Updated June 28, 2022 - 2:07 pm
The new movie “Elvis” is a lot of things. For example, it’s an in-depth look at Elvis Presley’s rise from Deep South carnivals to the bright lights of Las Vegas and beyond.
But it’s not a film that was shot in Vegas.
If you are looking for a movie that actually captures all the Las Vegas Valley has to offer, here are a few of the many films that actually were shot in the valley.
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who married shortly after the film’s premiere, help the FBI investigate a counterfeiting scheme at Las Vegas casinos during the annual Helldorado Days celebration (now known as Las Vegas Days).
Yes, the movie’s name is spelled with one L, instead of two. And according to Tanya Vece of the Boulder City Review, that was intentional. “Movie theaters, along with the film’s production company, became so concerned about the word ‘hell’ being lit up on marquees that they purposely changed the spelling of the film’s title.”
“Meet Me in Las Vegas” (1956)
Dancing legend Cyd Charisse, who occasionally headlined in Las Vegas with husband Tony Martin, stars in this musical comedy, which held its world premiere at the El Portal theater on Fremont Street.
Set largely at the Sands hotel-casino, the movie tells the story of a cowboy whose luck improves whenever he holds the hand of a dancer played by Charisse. The Review-Journal’s Norm Clarke wrote in 2016, “It’s best remembered today as a window into how the city looked in the mid-50s.”
“Ocean’s 11” (1960)
The Rat Pack at its peak power. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. — three figures so synonymous with Vegas they have streets named after them — lead a crew of old Army buddies who reunite to rob five casinos in a single night.
The stories around the movie — the Rat Pack filmed when they weren’t busy performing at the Sands and enjoying everything Vegas had to offer — are legendary. But, according to the Review-Journal’s Chris Lawrence, the picture itself might not be. “The movie introduced much of the world to Dean Martin’s ‘Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.’ Odds are, though, it isn’t as good as you remember, but it does serve as a remarkable time capsule of those casinos.”
“Viva Las Vegas” (1964)
You’ve probably heard the song a million times, from Golden Knights games to TV commercials. But maybe you haven’t seen the movie, featuring the King as a race car driver named Lucky Jackson hoping to take the checkered flag at the Las Vegas Grand Prix. And you might not know that it was directed by George Sidney, who also made such famous musicals as “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Annie Get Your Gun” and later became a guest lecturer at UNLV.
Speaking of UNLV, Ann-Margret famously danced with Elvis in a scene filmed at the school’s gymnasium (now the site of the Barrick Museum of Art). And she talked to the Review-Journal’s John Katsilometes in 2021 about her chemistry with the King. “This sounds weird, but I had never seen him perform before I did the movie. Hard to believe. We just found out we were very much alike. We were both very shy, but then you become this other person when you are performing.”
“Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)
Sean Connery returns to the role of James Bond (following George Lazenby’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”) as the British superspy visits our fair city to bust a diamond smuggling ring.
Many of the filming locations are gone, including the Dunes, the Landmark and the Riviera (more on that hotel later). But you can still visit the Westgate, which played the role of the Whyte House casino. You can also visit the Midway at Circus Circus, where a rigged version of a water balloon race played a role in the smuggling ring.
“Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992)
You might have heard that weddings are a big deal here in Las Vegas. In this film, Nicolas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker play a couple who have come to town to tie the knot, only to have a rich gambler (James Caan) arrange to spend a weekend with Parker to erase Cage’s gambling debt.
But if you remember one thing from this movie, it’s probably the Flying Elvi (not “Elvises”). And it turns out that the skydiving team is still around. Founder Dick Feeney still has 10 certified skydivers available for promotions, holiday shows and, of course, weddings.
Perhaps the most Vegas movie of them all. Robert DeNiro. Joe Pesci. Sharon Stone. The story of the mob controlling the Stardust (fictionalized as the Tangiers), a story so compelling that someone made a podcast about it.
Much of this movie, of course, was filmed at the Riviera, which stayed open during the production. Las Vegas said farewell to that casino in 2015 to make room for an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Chris Lawrence took an in-depth look at the movie on its 25th anniversary. Among the people he interviewed: former mob lawyer and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who played himself in the film. He and his wife, current Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, hosted a dinner for the stars and director Martin Scorsese.
“The evening ended — because this was 1994 — with Carolyn Goodman, Elaine Wynn and Sharon Stone, who would earn an Oscar nomination for her role as Ginger Rothstein, washing dishes,” Lawrence wrote.
“Ocean’s 11” (2001)
Move over, Sinatra and Martin. Make room for George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who put together a team to rob a vault that connects to three casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
The movie co-stars Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia and, of course, the Bellagio, where much of the movie was filmed. Paul Berry, director of hotel operations at the time of filming, recalled how the crew took over the front desk, the driveway and half of the casino floor for days. “But we didn’t care, because we were having so much fun, and we recognized the power of what this movie was going to be.”
In one of the movie’s most iconic scenes, the thieves gather at the Fountains of Bellagio to watch the show and then go their separate ways, all to Claude Debussy’s “Clare de Lune.” Randy Morton, former president of the hotel, said “Ocean’s 11” helped make the fountains the nation’s top tourist attraction. “When they peel away from the fountain at the end, it’s one of the best movie scenes of all time.”
“The Hangover” (2009)
Sometimes, what happens in Vegas becomes an iconic comedy starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis as three friends who lose their groom-to-be during a bachelor party.
Some of the funniest bits are reserved for former heavyweight boxing champion (and future Las Vegas Strip performer) Mike Tyson. Fun trivia: Before “Hangover,” he appeared on TV shows like “Webster” and “Who’s the Boss?”
This film was shot partially at Caesars Palace. Director Todd Phillips would later return to that resort to shoot “The Hangover Part III” and “War Dogs.”
“I feel like they should name a suite after me or something,” he said.
Well, Caesars did name one of its suites the Hangover Suite. Close enough?