There are many images that come to mind when it comes to Vegas. From dazzling lights to high rolling gamblers, it is a notorious city that appeals to international visitors from all over the world. One thing that it may not be synonymous with is Hollywood, however, despite the connection provided by MGM Studios and the fact that a number of iconic movies have been conceived, created and shot within the confines of the Vegas strip. In fact you may be surprised at just how many films have used the unique landscapes of Vegas as their backdrop.
With this in mind, why not take the opportunity to ask yourself a simple question: how well do you know your casino movies? Well let’s find out!
Ocean’s Eleven, The Original
Forget George Clooney and Brad Pitt, the original Ocean’s Eleven screenplay was a 1960’s hit that included one of the most stellar casts of all time. Narrating a similar tale to the high octane remake, the story explains how eleven former paratroopers with variable skills assemble to rob five Vegas casinos simultaneously. Starring famous names such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, the film is extremely enjoyable and has managed to survive the considerable test of time.
Fast-forward 48 years, and viewers are presented with a very different, if equally enjoyable, Vegas-inspired film. 21 is a Hollywood blockbuster and an ethical quandary wrapped in one neat and incredibly entertaining package. Starring Kevin Spacey as a charismatic professor who leads a group of talented mathematicians to Vegas in order to count cards and win big at Blackjack, the film strives hard to engage viewers and challenges traditional perceptions on gambling. It also offers a revolutionary insight into Vegas and genuinely forces you to question your own moral code.
A loose and unofficial sequel to Scorsese’s hit film Goodfellas, Casino has the distinction of being even more brutal and, at times, shockingly violent. No single scene captures this better than the one in which Joe Pesci’s character is savagely beaten to death, after being forced to watch his own brother meet with a similar end. Featuring an incredible cast led by the irrepressible Robert De Niro, Casino arguably supersedes the original hit and offers a darker and more sinister insight into Vegas during the days of mob rule.
And now, in the words of Monty Python, comes something completely different. The Hangover is a raucous, laugh-a-minute comedy that portrays Vegas in a far more favourable light, as three stags come together to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of their friend. Pledging to enjoy the night of their lives, they get far more than they bargained for as they lose their groom, steal a tiger and become embroiled with a violent, if utterly hilarious, Korean gangster. The film even has a cameo by Mike Tyson, which by itself is enough reason to watch this movie!
Leaving Las Vegas
In contrast, there are also Hollywood films that present an altogether more reflective and melancholy image of Vegas. While it may be the party capital of the world, it is also a place of broken dreams where alcoholics, failed gamblers and washed-up stars often find themselves. The innovative Leaving Las Vegas captures this side of the city perfectly, and challenges anyone who longs to walk, live and breathe under the bright lights of the strip. While some may say that it is overly depressing, it shows a side of Vegas that no other movie has ever been bold enough to reveal.