Atlantic City in New Jersey is right behind Las Vegas in terms of gambling action. It’s rarely a bad time to visit Atlantic City, whether you wish to spend a day, have an overnight getaway in a luxurious hotel and casino or prolong the stay to a week of fun-filled events and activities. The open casinos in this gorgeous resort city offer 24-hour gaming excitement, gourmet dining and first-class entertainment. Most of them feature some sort of a spectacular mix of lights, décor and action. From Resorts that opened in 1978 to Hard Rock that opened in 2018, Atlantic City casinos were always extremely attractive for the customers all over the world. According to statistics, over 24 million visitors annually come to Monopoly City and take pleasure in its gambling floors, the world-famous Boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean.
Some say that Atlantic City needs to thrive anew in order to remain the same tough competitor to Las Vegas. We’d like to remind the public that several of its iconic locations were captured in some of the best cinematic accomplishments in the last decades, and that has to account for something, right?
The Godfather Part III (1990)
The Godfather trilogy is one of the most acclaimed cinematic projects that any Hollywood studio has ever released. Whether you are into crime stories or not, you have to love the characters and their arcs depicted in the movies about the Corleone family. A sequel to The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), the third instalment released in 1990 is the epilogue and completion of the story about Michael Corleone, a determined kingpin fighting to legitimise his mafia empire. The films were based on the novel by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
In The Godfather Part III we see the aging Mafia Don Michael Corleone, approaching 60, now having guilty thoughts about how he rose to power. He is trying to legitimise the interests of his family in New York City and Italy in 1979, while also trying to link the Corleone’s finances with the Vatican. The ambitions of the young members of the family do not sit well with Michael Corleone. The business is running peacefully, but Vincent Mancini, Sonny Corleone’s illegitimate son and Michael’s nephew, starts a feud with Joey Zasa, a character who will later participate in a plot to have Michael murdered during a meeting with the various Dons in Atlantic City.
The Atlantic City scenes were filmed in Trump Castle Casino Resort (later renamed Trump Marina, and then closed in 2011). During filming, George Lucas spent one day at the Atlantic City set, as he was visiting his friend, the director Francis Ford Coppola.
Rounders is a late 90s crime drama starring young Matt Damon and Edward Norton which tells a story about a reformed gambler who must return to his betting passion and play big-stakes poker in order to help his friend pay off a large debt. The term “rounder” stands for someone who travels around looking for locations where high-stakes card games are played. Matt Damon plays Mike McDermott, an avid poker player who once loses his entire bankroll in a single hand and then promises his girlfriend that he will focus on law school and that he has quit playing poker. Things heat up again when Mike’s childhood friend Lester “Worm” Murphy (played by Edward Norton) is released from prison and pulls him back into his poker lifestyle. The film features other acclaimed actors such as Gretchen Mol, John Malkovich, Famke Janssen and John Turturro.
The film was made as an exploration of New York private clubs devoted to high-stakes poker, and most of the scenes were indeed shot in New York. However, Atlantic City was also one of the locations. Mike appears as a poker pro at Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal. The casino opened in 1990 and closed in 2016. It was reopened in 2018 as the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The characters play a wide variety of poker variants in the movie; the game played at the Taj Mahal specifically is Limit Hold’em. The truth is, Rounders opened to mixed reviews and didn’t exactly break the box office. However, the film became a cult hit thanks to the poker boom in the early 2000s.
The Color of Money (1986)
The Color of Money is a sports drama based on the book by Walter Tavis and directed by Martin Scorsese. The narrative follows Fast Eddie Felson (played by Paul Newman), a pool hustler, and Vincent Lauria (played by Tom Cruise), a cocky but immensely talented, young pool player who becomes his protégé. Fast Eddie finds Vincent in a local bar and recognises a younger version of himself in him. They start working the pool halls together on a tour through the country, experience conflicts along the way and an unlikely comeback of Eddie happens despite him having been retired from the pool circuit. Who will out-hustle who? – that is the question of The Color of Money.
Most of the film was shot in Illinois, Chicago and Highland Park. However, there are Boardwalk and casino exterior scene. For the final Atlantic City tournament, the production used the set on the Navy Pier on the Chicago shoreline of Lake Michigan (in the big ballroom). According to Martin Scorsese, The Color of Money is his only film that was completed under schedule and under budget. Interestingly, in one or the Atlantic City casino scenes, the director has one of the two cameos as a man walking his dog on a leash.
Atlantic City (1980)
Louis Malle’s Atlantic City is one of the best movies filmed in Monopoly Town. The city and its venues are given a life of their own and they get a real part in the film. In a way, the movie is a nostalgic, romantic ode to the seaside city in its bad moments, looking forward to its revival. Atlantic City was nominated for Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay, but didn’t win a single one. It features Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon in the main roles, one an aging former gangster and runner or illegal lottery games and the other a young waitress in an Atlantic City casino longing to become a blackjack dealer in Monte Carlo. The two are an unlikely couple they share a characteristic of being dreamers, and in Atlantic City dreamers can be winners.
The majority of the film takes place on location in and around Atlantic City. The idea for the movie to happen in Atlantic City came from the fact that, at the time, Atlantic City experienced urban deterioration and as a solution saw the legalisation of gambling. Soon, the town would become The World’s Playground and it is this transformation that is captured in Malle’s film. Sally, the character played by Susan Sarandon, trains to be a dealer in Resorts International Casino, now known only as Resorts Casino Hotel. This was the first legal casino outside of Nevada in the United States, established in 1978. In fact, when the movie was filmed, there were only two operating casinos in Atlantic City, Caesars and Resorts.
If you’re a movie fan and you enjoy seeing luxury casino settings on film, we’ve got more suggestions in our article about movies filmed in or around Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Check it out and have a great watch!