There’s something very special about the lure of the casino, a blend of danger, sophistication and the possibility to win vast amounts of money. When you think about it that way, it is unsurprising that they feature in so many of the most popular movies.
Of course, when casinos feature on the big screen, the action seldom takes place around the slot machines. It is the gaming tables, where success or failure depends on the turn of a card and there is always that outside possibility that someone is cheating the system, that capture our imagination.
Poker might have the most famous card scenes, in movies like The Cincinnati Kid and The Sting, but there is always the factor that many of those watching are a step behind. Nine of clubs, is that good or bad? Blackjack, however, is a game everyone understands, at least as far as the fundamental rules are concerned. That means we can get involved and feel every card dealt with the character.
So here, shuffled and dealt in no particular order, are four of the best blackjack movies.
Licence to Kill (1989)
You can’t mention casino film scenes without thinking of James Bond. While baccarat might be his usual game of choice, there is one famous blackjack scene in the 1989 Timothy Dalton outing Licence to Kill. In fact, is it so iconic that it clearly made a lifelong impression on the casino dealer who wrote this guide to blackjack for uk-casinos.uk.
Bond enters the casino belonging to the villain of the piece, Franz Sanchez, and immediately catches the eye of the beautiful dealer, played by Talisa Soto, who also happens to be Sanchez’s girlfriend. Of course, ultimately Bond gets the money and the girl, but not before we are taken through one of the most electric card playing scenes you could ever hope to see.
Rain Man (1988)
It might have expert blackjack players gnashing their teeth at its misrepresentation of the principles of card counting, but there’s no denying that Barry Levinson’s 80s classic has one of the most memorable blackjack scenes in film history.
The unlikely pairing of brothers Cruise and Hoffman taking Caesar’s Palace for a fortune makes for great entertainment, and the puzzlement of the security staff as they try to work out how they are doing it is worth watching again and again.
Perhaps the blackjack movie, and all the more astonishing because it is based on the true events surrounding the MIT blackjack team, who used a variety of techniques to take Vegas casinos for millions in the early 1980s.
Kevin Spacey plays the outwardly easy going and charismatic professor with a hidden streak of ruthlessness as well as you would expect, and the movie provides a thrilling glimpse into the real world of card counting.
A professional gambler and his lounge singer girlfriend have put a jinx on an unfortunate blackjack dealer, and follow him across the western United States. All goes to plan until the wife falls in love with the dealer and decides to turn the tables on her husband.
At the time, the film was panned by critics, but today it is worth a look, if only to see Bette Midler steal the show with her acerbic one-liners and some great musical numbers.