If you’re anything like me, you burn through movies set in Vegas before your trip in order to mentally prepare and help build excitement for what’s to come. Most Vegas regulars, at least the degenerates I know, have a go-to pre-Vegas playlist. A routine that must be adhered to before each Las Vegas vacation. Whether you are a fan of modern movies or ones from earlier incarnations of Vegas with shots of long lost properties, there are plenty of options.
We thought it would be fun to go over some of the best movies set in Las Vegas to watch before your trip. They are listed in order of their rating on film site IMDb, but they are all winners for those that love seeing Vegas depicted in movies. Hopefully, you are able to identify a Vegas movie or two to add to your pre-vacation playlist!
Top Movies Set in Las Vegas
“Casino” (1995): A Martin Scorsese film that re-visits Las Vegas’ time as a mob town. “Casino” follows Ace Rothstein and his adventure running “The Tangiers”, a fictional casino on the Las Vegas Strip intended to mimic the real story of Stardust. Although not an uplifting movie, “Casino” is a movie that will have fans of Vegas’ mob era salivating. With an 8.2/10 rating on IMDb, “Casino” owns the throne as the best Las Vegas movie out there.
“Rain Man” (1988): Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise) becomes upset to learn that the majority of his father’s estate is being left to Raymond, a brother he didn’t realize he had who is on the autism spectrum. Charlie goes on a cross country journey with Raymond, only to end up in Vegas leveraging Raymond’s ability to count cards. Rated 8/10 on IMDb, “Rain Man” is among the top movies that are set in Vegas.
“The Hangover” (2009): A comedy which follows a bachelor party as they re-trace their wild night in Las Vegas, “The Hangover’ has been my “night before Vegas” movie for years. While some movies lose their allure after a viewing or two, this one never gets old. With a 7.7/10 rating on IMDb, the masses agree that Hangover is one of the best Vegas movies out there.
“Ocean’s Eleven” (2001): Danny Ocean (George Clooney) rounds up a gang of 11 to rob Terry Benedict’s casinos which include MGM Grand, Mirage, and the Bellagio. For my money, there are few scenes that make me more ready to attack Vegas than when the crew slowly disappears while watching the Fountains of Bellagio at the end. Scoring 7.7/10 on IMDb, “Ocean’s Eleven” certainly qualifies as one of the best movies set in Las Vegas to watch before your trip.
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998): Tag along with journalist Raoul Duke as he, and his attorney Dr. Gonzo head to Las Vegas with a suitcase full of narcotics to cover the Mint 400 race. Buckle up, it’s a wild ride that will make your wildest Vegas trip look tame. Scoring 7.6/10 on IMDb, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” ranks in the top echelon of movies set in Las Vegas.
“Leaving Las Vegas” (1995): In our opinion, “Leaving Las Vegas” is better watched after returning home from your trip to make you feel better about the money you lost, as it’s a tad depressing. The premise of the story revolves around an alcoholic, Ben Sanderson (Nicholas Cage), who moves to Vegas to drink himself to death, although he finds love along the way. Even movies with downtrodden storylines get us fired up for Vegas though, so we frequently check it out. Earning 7.5/10 stars on IMDb, many of you do too.
“Swingers” (1996): Initially set in LA, Trent (Vince Vaughn) works with his friend Mike to get over a previous relationship and find new success on the dating scene. They eventually take the party to Vegas, and the rest is history. Set in the mid-1990s, there are an abundance of Las Vegas landmarks featured in “Swingers” that are no longer around. The comedy has earned a 7.2/10 rating on IMDb and could be the perfect movie about Vegas to get you jazzed for your next trip.
“Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007): Danny Ocean (George Clooney) rounds up the crew to rob Willy Bank on the opening night of his new casino “The Bank”. The heist is motivated by the fact that Bank double-crossed his associate Reuben Tishkoff. With an IMDb rating of 6.9/10 stars, it’s recognized as a pretty good movie set in Vegas. We agree.
