Blackjack is one of the more popular casino games, probably due to the fact it offers some of the best odds to the player. It’s also a fairly sociable game, inviting players to sit around a table, have some fun, and perhaps even work together to beat the house. Given the exciting and fast nature of blackjack, it’s a commonly-used theme in Hollywood films, although blackjack movies are generally related to card counting and ripping someone off. Nonetheless, there are many great blackjack flicks out there, so let’s take a look at our favourites.
The Last Casino
This little known Canadian TV-movie is about a mathematics professor who uses card counting to win at blackjack at his local casino. It ends up in crazy territory when he is caught out and has his fingertips cut off, prompting him to recruit a group of students from the university to form a card counting syndicate.
They end up winning big after starting with $1,000 each, but the film has some interesting underlying messages about card counting and greed. While the professor initially enlists the students to help repay a debt, the students eventually turn on him, and the film becomes a case study in arrogance and naivety. It’s certainly not one of the more happy-go-lucky blackjack films out there, but its critical acclaim makes it well worth your time if you’re after a blackjack flick.
Undoubtedly the most famous card counting film of all time. While Rain Man isn’t about blackjack per say, its scenes in the casino with Tom Cruise’s Charlie Babbitt and his brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) are iconic.
The film sets the scene with Charlie having to repay a debt after having failed to import some exotic cards for clients. He heads across the country to Ohio to attend the funeral of his father, where he discovers that much of his $3 million estate has been passed on to an unknown trustee. That trustee turns out to be Charlie’s autistic brother, Raymond, whose existence he wasn’t aware of. Charlie kidnaps Raymond, and the two embark on a cross-country tour. Charlie soon realises that gaining access to the money is impossible. However when it’s discovered that Raymond is a human calculator with the ability to count hundreds of items at once, the two head to Las Vegas to win the money for Charlie.
The blackjack scenes are memorable and alone make the film worth watching, but on it’s own, Rain Man stands as an iconic piece of cinema … with some great blackjack scenes to boot!
Based on the book “Bringing Down The House”, the film 21 tells the story of six MIT students who beat the casino out of huge cash. Kevin Spacey leads the cast as math professor Mickey Rosa, teaching the students how to count cards and win millions in the process.
As expected, the group heads to Las Vegas to try out their new-found skills, and, unsurprisingly, things turn sour pretty quickly. The students fail their classes, end up stealing from one another and fighting each other, and of course end up losing everything fairly quickly. It may not end on a happy note in the same way Rain Man does, but there’s a strong message to be had throughout the film, and it’s a pretty exciting ride anyway as the students learn the basics and ride the wave of wealth. It’s certainly not one of Spacey’s more memorable performances, but it’s definitely one of the more fun.
Like Rain Man, The Hangover isn’t quite a blackjack movie, but you can’t ignore the film’s obvious ode to the aforementioned film’s card counting scene. The whole film is centred around three friends — the three best friends — searching for the groom, who has gone missing after a wild bachelor party in Las Vegas.
The groom’s soon-to-be brother-in-law, Alan, carries around a copy of Edward Thorp’s Beat the Dealer, which is essentially a how-to book for counting cards. When, as expected and in the typical Vegas shenanigans way, the trio end up in debt with a mobster, they head to the tables to win at blackjack and repay the debt. The great thing about this scene is that it’s an obvious ripoff of the scene from Rain Man, but with hilarious results.
Clive Owen’s performance in 1998’s Croupier is ultimately what put him on the map in Hollywood. He plays a lowly croupier who, after gaining access to the inner-workings of a casino, becomes embroiled in corruption and cheating.
This a great film with some fantastic insight to the casino world, namely its ugly underbelly. Despite its low budget, the performance are all top notch, and its film noir theme really allows Owen to own the part as a blackjack dealer. A must watch for blackjack players.