It is no secret that Hollywood has a soft spot for the casino world. Blockbusters often choose casinos or poker tournaments as the setting for some of their most intense or most humorous scenes. And even though poker and roulette are the usual suspects, there are quite a lot of movie scenes dedicated to the game that by many is considered the king of card games: blackjack.
1. License To Kill
James Bond films almost inevitably come with a casino scene in them – and one of the latest instalments, Casino Royale, uses a poker game as a central premise for unfolding the plot. In those golden days when online casinos were not yet a thing and 007 could not play online blackjack to hit 21 yet, we regularly see him visit land-based casinos – and quite glamorous ones, to boot. Die-hard fans know that the casino table game that the British spy truly adores is baccarat, even though in most on-screen adaptations of the Ian Fleming novels we see him play poker instead. In Licence to Kill, we see Timothy Dalton switch to blackjack instead, which is a rare occasion for the franchise. He plays against the villain and walks away with £250,000 in winnings – not bad!
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
From its early days to more recent variations like Black Jack Switch, which lets the player switch to a previous hand and is now popular across Las Vegas casinos, blackjack is a true classic. Perhaps that is why it is embraced so much by classic movies. In this critically acclaimed movie that went on to win the Big Five in the Academy Awards, Jack Nicholson plays a man with a criminal past who pleads insanity to get out of jail. Once committed to a mental institution, he begins a rebellion against the oppressive nurse who runs the ward. In one of his rebellious acts, he teaches his fellow inmates the fundamentals of blackjack, using cigarettes as chips.
3. Rain Man
In another critically acclaimed movie that sees egocentric, spoiled Charlie (Tom Cruise) undertake a cross-country road trip with his autistic savant brother Raymond, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, blackjack plays a prominent role. As Charlie grapples to understand a brother he never knew he had, he initially gets mad at his brother’s obsession with routine and aims to exploit him for the inheritance their father left him. As the film unfolds, the two grow closer together. But the scene where they visit a Las Vegas casino is the turning point in their relationship, where Raymond saves his brother by exhibiting outstanding skills in card games. This leads to Charlie winning enough to pay back his huge debts and his gratitude for Raymond influences the outcome of their road trip and their relationship.
The list does not end here, as many contemporary movies continue to choose casinos and poker dens as a pivotal place to propel their plot forward. The love affair between Hollywood and the casino world is far from over!