Infographic: The World of Casino Movies
December 19, 2017
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Casino and gambling-related movies have been churned out almost constantly by the film industry’s production line for well over half a century.
The first to hit the big screen was way back on Christmas Day in 1941 when Josef von Sternberg’s crime-drama The Shanghai Gesture was released. Von Sternberg’s film-noir adaptation focused on a casino in China where Shanghai’s best and worst personalities came to drink and gamble. The film went on to be nominated for two Oscars and took in over $1 million at the box office – a pretty decent return for a film that came out less than three weeks after Pearl Harbor.
But not every release has been quite as successful. 2006’s flop All In looks incredibly terrible just from watching the first 27 seconds of the trailer: a poker player asks his daughter – intently, whilst seemingly on the verge of tears over the backdrop of a hilariously over-the-top, melodramatic soundtrack – the probability of a couple of poker hands, to which she quips back the answer with a repulsive smugness of someone you know you’re destined to hate for 90 minutes of your life you know you’re never going to get back. All In got a lousy 3.7 IMDB rating and doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, which pretty much says it all.
On the flip side though, we had classics like The Sting, Casino and Rain Man which sit atop of the genre with the same imperious superiority of someone who’s just won a big stack down the gambling house.
It’s funny to watch The Sting after watching a film like All In because that overpowering and faux intensity and seriousness that lingers like the smell of your Great Grandfather’s house throughout All In, is applied to comedic perfection in The Sting. But it’s not just the laughs that keep you engaged; it’s also the labyrinth of a plot, that twists and turns like a jellyfish who’s lost his house keys, as professional grifters Paul Newman and Robert Redford attempt to con a mob boss. The Sting was an all-around classic that made a fortune at the box office, and won seven academy awards at the Oscars.
Rain Man was a classic too. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman together as an unlikely heroic duo who, using Hoffman’s savant syndrome to their card-counting advantage, attempt to take down a casino in the most soul-stirring and satisfying fashion. It’s hard not to shed a few tears, or at least feel some sort of fuzzy feeling, as the improbable pair’s lives develop over the 133 minutes.
And Casino too, a Martin Scorsese classic which sits aside the likes of the Godfather, Goodfellas and Scarface on top of the mob genre pedestal. Casino focuses on the Italian Mob running the day-to-day operations of the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas which, of course, descends into all kinds of gangster chaos for Robert de Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pecsi.
There’s no wonder why casino and gambling movies are so popular and so abundant. Casinos are glamorous places; they involve money, they involve dapper gentleman and elegant ladies, they involve incredible highs and devastating lows. They’re where dreams are made and lost in the same night, and where emotions balance on a knife-edge. The invention of the casino, and gambling, in general, was a Godsend for the life of a filmmaker.
Author: Tom M.
Tom has been creating online content for over 10 years now starting way back as a small, impressionable 16-year-old. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created HungarianFootball.com and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer, Goal.com, among many others.