Can’t make it to Las Vegas? Here are some Vegas-based movies to remind you why it’s awesome
So you’re probably in the middle of social distancing as we speak, and missing Las Vegas already. Well, fret no more. We’ve got a list of great Vegas-set movies for you to enjoy in the meantime.
Leaving Las Vegas (Netflix) Not only do you get two Oscar-winning performances from Nicolas Cage (as a man determined to drink himself to death) and Elisabeth Shue (as a prostitute who falls in love with him), you get plenty of the neon-soaked Las Vegas of the 1990s, including plenty of shots of the Las Vegas Strip, some of which director Mike Figgis had to film commando-style to avoid the police, as he couldn’t afford permits to film there. Despite its depressing theme, this is a highly stylized and even romanticized view of Sin City.
Very Bad Things (Starz) What was supposed to be a fun bachelor party in Las Vegas turns into a night of deadly debauchery when the guys invite a stripper to their hotel room. From that moment on it’s a series of missteps and misfortune as the guys begin to turn on one another and the body count starts piling up.
Showgirls (Starz) Stripper Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) won’t let anything or anyone get in her way of being a star on the Las Vegas stage. This cult classic has all the Vegas glitz and guilty pleasures one could want, including the notable moment Nomi discovers her dream dress at “Ver-sase” inside The Forum Shops at Caesars.
Honeymoon in Vegas (Starz) All Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) wants to do is fly to Las Vegas and marry her longtime love, Jack Singer (Nicolas Cage). But, a quick poker game welcoming guests to Bally’s Resort & Casino turns into a debt of $65,000 for Singer, owed to gambler and mobster Tommy Korman (James Caan). Hijinks and hilarity ensues as Singer goes to great lengths to win Betsy back—even jumping out of an airplane over the Las Vegas Strip dressed as a flying Elvis.
Casino (Starz) The Mafia’s presence in Las Vegas is often remembered in a nostalgic way, because it dates back to Vegas’s so-called good old days. But Martin Scorsese’s epic Mafia film Casino easily tears down that image. While the characters are fictionalized versions of Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro, much of the film, shot at the now-demolished Riviera, is rooted in truth, like what happened to cheaters and how mobsters skimmed money from the casinos. Filming locations included areas like the Main Street Station parking lot and Atomic Liquors, and popular Las Vegas Mayor, and former defense attorney for Rosenthal and Spilotro, Oscar Goodman makes a cameo.
National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation (Hulu) Did you ever use National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation as a guide to Las Vegas in the late-’90s? At the time, you could’ve built your itinerary around the film’s best scenes. First, you’d book your stay at The Mirage, then take a trip to the Hoover Dam, and end the night by catching a Wayne Newton concert. If that sounds fun more than 20 years later, there’s good news: You can still do all of that stuff, but climb the Hoover Dam at your own risk and be careful with your wife when you’re around Mr. Las Vegas.
Swingers (Hulu) For Los Angeles residents, taking a night drive into Vegas is like a rite of passage, and once you’re close enough to see the Vegas skyline’s bright, glitzy lights, it’s enough to make you giddy. No movie conveys that feeling better than Swingers, when Trent Walker (Vince Vaughn) tries to cheer up his buddy Mike Peters (Jon Favreau) by taking a spontaneous trip to Vegas. The two see the Vegas skyline, which is almost unrecognizable today, with the Luxor’s light beam as one of the view recognizable landmarks on the Strip. Regardless, they’re mystified. “Vegas, baby,” Walker exclaims, with a hint of promise for what’s to come, while Peters looks on, seemingly skeptical. “Vegas,” he says, dryly, foreshadowing the pain in looking for happiness in the wrong places. But we don’t have to talk about that part.
The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (Hulu) In addition to being one of the strangest documentaries you will ever seen (inexplicably, the documentary’s original director keeps being introduced to others who are also doing documentaries of the famous Las Vegas-based magician), you get plenty of interviews with Las Vegas entertainers like Carrot Top, Penn Jillette and Criss Angel, not to mention lots of shots of the Las Vegas Valley, including the magician’s own home.
Rain Man (Prime) A huge winner at the Oscars, this road trip movie is perhaps most memorable for its Las Vegas-set scenes in which Dustin Hoffman’s autistic character proves very adept at blackjack (to the point where he is removed from the premises). The movie was notable as one of the first major motion pictures to be shot at Caesars Palace, which included not only the casino floor but the Emperors Suite in the Forum Tower. It’s still referred to by many as the “Rain Man Suite”.
Indecent Proposal (Prime) Would you allow your spouse to spend the night with another for $1 million dollars? That’s the proposal young, financially struggling couple Diana and David (Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson) find themselves grappling with after betting big and losing at a Las Vegas casino (In this case, the Las Vegas Hilton, now the Westgate). Said proposal from billionaire John (Robert Redford) upends the couple’s happy home as they struggle get back what they’ve lost.
Rat Race (Prime) Rat Race is the ultimate high-stakes game. The modern-day It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World begins in Las Vegas (and ends at a charity concert headlined by Smash Mouth—not the spoiler you expected, right?), where business tycoon Donald Sinclair (John Cleese) and a group of high rollers place bets on which person, out of six competitors, will make it to Silver City, N.M. to claim a $2 million prize. Several scenes were shot at The Venetian hotel, which opened two years prior to the film’s release.
Get Him to the Greek (Netflix) This chaotic comedy starring Russell Brand as an out-of-control rock star and Jonah Hill as his handler features many, many scenes of excess (which Las Vegas is known for), and features liberal footage of many Vegas locales, including Planet Hollywood, Fashion Show Mall, Paris and Plaza.