×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Top ten movies about Vegas

Sin City serves as backdrop for classics

CASINO (1995) — Martin Scorsese’s hyper, and hyper-cynical, portrait of the “mob years” of the country’s gambling mecca was greeted lukewarmly in 1995 but has accumulated stature like a pile of chips. This drama derived from Nicholas Pileggi’s book features one of Robert De Niro’s more passionate performances, a lunatic Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone’s Oscar-nominated turn as the hustler with the heart of glass, and James Wood’s parasitic Lester Diamond. “Casino” strips away the glitzy veneer of Vegas to expose its money-grubbing soul.

BUGSY (1991) — Warren Beatty’s labor of love about mobster Benjamin (“Don’t call me Bugsy”) Siegel garnered 10 Oscar nominations and two wins, and it remains the definitive story about the birth of modern Las Vegas — and one particularly blood-drenched road to the American Dream.

LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995) — A royal straight for everyone involved — Nicolas Cage as the suicidal alcoholic, Elisabeth Shue as the benevolent hooker who nurses him toward death and Mike Figgis as the director who found in Las Vegas a perfectly disinterested locale for a character who wants to cash in his cosmic chips.

MELVIN AND HOWARD (1980) — Director Jonathan Demme had made half a dozen films (including “Citizen’s Band”) when he took on the story of Melvin Dummar and his alleged real-life meeting-in-the-desert with Howard Hughes. Through it, Demme paints a bittersweet portrait of middle-class dreamers and the mirage of success that Vegas thrives on. In the film, Melvin (Paul Le Mat), who is remembered in Hughes’ will for having picked up the hitchhiking billionaire and dropping him at the Sands hotel, remarries his wife Lynda (Mary Steenburgen) at Vegas’ Silver Bells Wedding Chapel, in a $39 ceremony.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998) — Hunter Thompson’s pharmaceutically enhanced, drug-muddled memoir is turned into a contact high of hallucinations by helmer Terry Gilliam, who uses Thompson’s trip in the mythic Red Shark for yet another search after the American Dream. As Dr. Gonzo says, “As your attorney, I advise you to drink heavily.”

RAIN MAN (1988) — Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for playing autistic savant Raymond Babbitt (“I’m an excellent driver …”), but Tom Cruise is also on a roll as Charlie, the brother cut out of his inheritance, who wants to use Raymond’s peculiar talents to make a killing at Caesars Palace. Directed by Barry Levinson, who also helmed “Bugsy” (despite being synonymous with Baltimore).

THE COOLER (2003) — When title character Bernie (William H. Macy) falls in love with Natalie (Maria Bello), he loses the knack of killing any winning gambler’s good luck. This makes him useless to his boss (Alec Baldwin), the manager of their old-school Vegas casino, but makes for one of the more feel-good (if occasionally violent) fables about finding love after your life has turned to craps.

HONEYMOON IN VEGAS (1992) — Nic Cage’s “other” Vegas movie, the one with the 34 Flying Elvises and Sarah Jessica Parker doing wonderful things to a bikini. Genuinely funny and sweet, with James Caan as a particularly craven schemer whose schemes include Parker.

LOST IN AMERICA (1985) — One of Albert Brooks’ best, about the yuppie couple who drop out of the monied rat race, visit Las Vegas and end up with very little left to lose. Julie Hagerty gives one of her best performances as the wife with the gambling problem, not exactly the poster girl Vegas is looking for.

VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964) — If only for anthropological value, how can you leave it out of a list like this? A profoundly post-Beatles Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret sing their hearts out, on what seems to be a planet far far away.

Vote for what you think is the best Vegas film on the front of the Get a Life site.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Renee Zellweger Rufus Wainwright Sam Smith

    Renée Zellweger: Judy Garland Was 'My Childhood Hero'

    Awards buzz is building around Renée Zellweger for her performance as Judy Garland, emerging as a frontrunner in the Oscar race for best actress. But for her, the real prize was paying tribute to Garland, of whom she’s been a lifelong fan. “Nobody was prettier, nobody sang prettier…the adventures she had, [she was] my childhood [...]

  • Keke Palmer BlogHer19 Summit

    Keke Palmer Brought to Tears Accepting Truth Teller Award at #BlogHer19 Creators Summit

    Keke Palmer stood surprised and wide-mouthed on the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit stage as she was presented with the Truth Teller Award for her recent acting work — and her viral “sorry to this man” clip. “This means so much,” the multi-hyphenated star softly whispered as she got teary-eyed upon accepting the award. Last week, the [...]

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19:

    Emmys 2019: Inside All the Hottest Pre-Parties

    It’s (Emmys) party time! Before the 71st annual Emmys go live on Sunday, stars and execs are keeping busy by party-hopping in the days leading up to the big show. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on who was where and what they were doing. Keep checking back right here throughout the weekend for [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez Green Dress

    Jennifer Lopez Closes Out Versace Show in Famous Green Grammys Dress

    Jennifer Lopez has found her way back into the Versace dress that broke the internet in 2000. The “Hustlers” star closed out Versace’s Spring 2020 show in a re-worked version of the revealing, bright green silk chiffon dress that she wore to the Grammy Awards 20 years ago. The dress quickly became a pop-culture phenomenon, [...]

  • 10 Storytellers to Watch

    Variety Celebrates Inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch Event

    Storytellers from across the spectrum of entertainment — film, literature, podcasting and play writing — were honored Thursday at Variety’s inaugural 10 Storytellers to Watch luncheon at Gramercy Park Hotel, hosted with partner the Independent Filmmaker Project and presented by Audible. Honorees Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of “Friday Black”; “Limetown” podcasters Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie; [...]

  • Demi Moore Corporate Animals

    Demi Moore Teases Upcoming Memoir 'Inside Out,' Talks 'Corporate Animals' Team Bonding

    As Demi Moore gears up for the Sept. 24 release of her autobiography “Inside Out,” the actress says she feels like a weight has been lifted. “Even the stuff that I may have been nervous about is completely lifting…because it’s a process,” Moore told Variety at the premiere of her upcoming film “Corporate Animals” at [...]

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content