Why Gambling Movies Attract Audiences


Gambling has always caught the attention and imagination of the general public as it conjures up images of glitz and glamour, as the bright lights of Las Vegas beckon you to experience the most memorable time of your life. Hollywood has caught on and managed to cash in on the every man’s fascination with gambling and casinos. Whether it is the glamorous side of gambling at a luxurious Vegas casino or the shady wheelings and dealings of underground mobsters and multi-million dollar heists, the industry never fails to provide inspiration to Hollywood execs looking for their next big gambling movie.

Over the past 60 years or so, hundreds of casino-themed movies have been released, with some being box office gold, others were critical darlings, and some gaining cult status in the industry as fans flock to get their dose of Hollywood action and intrigue. But why are we so fascinated by the gambling industry?

Left to right: Mark Wahlberg plays Jim Bennett and Brie Larson plays Amy in THE GAMBLER, from Paramount Pictures.

The main reason why gambling movies are so popular is that it taps into different parts of our psyche – from excitement, shock, inspiration, sadness and thrill, these movies take us on an emotional roller coaster in 120 minutes or less (sometimes even more). One of the most popular gambling movies is “21”, where a team of underdogs learn to count cards and make their way to the big league while Owning Mahowny is another classic that exposes the truth about gambling addiction. Both movies stir up emotions in its audience and offer depth and variety. In fact, consider some of the most popular casino and gambling themed movies you know. This is a genre that covers many bases as films can be dark and depressing, funny and light-hearted, sad and inspiring, slow and brooding or action-packed and thrilling. There are so many interesting and unique stories that come from the gambling and casino world, some of them real and others from the great minds of authors and screenwriters, that filmmakers have plenty of material with which to work.

Casino and gambling-themed movies can be portrayed in a variety of styles and moods. Ocean’s Eleven, one of the most famous of these types of movies, was a sleek and smooth adaptation that featured a high-profile cast, while Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a more low-key production that featured psychedelic, mind-bending scenes that left viewers speechless.

Another draw is location, as casino films are not restricted to one particular location. Yes, Las Vegas is a popular backdrop for gambling movies, but many movies have also tread further afield. The very first James Bond movie was set in Montenegro, while Maverick, another classic, was set in the American Old West. Lots of these movies are also set in less glamorous locations, like smoky nightclubs and shady gambling dens.

Hollywood heavyweights are often attracted to gambling movies as they are usually of a high standard and give the actor a chance to show off their acting chops. Hollywood legends like Harrison Ford, Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Matt Damon have all taken on leadership roles in casino and gambling films. Since these movies attract such acting talent, as well as some of the best writers, directors and producers in the business, it comes as no surprise that a large audience follows suit. This guarantees a movie with a stellar cast, excellent direction and entertainment and overall high production value. In short, gambling movies offer everything we look for in an entertaining film, from intriguing and interesting stories to stunning locations, moving performances and some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. The gambling industry is one of the biggest in the world, so it only makes sense that Hollywood would want a piece of the action.

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