5 Best Vegas-Themed Movies

Ah, Vegas, America’s adult playground. It is the 26th most populous city in the US and Nevada’s hotbed, the state’s money-generating monster. Billing itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, renowned for its hospitality establishments and booming nightlife, Vegas is a sight to behold. However, it was not always so. In essence, it wasn’t until the 1960s rolled around and Clark County’s hotel expansion got underway that this location near the Mojave Desert began morphing into the gambling destination everyone knows it as today.

In all honesty, there is hardly a spot on Earth that can rival Vegas in terms of diverse content. Virtually anything anyone can ever imagine can likely get found in Sin City. Despite digital gaming establishments like the ones listed at OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com taking a significant chunk of Strip casinos’ profits, pre the pandemic, around 42 million people visited the city’s main boulevards and the downtown area. Thus, it captivates many as a magical place that everyone should experience at least once. That is why studios and indie filmmakers have always looked at Vegas with fascination, frequently deciding to feature it in their stories that play out on the silver screen.

Below, we rattle off five titles that not only show glimpses of the city of many nicknames but utilize it as their focal point.

1. Casino

Martin Scorsese is one of American cinema’s most impactful directors. Best known for his organized crime movies, Scorsese is a genre in itself. In 1990, he released the biographical drama Goodfellas, which according to many film historians and laypeople, is the quintessential gangster movie. It is a film adaptation of the nonfiction book – Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, detailing the life of mobster Henry Hill and his associates. Goodfellas was a modest financial hit but got nominated for six Academy Awards and received massive critical praise.

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Over the next few years, Scorsese felt pressure to return to his criminal story roots after Cape Fear and the Age of Innocence failed to muster the same critical acclaim as Goodfellas. Thus, in 1995, Scorsese unleashed another film adaptation of a Pileggi book. This time, Casino – Love and Honor in Las Vegas got chosen. The movie primarily followed a plot inspired by events that happened to Frank Rosenthal, a former casino executive. Casino’s financial success far overshadowed that of Goodfellas while, more or less, connecting with audiences at a similar level.

2. The Hangover

Despite popular belief, on average, comedy movies rarely cause significant waves at the box office. That said, surprises do happen, and on May 30, 2009, when the Todd Phillips-directed movie the Hangover hit American theaters, no one expected it to grow into the commercial hit that it did. It became the tenth-highest grossing film of that year, earning $469 million on a budget of $35 million. Moreover, it spawned two sequels that raked in $568 million and $362 million, respectively.

The original has gotten ingrained in pop culture thanks to Zach Galifianakis’ character – Alan, the on-screen antics of comedian Ken Jeong, and Mike Tyson’s cameo. Pretty much the entire movie takes place in and around the Vegas area, and it currently ranks as the highest-grossing R-rated comedy, a record that Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop held for 25-years.

3. Ocean’s 11

Since there is no year attached to the subheading above, most readers are likely wondering, which Ocean’s 11? The original 1960’s one starring the Rat Pack or the 2001 version directed by Steven Soderbergh, featuring an All-Star cast headlined by George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Robertс. The overall public consensus is that the more novel iteration of George Clayton Johnson’s story is better. That’s not far from the truth. It has far more scope and shows the glitz and glamour that most people link with Vegas living in more detail.

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The remake of Ocean’s 11 got set loose on cinemas everywhere, and it raked in $450 million in ticket sales on an $85 million budget. Village Roadshow, Jerry Weintraub, and Section Eight Production opted to follow up this ensemble feature film with two sequels titled Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen. The first of these two was a substantial critical misfire, while the second one got favorable reviews. Both earned over $300 million on the global box office, failing to reproduce the original’s success, but remained profitable ventures for everyone involved.

4. Showgirls

Up until now, all our listed movies have earned back their investments, staying far into the black. Showgirls, released in 1995, is an erotic drama directed by famous Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven that remained in the red and was a failure in every aspect imaginable. During its development phase, the movie made the news cycle due to Carolco Pictures and United Artists paying writer Joe Eszterhas millions for his Showgirls’ script. It again made the rounds during its production when rumors appeared that it would get rated as NC-17 because of its gratuitous sex scenes. The film’s plot tells the story of a street-smart drifter played by Elizabeth Berkley, looking to make it big in Vegas as an erotic dancer.

Showgirls did not make back its production budget of $40 million, and it won seven Golden Raspberry Awards. Nevertheless, due to its campy nature and horrible reputation, it has attained cult status. Moreover, it has grossed over $100 million in the US home video market alone. MGM even released a 15th anniversary Blu-ray in 2010, which contained all the famous NC-17 scenes.

5. Heat

When Burt Reynolds comes up, people think Deliverance, Smokey, Bandit, Boogie Nights, the Cannonball Run, or Sharky’s Machine. Few remember Reynolds’ 1986 neo-noir Heat, written by legendary screenwriter William Goldman, based on his 1985 novel Edge Weapons. Goldman regards the movie’s production as a major disaster as it changed six directors, including Robert Altman, Dick Richards, and Jerry Jameson.

The plot of Heat revolves around an ex-mercenary Nick Escalante, who now works as a Vegas bodyguard for hire. Escalante, played by Reynolds, has a gambling problem and dreams of moving to Venice. Unfortunately, a complex twist of events puts him in trouble with a mob boss’ son, and his life gets threatened. 1986’s Heat was a commercial and critical bomb, but it provides a decent glimpse of everyday Vegas life, as seen through the eyes of locals. It got remade in 2015, as Wild Card, starring Jason Statham, featuring an almost identical screenplay as the original film.

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