“The Cooler” (2003): Bernie (William H. Macy) leverages his perpetual bad luck to be a “cooler” working for a Las Vegas casino to negatively affect the luck of other patrons. Unfortunately for his employer, Bernie falls in love and his luck turns on a dime. Earning 6.9/10 stars on IMDb, this film should be near the top of your list if you’re longing for Vegas.
“21” (2008): A group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology take their ability to count cards to Las Vegas. What could go wrong? With a 6.8/10 rating on IMDb, “21” is one of the better Vegas set movies out there.
“Electrick Children” (2012): Among the more bizarre storylines of any other Las Vegas-based movie on this list, Rachel, a 15-year-old born into a devout religious community believes she was impregnated by the contents of a forbidden cassette tape she listened to, although the truth is far more sinister. She then leaves the community for Las Vegas to find the creator of the tape. Although the plot of the movie is certainly unique, it rated 6.8/10 on IMDb and offers a snapshot of Vegas during the early twenty-teens.
“Last Vegas” (2013): “Last Vegas” follows a group of four older gentlemen as they celebrate a bachelor party in Las Vegas while navigating deep-seated relationship issues along the way. The all-star cast includes Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, and Morgan Freeman. At a 6.6/10 rating on IMDb, we feel that “Last Vegas” is a bit underrated and certainly worth your time.
“Diamonds Are Forever” (1971): While Sean Connery stars as James Bond, the storyline is again an afterthought as the film only earned a 6.6/10 rating on IMDB. The movie is worth watching before a trip due to the images of early 1970s Vegas, where the movie is set. Fremont Street in 1971 shines. Literally.
“Viva Las Vegas” (1964): Starring Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, fans of 1960’s Las Vegas will deem this an absolute must-watch. As fans of vintage Vegas ourselves, the opening 5 minutes are among the best shots of Fremont Street these eyes have seen. The plot revolves around a racecar driver (Elvis) preparing for the Grand Prix car race while simultaneously falling for Ann-Margret’s character. IMDb rates “Viva Las Vegas” as 6.4/10, but those that want to watch a movie set in Vegas of yesteryear will view it more favorably.
“Vegas Vacation” (1997): Clark Griswold packs the family up and heads to Las Vegas, however, it doesn’t initially turn out to be the family trip he had envisioned. A hilarious movie about Vegas, the film also catches numerous images of the mid-1990’s Strip to include Stardust, Riviera, Monte Carlo, Aladdin, Barbary Coast, and Frontier. “Vegas Vacation” earned only a 6/10 rating on IMDb, and although the masses may not agree, I find it to be among the best Las Vegas movies out there, if only for the scenery…and Cousin Eddie’s antics.
“Honeymoon in Vegas” (1992): Another wild storyline, Jack Singer (Nicholas Cage) and his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) scamper to Vegas to get married. Before the wedding, Singer loses $65k in a poker game to an affluent gambler. The Gambler offers to wipe the debt away if he can spend the weekend with Betsy. They agree. While entertaining, the movie earned only 5.8/10 stars on IMDb, but provides a window into early 1990s Las Vegas which is an era many enjoyed.
“The Winner” (1996): The story itself isn’t overly compelling. Essentially, a gambler in Las Vegas is on a tremendous winning streak and can’t lose. This success and his generosity attract a number of people who aim to take advantage of his good fortune. Although the movie earned only 4.8/10 stars on IMDb, fans of mid-nineties Vegas will enjoy shots of Fremont Street and the Strip from that era. Tune in to see Sand’s, Harrah’s riverboat facade, Treasure Island’s original sign, Riviera, Barbary Coast, and Stardust.
Hopefully, we were able to help you add a movie set in Las Vegas to your pre-vacation checklist! Note that many of these titles are available for free if you have an Amazon Prime membership via Prime Video, while others are only a $3-$4 rental.
See Also: Need Ideas? Check out our ideal 3-day Las Vegas itinerary.
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