las vegas | Music + Film

Sin City’s 15 Minutes: A Film History of Las Vegas

June 21, 2014
Written by: Yasha Wallin

Nothing can capture the good, the bad, and the ugly of human drama quite like the glittering backdrop of Vegas. Hollywood has taken full advantage of this fact, casting Sin City in hundreds of films. We’ve rounded up the best movies by category that pay homage to Las Vegas, most of which were set in or around the SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, opening August 23rd. Judging from the roundup below, it seems like the city’s 15 minutes of fame has been going strong for decades.

Classy and Classic

Ocean’s Eleven, 1960
The original Rat Pack movie starring Frank, Dino, Sammy, Joey, and their brood of breathtaking ladies (like Shirley MacLaine and Angie Dickinson) is an homage to the now vanished baby Vegas of 1960. The lure is the actual cast—true to life characters—filmed all day in the Vegas heat, partying into the night at the Sands.
Locations: the Sahara (aka the new SLS Las Vegas, opening August 23rd), the Riviera, Desert Inn, Sands and the Flamingo casinos.

Viva Las Vegas, 1964
Even Elvis Presley couldn’t get enough of Vegas, making it his second home in the final years of his life. This musical features Elvis and Ann-Margaret, and manages to be both romantic and campy at the same time. No Vegas romance would be complete without a drive-in church wedding. In this case it’s The Little Church of the West, the strip’s oldest building, where almost anything goes at the ceremony, save for wearing your birthday suit.
Location: The Little Church of the West

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 6.48.42 PM

Sex Sells

Showgirls, 1995
Here you’ve got Elizabeth Berkley post-Saved by the Bell, Gina Gershon, Kyle Maclachlan, and boatloads of sex and sleaze. What else would you want in a quintessential Vegas movie? The film centers on the main character, Berkley, who ventures to Sin City and climbs the ladder from stripper to showgirl. Showgirls was the first NC-17 rated film to be given a wide release in mainstream theaters, and features a ton of Vegas Landmarks.
Locations: Riviera Hotel and Casino, Cheetah’s Topless Club, Versace, the Forum Shops, and Caesars Palace.


Indecent Proposal, 1993
Starring Robert Redford, Demi Moore, and Woody Harrelson, the premise of Indecent Proposal now sounds silly: a gazillionaire offers to pay one million dollars for a night with Demi Moore – who just so happens to be married to Woody Harrelson. Of course, relationship havoc ensues, but at the time this film plot seemed pretty racy. In the end, despite the interest of the one, the only, Robert Redford, the long-time couple stay together, proving that love, not money, wins out in the end.
Locations: Sam Boyd’s California Hotel, Las Vegas Hilton, Mirage Hotel and Casino.


Comedy Overload

Swingers, 1996
Mike and Trent (two baby-faced actors you might recall named Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn), are two friends trying to catch a break in LA. While not technically a Las Vegas film, the two spend an exciting night sampling all the delights Vegas has to offer: gambling, glitter, beautiful women, valets, and hangovers. They take the magic of Vegas back with them, where Mike ultimately lands a date. The film is still a hilarious, years later.
Locations: Stardust Hotel and Casino, Paradise Buffet at the Fremont Hotel


The Hangover, 2009
No recent Vegas comedy is as iconic as The Hangover. Whether you laughed as hard as we did while watching this flick as it gets more and more ridiculous, it has all the Vegas requirements: Mike Tyson, a wedding, loads of booze and drugs, friendship, a chapel, and Heather Graham. The movie was the tenth highest grossing film in the world in 2009, and spawned two sequels.
Location: Caesars Palace, Mike Tyson’s mansion


BONUS! Other must-sees: Rain Man, Casino, Leaving Las Vegas, Rush Hour 2, Behind the Candelabra

By Sarah Gottesdiener