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What Happens in Vegas… Ends Up in Hollywood: 10 Memorable Las Vegas Movies

Since Bugsy built the Flamingo, Las Vegas has been Hollywood’s weekend playground. Deemed as the ‘entertainment capital of the world,’ it’s also a popular cinematic topic. In honor of my imminent move from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (partly because of a job, and partly because I can afford a luxury sky-rise condo on the strip for the price of my small apartment in L.A.), I selected ten memorable films about Sin City. Not all of these movies are critically acclaimed. Then again, not all $6.99 prime rib buffets are acclaimed, either. But that doesn’t stop you from chowing down, does it?

10. Vegas Vacation

With some extra cash in his pocket, Clark Griswold travels to Clark County with his family. As always, the Griswolds bring down the house. As corny as it is, the writing is undeniably funny. ‘This is Hoover Dam. I am your dam guide. Take all the dam pictures you want. Are there any dam questions?’

9. Pay It Forward

Ironic, isn’t it, that a film about human decency takes place in Vegas? There are melodramatic moments, and the ending is way over the top, but the inspiring themes outweigh the aesthetic flaws. Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment deliver vulnerable performances that show the softer side of the Strip.

8. Swingers

Single life in the ’90s with Vince Vaughn, before he made Hollywood’s A-list. The film takes place in Los Angeles, but a lot goes down in Vegas. Beyond the glitz and glamour, there’s a human side to the characters. We see ourselves in these guys, and it’s kinda cool. Also check out director Doug Liman’s follow-up, which also hits both LA and LV, Go.

7. Diamonds Are Forever

The 7th James Bond film has Sean Connery impersonating a diamond smuggler and uncovering a plot to hold the world at ransom. The cinematographers said filming in Las Vegas at night had an advantage: No additional illumination was required due to the neon lights. Who woulda thought?

6. Ocean’s Eleven

In 2007, VH1 ranked this — both the original starring The Rat Pack and remake starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt — as the top Las Vegas movie of all time. Both casts shine as brightly as the casinos they are robbing, which is obviously why Steven Soderbergh keeps going back for more.

5. Casino

Based on a true story about a handicapper promoted by his mob mosses to head up ops at a Vegas casino. Use the bathroom before starting in on this three-hour Martin Scorsese epic.

4. Very Bad Things

They’ve been bad. Very bad. Christian Slater and Cameron Diaz star in the blackest comedy in recent memory, about a bachelor party that ends in bloody murder. Want proof that what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there? Look no further.

3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

With all his recent swashbuckling, it’s hard to imagine Johnny Depp doing this movie today, no matter how much Hunter S. Thompson may have wanted him to. This adaptation of Thompson’s 1971 novel quickly became a cult classic. It’s best if watched while under the influence of something.

2. The Cooler

Here’s a film about the unluckiest man in Vegas. William H. Macy plays a sap so unfortunate, just his mere presence causes your luck to turn. It’s an unforgettable love story from Wayne Kramer that earned controversy for the NC-17-rated sex scenes (in the original uncut version).

1. Leaving Las Vegas

This was an easy one. Nicolas Cage delivers the performance of his career as a depressed alcoholic who moves from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to give up on life and drink himself to death. No, that’s not why I’m moving to Vegas. Although I intend never to pay for a drink again

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