Most Memorable Casino Movie Characters

Some of the best movies about casino games bring us great moments of action and tension. But have you stopped to consider how big a part the quality of the characters plays in this? 

While the turn of the final card or the all-important spin of the wheel decides who wins, it’s the characters who keep us interested in the overall plot. 

Edward Norton as Lester “Worm” Murphy in Rounders

The 1998 movie Rounders teamed Matt Damon with Edward Norton, as a couple of poker experts who get caught up with underworld crime figures as they try to make money from the game. The film was only a moderate success at the time of its release, but the rise in popularity of poker since then has seen it become a much-loved film among fans of the card game.

Damon was the bigger star at the time, and he plays Mike McDermott, an honest and likeable player who has set his heart on becoming a world-famous poker pro. But things go wrong when he enters a high-stakes game against dishonest rivals and loses all his money, causing him to quit the game to focus on his studies. 

We then meet Lester “Worm” Murphy, who is played by Norton and is a childhood friend of Mike who has gone off the rails. He’s just come out of jail and we soon learn that Worm is a dishonest poker player who cheats and also has a habit of making bad decisions that affect other people around them. 

The two of them work together to try to pay off the debt run up by Worm in Mike’s name, but it isn’t always plain sailing. Terrific acting by Norton and a script that has us on the edge of our seats make this an emotional roller-coaster that keeps us glued to the screen from start to finish.

James Bond in Several Different Movies

It might seem a bit unusual to call James Bond a casino movie character, as he gets involved in so many other types of action in his films. Yet, some of our favorite Bond moments happen when the secret agent 007 puts his chips on the table in a high-stakes game against one of the many villains that he comes up against.

It’s been reported that Bond’s favorite game is baccarat, but we’ve also seen him play poker and roulette, where a gambling strategy is named after him. The casino games in 007 movies like Casino Royale and Diamonds Are Forever are often used to move the plot forward and also introduce us to the new characters that he meets while playing.

However, they also give us a chance to see more of this character and what makes him such a good spy. Bond has clearly researched each game well, as he understands the rules perfectly and often makes complex bets or works out the weak points of his opponents quickly.

The way 007 plays these games also shows us how cool and unflappable he is. Even when he’s in the midst of a crucial game where the stakes are incredibly high and he’s surrounded by ruthless enemies, the suave secret agent keeps calm and never makes a false move. 

Robert DeNiro as Sam “Ace” Rothstein in Casino

1995’s sprawling epic Casino, by Martin Scorsese introduced us to several fascinating characters. A lot of the praise from critics deservedly went to Sharon Stone, who played Sam’s wife Ginger McKenna. Stone won a Golden Globe Award as best actress, and was also nominated for an Academy Award for her fantastic performance.

Another top performance came from Joe Pesci as the menacing Mafia man Nicky Santoro. But it’s Robert DeNiro ‘s role as Sam “Ace” Rothstein that could perhaps be described as a truly memorable casino character. Like the other main characters in Casino, Sam is based on a real-life figure from the Las Vegas gambling scene.

In the movie, we see how he takes over at a big Vegas casino in the 1960s and cleverly manages to turn it into a massive financial success. We then follow him through the next few decades as he tries to deal with the changes that are forced on him as the industry and the city change beyond all recognition.

The Las Vegas depicted in the movie is completely different to the current version of the city, while anyone who enjoys gambling online will be aware of another type of casino gambling that the characters in the movie could never have imagined. Yet, it’s the strength of these characters and the quality of the acting that makes this movie a pleasure to watch even now.

All of these examples prove that a great casino movie needs memorable characters that let us fully immerse ourselves in the film and feel an emotional reaction to their triumphs and disappointments.

  

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