We know that gambling and casinos are often major features of movies, especially those that want to show the danger and thrills of gambling, or those that want to show the outcome of trusting to fate or luck. They even fill in for overt displays of the dangers of addiction in its various forms.
Most of these movies seem to put games of skill like poker in the limelight. Card games are everywhere in gambling movies: poker as an obvious one but even blackjack and baccarat get time in the spotlight. And when people talk about gambling movies, these are by far the ones that always pop up – 21, Maverick, Rounders, The Cincinnati Kid, The Sting, and on and on.
But for a symbol of the fleeting favours of Lady Luck, and a literary and theatrical device to show the fickle nature of fate, the roulette able is often overlooked.
There are a bunch of great movies that actually have the roulette table as a small part with a major influence. The CasinoPlay crew, fresh off a fantastic round of Live Dealer roulette at PlayLive Casino, were chatting about just how roulette can be a big but often overlooked plot device that shows the character of the actors or that foreshadows events that are critical to the movie as a whole and we all came back to five incredibly good films that all have a pivotal moment around the roulette table.
We all know that the ever-suave British secret agent James Bond loves his gambling and the sophistication of high-end casinos. We know from the books that his favourite game is baccarat and we have seen him playing poker in the more modern films but in Diamonds Are Forever he takes his place at the roulette table for a gambling scene that only Sean Connery’s sophisticated Bond can pull off.
We also see roulette briefly in the beginning of Dr No and we have mention of Bond’s love of roulette in the novels for Casino Royale and Moonraker.
The comedy classic Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has great roulette scene starring Steve Martin and Michael Caine as they vie to grab the attention of the latest victim in their con-man battle.
The subtlety of Caine’s performance as the sophisticated and intelligent swindler Lawrence Jamieson is the perfect foil to the bumbling and oh-so-unsophisticated efforts of Martin’s American hustler, Freddy Benson.
This jewel of a film, often featured on best comedy lists, really showcases these two superstar actors and the laughs are genuine and honest. And yet, the scene at the roulette table is both subtle and a perfect symbol of the very different approaches these two characters have in their chosen nefarious arts.
Croupier is a criminally underrated and overlooked movie that stars Clive Owen as the titular roulette croupier at a UK casino. It’s a clever and engaging story with a heist at its centre but the lives of the various characters as the glue that holds it all together.
Croupier was, apparently, meant to be an Oscars contender until some small error (reputedly its showing on Dutch television?) meant it was disqualified.
It’s a movie that any fan of gambling and casinos really must watch, and any fan of roulette should have in their movie collection.
This innovative German film has made plenty of lists from gambling movies to great movies to unique cinematography to just downright eye-opening. A Sundance Film Festival winner, Run Lola Run is all about the choices we make and the consequences of these choices.
And what better symbol of that than the roulette wheel?
What makes Run Lola Run so unique is its use of alternate endings. There are three different endings to the film, each one the result of a choice that Lola makes as she tries to get her hands on 100,000 Deutschmarks to save her boyfriends life. One of these choices revolves around the roulette table.
And that’s all we’re going to say. Seriously, do yourself a favour and find a copy of this film. It is outstanding!
Run Lola Run
A classic piece of cinema history. Scenes and lines and characters that will be analysed and honoured and talked about forever. And one of the most famous scenes is that of Rick and the rigged roulette table.
Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, owns a café that has a roulette table rigged to land on 22 when needed. A couple, fleeing the authorities, bets everything they own on the spin of the wheel so they can afford to get to America. Rick tells them to bet everything on 22.
Why is this scene so important? It sets up the character of Rick. We know he is a rogue, a cheat and a man who – on the surface – cares little for others. He is in it for himself and no one else. With the roulette scene we see another side of Rick, the caring side, the side that attracts Ingrid Bergman’s character of Ilsa Lund and sets up one of the most famous romantic drama films of all time.
There is a mystique around the game of roulette, an air of both elegance and risk that attracts a certain type of gambler. Maybe it’s the sound of the ball as it strikes the pins before finding a pocket to call home. Maybe it’s the frantic placing of bets as the wheel spins. Maybe it’s the chance of winning big if you choose the right number.
Or maybe it’s the feeling that the roulette table is just a symbol of the vagaries of fortune, of the impact of chance and the fleeting favour of Lady Luck in life as in gambling.
Whatever the reason, roulette is and always will be the ultimate thrill ride for those who understand that sometimes you just need to let the wheel spin.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”