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6 Movies like Casino: The House Always Wins

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Jonny_Sweet_itcher_contributorIf you love nothing more than a good mob thriller à la Casino, you’re sure to love Carlito’s Way (1993), Road to Perdition (2002) or Mean Streets (1973). ~ Jonny Sweet

Martin Scorsese is world-renowned as a genius director, especially when it comes to mob thrillers. Back in 1995 he did it again with Casino, and he has kept on doing it for another 20 years, churning out more and more good movies like Casino as well as other favourites on completely different themes, such as The Aviator (2004), Shutter Island (2010) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).So if you’re on the hunt for the best movies similar to Casino, there are no shortage of candidates… including several offerings from Scorsese himself.
 `Goodfellas´ (Martin Scorsese, 1990)

One of the most compelling and terrifying things about Casino is Joe Pesci’s portrayal of Nicky Santoro, not least for when he stabs a man repeatedly and savagely with a pen… so if you want to see the prototype for that character, look no further than the same actor’s portrayal of Tommy DeVito five years earlier.

Concentrating on similar themes, with the same director and the same loose cannon, Goodfellas is probably an upgrade on Casino, perhaps in part due to the fact that it came first, but also because of a stellar cast across the board and genuine tension in the storyline and dialogue.

Check out this article for more crime movies like ‘Goodfellas’.

Joe Pesci plays a maniac in Casino and Goodfellas, which are both films about members of the mob getting in over their heads.

`Carlito’s Way´ (Brian de Palma, 1993)

Again it’s Al Pacino at the centre of attention, though this time in a much more mellowed capacity. Fresh from a lengthy incarceration in prison, Carlito plans to leave behind his mobster connections and go straight… predictably, he is lured back into the same shady dealings that got him locked up before, albeit quite against his better judgement.

Sean Penn is excellent as the smarmy and snivelling lawyer and John Leguizamo also shines as Carlito’s up-and-coming rival.

And now for the best movies like Casino that you’ve never heard of…

The protagonists of both Carlito’s Way and Casino are aging businessmen in the mob who find themselves pulled down by unreliable men around them.

`Mean Streets´ (Martin Scorsese, 1973)

This early effort from Scorsese may have slipped under the radar of some of his fans but is well worth the price of entrance for the performance of Robert De Niro alone, in what could well be his finest role ever.

As an unreliable and slightly-unhinged tearaway, De Niro has to rely on his older, more sensible friend Harvey Keitel (also impressive) to keep him out of the trouble.

Though the plot feels more like a rough draft than the finished article, being somewhat sprawling at times, there are glimpses of Scorsese’s true potential as a director; not least in the prolonged close-up focus on Keitel’s face as he passes out from over-consumption of alcohol.

A little rough around the edges, but good fun all the same; much like De Niro’s character Johnny Boy.

Whereas in Casino Robert De Niro played the straight man corrupted by a loose cannon, in Mean Streets he himself plays the unreliable trouble-maker in one of his best performances to date.

`Scarface´ (Brian de Palma, 1983)

In this iconic film, it’s Al Pacino’s turn to play the drug-fuelled and trigger-happy psycho whose little friends are not the friendliest bunch.

Something of a cult classic, Scarface (check out some great similar movies here) might not be quite as cleverly constructed in terms of its storyline, but what it loses in the plot, it more than makes up for in its raw animal aggression and its depiction of one man’s inability to deal with power and the inevitable downward spiral into hatred and madness that follows.

Scarface and Casino are both about the mafia and the dangers of corruption and greed; though whereas in the former, the protagonist goes crazy with power, in the latter, he must protect himself from others who have done so.

`Dead Man’s Shoes´ (Shane Meadows, 2004)

The mob in this film might be somewhat underwhelming when you compare these small-town crooks to the almighty mafia of New York, but that doesn’t make them less compelling. And Paddy Considine’s Richard may be less of a big shot than Nicky Santoro, Tommy DeVito or Tony Montana and certainly less well-connected (he has literally no friends), but he’s no less terrifying.

Considine really makes this film a tense and taut thriller, guaranteed to keep you on their edge of your seat and with your eyes glued to the action as you wonder in trepidation what he is going to do next.

Indeed, I was so impressed with Considine’s performance that he made it onto my personal list of the top 10 movie villains of all time… just behind Pesci.

Paddy Considine’s maniacal Richard in Dead Man’s Shoes is reminiscent of Joe Pesci’s Nicky, though aside from that and lashings of ultra-violence, the stories differ greatly in setting and circumstance.

`Green Street´ (Lexi Alexander, 2005)

From Mean Streets to Green Street and from the States to the UK, here we encounter a very different kind of mob mentality. This is less about “getting whacked” or “being made” and more about good old-fashioned thuggery as Lexi Alexander focuses on the murky underworld of football hooliganism.

A wrongly-expelled American college student (in the unlikely shape of Frodo Baggins) plans a visit to London to visit his sister, but ends up inadvertently becoming entrenched in the Green Street Elite, a group of football fans who arrange fights with other firms. The loyalty and brotherhood of the firm force Frodo (sorry, Elijah) to reassess his values and his moral code, with the film culminating in a harrowing bloodbath between rival gangs.

Certainly not the mafia, but an alternative look at the world of organised crime.

Both Casino and Green Street are about mobs – but that’s where the similarity ends, since the former is about the mafia and the latter about English football hooliganism.


Betting Ends

That’s your lot – my favourite films similar to Casino, both obvious and not quite so obvious. Any that I’ve missed?Of course, the list of mob films is ridiculously long, so all those fans of The Godfather trilogy and other films of that ilk who are currently foaming at the mouth due to their omission in the article, sorry!Got any more good films like Casino? Make your case for your favourite below.**For a video playlist of the recommendations, please click here.

I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
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