Blackjack in Film
Blackjack is a game that has captured the attention of many casino enthusiasts. It is one of the few casino games where playing the basic strategy can actually reduce the house edge. Blackjack is also one of the most popular card counting games. It is no wonder then that Hollywood has included blackjack in some of the biggest movies. From classic Bond films to casino comedies, historical dramas to movies about card counting, blackjack has made its way into film influencing modern culture and creating hordes of budding new gamblers. We take a look at a few films where blackjack and card counting play a major role.
Of all the blackjack/casino films, probably the single most famous example of classic blackjack card counting comes from the 1988 film Rain Man. In this film, Charlie played by Tom Cruise takes his autistic savant brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) to the casinos at Vegas. With a sizable inheritance at stake, Charlie uses Raymond’s unique card counting abilities to play blackjack and clean out the house. The card scenes in this film is incredible, as is the rest of the film. With four Oscars and two Golden globes to its name, everything about the film is pure gold.
Licence to Kill
Everyone knowns that Bond films feature a casino scene somewhere along the line. But most of the time they don’t feature blackjack. In the earlier Bond films, 007 had a penchant for playing baccarat with the occasional game of roulette. The modern (Daniel Craig) bond films see Bond moving with the times and switching to Texas Hold’em poker. However, there was one Bond film where we see 007 playing a round of blackjack. The 1989 Timothy Dalton film, Licence to Kill had Bond winning a cool £250,000 at a casino owned by the villain Franz Sanchez.
One movie which is all about blackjack and card counting is “21”. Based on the book “Bringing Down The House” by Ben Mezrich, the film tells the story of a MIT maths professor in the 1990s who trains students to count cards The professor, Micky Rosa (Kevin Spacey) is actually banned from playing casinos in Vegas due to his card counting abilities. He then decides to train a select group of students in the art of card counting. Every week the students would travel to Vegas and clean out the blackjack tables. The film shows how money, power and losing control can easily send someone off the rails.
Returning to the Bond films, we have to give credit to the spoofs as well. The Austin Powers films did an impressive job of completely sallying the Bond films in a good way. Played by Mike Myers, Austin Powers is an international Man of Mystery whose dumb luck and suave character get him out of sticky situations. With just about all the other aspects of the Bond films being spoofed, Myers turned his attention to the casino and blackjack in particular. The blackjack casino scene is probably the funniest on film. Copying the dramatization and seriousness of the baccarat, the blackjack scene is a real thigh slapper and is designed to not take itself seriously.
The Hangover is an American comedy film about four friends who head to Vegas for a bachelor party. After a raucous night of partying, they all wake up without any idea of what happened during the night and where their friend went to. It turns out their friend is being held hostage by gangsters who want a cool eighty grand for his safe return. The group turn to Alan Garner who uses his card counting skills at the blackjack tables to win enough money to pay off the gangsters. With nods to classics like Rain Man, the Hangover is a fun, whirlwind of a move that every casino enthusiast should watch.
If you ever want to get an idea of what goes on behind the scenes at a casino, “The Croupier” is a must see. In this 1998 film, Clive Owen plays the starring role as an unsuccessful writer who decides to become a casino croupier. Owen then studies everything a croupier should know to be successful at the biggest casinos. The film goes into incredible details about the various casino games and especially blackjack. It gives the audience a glimpse of how big casinos run and what is going on when you are not looking.
One of the older blackjack/card counting films to look out for is Stacy’s Knights. This 1983 film stars a young Kevin Costner joined by the lovely Andra Millian. The film revolves around the story of Stacy who is taught by Will (Costner) to count cards and beat the blackjack dealers. During the film, the corrupt casino bosses find out that Stacy is counting cards under the tutelage of Will. The casino has Will killed, leading Stacy to band together a team of players to get revenge and clean out the casino.