The Entertainment Capital of the World has a cinematic ring to it. And Las Vegas sure has seen its fair share of movie productions over the years. Of course, the film industry has paid a well-deserved tribute to the most eccentric and bombastic sides of Sin City to bring to the silver screen tense heist stories and action-packed blockbusters. But many movies have explored a more intimate facet of Vegas, far removed from the neon-clad avenues and gaudy gambling venues. From visionary filmmakers to comedy geniuses, Las Vegas has inspired as many cult classics as indie gems. So, we give you four of the very best movies ever shot in Vegas.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Looking back on Nicolas Cage’s career, cinema lovers might feel they’re facing a conundrum. Some deem Nic Cage a misunderstood genius, while others consider him a terrible actor. And Cage’s time in Vegas might be the perfect epitome of this unfathomable dilemma. A testosterone-filled time capsule of the 90s, Con Air is your run-of-the-mill over-the-top action flick. Leaving Las Vegas, on the other hand, sees Cage deliver an emotional performance that punches right in the gut. A bleak drama against the glitzy backdrop of Sin City, this movie adaptation by Mike Figgis of the eponymous novel by John O’Brien tells the story of a suicidal alcoholic seeking to drink himself to death. But once in Vegas, he makes a fateful encounter with a sex worker. Despite never being paid for the film, Leaving Las Vegas won Cage an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
Heist movies were somewhat of a relic of the past when Steven Soderbergh rejuvenated the genre with a stylish remake of the 1960s classic starring Frank Sinatra. Like its predecessor, Ocean’s Eleven boasts a star-studded ensemble cast of A-listers such as Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts. Led by Danny Ocean, an NYC thief played by George Clooney, a team of con artists sets out on robbing some of the most high-profile casinos in Vegas. Thus, gear up for an avalanche of twists, snarky banter, and bluff scenes at the poker table for the ages. And despite its many sequels’ best efforts, this smart and cunning heist flick remains the pinnacle of the franchise.
Martin Scorsese takes a deep dive into the corruption and decadence lying behind the glossy curtains in Las Vegas with this classic crime drama. Putting in full display the range of his acting chops, Robert De Niro portrays a mob associate sent out to Vegas to oversee a gambling den controlled by the mafia. Switching from sheer action to a dialogue-heavy plot, the movie strikes a perfect cinematographic balance while offering some pretty iconic lines to its talented cast. Casino was shot entirely on location at the now-demolished Riviera hotel and casino on The Strip, adding much authenticity to the story. Scorsese also manages to capture the contradictions of the City of Sin on the big screen, wrapping up one of the best films in Las Vegas.
The Hangover (2009)
Directed by Todd Philipps, The Hangover was a surprise hit upon its release. Before long, this outrageous movie about a bachelor’s party gone wild in Vegas would mark a stepping stone for comedy films. One of the most successful films of the 2000s spawned a franchise, even though sequels arguably failed to recapture the magic. Beyond its commercial success, The Hangover also had an enduring impact on Vegas itself. With so many fans flocking to the Caesars Palace and other iconic spots, casinos throughout Vegas put out Hangover-themed slots. The most die-hard fans would even re-enact the film’s hilarious Blackjack scene. For the lack of a real Vegas trip, though, Hangover fans might still have a blast playing Blackjack online. Top platforms offer both free sessions and real money versions of the game. Newcomers and seasoned gamblers may enjoy a range of variants, such as Blackjack Switch and Spanish 21. Online websites also deliver tips to hone a winning strategy, as playing it like Alan will only get you so far.
Las Vegas has proven an endless source of creativity and inspiration for directors across the board. The above selection is just a tip of the iceberg, as we could have listed other classics like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Viva Las Vegas. One thing’s for sure, though. Sin City will keep shining on the silver screen.