Ready to go on vacation? While you wait for your next scheduled time off, put these films about everyone’s favorite playground — Las Vegas — on your to-watch list.
While films about other places often depict locals in their own environment, it’s interesting to note that films about Las Vegas often center on the stories of people who — like you — are experiencing the city as tourists. So, book yourself a Las Vegas hotel and start catching up on these great films.
This great story about a multi-casino heist has been popular for generations — first in its original version from 1960, which features classic landmarks from Las Vegas. Watch this version, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Joey Bishop, and enjoy the Rat Pack’s antics on their home turf. The 1960 version was directed by Lewis Milestone, who also directed “All Quiet on the Western Front.”
In 2001, director Steven Soderbergh remade this classic with an all-star cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle and Julia Roberts. In this version, only three casinos are targeted in the heist: the Bellagio, Mirage and MGM Grand. This reboot was so popular with audiences, the main cast members went on to create two sequels, “Ocean’s Twelve,” and “Ocean’s Thirteen.” They’re fun installments in the story, but don’t have the same connection to Las Vegas as the original and first remake.
So, if you’ve got the time, watch both versions of this story to get a feel for Las Vegas old and new.
Looking for a comedy and not a thriller? “Vegas Vacation,” from 1997, stars Chevy Chase as the hapless vacationer Clark Griswold. Like other films in the “Vacation” franchise, the Griswold family tries for a fun-filled week only to be thwarted by trashy relatives and awkward situations. Though not one of the top-reviewed in its series, “Vegas Vacation” is a fun look at family vacations in Sin City. Some of the action in the film takes place at the Mirage and at Hoover Dam.
“Leaving Las Vegas”
If you’d prefer an award-winning drama about the darker side of Vegas, “Leaving Las Vegas” tells the story of an alcoholic screenwriter played by Nicholas Cage who decides to kill himself through drink. He burns his bridges back in Los Angeles and settles down to die in Las Vegas until he meets a prostitute played by Elisabeth Shue. A grittier look at Las Vegas than some of the other movies listed here, “Leaving Las Vegas” was highly acclaimed for its honesty and quality of acting. Cage won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe in the Best Actor category; director Mike Figgis and Shue were nominated as well.
“Viva Las Vegas”
What embodies Vegas more than Elvis Presley? In this 1964 musical film starring the King and Ann-Margret, “Viva Las Vegas” is more than a catchy song, it became the anthem of the whole city. Presley plays a race car driver who needs some cash for a new engine to participate in a grand prix. Ann-Margret, who plays a hotel swimming instructor, and Presley have great chemistry in this movie, which is worth watching for the romance alone. The music, dancing and shots of old Las Vegas are worth a look.
One of Dustin Hoffman’s most memorable roles is the autistic card counter Raymond Babbit in this 1988 film. Babbit inherits the bulk of his father’s fortune, but his estranged younger brother, played by Tom Cruise, wants to fight the will. The younger brother drives Raymond across the country to meet with the lawyers, stopping in Las Vegas along the way. Though the movie is not completely set in Las Vegas, it has a strong connection with the city.
“The Hangover” is one of the most successful movies recently set in this city. The 2009 comedy follows the antics of three best men who find out they’ve lost the groom the night before the wedding while partying in Las Vegas. From their messy hotel room in Caesar’s Palace, they have to track the events of the night before to rescue their friend and make it to the wedding on time. Starring Ed Helms, Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis as the central trio, this film has two sequels as well, set outside Las Vegas.