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Some of the best films set in Las Vegas

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“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” is one of those rare famous phrases that actually involves a real city. Known mainly for the numerous casinos the city has been the setting for many films and TV shows. In some, the city is almost another character in the story, while in others it is the backdrop for an unfolding tales covering many different genres.

It would take a while to go through them all, but here are some of the most memorable ones.

In no particular order….

The Hangover

The Hangover seemed to come out of nowhere. A great cast and a hilarious script full of surprises, it’s certainly the best movie out of the trilogy. The goings on in this film perfectly apply to the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” as a bachelor party goes horribly wrong.

Bradley Cooper and Zack Galifianakis both star in the film and wake up to a trashed hotel room and a missing stag as well as a very angry Ken Jeong after them. Their quest to remember the events of the night before, leading them to win big in the casino so they can find their missing friend who they presume to be kidnapped, will have you in stitches. It’s certainly dramatized (maybe not for some) but it’s a light-hearted insight into what can happen when you can’t handle a night out in Vegas.

Diamonds Are Forever

Bond, James Bond is no stranger to the inside of a casino. The super secret agent does love playing poker, craps, baccarat and more, but I think it was only in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever that Bond (played by Sean Connery) made it to Las Vegas.

After a near fatal meeting with Wint and Kidd in a Funeral Home, Bond continues his investigation at the Whyte House in the city. While playing craps he meets the lovely Plenty O’Toole and the adventure continues.

Will Bond ever return to Las Vegas? We will have to wait and see.

Ocean’s Eleven

Ocean’s 11 is not quite as light-hearted as the Hangover and Steven Soderbergh’s remake of the 1960 original, but it will have you on the edge of your seat. George Clooney and his associates are planning a heist on the three of the biggest casinos in not only Vegas but also the world, Bellagio, the MGM Grand and The Mirage.

Led by Danny Ocean, he and his gang of ten are hell-bent on revenge against arch nemesis Terry Benedict who owns all three casinos, by completely clearly out of their vaults. The team may be clever but a heist of over $150 million won’t be an easy task under a watchful Benedict. On this side of the Atlantic, the live casinos in the UK don’t have to worry about Danny Ocean!

Viva Las Vegas

With Elvis impersonator competitions and the ability to even get married by a man dressed as the film star and singer, the film that really placed Elvis on the Vegas throne was Viva Las Vegas. Teamed with Ann-Margret it is a high camp adventure and a theme tune that will get stuck in your head for a week, it’s a romp that’s well worth seeing.

Casino

Casino (1995) will come in the list of any top casino film, Vegas related or not. Directed by the talented Martin Scorsese and filmed in the luxurious Riviera Hotel, who better to take on the role of a fierce gangster than Robert De Niro.

Ace Rothstein and Nicky Santoro are two mobsters who head to Vegas in order to make their mark and try to run a mafia-affiliated casino, but it is not without its problems and when the casino is hit, an enforcer is sent to take charge of the security. The duo struggles to handle the enforcer as well as the gambling empire and as smooth as they are, Ace falls in love a hustler named Ginger whilst Nicky falls into a despair of drugs and violence, both of which are met with drastic consequences.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Las Vegas also hosts some big sporting events. One of the most important was obviously the Dodgeball final between Globo Gym and Average Joe’s.

Okay, okay, so it was just a film, but Vince Vaugh going up against Ben Stiller featured many funny moments and the Dodgeball competition is still an absolute joy to watch.

Leaving Las Vegas

Whilst the other films in this list are set amongst the glamour and the lights of the best hotels and casinos Vegas has to offer, Leaving Las Vegas is set in the ghettos and suburbs of the city, and like Casino, it covers some pretty dark topics.

Nicolas Cage stars as Ben Sanderson, a once successful Hollywood screenwriter who has decided to end his personal and professional life with excessive drinking and little else.

After having enough of LA, Sanderson decides Las Vegas is the place to drink himself to death and when settled there, he hires a high-end prostitute named Sera played by Elisabeth Shue.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Another film that looks at the darker side of the city is Leaving Las Vegas. Based on the book of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson with creepy scratchy illustrations by Ralph Steadman, this psychedelic film set against a backdrop of drugs and grotesquery with Johnny Depp as Thompson is a must see trip into the depravity that Vegas can be. The film is also one of Depp’s best portrayals involving many moments of drama, hilarity and weirdness.

What are your favourite films set in Las Vegas?

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