It’s one of the most famous cities in the world and is home to big casinos and even bigger personalities. Situated slap bang in the middle of the Nevada desert, Las Vegas is the destination of choice for people who want to have a good time, seize the day and set their inhibitions free.
With its bright lights, eye-catching architecture and atmosphere of excitement its no wonder that filmmakers flock to the city in order to set their latest picture to the backdrop of this hedonistic halcyon.
Here are five of the best pictures ever shot in the city of sins iconic surroundings.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name, this black comedy released in 1998 stars Johnny Depp and Benicia Del Toro (as famed Thompson and his lawyer, respectively) who are slowly lost to suspicious substances as they make their way through the psychedelic scenery of the city.
The, at times feral, energy of Las Vegas is captured brilliantly by director Terry Gilliam, with the shot of Depp riding down the famous strip in a red Chevrolet Impala (christened the “red shark”) being one of several iconic images destined to stay in the memories of viewers for years to come.
Despite being something of a flop when it was initially released, the film has since been branded a cult classic by audiences. At 118 minutes, this film is almost two hours of chaos, which you won’t forget anytime soon.
There’s only one logical place that a film entitled “Casino” could be set, isn’t there? This 1995 crime thriller directed by Martin Scorsese was filmed heavily in the now torn down Riviera hotel and casino and focuses on the Mafia’s criminal operations happening throughout the establishment.
Set in the 1970s, Scorsese really captures the larger than life decadent nature of the city in this era, with leading actors Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci playing characters based on real-life people, which hammers home just how wild the Vegas of decades gone really was.
The film was critically acclaimed, with Sharon Stone earning best actress nominations at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
The beauty of heist films is that they’re grandiose affairs. Typically, a crew of misfits attempt to beat the odds and come away with a big score. In 2001’s Oceans 11, this crew is headed up by Danny Ocean, played by George Clooney, and the target is not one but three of Las Vegas’ biggest hotels. The Bellagio, the MGM Grand, and the Mirage.
The stakes don’t get much higher than that.
Featuring some of the biggest names in cinema, including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts, the film is host to a menagerie of memorable scenes.
From Brad Pitt’s character (Rusty Ryan) teaching a group of celebrities how to play poker, and delivering amazing poker lines such as “leave emotion at the door” to Shaobo Qin (The Amazing Yen) performing his amazing vault acrobatics, this is a film that is the personification of the word cool.
The most recent film to be featured on this list and one which spawned not one but two sequels. Starring Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Ed Helms, this film revolves around a bachelor party which spirals out of control leaving our three protagonists with very sore heads, no memory of the previous night, and a missing groom to be.
Wild nights and fun times are what Las Vegas does best and therefore there was only ever going to be one acceptable setting for this kind of film. The allure of the city is perhaps captured best by the memorable scene in which the group has a rooftop “cheers” in front of Caesars Palace and the impressive Vegas skyline. A sequence which made young adults across the world yearn for their own night they’ll never forget.
A cameo from Mike Tyson and Ken Jeong’s turn as the deranged Leslie Chow also injected a surrealist edge to The Hangover, adding to the overall sense of confusion and unease shared by the characters and audience alike.
Diamonds are Forever
When the character of James Bond crosses paths with the city of sin, you know that things are going to go down. 1971’s Diamonds are Forever was the final Bond film to star Sean Connery and sees the world’s favorite spy battle his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, whilst attempting to take down a ring of diamond smugglers.
Made iconic by the theme song of the same name performed by Dame Shirley Bassey, this film takes full advantage of Vegas’ unique backdrop. It features a car chase through the streets of sin city as well as big establishing shots of famous landmarks such as Circus Circus hotel and casino and the previously mentioned, sadly defunct, Riviera casino.
Plagued with production problems, this film isn’t without its flaws and eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot more than a few continuity errors. However, Diamonds are Forever’s combination of high stakes action, amazing scenery, and timeless soundtrack won’t be forgotten anytime soon.