Top 8 Las Vegas Movies That Made Lasting Impressions

By Steve Kanigher

Published 09/13 2012 10:02AM

Updated 09/14 2012 07:45AM

Copyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Las Vegas spends so much time and money promoting itself as the entertainment capital of the world that the city's name is routinely written into Hollywood scripts as the place movie characters want to visit to blow off steam.

Filmmakers have also based dozens of movies in Las Vegas, capturing the city's famous nightlife and vast desert surroundings. Picking the best of the bunch is a difficult proposition but here are eight memorable films listed in chronological order that made a lasting impression.

Ocean's 11

1. Ocean's 11

The Rat Pack was at the peak of its popularity in 1960, when "Ocean's 11" was released. The lineup -- Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and their pal, Angie Dickinson -- was quintessential Las Vegas. The Rat Pack plot the New Year's Eve heist of the Desert Inn, Flamingo, Riviera, Sahara and Sands resorts. Sequels were released decades later starring the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.

Viva Las Vegas

2. Viva Las Vegas

This 1964 film was Elvis Presley's lullaby to Las Vegas, and the title song became the city's unofficial anthem. He was paired with actress Ann-Margret for a plot that involves Presley as racecar driver Lucky Jackson. The movie came out about the time Presley began ceding popularity to the Beatles, but he would enjoy a resurgence years later with an historic run of live performances at the International resort and its successor, the Las Vegas Hilton.


3. Casino

Directed by Martin Scorsese and released in 1995, "Casino" chronicles skimming activities that were rampant along the Strip until the downfall of the mob in Las Vegas in the 1980s. Robert De Niro portrays Sam "Ace" Rothstein, a character modeled after the late Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal, a sports handicapper and casino executive with mob ties. Joe Pesci plays Nicholas "Nicky" Santoro, who was based on Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, the Chicago mob's enforcer in Las Vegas. But one of the best performances was turned in by Sharon Stone, who won a Golden Globe Award for best actress in a drama for her portrayal of Rothstein's strung out wife, modeled after the late Geri McGee Rosenthal. KLAS-TV anchor Dave Courvoisier also had a cameo in the film, as did the Howard Hughes House behind KLAS studios, a station the late billionaire once owned.

Leaving Las Vegas

4. Leaving Las Vegas

Nicholas Cage won a best actor Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for this 1995 film as Ben Sanderson, a screenwriter down on his luck who comes to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. The film centers on his relationship with a prostitute played by Elisabeth Shue, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her performance. The film was based on a novel by John O'Brien, who committed suicide during the making of the movie.


5. Showgirls

The third 1995 film to make this list did so only because "Showgirls," which served up heaping portions of sex and nudity in its portrayal of a young woman striving to become a showgirl, was universally trashed by the critics. The film earned what once was a record seven Golden Raspberry Awards, including worst picture, worst actress, worst director, worst screenplay, worst new star, worst screen couple and worst original song. "Showgirls" then won an eighth Razzie as worst picture of the decade.

Vegas Vacation

6. Vegas Vacation

This 1997 comedy belongs on the list if for no other reason than because it pokes fun at efforts to make Las Vegas a family-friendly tourist destination. With Chevy Chase at the helm of the "Vacation" movie franchise as Clark Griswold, it should come as no surprise that the family portrayed in the film makes a mess of their trip to Las Vegas. The movie, shot at locations such as the Mirage resort and Hoover Dam, also featured cameos from Strip entertainers Wayne Newton and Siegfried & Roy.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

7. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

The classic novel from gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's was converted into a 1998 film starring Johnny Depp, Benicio del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Ellen Barkin and Gary Busey. Depp plays magazine writer Raoul Duke, who travels to Las Vegas to cover a race but instead gets caught up in a drug-infested romp through town. Thompson enjoys a cameo role and parts also were handed out to Penn Jillette, Cameron Diaz and Lyle Lovett, among others.


8. The Hangover

Released in 2009, "The Hangover" was a box office smash that won the Golden Globe Award for best musical or comedy. Make no mistake, it was a comedy. Friends travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor's party that turns out to be anything but routine. One of the most memorable scenes involves a tiger they discover in their suite at Caesars Palace. Boxer Mike Tyson added punch to the proceedings.


Copyright 2017 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.