The Best Blackjack Movies of All Time

The Inspired by a True Story Film

21 (2008) is a drama directed by Robert Luketic and starring Kevin Spacey, Laurence Fishburne and Kate Bosworth. The movie is inspired by the true story of the MIT Blackjack Team who were the subject of the popular book Bringing Down the House, written by Ben Mezrich.

The MIT Blackjack Team was a group of 6 students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who became experts in card counting techniques and other strategies to beat casinos all over the world at blackjack. The MIT team and those who came after, worked successfully from 1979 and subsequently, many other teams have been formed around the world with the same goal in mind.

The Classic Film

Rain Man (1988), directed by Barry Levinston, is a dramatic comedy. It follows the story of two brothers who are not even aware of each other. After Charlie, played by Tom Cruise, finds out that his father has died, he heads to Cincinnati to settle the estate.

That’s when he finds out his father has left a large inheritance to an older brother he knew nothing about, Raymond, played by Dustin Hoffman. Charlie is determined to get at least part of his inheritance. He visits a mental institution where he picks up his newly discovered brother for a road trip to Las Vegas, where Charlie hopes to win money at blackjack by counting cards.

The Epic Film

Casino (1995) is a Martin Scorsese favourite and tells the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a gambling handicapper. He is recruited by the Chicago Outfit to manage operations at their Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas.

Sam manages to double the casino profits but more importantly, he is able to catch gamblers cheating at the blackjack tables at the casino.  The main characters are based on real people – Sam was inspired by Frank Rosenthal who ran various casinos for the Chicago Outfit from the 70’s to 1981. The Mafia’s involvement with the casino also adds an edge to the film as Sam tries to manage his personal life and the challenges of the job.

The Romantic Film

The Cooler (2003), Wayne Kramer’s romantic drama, is centered on Bernie, a casino employee known for having bad luck. He is used by the casino to end or cool a player’s winning streak simply by being part of the game. William H. Macy was revered for his performance of Bernie the cooler, and remains a memorable performance.

His job is to focus on players winning big in games like blackjack and to enter the game as a player or dealer to give the casino the edge. Things get complicated when Bernie falls in love with a waitress and the head of the casino tries to interfere with their romance. The casino boss Shelly is played by Alec Baldwin.