What’s Your Favorite Las Vegas Movie?
Sin City – The Home of Gambling
Las Vegas is the home of gambling in the USA, and the heart of the casino world in the U.S.
The format for American sports-betting lines was invented by Nevada bookmakers, and Las Vegas is host to the annual World Series of Poker, a series of poker tournaments culminating in the $10,000 buy-in WSOP main event, where a world poker champion is crowned, and many millionaires are made.
Hollywood Loves Vegas
The movie industry has embraced Las Vegas, with many classic heist and gamblig movies taking place in Sin City.
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Rain Man, Oceans 11 (1960) or its 2001 re-make, or how about The Hangover, Leaving Las Vegas or Vegas Vacation? The question is, what is your favorite ‘Vegas movie’?
It is probably not 1995’s Showgirls starring a young Demi Moore, which is regularly voted as the worst Vegas movie ever made. It is also probably not 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever either. This one regularly wins the poll when people are asked to vote on the ‘worst Bond movie ever’.
In truth there are a lot of Las Vegas films to choose from. Vegas has been appearing in movies since the early 1940s. At the last count there are over 100 titles that were made or shot in Vegas.
In the polls, which pop-up at an alarming rate, the comedy genre features a different top-10 order every time. However, the most popular musical and most popular gambling films always have the same names at the top of their lists: Elvis Presley’s ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and the Martin Scorsese / Robert De Niro collaboration, ‘Casino’.
Viva Las Vegas (USA, 1964)
Viva Las Vegas ends at the Little Church of the West, a wedding chapel that is the oldest chapel in Vegas and still remains open today. Casino scenes in this flick are actually few and far between. The ones you might spot were all filmed in the Sands Hotel.
The Sands closed in 1996 but before it drew its final breath and was imploded, Hollywood had some fun. The movie ‘Con Air’, released in 1997, used the former casino’s lobby as the scene for its chaotic plane crash finale.
Casino (USA, 1995)
Using a defunct casino to shoot a Vegas movie had been done before.
Martin Scorsese turned the lights back on at the Vegas Landmark Casino to film the 1995 smash Casino, the all-time classic starring Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci.
The film is based on the true story of sports betting pro Frank Lawrence Rosenthal who was renamed as Frank “Ace” Rothstein and played by De Niro for the movie version. Rosenthal has been credited with increasing the exposure of sports betting in Las Vegas in the 1970s, when he was dubbed “the best living expert on sports gambling” by Sports Illustrated.
Robert de Niro as Frank “Ace” Rothstein in Martin Scorsese’s Casino
The Vegas Landmark Casino was given the mythical name of the Tangiers for the movie. By this time it had been closed for almost five years.
The bulk of the scenes in the Casino movie were filmed in the famed Riviera Hotel, Casino & Sportsbook on the Las Vegas strip. The Rivera was an active casino at the time and only met its demise – by the usual implosion method – in 2015.
The driving scene in the beginning of the movie was filmed on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, which is no longer open to automobile traffic. And this movie was filmed entirely in the Las Vegas valley making it something of a rarity amongst all so-called ‘Vegas movies’.
Another interesting aside about the Landmark Casino is that it was once owned by the billionaire aviator Howard Hughes. And, unlike the fiction in Con Air, it did have a plane crash into it in 1968. On this occasion the pilot, who was suicidal, did die.
21, (USA, 2008)
Another film that shot many scenes at the old Riviera Hotel is 21, a true story about six MIT students who were trained to become masters in blackjack card counting – and who beat the odds and took Las Vegas casinos for millions of dollars.
Kevin Spacey plays math professor Micky Rosa, who teaches a group of young pupils how to play the best and most profitable Blackjack gambling technique. Wearing disguises the crew hit the Vegas card rooms winning $640,000 from Planet Hollywood alone.
This big budget film retains all the key elements of hedonism, deception and betrayal from the book Bringing Down The House, on which the film is based. A 2-hour romp of fast-paced fun, this gambling movie is definitely one of our Vegas favorites.
Top-rated Las Vegas Movies on IMDB
- Get Him To The Greek (2010)
- Jason Bourne (2016)
- Last Vegas (2013)
- Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
- Now You See Me (2013)
- Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
- Ocean’s Twelve (2004)
- Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
- Rain Man (1988)
- Sleepless (2017)
- The Hangover (2009)
- Vegas Vacation (1997)
- Wild Card (2015)
- What Happens In Vegas (2008)
What are your favorite Vegas gambling movies that didn’t make the list?