From the casino to the wild west saloon, gambling and games of chance have provided some of the most tense moments in movie history. Often, the way the dice land or the cards are dealt has a profound impact on the way the plot pans out.
There’s certainly excitement in seeing Bond take on Le Chiffre at baccarat in Casino Royale (the original version, of course) or Doc Holliday and co duking it out at poker in Tombstone. However, in both cases, it loses a little something when you are having to watch the protagonists for clues as to how the game is progressing.
That’s what makes the following blackjack scenes so memorable. The truth is, most people have only a vague idea about what constitutes a good hand in poker. However, blackjack is a game we learn as children, and many of us still enjoy online blackjack today. When we watch a game unfold on the big screen, we feel every bit of the tension experienced by the player. How many of the following have you seen?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
For one of the most discussed and analyzed films of all time, it is surprising how little attention has been paid to the blackjack scene in this cult classic from 1975. Jack Nicholson’s character, Randie McMurphy, persuades the other patients in the mental institution to join him in a game of blackjack, using cigarettes as betting chips. Despite the unstable mental conditions of many of the participants, the play is calm and organized, showing that this game really is the great leveler.
In a film full of memorable moments, the blackjack scene is the real show stopper in Barry Levison’s box office smash, which was released 30 years ago, believe it or not. OK, so the purists will point out that what Dustin Hoffman’s character is doing is not card counting as the gamblers define it, but that doesn’t make the scene any less dramatic, all these years on.
Licence to Kill
You just knew Bond would have to appear again somewhere in this list. Timothy Dalton might be the “forgotten Bond,” but he came as close to anyone to realizing Ian Fleming’s original vision with his dark and brooding interpretation of the secret agent in his two outings in the 1980s. Of course, a Bond film isn’t a Bond film without a casino scene, and in Licence to Kill, Bond strolls into the master villain Franz Sanchez’s casino and takes the house for a quarter of a million dollars.
Is this the ultimate blackjack movie? It is based on the real life story of the MIT blackjack team and how they took on the casinos of Las Vegas and won. Kevin Spacey is at his mesmerizing best as he leads his young team and coaches them in the art of card counting. This is also one of the most true-to-life representations you will see of how blackjack is really played in a casino.