How Casinos have inspired iconic tropes in Hollywood

Casinos and Hollywood are intrinsically linked. While it’s about a five hour drive from Hollywood, California to Las Vegas, a route many a celebrity has taken when filming for a huge blockbuster release. 

Once you start to think about it, there are an incredible number of films that have a casino within, from comedy films like The Hangover to heist movies like the Ocean’s films, even back to the days of the Rat Pack.

Whether the movie is a story where the casino gets scammed like the multiple jackpots triggered in Ocean’s 13, or it has more of a serious edge, the links are there for all to see.

Whether you’re a casino lover or not in real life, surely you have to admit that it makes for an interesting setting for a movie.

Why Hollywood features casinos so much

By the standards of the USA, Hollywood and Las Vegas are relatively close – you wouldn’t want to drive that far every day, though. This isn’t the reason that casinos are linked to Hollywood and the film industry so much. So what are some of the reasons behind this link?


Whether you get your drama from gritty reality shows like Hunted or you enjoy the blockbuster movie method, nobody can deny the dramatic setting of the cinema. 

A lot of us can remember some serious drama from films set in casinos. Whether it is the heist coming together in Ocean’s 11, or the drama when James Bond gets poisoned in the casino from Casino Royale. 

Okay, so the James Bond scene might have not been super realistic but it made for some great cinema.

A lot of movies hinge on drama, and undeniably, casinos are a scene where there is a lot of drama and excitement, from the spin of the roulette wheel to the chance of a big jackpot.


In a similar way to movies featuring a lot of drama, there is often some serious glitz and glamor on show.

Casinos are traditionally a place to get dressed up, and a place for people to be a little bit flashy. This can make a great movie scene. If somebody wants a setting for some really amazing costumes then this can be where the statements get made.

The potential for all genres

Not many settings in movies can offer this, but Las Vegas (and other casinos) definitely can. There is every chance that you will see each and every type of movie shot in this setting.

We’ve seen everything from gritty dramas to classic comedies in casinos. Even The Simpsons had an episode dedicated to casinos. 

It’s almost its own genre

As the years have gone by, casino movies have almost become their own genre or Hollywood subgenre. 

In the 1990s we really saw casino movies explode, with Casino and Hard Eight among the biggest movies. Even Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas played its part.

Now, it almost has its own place in Hollywood. When you see a movie with some cards or a roulette wheel on the poster, you know the setting, and that there are probably going to be a lot of scenes set in the casino.

The best Hollywood movies about gambling or set in casinos

There have undeniably been some real classics set in casinos. Whatever genre of movie you’re into, there’s a chance that there is a casino featuring somewhere.

Casino (1995)

When you hear the name Scorsese attached as director, you can almost guarantee that it is going to be a classic film.

Casino has a star cast including movie legends Sharon Stone and Robert De Niro. It’s about the mob, and a mobster’s wife who manages to climb to the top of the tree in the world of Las Vegas casinos.

There’s drama, police chases, a lot of violence, and, you’ve guessed it, casinos.

Ocean’s 11

It’s impossible not to mention this movie in this context. Okay, so it has one of the worst attempts at a British accent you’re ever likely to hear, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie.

In fact, if you can take it with a pinch of salt, this film has a great mix of both drama and comedy, and while the sequels have not quite reached the same levels of greatness, Ocean’s 11 is still an entertaining watch today.

The Hustler

The Hustle came out in the early 1960s – a time when Hollywood was experiencing a considerable culture change. The movie has been very influential in the world of cinema. It features a pool hustler who travels and gambles to make himself some money, but he eventually meets his match in the fearsome ‘Minnesota Fats’.

The movie is known as a classic of the genre, and one of the fist huge movies to have gambling as a main theme, though it is not set in a casino, per se.

Rain Man

Rain Man won dozens of awards and is one of the best-known movies of all time. It is a road movie so not set exclusively in casinos – but a large chunk of the film is set in Las Vegas.

Rain Man actually gives a pretty realistic overview of what casinos used to be like 30-40 years ago, and is well worth the watch.


The link between casinos and gambling, and the world of Hollywood, is now deeply ingrained. There are regularly new casino movies coming out, or hilarious casino scenes in films like The Hangover. Don’t be surprised to see even more casino classics coming out in the future.