Blackjack movies and Hollywood, it really does feel like the perfect relationship. Over many decades we’ve seen the directors of the world turn to the famous card game for inspiration – quite frankly, we don’t blame them. Blackjack as a game has everything a movie could ask for, including big-money, notable characters, and plenty of suspense.
While the biggest blackjack Hollywood blockbusters deliver plenty of entertainment, that’s not all that they bring to the table. Blackjack movies also highlight the growing casino space and have helped create a surge in card game popularity around the world. Recent reports state that the online casino market will be worth more than a whopping $94 billion by 2024, a huge boost from its current value of $46 billion. Want proof that the Hollywood effect is impacting the world of casino play? Well, this is it!
Okay, so we’ve digressed a little, let’s get back to those famous blackjack movies. You might be thinking, a movie is just a movie, but when it comes to some blackjack cinema releases, there is more than meets the eye. Some of these flicks offer more than just some fast fun, as you could learn plenty about blackjack and how to get the best of the dealer just by watching them.
If you are chomping at the bit to improve your blackjack game and become an all-around better player at the tables, these are the movies you absolutely have to watch. What we’ve found is that these films will help you tweak your strategy and approach, along with cautioning you on the traps and mistakes to avoid.
Got it? Good, let’s jump into the blackjack movies.
Film No. 1 – 21
You can’t talk about card game movies, especially blackjack movies, and not talk about 21. This movie stormed the box office upon release back in 2008, clearing an impressive $158 million. For a movie starring the now controversial Keven Spacey, and with a budget of just $35 million, this film was an unexpected hit.
The basis of the movie is the real-life book Bringing Down the House. From best-selling author Ben Mezrich, it told the story of an MIT blackjack team that took their numerical skills to Las Vegas. Alongside the aforementioned Kevin Spacey, the film features a raft of top stars, including Laurence Fishburne, Kate Bosworth, and Jim Sturgess among others.
The reason this movie slides into the number one spot is simple, it’s mostly based on true stories from guys that studied at MIT and did the exact same thing in real life. Real gambling locations are featured prominently too, such as Planet Hollywood, the Hard Rock Casino, and The Red Rock Casino, which is all fittingly found in Las Vegas.
The authenticity of 21 doesn’t end there either, as the techniques and skills used in the movie are all transferable to the real game of blackjack. In the film, the MIT students undergo intense training as a way to “beat the house”, but this training isn’t all fiction. While they may undertake some underhanded methods at times, there is no denying that there is a wealth of information to be found in 21, with some crucial blackjack tips being dropped throughout the film’s run time.
Blackjack Movie No. 2 – The Cooler
From students that were learning the game to somebody that is an experienced pro throughout. The Cooler is another top blackjack movie and one that stars a certain William H. Macy. Straight from the mind of Wayne Kramer, the film focuses on Macy’s character, who is an experienced live blackjackLive Blackjack player that the casinos send in to “cool” any player that is on a hot streak. The idea is that land-based casinos will use every trick imaginable to ensure that the house wins, even if that means sending in a ringer.
While the idea of sending in a ringer to do the job of the casino seems unscrupulous (and in our opinion it certainly is), it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to learn from this entertaining movie. In and amongst all the talk, you’re going to see some scenes at the blackjack tables that are very reflective of real play. Expert strategies are in full flow and it is in many ways just like having a front-row seat to see how the professionals and casinos battle it out.
The Cooler really is a fantastic blackjack movie and rightfully considered to be one of Macy’s finest acting performances, which is a bonus if you’re just on the lookout for a great film. Check out The Cooler if you have the time, we’re sure you won’t regret it.
Film No. 3 – The Hangover
Who hasn’t seen The Hangover? This party film was a worldwide smash hit with many considering it to be one of the greatest comedy movies of the last 15 years. It made stars of the likes of Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms, with other star names such as Heather Graham, Jeffrey Tambor, Justin Bartha, Zach Galifianakis, and Ken Jeong certainly adding to the fun.
In addition to being one the funniest movies you’ll ever see, this film has plenty of lessons for any prospective gambler. After losing a huge sum of money, it’s up to the famous trio to recover the cash, which is where card counting comes into the equation. Even the most basic of blackjack player will know about card counting, as it’s such a commonly used game strategy after all.
What The Hangover attempts to do is break down the act of card counting as simple math in a way that might be a little too oversimplified. You can’t deny that the fundamentals are there though. Plus, this film had a happy ending, which leads to two hilarious sequels, so that alone makes this a film any casino card game fan needs to watch.
