Could Vegas Be The World’s Most Adaptable Movie Location?

Casino (1995 movie)
via Universal Pictures

Picture Las Vegas in your mind. You probably imagine an orgy of neon and casino signs as far as the eye can see, as well as a generally brash and gaudy place that’s certainly not short of self-confidence. So it stands to reason that the sort of movie that’s going to be made there will be the same. And that’s true to a certain extent. But, when you look at the many different genres of film that have made Vegas their backdrop, it means a more nuanced view of the city might be needed.

Presley and Cage Used Vegas to Woo Us

For example, you might not expect it to be somewhere that a romantic movie might be set. But that wouldn’t take into account 1964’s Viva Las Vegas, which was, for many, one of Elvis Presley’s best films, in which he plays a motor mechanic trying to win the heart of Ann-Margret. Also in this category, just, is 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas, a career high-point for Nicolas Cage who plays a Hollywood screenwriter down on his luck who strikes up an unlikely relationship with a similarly struggling Elisabeth Shue.

Leaving Las Vegas movie
via United Artists

Perhaps more predictably, Vegas and its casinos have lent an exciting background to a number of movies, and these tend to stick in the mind. You only have to look at how popular it is to recreate a casino floor within online live online games. A search through any major online casino will show you that there’s still a desire for the gambling den as a backdrop. Take Mr Green, for example, this casino offers live casino games via live-streaming technology to show a croupier handling a game for the players on the other side of a computer. This shows that the casino experience is even being successfully replicated for the small screen to great demand.

This is likely thanks to how often we find James Bond playing at the tables to see that the casinos are used as a shorthand for jet-setting sophistication. Even the Bond spoof of Austin Powers also uses it for one very memorable scene where our buck-toothed hero shows a complete misunderstanding of the rules of blackjack. In short, casino scenes are represented across entertainment, which has permeated into the online gaming space too. 

Sin City is a Great Backdrop for Laughs

This also shows that it’s the perfect place for comedies to play out. High on many people’s list would surely be the Hangover series of movies. With a complex plot involving Mike Tyson, tigers and a baby who has mysteriously appeared in the main characters’ hotel room, it also exploits the “anything can happen” vibe that is a bit of a trope in Vegas-based films. This is taken to even greater lengths in Terry Gilliam’s interpretation of the classic Hunter S. Thompson novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a wild and hallucinogenic ride from start to finish.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
via Universal Pictures

Then, of course, there are crime and heist movies. Ahead of all others in this genre must be the Ocean’s series that brings together a truly stellar cast headed by Ocean himself, George Clooney. An altogether darker side of the city is played out in Martin Scorsese’s unofficial sequel to Goodfellas, 1995’s Casino. There are countless other movies – far too numerous to mention – that take Sin City and use it to their own cinematic ends, and we haven’t even touched on the horror genre including Fright Night and others. But, on this evidence alone, no one could deny that it’s a city of a thousand moods and faces – just what any filmmaker could ask for.