Forget Tinsel Town, It’s All About Vegas: The Best Sin City Films
Since the 1940s Las Vegas has been a twinkling light in the middle of the Nevada desert, bringing superstars from all over the world onto the stage to wow audiences. So naturally with so many stars already there, it caught the attention of Hollywood.
Hundreds of directors, actors, and producers have rolled down Las Vegas Boulevard over the years, creating some of the most entertaining films in history. And some of the worst too.
Hillbillies, conmen, and Chevy Chase have all made their mark on the city, while if you walk down the Strip today you’ll be bombarded by men dressed as Alan from The Hangover movies with their fake beards and shades.
Las Vegas has changed an awful lot during that time, and the movies have gone with it. Just compare the original Ocean’s 11 with the Steven Soderbergh remake to see that. We’re also entering a new era for the Gambling Capital of the World, with online casinos being just as popular as the likes of the Luxor and the Bellagio. But will this change the way we view our movies? Will movies set in the city take on new technological elements?
For the moment no, but with times set to change in the entire state of Nevada, we take a look back at the best movies ever to ignore the fact what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…
Viva Las Vegas
Of course Elvis Presley is synonymous with Las Vegas. He sold out the International Hotel 837 times during his residency there, and even married his wife Priscilla at the Aladdin. It was perhaps Viva Las Vegas which kick-started all that, and it is regarded as one of the King’s best movies.
The musical film sees Lucky Jackson (Elvis) head to Vegas to compete in the city’s first Grand Prix, but his car is in desperate need of a new motor to compete. While Lucky attempts to raise the money in Vegas, the plot follows a number of twists and turns, and he discovers Rusty (played by Ann-Margret), a hotel swimming instructor.
But can Lucky win her over? Well, when he’s played by Elvis Presley, you can bet your blue suede shoes he can.
The Rat Pack were five of the most influential entertainers in Las Vegas. They became synonymous with the Strip thanks to films like Ocean’s 11, and in 2001, that honor was handed to George Clooney and co. thanks to the Steven Soderbergh remake Ocean’s Eleven.
Arguably one of the best remakes of all time, the film follows Danny Ocean on a quest to rob the Bellagio hotel. It put Las Vegas back on the map, making the Fountains of Bellagio famous throughout the world following the famous last scene.
The movie, starring Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts, as well as Clooney, spawned two sequels thanks to its witty, thrilling, and entertaining script and marked a new era for movies in Sin City.
Diamonds Are Forever
Las Vegas was far from the city it is now when James Bond landed at McCarran in 1971. In fact, today he certainly wouldn’t be hiding diamonds in the Circus Circus Hotel. But in the film Diamonds Are Forever that’s exactly what he did.
Pursuing Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the movie takes him to Vegas where he does what most men can only dream of: drink, gamble, and sleep with women, all while being a secret agent at the same time.
Not a Bond classic, as it’s known best for its humorous and campy tone, but it showcases Vegas at its ‘70s finest, where you can see just how much the city has changed since.
Perhaps the most critically acclaimed film to come out of Vegas, and with good reason too, is Rain Man. Starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, the film grossed over $354 million worldwide and earned a whole host of Academy Awards.
It gave us a whole new take on the American road trip movie with Charlie (Cruise) taking his autistic brother (Hoffman) to Vegas where he would count cards to win the $80,000 he finds himself in debt.
Their relationship develops along their trip telling an incredibly compassionate tale about two long lost brothers and is a totally different tale from what most Vegas movies tell.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas stars Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro and focuses on two trips to Las Vegas in what is a very surreal movie.
Released in 1998, the psychedelic plot sees the pair travel to Sin City to cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race and consists of trippy, bizarre scenarios right through the picture.
In true Las Vegas style, chaos ensues throughout, although not exactly to the delight of critics, who greeted the film with mixed reviews, with Roger Ebert describing the movie as a disgrace. But that’s Vegas for you; you either love it or you hate it.
“I don’t believe it; I’ve lost 300 dollars in 15 minutes.”
If there’s one thing Vegas Vacation teaches you, it’s how not to play blackjack. Clark Griswold is hardly a man who succeeds in life. His Christmases often turn into a disaster. His trip to Europe turned out almost dangerous as he toppled Stonehenge, and every vacation he’s ever been on has turned into huge trouble.
So naturally he provides a fine display in how not to play, disregarding even common sense when it comes to developing a blackjack strategy. It’s a far cry from what you’d see in an actual casino, with the smart players having honed their skills online before hitting the card rooms. But hey, they aren’t a Griswold.
Right from the start of Chevy Chase’s misguided game of blackjack; hilarity ensues, making for one of the funniest films in the National Lampoon series. It’s certainly a case of what goes on in Vegas, should stay there, but we’re certainly glad it made its way to Hollywood.
Behind the Candelabra
Like Sinatra and Elvis, Liberace is a Las Vegas legend. He spent over 40 years on the Strip and became revered throughout the world with his shows earning him $300,000 per week. Focusing on the last 10 years of his life, Behind the Candelabra stars Michael Douglas as the extravagant entertainer and received huge acclaim.
Based on the memoirs of Scott Thorson, the former partner of Liberace, the film tells the tale of how the pianist tried to mold his younger partner into a version of himself, even requesting plastic surgery.
It defines what Vegas was like at the time. A city filled with indulgence, glamour, an attitude of anything goes; and Liberace was right at the heart of that. It’s an amazing look into the life of the entertainer, who died in 1987, and really does take us behind the candelabra in what is an utterly thrilling tale of the wonderful, yet bizarre world of Wladziu Valentino Liberace.
Las Vegas will continue to be a hotspot for directors to set up their cameras, particularly with its current regeneration on Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s the most exciting city on earth, and with it comes the most exciting stories. Recent Jason Statham hit Wild Card is set in the city, and we can expect plenty more car chases, hilarious nights, and just another hit movie coming out of the world’s entertainment capital.