Blackjack is the most popular type of table games in both land-based and online casinos, which is why it has become iconic in Hollywood as the go-to gamble for the big screen. In fact, over 30% of all table action occurs during blackjack games, and it has become a staple in its live dealer format as well. If you’re a fan of the game or the casino industry in general, we have prepared a chronologically ordered list of films that deal with this topic in various ways. Do you want to know which they are? Then keep reading, and maybe plan your next movie night with our help!
Top 7 Blackjack Movies to Watch
1. Rain Man (1988)
Starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the roles of brothers Charlie and Raymond Babbitt, Barry Levinson’s Rain Man is a touching exploration of the troubled relationship the two have. A Los Angeles yuppie car dealer, the selfish Charlie had no idea Raymond even existed before their father died and left all his money to him. The film won four Oscars and achieved top tier status in Hollywood, but how does blackjack play into its plot? It’s all fairly simple, really.
Raymond Babbitt is an autistic savant with a remarkable degree of mathematical intelligence, his brother is an opportunistic wannabe-hustler. Upon noticing Raymond’s precision memory, Charlie takes him to Las Vegas and uses his wits to win money at the blackjack table through card counting. Fans of the game will know that this is a great strategy for those that can learn it. This is why the card counting scenes in Rain Man have made blackjack history. But does it all work out for Charlie and Raymond in the end? You’ll have to find out the rest of the plot for yourself!
2. Casino (1995)
Directed by the legendary Martin Scorses and starring Hollywood’s A-list of the 1990s with names like Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone, Casino is not a film that is solely about blackjack. Instead, it deals with the intricacies of running a mob-owned casino like the movie’s very own Tangiers, as well as the dangers of falling in love with a prostitute that works the casino floor. This is the main gist of what Robert De Niro’s character Ace has to go through, but Casino is way more telling than that. At the end of the day, it is a skillful portrayal of the gambling mafia and its underbelly, beautifully painted by Scorsese.
Nevertheless, the film’s blackjack scene is one for the ages. Joe Pesci’s character Nicky Santoro, who is sent by the big mob bosses to oversee Ace, is the central character of it. Even though the scene is pretty violent, it’s known that it took the longest to shoot in the entire movie because the rest of the cast couldn’t stop laughing at his comedic take on aggression. Do you want to know what he did to warrant this reaction? Then watch the film, we don’t want to spoil it for you!
3. Croupier (1998)
The 1998 casino film Croupier starring Clive Owen is a particularly savory watch for fans of the game, as it tells the story from the dealer’s point of view. Aspiring London novelist Jack Manfred takes advantage of some connections his father has and gets a job as a croupier in a casino, struggling to make ends meet. It isn’t long before he sees the literary opportunity behind this gig and becomes entangled in the lives of the players he meets on the casino floor.
If you enjoy the inner workings of the cards table and want to spend a quaint Sunday evening viewing a movie about it, then Croupier is the way to go. This casino flick has it all: a charismatic lead actor, a fresh perspective on the vulnerabilities of gamblers, an intimate glimpse into casino life, and an apt portrait of the many types of players one might come across in this setting. And what more could you want from this type of film, after all?
4. The Cooler (2003)
Wayne Kramer’s The Cooler is definitely a worthwhile watch for anyone interested in the casino business, and particularly in blackjack. In it, actor William H. Macy gives an astounding performance as the namesake “cooler” of the film’s Las Vegas casino, which is a person that establishments use to cut their risks and cool off a player on a hot winning streak. During one memorable scene, Bernie Lootz (Macy’s character) sits down at the blackjack table to go about his usual business of ruining the luck of the player on a roll.
However, the dealer puts out a series of winning hands, allowing the gambler to rake in a profit. Bernie proceeds to leave the table in a puzzled state. This part alone recommends The Cooler as one of the best blackjack movies to watch. If you want to find out more about how it all pans out for Bernie Lootz and the people around him in the end, we suggest watching the movie. Its runtime is under the two-hour mark, making it the perfect evening distraction.
5. The Hot Shoe (2003)
Are you a documentary film buff and a blackjack enthusiast all in one? Then The Hot Shoe is definitely the right choice for you. Directed by David Layton, this tell-all expose deals with everything from the history and mathematics of the game to the infamous practice of card-counting mentioned we’ve seen portrayed in Rain Man. Experience interviews with all the relevant figures in the industry, such as professional blackjack players, casino personnel, lawyers, academics, and even detectives who identify players.
Not convinced you should watch this documentary yet? According to director David Layton, “if you want to know the real story, if you want to learn how to count cards, or if you just want to watch a fun adventure I think you will enjoy The Hot Shoe.” After all, Layton himself used 5,000 dollars out of his budget to gamble at the blackjack table. If you want to see how that turned out for him, then you should go ahead and watch the documentary!
6. 21 (2008)
True blackjack aficionados will definitely be familiar with the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team, a group of students from various Ivy League universities across the United States, most notoriously including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School, and Harvard University. Using their mathematical knowledge and practical skills, they managed to become a card-counting force to be reckoned with.
The film 21 released in 2008 and starring Kevin Spacey, Jim Sturgess, and Kate Bosworth is loosely based on these events and laced with enough dramatic license to earn it a spot in the Hollywood blackjack movie Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, keep in mind that it is not meant to be a documentary or even a docudrama for that matter. Still, it’s a riveting movie that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat while you watch how the bright-minded team of students becomes consumed by greed.
7. Holy Rollers (2011)
What better way to end our list of the best blackjack movies made for fans of the table game than with another compelling documentary that strays off the beaten path of history and theory? Not to be confused with the 2010 film starring The Social Network alum Jesse Eisenberg, Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians by its full name represents a candid look into virtue, religion, and gambling following the story of Colin Jones and Ben Crawford.
Two devout Christians, Jones and Crawford start pondering about the possibility of earning more money through the practice of card counting at the blackjack table. But what is their justification for the whole thing, you might be wondering by now? How does it align with their religious beliefs? We won’t reveal it, as it’s more than worth it to watch the documentary yourself and find out.
Final Thoughts and Conclusions
If you’re interested in the game of blackjack or the casino industry as a whole, then you’ll definitely find one, if not more titles on our list that are worth watching. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of flashy Hollywood extravaganza, noir-inspired mafia films, or visceral documentaries, you’ll definitely get your cinema fix here. And if you want to start playing blackjack yourself at home and claim the opportunity of impressive cash prizes, head on over to our Top 10 Online Casinos page and find your next favorite spot out of our trusted operators!
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