Seven Unforgettable Casino Scenes from Film History

Including 'Casino Royale,' 'Run Lola Run' and 'Austin Powers'

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Aug 9, 2022

Many directors have gambled on a big casino scene, whether it's spy movies that give their heroes a chance to show their steely resolve at the blackjack table or heist movies that find criminals targeting the vaults. And many of those directors have hit the jackpot and resonated with innumerable viewers throughout film history.

In fact, one of the most recognizable phrases in all of cinema was first coined in a James Bond casino scene, as were some truly unforgettable scenes involving heists, high-stakes games and popular casinos. Read on for some of the best.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
Directed by Jay Roach

Austin Powers is a spot-on James Bond parody, so naturally it includes a casino scene. In it, our very shagadelic hero (played by Mike Myers) squares off against villains Number 2 (Robert Wagner) and Alotta Fagina (Fabiana Udenio). They play blackjack with a $10,000 minimum bet, with Soup Nazi actor Larry Thomas as the dealer — and, in a perfect punchline, it turns out that Powers is absolutely awful at it. He holds on five, because he "[likes] to live dangerously," and immediately bails. "Cards are not my bag, baby," he explains.

Casino (1995)
Directed by Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci reunite once again for another epic crime drama in which Sam "Ace" Rothstein (De Niro) runs the Tangiers Casino (which was inspired by the Stardust). There's so much casino content across this 178-minute movie that it's frankly hard to pick just one scene — but how's about the one in which a cocky cowboy puts his socked feet on the table before getting dragged, kicking and screaming, to the emergency doors, which he is thrown through head-first.

Casino Royale (2006)
Directed by Martin Campbell

After the smirking cheekiness of the Pierce Brosnan years, Daniel Craig's first James Bond film brought a grittier tone to the long-running spy series, along the lines of the then-new Bourne movies. The brutal violence and exciting chase scenes made for a gripping movie — but perhaps the tensest moment of the whole movie is a slow-burning gambling scene at the titular casino in Montenegro. Bond squares off against terrorist financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) in a high-stakes Texas hold 'em tournament. As the hero burns through his money and then continues to go all-in, director Martin Campbell succeeds in making the stakes feel alarmingly high.

Dr. No (1962)
Directed by Terence Young

While we're on the subject of James Bond — the character was first introduced on-screen during a casino scene towards the beginning of Dr. No. He's initially shot from the back while playing baccarat, and Sean Connery is finally revealed to deliver his first-ever iconic "Bond… James Bond." Since then, there have been 26 more Bond films, with a rotation of stars embodying the lead role with differing degrees of success, but 007 has never been cooler than he was right here, where it all began.

Ocean's Eleven (2001)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Audiences understandably roll their eyes at remakes — but the 2001 heist caper Ocean's Eleven is a rare example of a remake that's done so perfectly that it practically eclipses the original (which was a lesser Rat Pack vehicle from 1962). The absolutely stacked cast includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Andy García, Bernie Mac and Julia Roberts — and, of course, Brad Pitt, who's eating in practically every scene and shows why he's probably better as a quirky, supporting character actor than a leading man. As for which is the best casino scene — well, it's hard to choose, because the whole thing is pretty much one giant casino scene, with the titular Eleven staging an elaborate, nine-figure robbery of the Bellagio, the Mirage, and the MGM Grand casinos in Las Vegas. It's rarely quite so delightful to watch people commit crimes as it is here. The weak sequel Ocean's Twelve followed in 2004, and the series got its charm back for 2007's enjoyable Ocean's Thirteen. (The less that's said about 2018's awful Ocean's 8 the better, when the filmmakers assembled a great cast and then forgot to create any obstacles for them whatsoever, making for the least tense heist movie possible.) 

Run Lola Run
Directed by Tom Tykwer

North American audiences generally don't give quite enough attention to non-English language films — but every once in a while, maybe every few years, an international picture breaks through and becomes a big hit (think Amélie, Parasite or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). German thriller Run Lola Run was one of those films, as the pulse-racing 1998 film shows protagonist Lola (Franka Potente) desperately trying to get 100,000 Deutschmarks in 20 minutes in order to save her boyfriend's life. The experimental structure runs through the same timeline three times, with Lola making different choices each time and experiencing different results. In the third (and most optimistic) of the three sections, Lola enters a casino and puts all of her money on 20 in a game of roulette. We won't say what happens here, just in case you're planning on watching the movie — but it's a scream-filled scene that's well worth watching.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Directed by Rian Johnson

Alien planets aren't so different from Earth! Star Wars is great because of the way it mashes up the fantastical with the relatable, as the films depict political disputes, family feuds and romantic entanglements against an immersive sci-fi backdrop. Proving that aliens are just like us, they even have casino towns — including Canto Bight, located on the arid planet Cantonica. At the Canto Casino, a group made up of Finn (John Boyega), Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and the droid BB8 meet up with a hacker at the casino — which is ultra-luxurious, filled with games both classic and unfamiliar, and generally looks cool as hell. The group then totally trash the joint with a stampede of animals, sending coins flying and making for a thoroughly delightful escape scene. The Force is strong with this one.

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