Film No. 4 – Rain Man
It might be number four on this list and some may argue that it should be higher, but either way, Rain Man is very much a movie with blackjack at its core. The movie stars Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman as Raymond and Charlie. Charlie is autistic and has what we can fairly assume is a photographic memory. In a way to make money and exploit his skills, Charlie brings Raymond to the casino as a means to win cash and pay back his debts.
The movie’s blackjack scenes look at card counting elements and the importance of monitoring the cards in order to get the best possible results. However, the movie also addresses the consequences of card counting, something that certainly shouldn’t be ignored. When the casino rumbles the brothers, they are swiftly ejected and banned under the terms of committing “foul play”. Honestly, this is the age-old excuse, as the brothers technically didn’t cheat, but as they always say, the house always wins one way or another.
Rain Man is arguably the most successful movie on this list, as it was much more than just a hit at the box office. It proved to be an awards-darling as well, with it winning Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay at the 1989 Oscars. No other movie on this list has achieved that level of critical recognition. As you can gather from all that we’ve said, it’s a great film that’ll certainly deliver a much-needed blackjack lesson, so take the time to watch it.
Film No. 5 – Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians
Another true story that’s sure to catch your eye is Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians. Do we know what you’re thinking, a Christian documentary movie? Surely that can’t have anything to do with gambling? Well, in this case, you couldn’t be more wrong. Ben Crawford and Colin Jones tipped the stereotypes upside down to win big at several major casinos.
Over a staggering five years, both men would scoop up a staggering $3 million through card counting at blackjack. Good guys by name and good guys by nature, this story is more about serving up inspiration to any prospective blackjack player. The truth is that if these guys can win big with a simple workable strategy, then anyone can.
Film No. 6 – Swingers
From a couple of Christian guys trying to prove a point, to guys that are simply trying to turn a fast buck. Swingers is a movie that really does sum up the 1990s, especially with the tagline “Cocktail first, questions later”. Set in Las Vegas, no surprises there, the film features a handful of unemployed actors struggling to get by. Like most people in a cinema in situations like this, they turn to gamble in order to strike it rich.
Given that this film is a comedy-drama, you are right to predict that not everything goes as planned for these lovable rogues. That being said, there are several memorable scenes centered around the blackjack table. One of which will be burned into the memory of blackjack fans worldwide, as the group argues about whether you should double-down every time.
Great comedic value and packed with charm, Swingers is a fun movie from beginning to end. What was the lesson from watching this movie? Well, it’s that you should always double down of course!
Movie No. 7 – The Hot Shoe
Not the most entertaining film on this list, but by far the most educational, which is why we saved it for last. 21 was a film based on a true story, while this gritty documentary came a few years prior looked at real-world players’ opinions on the MIT Blackjack Team and card counting in general. This film does a fantastic job of showing real players breaking down the card counting practices, but in many ways, it actually does more than that.
Card counting is a way of play actually has an impressive history, with it going back much further than you probably think. This film truly is a deep dive into that history, with the interviews conducted by a true who’s who of that blackjack space at that time, including the likes of leading casino heads, gambling authors, professional gamblers, and even members of the MIT Blackjack Team. These opinions are worth their weight in gold in our humble opinion.
What the film also addresses is the arguments for and against card counting, especially as the casinos deem it a form of cheating. Serving up an honest players’ perspective, it’s hard to find an argument against this way of play in today’s casino environment. Added extras here include behind-the-scenes footage of casino CCTV and floor monitoring rooms and the famous MIT team preparing to hit the tables, revealing plenty about what makes them tick. The director David Layton also carried out his own case study into the act, by gambling with $5,000 at blackjack tables to see if the mathematical elements really did stack up.
The Hot Shoe isn’t exactly a thrill-a-minute affair, in fact, it’s far from it, but don’t be in a rush to discount this 17-year-old movie. It’s an open book on the game of blackjack that will teach any player more about the game and the act of card counting than they could possibly want to know. Love blackjack but haven’t seen The Hot Shoe yet? Well, get moving and hunt down a copy, your bankroll will certainly thank you for it.
That’s a Wrap on Blackjack Movies!
Hollywood has created some amazing films based on blackjack, some of which have even been able to become award winners on the biggest scale. The films themselves might not all be based on real events, although many are, that doesn’t stop them from serving up a fresh slice of blackjack brilliance. If you feel like a film night and have a passion for cards, make sure you check these out, as they’re sure to make you a better blackjack player.
Tuah bin Razak
Tuah is an experienced writer and casino enthusiast with 12 years of industry knowledge. With a degree in Journalism, he delivers objective and comprehensive casino reviews, covering game variety, user experience, security, and customer support. From slots to blackjack, roulette to poker, Tuah's expertise guides both beginners and experienced players in making informed decisions. Expect engaging articles providing valuable insights for an enhanced online gambling experience.