There is no other game in the casino that lends itself to cinematic portrayal quite like the roulette wheel. The motion of the wheel, the sound of the silver ball clacking its way through the troughs, and the suspense inherent to the game make it an irresistible object of attraction. Though poker, blackjack, and every other form of gambling you can think of has been featured on the big screen, roulette’s Hollywood highlights can stand up to any of them.
Indecent Proposal – 1993
When this one hit screens, it created an instant sensation. Panned by critics, the film found an audience with its central question: What would you be willing to do for a million dollars? Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore play a young couple who bet their savings on a single spin of the roulette wheel. When fortune goes the other way, they are susceptible to Robert Redford’s unthinkable offer. Roulette plays only a small role in the movie, but its part is an important one.
Croupier – 1999
Croupier features a young Clive Owen as a struggling writer paying the bills with a job in the titular profession. Presiding over the roulette wheel, Owen finds himself drawn into the formidable politics of the casino world. The movie isn’t centered on roulette specifically, but the game is featured on screen for much of the film. Like the unpredictability of the wheel itself, the movie’s plot is a whirlwind of twists and turns. Gamblers looking for a thrill away from the casino could do worse.
Run Lola Run – 1998
People flock to the casino for various reasons. Some like the sights and sounds, some pursue gambling as a profession, and some simply want to see what the fuss is about. But for those who view the casino as a place to fuel their thirst for adrenaline, Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run may be the perfect movie companion. The film’s pace is roughly on par with a screaming bullet; if you like a leisurely plot, this one isn’t for you. The finale hinges on a spin of the roulette wheel, and Lola has a novel strategy to tilt the odds in her favor. If you like non-stop suspense, you’ll want to check it out.
Casablanca – 1942
Hailed by critics as one of the finest screenplays ever to come out of Hollywood, Casablanca earned its place among the all-time great motion pictures. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the film features Humphrey Bogart as a cafe owner trying to forget about the lost love of his life. When she walks into the café one evening, he is forced to make a heartbreaking sacrifice in the name of love.
While the roulette scene is tangential to the film’s main plot, it is a memorable one. Hoping to get enough money to secure safe passage to America, a newlywed couple puts their money on Bogart’s wheel. Bogart, who knows that the wife has been offered the documents they need in exchange for sex, decides to rig the wheel in her favor. “Have you tried 22 tonight?” he asks the woman. She wins with two successive spins of the wheel, and Bogart tells her to take the money and run. In a movie filled with unforgettable scenes, it is one of the standouts.