5 Times Movies Got Card Games Right

Hollywood has a love affair with Vegas. There is no end of movies set there and plenty of card-playing characters, but they never seem to get the action quite right. In the heyday of 1960s Hollywood, casino games were always in the background of the story and not a part of it. Fortunately, things began to change and there have been some excellent movies that put card games and casinos on center stage.

Molly’s Game

Hollywood got a couple of helping hands with this movie. For a start, it is a true story that helped keep the card playing real. It was also written by Oscar-winning screenwriter and script legend Aaron Sorkin, who is a fan of poker himself. These two factors help put the film firmly towards the top of any list of accurate casino and card movies.

Former Olympic skier Molly Bloom needed to find a new career after injury and falls into the world of high-stakes card playing. She hosts games for Hollywood actors and producers, as well as some big-name sports stars. The film takes time to tell her story, but the first half centers on the card-playing action and does a great job of showing the excitement and tension of no-limit Texas Hold ’em.

The movie leaves you wanting more, and you can get a taste of the action at Jackpot Casino where you can find an awesome collection of online slot games, casino classics, and even live-streamed hosted games. The games are not hosted by a former Olympic skier though. Molly’s story has more twists than a game of blackjack and will have you on the edge of your seat as it draws to a close.

Ocean’s Eleven

This is the first of the Ocean trilogy and one of many movies in this expanding casino-flavored cinematic universe. Ocean’s Eleven does exactly what the Elvis song over its credits suggests; a little less conversation, a little more action. The beauty of this film is how little it tells its audience, while its star-studded cast seems one step ahead of everyone including the viewer. It’s a heist with plenty of twists that makes you stick in your seat until the end.

The movie is set firmly on the Las Vegas strip and shows you the inner workings of a casino as well as the inner workings of a card player. Each character has their own special abilities, and the whole team comes together to make one of the most audacious and exciting hustles in heist film history.

Brad Pitt steals all his scenes even though he isn’t saying much as he is eating something in nearly every one of his scenes. There will be no spoilers on the complicated but fun plot in this mini-review, just a recommendation to give it a watch even if you have seen it before. This movie has a perfect two-hour runtime too.


Don’t get it twisted, this isn’t a Martin Scorsese movie about mobsters, this is a Scorsese film about Las Vegas and its Casinos. The influence of the mob in Vegas is just a way inside for one of America’s modern masters of cinema. The most stunning thing about this film is that is based on a true story, and by many accounts, the characters are portrayed fairly accurately.

The events may be amped up to keep the story moving, but the cast’s performances were informed by footage and interviews with some of their real-life counterparts. Robert DeNiro’s career-defining role as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein is quite tightly based on Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who managed casinos in Vegas during the 1970s and early 80s. Hours of local television footage exist of ‘Lefty’, and some of those appearances are recreated in the movie with DeNiro mimicking the real Mr. Rosenthal.

This is one of DeNiro’s best performances by far, and he is backed up strongly by Joe Pesci and Sharon Stone. Pesci nearly steals the movie with his animated performance of Nicky Santoro, based on the real Chicago mobster Anthony Spilotro. The film runs for three hours, but still feels like it is over too soon.

The Sting

If you know, touch your nose. This is a classic movie where poker, poker faces, and the smooth-talking Paul Newman come together to create one of Hollywood’s all-time hustles. Having Rober Redford in a co-starring role does the story no harm either. This was Ocean’s Eleven long before people had ever heard the name, Brad Pitt. Young hustler Redford teams up with an old pro, Paul Newman, for one last big hustle to take a crime boss down.

The movie finds its tension at the poker table, where nervous casino bosses look on as huge amounts of their profits are put on the line. As the stakes get higher on the table, so do the stakes in the story. Like all the best hustling heist movies, there is more than money on the line for the heroes. It’s something personal.

Both Newman and Redford put in amazing performances, and this was the second movie they starred in together after 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This film has the same director too, George Roy Hill, who knew he had movie gold on his hands when he put the two friends together. They spent years looking for a third film to complete a trilogy, but the standards set by The Sting in particular made it hard to find a worthy project.


This is one that passed most people by and saw most of its success as a VHS rental. It’s a small-budget British film, but give it a chance. The main character is played by Clive Owen, who went on to some bigger films including the first Jason Bourne film, Sin City, and King Arthur. This is an early film that asks a lot of the young actor, including a voiceover that adds some texture and depth to a few scenes.

He plays Jack Manfred, a struggling writer who needs a proper job. His estranged father suggests Jack gets a job at an old casino he used to frequent, as he has a connection there and he taught Jack how to play cards. From the first night on the job, Jack descends further into the murky world of the casino and the lives of its characters. Though just a croupier, Jack starts betting more than he can afford to lose.

Legendary British director Mike Hodges is at the helm, and he brings the story together in a noir-thriller style. The story takes some twists and turns, and you are never sure who has the upper hand. Clive Owen is backed up by some British TV faces that you may recognize if you are a fan of any British shows. Alex Kingston pops up in a femme fatale role, right around the time she started her six-season stint in ER as British surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Corday.

Next time you are having a movie night, lay back in your seat and enjoy one of these casino classics. For action and laughs, go with Ocean’s Eleven. For a film that you can get stuck into, turn your phone off and put on Martin Scorsese’s Casino and enjoy one of the cinema’s best films and its best depictions of a casino.



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