Blackjack in Popular Culture – How Table Game Classic Helped (Re)shape TV, Movies, and Art

TUT Staff

The opulence of high-class casinos is still a phenomenon in modern culture. Today, it is perhaps a more widely accepted concept, but back in the day, it was so controversial that everyone wanted a taste.

Mysterious, yet attractive. Rich, yet accessible. Demure, yet provocative. Blackjack is one of the first things that springs to mind when someone mentions casinos. The introduction of table games brought edginess right to our small screens, but soon transgressed to other forms of art. 


From James Bond to celebrity TV shows, Blackjack has seeped into our daily routines and assimilated with pop culture. In a way, Blackjack accepted us just as much we accepted Blackjack.

Just a Blip on the Radar

The first example of Blackjack appropriation commenced with movies. The movie industry, one of the most prolific branches in the world, was the place where this story began. One of the earliest examples of movies where this card game appears is The House on 56th Street (1933). In the movie, the main character Peggy becomes an unbeatable Blackjack dealer after she comes back from prison after supposedly murdering a former lover. A bigger portion of the second half of the movie heavily revolves around casino games, as the house where everything plays out becomes the center of Peggy’s demise. 

From that moment, the game was in – and movies started slowly inserting bits and scenes of Blackjack rounds into their plots. In 1951 we got Montana Belle, which is essentially a story of a lady that is in no way a damsel in distress, but rather a perpetrator of distress.

In fact, the 1950s were a very prolific decade for Blackjack. Several movies featured card scenes, but that was still tied to a highly negative context. 


It’s Classic

Then came One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This 1975 classic brought unforgettable card-playing scenes as the fillers for the time the patients spent in the hospital. They placed cigarettes as bets instead of chips, another popular social concept that became a prominent piece of propaganda in the ‘20s. (Remember “Torches of Freedom?”) Because of its enormous impact, this masterpiece today is on the required watch-list for young filmmakers. 

We can say that that was the beginning of the insertion of Blackjack in a positive context. Before that, casino and gambling were necessarily used for ‘bad guys’, boosting the villainess of the characters to achieve polarity. However, as the ‘80s and ‘90s rolled by, we arrived at the beginning of the new century armed with social changes, technological inventions, and new ideas. That meant that society went through significant turmoil that reshaped the constructs and challenged the way we perceive things. 

Consequently, that lead to commercialization and democratization of casino-inspired themes. That is why we received numerous movies that not only insert but also focus on this game. Take 21, for example. 

Perhaps the most famous Blackjack-featuring movie, this 2008 hit pushed the boundaries of social conventions. Based on a true story, the movie tells the story about the hazards of card counting, one of the most controversial hobbies in the entire world. 

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And guess what happened after the movie was released? A surplus of Blackjack players in both land-based and online casinos. It exploded so much that now numerous sites tackle the blackjack gala complexities in the form of strategies, tips, and tricks for novices.

Look What We Have Now

Blackjack movies are great, but the concept immigrated into other areas of entertainment as well. One such example is Japanese anime. Osamu Tezuka, the “father of manga”, created his Black Jack character back in the 1970s. Admittedly, Black Jack is not into gambling of any sort, but the association is obvious. Plus, after a TV series, OVA, and two movies, the last 17-episode Black Jack 21 show depicts cards at the opening of the series.


For a society that is rarely surprised by anything, we do keep a reminder or two of the days long past. In a way, our sentimentality is kept hidden in those little timeless gems that we still hold on to. One such thing is Blackjack – but that is just one way to observe it.

Like many grand things, Blackjack remained fastened to our modern culture because of its versatile nature. Blackjack is Blackjack – a simple game, yet so intrinsically complex that mastering it borders on art and science. It never changes, yet perfectly fits each social evolution that we face along the years.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the movies or another form of art, you can see this classic table game everywhere. It helped us get rid of our cultural constraints, but we helped it immortalize in the world of gaming.