female acquaintance that he doesn’t know much about the game. “You handle those dice like a monkey handles coconuts,” she says before he confidently wagers it all and wins.
Mel Gibson is on top form as Maverick in this comedy western about a high-stakes poker tournament. It’s worth noting that seasoned players would scoff at the lead character’s slow reveal of his royal flush to win the jackpot, but that’s Hollywood for you. The tension created gives this humorous film another reason to fall for its charms as so many have done. Even the late film critic Roger Ebert rates it highly and in his review available here: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/maverick-1994, he puts it in the same bracket as another great poker movie, The Sting.
James Bond might be the first Hollywood character you think of when you put movies and casinos together, but as we’ve seen, 007 isn’t the only icon of the silver screen to be seated in front of a deck of cards or the rolling ball of the roulette wheel. The inherent thrills of gambling lend themselves to the drama of cinema, so it’s only a matter of time before we see another great film scene set amongst the excitable atmosphere of the casino.
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