Two Must-See Casino Movies Based on True Stories

Casino Movies Based on True Stories
Casino Movies

Casino Movies: From an early stage, film producers understood the potential of certain industries as inspiration for films, due to their great appeal to viewers. One of the areas with the greatest impact and with increasing notoriety among fans is the casino industry, resulting in pictures exploring the glamour of Las Vegas and the thrill of gambling. All this charm involving casinos has been gaining more and more prominence in movie theatres, with numerous productions looking for real stories to inspire their narratives.

In this article, we will explore two of the best casino-based movies that any gambling fan should watch.

Casino (1995)

Directed by Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone, Casino tells the story of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, an American gambler who is appointed by the Italian mafia to head the operations of a casino in Las Vegas. Based on Nicholas Pileggi’s book, the film is set in the 1970s and revolves around the relationships beneath the gambling industry. Scorsese’s most underrated film features stunning scenarios, such as luxurious hotels, exotic lounges, and lavish casinos.

The film piggybacked on the incredible popularity of the casino as a destination, which is something that continues to this day. While online casinos began as simple flash-based browser-game websites, sites like have now moved to emulate the atmosphere of real-life games by employing video streaming to bring casino games with a real dealer.

While the story may seem too exuberant to be true, the narrative is, in fact, based on real events. Robert De Niro’s character was based on Frank Rosenthal, who between 1970 and 1980 managed not only one, but three casinos in Vegas – the Stardust, the Fremont, and the Hacienda. Nicky Santoro, played by Joe Pesci, was in real life called Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro. A mafia security guard was sent to Las Vegas to protect Rothstein and ensure the protection of the large amounts of money going from Vegas to Chicago. Sharon Stone gave life to Ginger McKenna, who in the real story was Geraldine or Geri McGee. In real life, she was a woman of expensive tastes who married Frank Rosenthal.

Martin Scorsese, who is working on a new series according to, received the Golden Globe Award for Best Director for Casino, while Sharon Stone was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won a Golden Globe for her performance. 

High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story (2003)

Stu “The Kid” Ungar was a poker legend who between 1980 and 1997 won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) three times, a record unmatched to this day. However, he passed away the following year, at age 45. At the time, he was broke, alone, and staying at a cheap motel room in Las Vegas.

His troubled life is the theme of the docudrama High Roller: The Stu Ungar Story. Ungar is played by Michael Imperioli, one of the stars of the series The Sopranos, which is getting a prequel film as reported by

The film takes on a confessional approach, as Stuey is the narrator of his own story. A prodigy player of gin rummy, Stu would become one of the best players in New York. However, he often struggled to maintain his success in a high-stakes environment, against the best players in the world.

Source: Unsplash

In 1980, Stu played in the WSOP for the first time, winning the tournament. The prize was $365,000, the equivalent of more than $1.1 million in current values. The following year, he successfully defended the title, earning another $375,000. In 1982 he married an old girlfriend from New York and had a daughter. 

The film then jumps from 1986 to 1997, the year Stu returned to the top of world poker after a long period of decline. Financially bankrupt he didn’t have the $10,000 needed to enter the WSOP. Luckily, a friend sponsored his entry, with Stu agreeing to share the prize. It turns out this was a successful investment, as Stu was crowned world champion once again, taking the $1 million prize.

Due to an average production, High Roller failed to convince film critics. Nonetheless, it’s a must-see movie for anyone interested in poker. After all, it tells the story of the man who is considered one of the greatest players in history.

Even if you’re not an avid gambler, we highly suggest you go watch these films, as both pictures feature jaw-dropping stories, especially considering they’re real (or at least based on real stories).