There’s a strange city in America. Built in the middle of the desert, miles away from any other cities and without any local water supply, it wouldn’t seem the like the perfect place to create paradise on earth. But the city of Las Vegas does indeed exist as a Disneyland for adults. There’s something quite appealing, and very American, about a city that is founded completely on gambling.
From the gigantic themed casino frontages to the millions of coloured lightbulbs, the entire city makes a perfect film set, full of wacky characters and famous backdrops that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. We’ve picked out top 5 Vegas flicks that just wouldn’t work without the enigmatic city.
The Hangover series
The ultimate stag party movie series, the Hangover is exactly what it says on the tin; a bunch of extremely hungover guys who have to piece together their big night and find out exactly what happened. The Hangover made Zach Galifianakis a star – here he is supported by Justin Bartha, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms. The first film, predominantly filmed in Vegas, had a budget of $35 million and made a whopping $467.5 million at the box office.
Although the second movie in the series did actually change the location, swapping Vegas for Bangkok, it was nowhere near as good as the first, with the charms and sights of Las Vegas a big miss.
The beauty of the Hangover is the fact that many people end up in these situations after a night in the party capital of the US. With unlimited gambling available to people who often don’t have access to casinos in their state, as well as plenty of booze being served, it’s easy to see how people get carried away. From the wrecked suite in Caesar’s Palace to the shootout at the Best Wedding Chapel, the entire movie is a true tribute to getting wasted in Sin City, complete with an absolutely hilarious photo gallery at the end that explains exactly what happened.
The classic drama starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise is a touching story about the Babbit brothers, a wheeler-dealer who finds out that a long-lost brother has inherited some of his recently deceased father’s wealth, and a savant with learning difficulties who has some pretty useful skills. The smash-hit film had a budget of $25 million and made more than $350 million at the box office.
As the brothers travel across America, Charlie soon realises that his brother has an incredible memory, and can relay vast amounts of information with little effort. After realising that is could come in very handy in a game of blackjack, the duo pay a visit to Las Vegas to make some big cash.
In a casino, Raymond is put to work counting cards to cover off an $80,000 debt run up by Charlie. Despite Raymond’s objections, the pair eventually sit down for a game of blackjack. Raymond counts cards – a practice that’s severely frowned upon and banned in many casinos – and manages to avoid scrutiny from security over the fact that it’s virtually impossible to count cards from a six-deck shoe. Despite this, they manage to win enough money to cover the debts before they are asked to leave.
The Vegas scenes in the movie are fast-paced and dynamic, and the whole card-counting concept is portrayed perfectly. It has tempted scores of people to learn how to play blackjack for themselves so they can replicate Charlie and Raymond’s success – and it goes down as a true Vegas classic.
A remake of another Vegas classic, Stephen Soderbergh’s all-star ensemble cast pull off the heist of the century, planning to rob the Bellagio, the MGM and The Mirage all at the same time in this 2001 movie that made $450 million and spawned two sequels. As well as the exceptional performances and great banter between Hollywood heavyweights like Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt and of course George Clooney, Las Vegas is shown in its full glory, with superb casino shots and some great settings for conversations between the characters.
Simply put, Ocean’s 11 wouldn’t really exist without Las Vegas, and would become just another boring heist movie if the plan was to rob somewhere less glamorous. The good news for fans is that a reboot of the series is on the way too, with an all-female cast led by Anne Hathaway, playing the role of Danny Ocean’s sister.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The drug-fuelled gonzo journalism brought to life with all the colourful insanity of a Terry Gilliam movie is a match made in heaven, and Las Vegas is the perfect setting for all of it. Granted, it would be difficult to change the location of a book all about Las Vegas for a movie, but in this case Gilliam gets it spot on. Completely different to the others on this list, the nightmarish scenes born from hallucinations, as well as the sand-blasted desert, show Las Vegas how many people likely experience it.
After all, Las Vegas does have something of a drug problem, and the vast amount of alcohol consumed every year will definitely leave many visitors with similar experience to Hunter and the Doctor. The film has scored an impressive 7.7 on IMDb, a good return from the $18.5 million budget.
Based on true events, 21 tells the story of the MIT Blackjack team, who actually went to Las Vegas casinos to count cards and make vast sums of money. Robert Luketic was the director of this 2001 flick that made $157.9 million at the box office, and is actually a decent tale that is slightly twisted to make things a bit more exciting.
It’s hard to imagine the film being as glamorous us the MIT team had to make do with Atlantic City, or travel to a local native casino to try and make some cash, and the high-stakes chase that features in 21 just wouldn’t be the same outside of Las Vegas. The film starred the disgraced Kevin Spacey as Micky Rosa, the professor of the MIT Blackjack team and Jim Sturgess as Ben Campbell, the cash-strapped student who cannot afford the Harvard fees.