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Atlantic City (1980)

Atlantic City, USA (original title)
In a corrupt city, a small-time gangster and the estranged wife of a pot dealer find themselves thrown together in an escapade of love, money, drugs and danger.


Louis Malle


John Guare

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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 25 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Burt Lancaster ... Lou
Susan Sarandon ... Sally
Kate Reid ... Grace
Michel Piccoli ... Joseph
Hollis McLaren ... Chrissie
Robert Joy ... Dave
Al Waxman ... Alfie
Robert Goulet ... Singer
Moses Znaimer Moses Znaimer ... Felix
Angus MacInnes ... Vinnie
Sean Sullivan ... Buddy
Wallace Shawn ... Waiter (as Wally Shawn)
Harvey Atkin ... Bus Driver
Norma Dell'Agnese ... Jeanne
Louis Del Grande Louis Del Grande ... Mr. Shapiro


Atlantic City is a place where people go to realize their dreams, the promise of the future manifested by the demolition of the old crumbling buildings to be replaced by new hotels and casinos. Someone who recently came to Atlantic City for that promise is native Moose Javian (Saskatchewan) Sally Matthews, who currently works as a waitress at a hotel oyster bar, but who is training to be a black jack croupier and wants to be more cultured, such as learning French, in order to work at the casinos in Monte Carlo. Another dreamer who came to Atlantic City decades ago is Lou Pascal, who has long worked as a numbers runner and who claims to have been a cellmate and thus implied confidante of Bugsy Siegel. Although Lou still dresses to the standard to which he is accustomed, his dream long died as he only works penny ante stuff for Fred, most of his current income from being the kept man of widowed recluse, Grace Pinza. Grace too came to Atlantic City to fulfill her dreams - most ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


She made him become what he always wanted to be - a lover, a hero, a rich man...and a killer! See more »


Crime | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Arteboutique [France]


France | Canada


English | French

Release Date:

3 April 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Atlantic City See more »


Box Office


$7,200,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$12,729,678, 9 March 2012
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


For playing the central role of Lou, lead actor Burt Lancaster received his fourth and final Academy Award nomination for acting for this movie. All four were for Best Actor. Lancaster did not win an Oscar for this film but he did previously win for Elmer Gantry (1960). See more »


The elephant-shaped building Chrissie sees in the opening sequence is Lucy the Elephant, a landmark in Margate, NJ. Margate is south of Atlantic City. The vehicle she is in is clearly traveling south, AWAY from Atlantic City. See more »


Lou: I made love to this woman today.
Sally: Daddy, please!
Lou: I held her in my arms. I made her happy.
Bus Driver: Let's not be naughty.
Sally: [to Lou] It's gonna be okay.
[to Bus Driver]
Sally: That's alright. It's alright.
[to Lou]
Sally: It's gonna be alright. We'll take good care of you.
Lou: I'm dangerous! People come to me from Las Vegas! I know Bugsy Siegel! I was his cellmate!
See more »

Crazy Credits

As the end credits roll, an old building on the boardwalk is demolished to some of the tunes that appear earlier in the film. Each time the wrecking ball hits, we hear a cymbal crash and the soundtrack jumps to a different song. See more »


References The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) See more »


La Marseillaise
Music by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle
See more »

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User Reviews

seen all my dreams disappear, but I'm here
3 April 2013 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Louis Malle created a poetic "Atlantic City," released in 1980 and starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, and Kate Reid. Lancaster plays Lou, a small-time mobster from the old days of Atlantic City. He is handsome, dresses very grandly, and pretends that he used to be in the big-time. Actually he worked in some menial job for a mobster and now takes care of his widow Grace (Kate Reid) who appears bedridden at first. He takes care of her dog, makes her food, rubs her limbs to increase circulation, and occasionally sleeps with her. She's verbally abusive to him. Grace came to Atlantic City in the '40s as a contestant in a Betty Grable lookalike contest, met her future husband, and never left.

Lou meets a young waitress and would-be croupier, Sally, and their lives soon collide. He's attracted to her. Sally's sister has run off with Sally's husband, and the two show up to stay with her. Her sister is pregnant. Sally's husband Dave is there to do a drug deal; he meets Lou and stores the cocaine in Lou's apartment. People are after him, so he sends Lou to someone's apartment on a delivery, and Lou is to pick up the money. When Lou arrives home after the errand, Dave is dead. The thugs didn't get their dope, so eventually they turn to Sally. In fact, Lou has the dope and also the money from the first delivery. And he plans on taking up where Dave left off.

This is such a well-done film, hearkening back to the old days of Atlantic City just as the city is being rebuilt as a eastern Las Vegas. Lou is part of the old days; Sally is ambitious and wants to better herself. Lou, never anybody, now longs to be somebody for her.

The acting is wonderful. Burt Lancaster is magnificent as Lou, an old man who still has young dreams. It's a very subtle performance, very touching and sometimes funny. Susan Sarandon does a great job as Sally, creating a totally believable character.

John Guare has written a great script, the first important component of a film, and it was in the hands of a master, Louis Malle. The film was made in Canada, and I recognized many Canadian actors, but the location shots are excellent.

Highly recommended, a sublime experience.

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